by Rob Mixer
Ryan Murray’s face lights up when he talks about the day he bought his first guitar.
It was the culmination of years of watching, listening, observing, and cultivating an appreciation for those who possess one of music’s most artful talents. A wide-eyed, wise-beyond-his-age 17-year-old kid with shaggy brown hair playing junior hockey in Everett, Washington would not normally strike someone as a music aficionado, but Murray grew up with a love for the classics.
Truth be told, he’s more into music from his parents’ generation than that of his teammates, but it’s no bother to him.
Music is more than something to listen to, he says. It’s something to learn from – and he’s been sitting in the front row whenever there’s a learning opportunity.
Murray’s guitar education began in Everett with former roommate Alex Theriau, who was seldom seen without a guitar around the house. It was a go-to creative outlet for Theriau and Murray was there to listen and soak it up whenever possible (and sometimes he couldn’t avoid it).
He eventually became so obsessed that he wanted a guitar of his own. When the time came to begin the guitar-buying process, there was really only one place he wanted to go – and in full disclosure, only one place he knew of.
The most popular guitar shop in Everett was a place called Tommy’s, located in a quaint corner of downtown Everett’s historic district not far from the waterfront. The shop is still in business, still a musical haven for Everett, and has a reputation as one of the area’s best guitar retailers. This would be the spot, no question.
Murray walked in without a plan or expectations, playing it by ear and hoping something caught his eye. After playing a few right off the rack, he settled on an Art & Lutherie that cost him $150 – a little steep for him at the time – but it’s an investment that has been worth its weight in peace of mind.
And with that, he was off and strumming.
“The first song I learned how to play was Hurt by Johnny Cash,” Murray said.
He then shook his head and laughed.
“Love that song…haven’t played it in years.”
He learned how to play songs much like he learned to play the instrument himself: practice, patience, and more practice. Theriau got him started with a five-month crash course into learning the basics, but after that, Murray fashioned his own lesson plans in virtually every way possible.