UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT
Aaron Fink is a professional musician who will release his third solo album, “Galaxies,” on Jan. 20. Fink is a native of Rochester, New York, but grew up in Selinsgrove and has lived in the Wyoming Valley/Luzerne County area for the past 18 years. He studied music at Duquesne University and received a degree in music engineering from Full Sail University. Before launching his solo career, he was lead guitarist for Breaking Benjamin and a member of Lifer, both national recording artists. In addition to his solo work, he plays with the band Gentleman East. He has a son, Gavin, 15. He lives in Dallas.
Meet Aaron Fink …
“Galaxies” is your third solo album in just three years, and you continue to be very prolific as an artist. I can’t think of any other regional songwriter who has released more music in recent years. What do you attribute that to?
I’m just writing a lot. I started writing, like it’s my job, six or seven years ago, so I’ve cataloged quite a number of songs. There’s a song on “Galaxies” that’s 12 years old. Some were songs that were just laying around and I dusted off. I chip away at it. And I also overwrite. For every song that I release out into the wild, I may have written 10.
But still, even though you’ve taken a workman-like approach to writing, you need to be inspired. What’s your muse these days when it comes to songwriting?
Life. It’s as simple as that. And, a) I think I’m an old soul, and b) I had all of this crazy (stuff) happen to me before I was 25 years old. By the time I was 25, I was a father, I was on my second record deal, I owned a house, and then all of this other stuff happened beyond that. I certainly haven’t had a boring life. It’s been quite eventful, and sometimes with extreme highs and extreme lows, so I feel like I have a lot to draw from. I guess everybody does, but I guess I just figured out a way to channel that into lyrics and melodies and something that fits around some chords on a guitar. Some stuff is personal, and some is more relatable to everybody. I think all great songs may start personally, but they’re open-ended enough that someone could say, “That means something to me,” and you could put yourself in it.
You’re not only a guitarist but also a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. You even play drums, and you’re a producer and a songwriter. What do you consider yourself the most?
On a good day, I think I’m a good guitar player. Although if I practiced more, I’d probably be better. And I think I’m blossoming into a good songwriter. I use the guitar as a tool, but the thing I care about the most is good songs. I like good songs. I think everybody does. And that helps me as a producer or playing other instruments, because I’m not just focused on the guitar.
“Galaxies” was recorded at S.I. Studios in Old Forge, and you’ve now recorded three solo albums at three studios. Why have you chosen to keep moving around?
Mostly just to mix it up and keep it fresh. And maybe just to get some different sounds and meet some different people that might push me in a way I haven’t been pushed. To me, I equate making a record to making a movie, and you wouldn’t make the same movie in the same location over and over.
Your time with Breaking Benjamin was remarkable, in that you were a part of several gold and platinum albums. And yet your departure from the band was fairly turbulent. How does it feel to you today when you hear one of those songs on the radio?
I have mixed emotions. I guess it depends on the song and what was going on at that time. But that’s a good problem to have. I’m pretty OK with all of that at this juncture. It’s been quite a few years, and I’m moving on with different stuff. I feel comfortable with what I’m doing now and comfortable with my past. It was a good band, and the songs I was a part of were good songs.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
First and foremost, for me, is being a dad and being the best father I can be. Other than that, I guess I’m a bit of a movie buff. I don’t go to the theaters as much as I used to, but I digest a lot at home on Netflix.
Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
I like a lot of oddball stuff, but I always come back to the same stuff that everyone else likes: the Beatles, Tom Petty, Zeppelin, Floyd … I really like Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam and a lot of that early ’90s stuff. Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. And I like old-school hip-hop, like Run-D.M.C. and Ice-T. I like a little bit of it all.
Do you follow sports?
I like nerdy sports, like golf and tennis, but If I had to pick a city I associate with the most, it’s Pittsburgh. The Steelers, Pirates and Penguins.
Do you remember your first car?
Yes, unfortunately. It was a 1983 maroon Nissan Sentra station wagon with a hole on the driver’s side floor. When it rained, it would fill up an inch or two, and I’d have to let it air out. Pretty rugged. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
Either sushi of good Mexican.
You’ve toured the entire country several times. What’s your favorite city?
The ones that I’ve always liked were northern and kind of mountainous and had some water going on. That’s Seattle. That’s Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; and Portland, Maine. And San Francisco is great. But if I had to pick one, Seattle.
Favorite thing about Northeast Pennsylvania?
Probably the people. I’ve garnered quite a few really good, lifelong friends here. And this city has been very generous to me in terms of my career, which I’m thankful for.
All-time favorite movie?
I like all of the Kubrick stuff — “The Shining” and “A Clockwork Orange.” I also like “Dazed and Confused” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Favorite TV show?
“Breaking Bad.” And I was a huge fan of Miami Vice.”
Favorite book or author?
My favorite author is Jim Harrison, who just passed away last year. He’s best known for “Legends of the Fall,” which was made into a movie, but he’s got a great repertoire of awesome stuff.
My best friend, Lola. She’s a Weimaraner.
Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has helped define you and make you the person you are today?
Becoming a father. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me responsible. It keeps me working. It keeps me behaving. It keeps me focused on things that matter. Especially being a professional musician, I think I could have gotten really lost without that. When I came home from the road, being a dad was the thing I could always hang my hat on. It just makes me a better man.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS BY EMMA BLACK