P.W. Mallory may be in the vanguard of a new phenomenon in music — guitarists who picked up the instrument after playing the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
In these games, users simulate playing guitar by pressing buttons on plastic, guitar-shaped controllers in time to corresponding directions on the screen. For Mallory, a lifelong music lover who had already attempted to pick up the guitar a few times before, the game provided the inspiration he needed to start studying the instrument more seriously.
“I enjoyed having the peripheral in my hand, and the feel of just rocking out,” Mallory said. “I just kind of stopped there; I came to a point where I was just tired of pretending to do it, and decided to look more into actually learning.”
“People would say, ‘You know, it’s not real’ — and I realized that,” he continued. “But it gave me the feel to know if it was something I’d want to go into.”
P.W. Mallory and Ryan Yaddow
WITH: Allen Sparrow
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Moon & River Café, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 382-1938, www.moonandrivercafe.com
Making up time
He began playing a bit later in life than many musicians — at the time, he was 28. Now 32, he has certainly made up for lost time. He’s spent the past four years honing his skills at area open mic nights at such venues as J. Watt’s Barista House in Scotia and the Moon & River Café. He also regularly plays at local band Summer of Doug’s seasonal open jams at The Van Dyck.
It wasn’t until this summer that things really began taking off for Mallory in the show department. He plays a monthly show on the third Friday of every month at Moon & River Café — the next one is set for this Friday, when he’ll perform with regular collaborator, guitarist Ryan Yaddow. Comedian Allen Sparrow also will perform.
Additionally, Mallory is in the process of setting up another monthly show at the Olde English Pub and Pantry in Albany, where he has performed regularly since August. And on Sunday, Oct. 20, he’ll perform at the Mind, Body & Spirit Health Fair at the Palace Theatre.
“The momentum has been just astounding,” he said. “We started playing — maybe we played first at Olde English Pub in Albany, and then from there we got — we’ve been playing at The Moon & River. And then Moon & River and the Olde English Pub both offered us monthly shows there, and that took off. We recently played at Bootlegggers in Troy, and we’re doing a health and wellness festival for the Palace Theatre . . . I’m really looking forward to that, being involved with something about health and wellness for the community.”
Originally from the Bronx, Mallory moved to Schenectady when he was 19 years old. After short stints in California, Florida and Connecticut, he ended up back in Schenectady about two years ago, and has lived here ever since.
Before he became a regular at open mic nights with his guitar, he frequented local karaoke nights, honing his soulful vocals. His influences range from more modern fare such as The Plain White T’s and Zac Brown Band, to The Rolling Stones and Queen.
“Music has always been a huge part of my life,” he said. “I’ve been singing longer than I’ve been playing guitar.”
The first song he ever learned to play on guitar was “Let Her Cry” by Hootie and the Blowfish, one of his favorite bands.
“I tried to learn guitar two times before, and I quit two times — the fingers just hurt, and I didn’t have the right drive,” he said. “Then I found the one song that I really wanted to be able to play and sing. It made it so I had to play that song every day for two weeks, or a month . . . and then I went from there.”
He usually picks more upbeat material to play in his sets — favorites include “If You Can Only See” by Tonic and “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. Yaddow, who has been playing guitar for more than 15 years, has also helped Mallory beef up his set lists.
“The fun thing about Ryan is, he’s been teaching me a little more about setting the tone,” Mallory said. “You want to get those jamming songs that kind of bump it up, and Hootie and the Blowfish’s ‘Let Her Cry’ isn’t one of those songs that make you want to get up and tap your shoes.”
Songwriting came a bit later for Mallory. The first song he wrote, “Stuck on You,” was inspired by his fiancée, Meghan Rusch — he proposed to her in April after a live performance of the song.
“I’ve always thought I should write songs, but it never flowed out,” he said. “I always wrote lyrics here and there, so I have books full of unfinished lyrics. When I finally thought about a way to express how I felt about [my fiancée], it just flowed so naturally, and that kind of gave me confience as well . . . to start writing my own songs.”