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This NOVA Music Maker Started Writing as a Helicopter Pilot

by Eric Althoff

The Northern Virginia artist who goes by the handle Music Giff has spared no influences on his most recent album, “Bad Love.” The touches of gospel, blues, R&B, funk, and even country are sprinkled liberally on a compelling new album from this unique musical talent.

It’s been a long, strange trip for Music Giff, who in a former life was an Army helicopter pilot. Even while serving the nation, he knew he someday wanted to be a songwriter.

“It started in flight school as a stress relief. I didn’t play the guitar at the time, so it was all lyrics and belting out melody into a Casio mini recorder. Yes, a mini cassette recorder,” Music Giff said. “Honestly, I surprised myself.”

But he shouldn’t have been surprised, as “Bad Love” is a tour de force of love songs and musical styles that the listener can comfortably groove to. Music Giff said this is partly due to what his song co-writer, Marcus Truelove, brings to the proceedings.

“I think providing diverse licks, lyrics, and tones grabs the ears of a vast demographic of listeners,” Music Giff said. “I hear this can be risky when it comes to carving out a niche audience. However, I want the music lovers as part of a fanbase.”

The album’s titular song, “Bad Love,” clearly has the blues in its musical DNA. Music Giff won’t say if the song is about someone specifically, but he did share that the song has several musical precedents.

“BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Johnnie Taylor to name a few” were all influential on the song “Bad Love,” he said. “Each of these legends has a full and signature voice. When you hear them, there is no doubt who it is.”

Like everyone else who made a living—or a side hustle—as a musician, Music Giff’s ability to share his music and earn money by playing live was severely upended thanks to COVID-19. A good 15 months of no indoor music has had its effect on musicians, both financially and otherwise.

“Fortunately for me, music is my second job, so I was able to sustain,” he said. “However, I badly missed getting out and gigging around the region. I also tried to make a point to visit and encourage others to visit venues and restaurants and to support artists.”

But Music Giff found the silver lining by finally finishing the album “Bad Love” during lockdown. He’d been at it for nearly two decades. A version of the song “Fishing Buddy” was first drafted in 2002 but wasn’t finished until 2019. It is now on the album.

“It really just came together,” he said of finally finishing “Bad Love.” “There are a number of songs we had close to done, and I saw a theme evolve with the ones you hear in the album.”

In addition to the groovy “Fishing Buddy,” the album contains a number of memorable tunes, most notably “My Burdens,” which is by turns bluesy while also calling back to the spirituals of old. Music Giff said he was inspired to write the tune because his mother, the gospel artist Evangelist Geneva Jones, gently nudged him.

“She said, ‘You should do a gospel song in your own way.’ I listened to her album, got to thinking, and next thing I knew, I had it,” Music Giff said of “My Burdens.”

He added that his mother being a professional singer allowed him to learn styles and find his own voice as he eventually started writing his own material.

“That’s Life,” one of the album’s latter songs, feels like a tune we could very much use at present, as the pandemic—and its slow ebb—has forced us all to focus more on what’s truly important. Music Giff said part of the song’s inspiration came from acknowledging that everyone is in the metaphorical same boat of enduring the pandemic and having been separated from family and loved ones. He took to watching people on Virginia Beach, especially some folks of elder years, and in the song, he channels an older person staring out at the waves.

“In the end, we’re all that elder person standing on the beach,” he said of the song. “So just receive the joy when it’s present, tough it out in the hard times, and find things to be grateful for.”

Music Giff is currently performing only for small private events. But with vaccinations increasing, he remains hopeful he will soon be able to share his unique music with live audiences—who hopefully will even sing along with his lyrics, be it at a festival, city park, or an indoor venue.

“Indie artists need platforms like this,” Music Giff noted, adding that listeners can follow his website and social media for information about future gigs. “Follow me for cerebral songs of life and love,” he said. “We’ll be creating music of many genres, so tell a friend.”

Follow Music Giff on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/music_giff/. Visit his website for info on upcoming shows: https://www.cakeismyfriend.com/.

This track has been added to our Alchemical Weekly Spotify PlaylistCheck it out! 

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Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, ScreenComment.com and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his fiancee, Victoria.

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