Do you NOT know who Seth Hollander is???! Well I'm here to introduce you. He's a music genius who happens to be one of the kindest people too! Seth teaches all sorts of instruments to any age of student and has been doing that for a long time now. He primarily focuses in guitar - he has taught some of the members of Chon to give you an example of a few of his many successful students. Oh! He also teaches my guitar god boyfriend Stephen too! On top of all of this - Seth refinishes guitars on the side - they are MESMERIZING to say the least. So - meet Seth Hollander - he's glad to meet you (I think):
I'm Seth Hollander and I'm passionate about playing guitar and sharing my love of guitar with other people. I enjoy immersing myself in solely musical things. That's what I do. It's hard for me NOT to do that.
What made you begin teaching guitar over just playing it for fun?
I think I like being useful. People kept asking me how this crud works or people would keep bringing me stuff to fix for them so I thought, "..maybe I'm good at that?" And as time goes on and I nurtured that...I realized I really am good at those things. The love for guitar has always been there and playing it but the love for getting on stage and getting "ooh'd" and "awww'd" at by people kind of faded. It was fun but that's not what I feel like my purpose is. I found purpose in sharing my talent with others and passing my love for guitars on to others. Yeah I do get paid for it...haha...so it's not selfless but most people go to a job and get paid but then you gotta ask, "Did you make an impact in anyone's life?", "Did ya make a difference?", "Did you do anything productive that you would wanna do anyway?" For me...Heck yeah I do all those things. I've met lots of troubled kids who I'm able to be a friend for and push them in more ways than I ever expected - not even through just being a guitar teacher to them but more so just a buddy. I've had to learn to grow and adapt.
How long were you playing guitar until that transition happened to a teacher?
It was about two or three years into playing guitar in high school. I'd go jam with friends and they'd ask me how things work and such but legitimately teaching guitar was after that. Some people guard their knowledge because they don't wanna spill their secrets but I'm very open and always have been. Full lessons didn't really happen for me until I worked at Guitar Center. People would say, "That guy Seth in Pro Audio is a great teacher!" and Guitar Center did not have a teacher, haha. I turned down a lot of people at first when it came to teaching....
It seems like a ton of pressure.
Oh it totally is! Yeah. I'm like...I have to be the best player in the world if I'm gonna teach somebody something but..that's not that case. I was brave enough to take a couple students on - I had maybe 4 or 5 students casually. I had other jobs. This guy, Stacy, came by. He kinda scouted me out. He said he wanted lessons. Then after two or three months of teaching he told me I should teach full time. So - he and I had a music school for a couple of years. That's where I nurtured this. I worked at the school almost full time for two or three years and I also worked full time at an engineering firm. I was doing drafting and I also was a Foreman for a pipeline inspection truck. We'd take this robot and drop it down in sewers and look at poop and stuff. I was doing those two things at the same time. Making the same money at both....poop or guitar? Hmmmm....
So you chose the poop life right?
Yeah I did. I shouldn't be teaching guitar, haha. No I had a series of unfortunate events. I had an air hose burst and it popped in my face - gave me a bloody nose, black eye and shoved all this debris in my eye. I had to go back to a doctor for a month and they kept picking things out each time. I thought, "Wow..this is kinda dangerous."
Guitars aren't though!
Right?! Maybe a month later we were merging on the freeway and we were launched off by a truck -- we went from 25MPH to maybe 70MPH. It felt like a roller coaster.
If that isn't a sign you need to change up what you're doing - I don't know what is.
Yeah. That was when I realized I had to follow my passions. I had almost died twice at that point. It was scary letting go of the routine that everyone else is in. You can't help but think you're gonna fail and die.
But you almost failed and died doing a "normal" job!
Appeasing someone else who takes a huge cut and pays me pennies - that got to me too. This is not what I'm here for. I took the plunge. It's been 14/15 years now.
And you're failing, miserably.
It's not a huge income but I'm making what I did doing that last job pretty much. And now guitars are a write off for the business haha.
Do you have a certain approach you abide by with your students or does it vary more for each one?
Yeah. I've learned to be really adaptable and I think that's why I excel at this. Some people have a very stern approach - maybe that works, I don't know. I'm more adaptable though. For me...you're gonna learn what you're interested in vs me trying to force you to do something. I like to pepper stuff in like, "Hey, check this out. It's nuts...." and will realize they don't like it so I'll ask them what they are into. I'll figure out a way to make it work. In a lesson span I can get through a few songs with a student but with others we could be hitting our heads against the wall with a topic that I thought was important and that I felt I needed to push them into but that just doesn't feel productive.
To me - thinking back to teaching (I taught dance for a while) - it always scared me thinking of my more advanced students maxing out with me as a teacher. What if I run out of stuff to teach? Have you ever gotten to that point?
Yeah definitely working with Mario and Erick (of Chon) - that was some of the most severe students I've had. I've had a lot of very talented students though - I worked with their friend Brandon Ewing. I worked with him for a short period of time and that was intimidating sometimes. I'd realize he's just eating it all up - same with Mario and Erick. They devoured it. Stephen (of Caskitt) is a force to be reckoned with too. It can be intimidating but I have gotten to a point of comfort where I can do things on the guitar and I don't care if you're better than me. Good for you - I want you to be better than me.
How do you keep yourself progressing then?
You know - I'm so eclectic naturally. I've given up through all these years of really having a signature sound. I must sound like something but I'll go home and play classical, metal, blues, country, bluegrass, ragtime, Disney...I don't care. If it's got music...that is what entertains me and that's what intrigues me. There are little tid bits and tricks in everything from the Geico commercial to pop songs to the National Anthem. It's all great stuff. I'm pretty much happy just looking at any of it.
That's a great mindset because I talk to many people that are set on sticking to just one sound. If they go out of that sound it's "against the rules" and people will call them a poser or something.
I'd be naive to say that I wasn't there at several points. There was the time where I would think it (music) had to have a ton of shred or it sucks. Haha. Then I got into really aggressive music. I eventually came to a time where I just got honest with myself. One day I realized the person in me is not angry so it's hard for me to surround myself with all this heavy music....I don't wanna punch anyone in the face. I think I'm more interested in the inner workings of the music. I like melodies and unfortunately metal didn't really have that. I try to pry people's windows open when it comes to expanding their taste.
In my younger years and sometimes currently I still do that thing where I'll be like, "Oooh...that's popular? I hate it." and I haven't even given the thing a chance! It's stupid. I think for me if I don't like the kind of people that are into something - it turns me off.
Oh yeah. That ruins stuff for sure. It's hard to get past that. It takes 5-6 years sometimes for a fandom to die down too so then that'll be sometimes when I give stuff a try like you are describing.
It's different too, now, for me when I'm sitting there with a sweet 8 year old girl who is totally into something like Taylor Swift. It gives you a reason to find something to love about whatever it is you "hated" originally. Haphazardly from a technical aspect you realize someone like Taylor gets her top pick of musicians to back her up and those guys know what they're doing. So - then you learn some real fudgin' cool stuff. I would have never even known if I didn't give it that chance.
On the opposite side of it too - when you get to a certain point it sucks sometimes because you can't really explore other sounds or you're fandom will get pissed. Oh - good/recent example - Chon! I am obsessed with some of the new songs that include electronic music yet that was a lot of the hate comments about the album. C'mon - they are amazing freakin' songs. They're actually my fave tracks off Homey.
It's particularly funny because their fans are "homies" but then one day your favorite band releases a new tune for you and it's like, "FLIP YOU FLIP YOU!"...like what? I thought we were homies! haha.
That's a struggle, on a smaller scale, I experienced in various bands too. I like to experiment and mix stuff up so I'd want to try some funky thing and would constantly be shot down. I wouldn't wanna do it anymore after that.
I relate too! My blog is a Lifestyle blog because I just can't put myself in some branded bubble saying, "All I'm going to post forever is _____". I have too many interests to make that commitment! I wanna do anything I want gosh darnnit.
That's how I am too. At that job I was mentioning - everyday I'd be looking at some tube that is filled with cockroaches and poop. I need variety. At some point you find your true purpose though and I think I found it. I don't think I'd be happy doing anything else and I fought hard to make this what it has become.
Well that's what a passion SHOULD be - not handed to you. You earn it instead of just finding some 9-5 job. Most successful people I follow had to struggle to make it to what they are nowl
Watching other people do what they do with their lives -- my wife has a great job at a big corporation. But...even watching how upper management is at corporations...you get into it for the stability but there really isn't any. Once crap gets tough -- you're the first to go. I think once I saw through that - that made me feel better about the "non stability" of my current career.
On top of that we are force fed this idea of what success really is: working that 9-5 grind, getting married by 30, buying a house with an 800 credit score, having 3+ kids, etc. We aren't molds who can just abide by that. There's other ways to do that and still be happy/successful.
Back to your open mindedness with music - do you have something so obscure that a student wanted to learn?
It's tough because nowadays things are so vulgar. The most unassuming things are so nasty. One of my students wanted to learn, "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga. But now we all have devices -- she puts on the music video and it's got some pretty wild things. I quickly heard the progression and had her turn it off. Those kinda things are awkward but musically I am down. I like substance. There's some things where people get lost in trying to do some obscure/crazy things that just make no sense from a composition standpoint.
Me not being a huge music encyclopedia - give me an example.
A lot of death metal bands - the parts will be so busy, so fast and so abstract. They're trying to be more difficult than you. They're trying to be smarter than you -- they're trying to do more than you can comprehend but they really aren't. They're just playing super quickly that it disorients your ears. It's all so obscure. Meshuggah is a big one. I like them too but sometimes they are so out there -- it often makes me wonder if their fans really appreciate it or if they don't understand it so if they act like they understand it and then they'll appear, "better?" That's not something I like. That's not even easy to teach because I can't even make sense of the nonsense.
What would you tell me if I were your student and was set on learning that?
I would tell them what I told you. I'd ask them what they like about them and if they're just like..,"it's lit bro"...then...
Wait -- someone that listens to Meshuggah says, "lit???"
Haha. It's 2017! I basically try to walk people into a corner so if you can get out of it then I'll teach it to you.
Did you ever have a student that you just couldn't teach? What happens in that situation?
It's been tough. There are a lot of scenarios. There could be someone who really wants to learn but struggles. Students I have with perfect pitch - it's an amazing gift but it can also be a roadblock to their progression. They can hear things so easily but they don't care how it works. Learning how things work is what we are studying. They also will have a better ear than me. That's not me teaching you. I don't know how to fully get around that.
The other side is working with kids - it's kinda sad to me the focus / quality of student that I've gotten over the years --- it's just diminishing. They'll have less and less interest in playing instruments. Nobody around them is doing it...it doesn't make you super cool to shred guitar. These kids I'm referring to, too, will lose interest in learning but still like me coming over cause I'm the cool, long haired dude. I am flexible too - I'll do whatever.
So you see sometimes it turns flat?
Yeah - sometimes I'll be teaching the same song for 3 months.
Would you keep teaching that student in that case?
I feel guilty. I'll talk to the parents. I'll tell them I value my time and I can fill it. I'll tell them I don't see us going anywhere but of course I'm happy to keep coming and being there for their kid no matter how they might need me. I'll ask them if they're okay with that - that's the most important thing. I think my worst lessons are when I don't get to play or teach you something musically. I don't know...I'm just honest. Call it going to Catholic school for so long.
Oh I know how you feel - 18 years of Catholic school, baby!
Who are your biggest inspirations musically that make you want to keep doing this and learning more?
There's so many people. Paul Gilbert was a big one. His friendliness and stuff - a lot of guitar teachers I think pull from that. He's very approachable. He's very knowledgeable. I've also always appreciatedJoe Satriani -- he kinda has this age old wisdom. Those are my top two.
Do you have a favorite student or favorite memory of where a student has gone after learning from you?
There's been so many successes in so many different ways. The obvious one would be Chon. They're huge and amazing. I think I was Mario's first guitar teacher. He was maybe in 8th or 9th grade when I was teaching him.
Did you know within the first couple of lessons that he was going to go somewhere musically?
Oh, yeah. I'm always apprehensive to mention I taught them. I don't put it in my ads or anything because I don't wanna come across as cocky. But they hook it up for me as far as putting my name out there. I'm supportive of them outside of having been their teacher.
Watching other students grow and change as humans - not musicians - is the most rewarding.
Do you have any favorite techniques with playing guitar?
Maybe it's a cop out but.....I like doing hybrid picking. It's kinda fun. It's neat to have tricks that a lot of people don't know how to do.
On your website, to me, it looks like you have a gazillion instruments that you're able to teach. What's your favorite - guitar?
Yeah! That's my main instrument. There are so many ways you can go with it too. I've got one girl I'm teaching that's just Flamenco and Classical. I've got one who is just Punk Rock. One is Death Metal, One is Pop. That one instrument can do so much stuff. The way you approach it and the etiquette for each style - that alone is huge for me. I actually really enjoy bass - most people think of it as a chore and it's kinda the unsung hero of a band.
Is there an instrument that you can't play that you wish you could play?
I'm always down to try anything. I like playing with the piano but I'm obviously not doing it the proper way. It's cool to know so much and be in a foreign world. That's how piano is for me - a world of discography. I can explore theories and knowledge from guitar and access new sounds. I'll come up with different things and end up teaching myself stuff. It's eye opening and another world. I really wish I was brave enough to sing more. I know I'm capable of it. Vocals would be the one, for sure though, that I'd want to be really amazing at.
You're also very well known for your astounding refinishing of guitars. How did that come to be?
Things were never just handed to me - I've always had to work for them. You get to this point where you realize you won't have the fancy stuff like a Lambo or a $4,000 guitar. I don't even want that. I'd be looking at those guitars and realized I want to just do it myself.
What the heck is that process like? Do you just do that in your garage?
Yeah! It's a pain in the bottom. People will look at my prices and be like, "Whaaaaaaat?!" But...you do it then if you don't like it haha. Frankly it's grueling. It's not too fun either. It does tie into teaching. If I come to a lesson with a basic, black guitar - it's not that engaging. But if I come with some psychedelic, funky guitar - that's engaging and something of interest! We're gonna talk about it. It's a tool I've used. That's kinda propelled me to keep doing it. I've always prided myself with doing the dirty jobs that people don't wanna do and I'll do it better too. I've been doing the refinishing since 2001 or so. For the first five or six years it was just for me. Then some friends wanted stuff. Then I made a couple and sold a few on Ebay. Now I'm where I'm at.
How long does it take to refinish a guitar?
24-30 hours as a worse case scenario. It's intense.
That's a part time job! Dang.
It's fulfilling to finally have these things that were out of reach and to do it in my own way. I also love to create my own custom design where you can't get it anywhere else.
Bragging rights are pretty amazing.
How do you #staynerdy?
I've always loved trucks and cars. I've got RC cars. The same way I'd put all this time into building a guitar - the RC car can do things I'd want to do to a full size car but I can go in my backyard and get totally nerdy. I don't give a honk. Come at my bro! I like cats. They're cool. I think most of me is nerdy so it's hard to point out the "nerdy" part. I'm comfortable being me.
Genuinely - Seth is such an incredible dude. Not only is he passionate 110% about what he is doing - but he has remained humble and honest in the process. That says wonders about his character to me because how easy is it to change our ways when we reach a certain level of success? I hope you had as much fun as I did learning about this guy. Until next week - #STAYNERDY!
ADVENTURE OF THE WEEK
Some friends had a beach day at this place called Fiesta Island here in San Diego this last weekend. I tried a vegan hot dog for the first time and I really need to eat 30 more. I drank a lot of wine and hung out on the beach with Mercury all day and night. She loves the water so much! It was one of the best days I've had with friends in a long time - so I hope more adventures like that happen soon!
PERFECT HUMANS NEWS OF THE WEEK
Here is the first design from Stephen + I fully running Perfect Humans! I am so ecstatic about it. We will be releasing this series in THREE different colors too but the other two will remain a surprise until launched. What do you think?!
INTERVIEW ON DECK
I think this is my favorite picture from an interview yet! We look like a lil family who is having a blast on vacation. I interviewed Gentlemen Prefer Blood before the show at Tower Bar last week and have so much to share with you about it!