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Galen Weston Plugs Back Into Music

Jerry Jin
The Galen Weston Band performing at River Cree Casino & Resort in Edmonton.

Galen Weston was like a lot of college grads: proud of his shiny diploma on the wall, daunted by the immense loans that financed it. Taking a breath, the logical next step, at least in Weston’s mind, was to parlay his jazz degree into an online financial advice business.

Smart move. AdvisorWorld.com evolved into a flourishing million-dollar company with Weston at the helm. But after the building phase had plateaued and the business was humming, Weston was restless for a new challenge.

Credit GalenWeston.com
Galen Weston's debut album "Plugged In"

“I was focused on making money for 15 years. Then I woke up one day and decided I was missing a huge part of myself because I was focused on work all the time,” said Weston.

Wait, what was that degree from Toronto’s prestigious Humber College?

“That’s when I made the decision I was getting back into music and I was going to do this thing,” Weston said.

And he’s doing it well. “Plugged In” is his debut album, referencing both the electric guitar he uses to in the often searing style of fusion his heroes, and his re-entry into the music world.

As a teen growing up in the small (pop. 500) town of Freeland, Ontario, the now resident of Toronto remembers listening to 80s rock bands on his Sony Walkman.

“I remember the day I heard Van Halen’s ‘Jump’” recalled Weston. “For some reason it just struck me and took me over. And I can’t even tell you why.”

Though admitting to not being a rigorous academic in high school, Weston said he was disciplined when it came to music. Especially the guitar. He remembers ordering lesson books and tapes from the back of a magazine.

“And I took out a calendar and put page numbers of what I wanted to achieve by certain months,” said Weston. “So I was very focused and not necessarily playing for fun, which is a bit of a habit of mine. I was playing to practice and learn, and always have music goals set way out.”

Not having a TV in the house once an old black-and-white blew out helped keep distractions to a minimum, but that’s another story. Staying disciplined with guitar lessons served him well, especially after a friend introduced the idea of studying jazz guitar in college. Though his limited exposure to only be-bop jazz didn’t move the needle for him, the same friends fusion jazz album collection did.

“He gave me two crates of stuff that was all the classic fusion albums,” said Weston. “Like Weather Report, Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Bob James, David Sanborn. So I started listening and the first that hit me was actually Mike Stern … you know, distorted guitars. And of course Larry Carlton was another one. And of course that opened up this huge thing I had to learn about.”

Today, Weston is one of the few jazz musicians to incorporate animation into his show. The thriving theater scene seemed a logical tie-in to a genre of music that has seen declining audience numbers for decades. It helped that his animator is his uncle, whose work includes EA Sports "Guitar Hero III" (the Van Halen version) and the award winning U.K. movie “The Snowman.”

“We have something really interesting that people really like,” said Weston. “It was just so expensive to do. It makes it difficult to keep doing it.”

The concept tied into one of the many debates jazz musicians and fans have been dealing with for years.

“There are little vignettes between songs,” said Weston. “They tell a little story about the discovery of jazz, and what IS jazz? I mean I still can’t really answer that question. So my character communicates with other characters on screen, basically asking them their opinion of jazz. Then the characters each try to explain from their own music what they think jazz is.”

Galen Weston headlines the Front Street Music Festival on Aug. 19 in downtown Bloomington.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.