What is The Stairway Project?
The Stairway Project started out as a challenge from my wife to see if I could record a cover version of Stairway to Heaven. The challenge in this was that many years ago I suffered nerve injuries to both my hands that caused me to have to leave a Classical Guitar Performance Degree Program and lay down my guitars and my life as a musician.
I lived in a musical nether-world for over 20 years, occasionally picking up a stray instrument to play and having my heart broken as my body betrayed me again and again; crawling back into the musical void to lick my wounds and bemoan what I had seemingly lost forever.
But at some point the musician in me found a way back into the light when I literally stumbled onto the ability to home record around 2013. I realized I could make music again by playing and recording in the privacy of my own home no matter how many “takes” it took to get right – even if I had to do it note by note and measure by measure. So that’s what I did. Nobody would know if it took 100 takes to get a part correct.
I slowly built up some ability again not only as a player but as a home recording engineer. It still bothered me that my playing would never be what it was but the joy of rediscovery and of actually making music sustained me and kept moving forward.
The night my wife challenged me to record Stairway was just a regular December evening at home (2015). And as we discussed recording projects and I poopoo’d her suggestions because of my lack of ability, she paused and said:
You should record Stairway!
I laughed it off immediately and told her “no way“; explaining how Stairway is both sacred and verboten for guitar players to play. I spent 5 or 10 minutes telling her in detail how it’s probably the first song every kid that picks up a guitar tries to master, and how it’s so overplayed and butchered in the process that it’s banned in music stores and serious guitarists snicker when someone starts to play it. I told her how the last time I played Stairway I was 14, and I played it perfectly then – and now after the indignities of my injuries when I struggled still to play a simple bar chord that I would never ever unleash a hack version of Stairway on the world. Her response was the same:
You should record Stairway.
There was something in her voice – in the tone and manner in which she spoke that made me powerless to deny her. It was a command – but a command with the gentleness of love behind it that made it impossible not to follow. My only move was to say yes, but throw another roadblock ahead of me: “but only if I can do it note for note – every part – every instrument – and make it sound like the original recording. She just looked at me and said:
It was settled then. I was going to record Stairway.