There are those people that give you the sense when talking to them that they have a fire to be alive. In spending time with Bryan Catalani, that fire is apparent. There’s a zest for living that he exudes that many people seem to go through life missing.
It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that Bryan decided he wanted to play guitar. Though, as most of us are in youth, he was especially known for his frequently shifting interests. In light of knowing this, his parents bought him a child’s Yamaha for Christmas. Needless to say, it was too small for his already man-sized hands. Though it made learning a new instrument even more arduous, he pushed through and began to get to know the instrument.
After making the best of the situation on the miniature Yamaha and proving his sincere interest, for his birthday later that following year, his parents broke down and got him a nice Washburn. Bryan was 18, ready to graduate from high school and head off to college. At this point, as it is for most of us young men learning the guitar, capturing the attention of girls was a key motivator for developing as a musician. Though, beyond that, he knew he loved music.
Bryan went to the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the veritable cornucopia of life presented him options to contend with pursuing music. “I dove into school and became a collegiate athlete on the rowing team. We were competing at the national level with major powerhouses and the Ivy League. There were 4AM practices for the team, classes all day with full course loads of 18-21 hours each semester, cross-training at the end of the day, and juggling being in a fraternity and having a social life. I just wanted to do everything. I have really bad FOMO (hip lingo for: Fear Of Missing Out)! In the mix of everything going on in my world, music just kind of fell by the wayside for a while.”
Upon graduating, a move to New Orleans would present itself to Bryan. “I moved there on a whim for a job in oil and gas. My brother, who had been doing transplant research at Duke University, was going to move to New Orleans to study at Tulane University in Epidemiology. I called him and told him what was next for me. At that point, neither one of us knew about the other’s move yet. Obviously we were both surprised, and we ended up living together for a time there.”
While having a residence in New Orleans, Bryan started dating a girl who was in College Station, and he took a significant work project in Livingston. Up in East Texas, a chunk of road north of Houston near Nacogdoches, in a dry county, living in a Hampton Inn for several months, something happened to Bryan that was incredibly rare. Bryan Catalani got bored. As life would have it, he made a point to get that Washburn guitar back in his now fully-developed hands.
After the stint in the Hampton Inn, Bryan rented out the downstairs portion of an older lady’s house on Lake Livingston. It was during this slower time of life, music became the friend that would bring the fire for this new season. “I first began to write songs at this point. It’s funny that we’re sitting here talking right now in County Line, because the very first song I wrote was about this place. Almost 20 years ago now, being about 16, I started coming here to see guys play. I came here and saw the likes of Pat Green, Cory Morrow, and Robert Earl Keen; this place has always meant a lot to me. The second song I wrote was about that girl that broke my heart.”
At the age of 25, one night in Sisterdale at The Saloon, Bryan would get invited on stage for the first time and played a couple of songs. “I was so nervous, but I quickly realized, ‘Hey, I really like this. I want to do this.’ Most musicians recall their first experience on stage in an eerily similar manner.
“Not long after that night, the first place I really played what was actually my own show with some guys was at the old Jack’s on Jones Maltsberger.” It was there that Bryan began to meet other musicians that propelled the musical realm of his life forward to this day.
For the next number of years, music became a more central part of Bryan’s life. “While I was playing much more and enjoying it a lot, I realize now, I hadn’t really taken the time to find my own authentic sound. I wrote a number of songs and learned a bunch of covers, but I never gave much real thought to carving out my own sound.”
Bryan married his lovely bride, Alexandra, in the summer of 2016. About 6 months into their marriage, he stepped back from playing shows for a while. Though on hiatus from performing much over the last couple of years, he has continued to write and find more of what he feels to be the kind of music that reflects what he’s really meant to create.
“For a long time, it was just play, play, play. In this time off, I feel like I’m writing more thoughtful lyrics. My guitar-playing has improved dramatically. It had gotten to the point where we were playing so many shows that I wasn’t playing at home at all. I wasn’t writing. It had become more of a job rather than doing it because of the passion for the music. I was working full time. I was playing a lot. I got engaged. I got married. It was all a lot to balance. I’ll just go, go, go and never sleep. I was mentally fried and physically exhausted.”
Taking the time away has allowed for growth in Bryan’s talents and creativity, but also reawakened his love for the heart of the music. His marriage to Alexandra has inspired him to live well. She’s deeply passionate about her own career as a teacher and fully supports Bryan’s endeavors in his work and music. They recently bought a home in San Antonio, and are both happy in their relationship and careers.
He made a promise to himself a long time ago to come out with his own solo project of his original music. “We hope to have kids, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite that says, ‘Follow what’s in your heart, and do what’s important to you’ if I haven’t done this album.” It seems that when that day comes, hopefully sooner than later, the product will be from an artist that has matured into a stable, fulfilled person that has found who they are as a songwriter and as a man. If only all music came from such a place.
Keep an ear to the ground for the release of Bryan’s music and rare opportunities to hear him perform live. Follow on Instagram: bcataband and Facebook: Bryan Catalani Music