Today, the popular Local Spins series features Paul Kwant, a guitarist who runs FSU’s Music & Entertainment Business Program. Check out — and listen to — his fun, guitar-driven rock picks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians and music industry mainstays can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases music that changed the world for Paul Kwant, who leads the Music and Entertainment Business program at Ferris State University. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks.
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He bought his first guitar at 15, before his dad — disappointed he’d wasted the money he’d earned doing yard work and the like — sternly demanded he return it to the music store and get his money back. Undeterred, he bought another guitar two years later and has stuck with it ever since.
Beyond simply playing, however, he was enamored of the multiple facets of the music business. “At 17 or 18, I was curious about the industry. I was always watching everything … about the live production of shows: the performers, behind the scenes, tickets, security.”
Upon the recommendation of various friends and acquaintances, he landed at Belmont University in Nashville, where he worked at a number of jobs and internships, learning label operations, booking, promotion, all while still playing on the side. “It was a humbling learning experience,” he said of being in the midst of so many virtuoso musicians.
When his father, an instructor at Ferris in Big Rapids, suffered a stroke, he returned to his hometown. He worked at the university in a number of positions, as well as doing another stint in Music City. He was mostly intrigued by the music industry management program at Ferris, and when it opened up, he jumped at the chance to work with students interested in the numerous aspects of the music industry. He’s still playing as well, plying his trade in a variety of styles, including just joining the rock band Hand of Giants.
As for Ferris, Kwant and the Music and Entertainment Business program aim to give students “a deep understanding of the multi-faceted music and entertainment industry” through instruction and internships in concert production, festivals, branding, fashion, merchandising, distribution, promotion, hospitality and more. Interested students can learn more and apply online here.
1. Van Halen, “Van Halen” (1978) – From the opening track, there was raw energy and excitement that I had never heard before. This album provided an engaging experience that will stand the test of time. David Lee Roth’s vocals, the pulsing bass guitar of Michael Anthony and the driving force, Alex Van Halen on the drums. How could this be? At 8 or 9 years old, I had no idea of how or who conjured those magnificent electrified sounds, but Eddie Van Halen made me want to learn how to play the guitar. His playing inspired me to play with confidence and push the boundaries in the overall quest of tone. He was an innovator, and an informal musical mentor that continues to drive me today. RIP EVH.
Listen: “Runnin’ with the Devil”
2. Bryan Adams, “Reckless” (1984) – Keith Scott may not be well known as a “guitar hero” to many. However, to me, Keith is a true guitar hero. This recording provided spacious drum sounds, crisp and crunchy rhythm guitars and killer arena-rock guitar riffs. Bryan Adams provides a raspy vocal delivery with emotion and true conviction. The song “Heaven” really captured the best of both of them. Melody? Lyrics? Singable choruses? Perfect guitar leads? Yes! Listen to “It’s Only Love” with Tina Turner. Rumor has it that she delivered her vocals in one take. Seriously? Rock and roll. This is one of my favorite albums of all time and it made him an international super star. Keith Scott … plays what the song needs, but what a beast.
Listen: “Summer of ’69”
3. Huey Lewis and the News, “Sports” (1983) – “Sports” is such an upbeat and catchy recording. Chris Hayes is another underrated guitar hero of mine. His guitar playing was flashy and yet sensible. His tone was spot on. His solos truly fit the delivery of the songs. This recording features brass instruments with a seamless integration of rock and pop music elements. “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “Heart and Soul,” and “I Want a New Drug” will always put me in a good and happy headspace. MTV provided the visuals to the music, and I can still vividly remember the video to “If This is it.” This recording is pure magic. The musicians were tight, the horn arrangements are memorable, and the feel-good-vibe of this album will always make me want to turn it up. Huey for President! The commonality among all of them is they’re part of the MTV generation. And the guitar melodies really resonated. They’re very melodic solos. Bryan Adams and Huey especially have a pop-ish sound that girls liked with guitars I liked. It really worked.
Listen: “The Heart of Rock and Roll”
Currently Loving: Little River Band, “Greatest Hits” (1982) – In current rotation, there’s a healthy dose of the Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds,” and Them Dirty Roses “Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love Vol. 1.” But tops is the Little River Band’s “Greatest Hits.” The vocal harmonies, the guitars and musicianship. The songs are different, a lot of stylistic turns: “Reminiscing” compared to “Lonesome Loser.” One of my good friends was the drummer. They always deliver such a tight performance. The hooky guitar playing is a common theme.
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Paul Kwant’s Playlist on Spotify
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