Chickasaw guitarist moves to forefront through discipline, practiceCONTRIBUTED BY KC Cole, Media Relations.
Budding musician and Chickasaw citizen Connor Hicks has been busy.
He is a full-time student at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and works at the Chickasaw Nation Oklahoma City Regional Office. He also has written, produced and recorded his first four-song EP, Savior.
The original songs on the EP include “Savior,” “Invincible,” “Good Girl” and “Too Much Love.” The songs have been released online at Apple Music, iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify and YouTube. In the future, the EP will be available on CD as well.
Raised in Ada, Okla., the 19-year-old Mr. Hicks found his passion for music recently. He began singing at 15, while also learning to play the guitar. Before seeking formal training, he watched online videos for hours to perfect his guitar skills and improve his vocal range.
“I still use audio files and YouTube tutorial videos I found on the internet years ago to help me improve,” he said. “I play these in my car to exercise my voice. One of these is a pianist playing scales. I listen to this while practicing my vocal scales almost every day as I drive.”
Mr. Hicks was a full-time student at the University of Central Oklahoma Academy of Contemporary Music when he first engaged in traditional music lessons. He is now pursuing a degree in music performance, and also performs at music festivals throughout Oklahoma. He provides back-up vocals and instrumentals for other artists’ recordings.
“I want to plug into the Oklahoma City music scene,” he said. “The University of Central Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music is the only school of its type in the state. I have met and worked with a lot of great musicians. Almost everyone in Oklahoma who is pursuing contemporary music performance goes here.”
Learning to become an entertainer, he said, had sometimes been discouraging. It has taken work to sharpen his natural singing, guitar and songwriting abilities. His admires musicians such as Jimmie Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Mayer. His love of music gives him the determination to pursue his dream of being a professional artist.
The songwriting process, Mr. Hicks said, is something that comes in spurts. Some songs come to him in large chunks and are finished in a day or two. Others are ongoing projects lasting months at a time. Often, his emotional state and life experiences play a role in the process.
“For me, lyrics are the toughest part of completing songs,” he said. “I have been playing guitar a lot longer than I have been a songwriter. I haven’t had the experiences most seasoned songwriters have. Life continues to teach me things that I incorporate into my music.”
Once Hicks has the lyrics and basic chords worked out for a song, he begins practicing and tweaking the song with peers.
“I have a group of guys I work regularly with,” he said. “I will often take a song I am working on and talk it out with them. We will work on it at a practice session, trying to find the song’s rhythm. With their input, this usually takes a couple of hours.”
His advice to other budding musicians is to “stick it out.” For Mr. Hicks, that means learning existing songs, and the techniques to play them, that they enjoy. He believes learning these songs translates into better songwriting and composition of original pieces. Including blues, pop and rock genres, Mr. Hicks currently knows more than five hours of cover pieces.
“I enjoy playing and creating music,” he said. “It is an outlet for just about every mood that I am in. More than likely, at some point during the day, I am going to either pick up the guitar or sing.”
His parents, Mr. Hicks said, fostered a love for all Native American cultures.
“I am proud of all Native Americans, but personally I identify more with my Chickasaw heritage,” he said. “I am glad I am a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. The tribe strives to help its people. I like to see other Chickasaw accomplish their dreams.”