Caleb Peinado is graduating from Aberdeen High School tomorrow. Unlike many of his classmates who have already picked their colleges or universities of choice, he has opted to enroll in the school of hard knocks — also known as the music industry.
Peinado — a prodigal blues/jazz/rock guitarist by many expert accounts — plans to launch what he hopes is a long and successful music career, and he got a head start at spring break, when he went to Southern California to begin recording his first album with a professional producer and mentor.
That would not be possible had he not gotten a key gift a decade ago.
“I was 8 years old and I got a guitar for my birthday – a right-handed guitar, but I’m left-handed,” he said with a laugh.
But that minor mistake has helped create his rather unique style.
“That’s how that all started. I play a right-handed guitar, so it’s all backward. It’s really rare. Albert King did it, and some people said that Jimi Hendrix did it, but he switched the strings. He just wanted it to look a certain way.”
Peinado was “discovered” seven years later, while playing at the 2010 Satsop River Rock Festival at Olympic Stadium, where he shared the bill with the likes of Eric Burdon, Wishbone Ash and Randy Hansen.
It was also there that he was befriended by 1973 Hoquiam High grad Maitland Ward, a longtime Harbor guitarist and musician who ended up making his way to Southern California, where he has mastered his craft and accompanied the likes of Madonna, Sheena Easton, Kenny Loggins and Alan Parsons.
Ward is now a music producer, session man and touring guitarist living in Camarillo in Santa Barbara County, just north of Los Angeles — the hub of the nation’s pop music industry.
Ward has become the young guitarist’s eager mentor.
“He’s like the son I wish I had,” Ward said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He’s pretty gawd-damned good.
Ward hosted Peinado during spring break, when the two of them began working on what will be Peinado’s debut album, which he hopes to release later this year. Peinado will return to Southern California in August to complete recording.
“I’d never been to California. I’ve barely been anywhere. It was my first time flying, too,” Peinado said. “It’s pretty awesome, especially Santa Barbara. It’s scenic, beautiful. It was in the 80s when I was there.”
Ward was more impressed with his guest than the spring weather and gorgeous views.
“This kid’s a freak,” Ward said. “He has this natural ability that most of us don’t have. His creative mind is very interesting and rich. He can write songs in a drop of a hat. He’s got a lot of great things going for him. He’s going to be a very big deal in the next few years.”
Peinado, the son of Colleen Chapin, knows leaving the nest won’t be easy, but he’s ready. He stayed out of trouble in high school and really enjoyed his time at AHS, citing art, geometry and history as his favorite subjects. He said his favorite teachers were Beth DayWaters and Jason Dore.
As for his next step?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s an adventure,”Peinado said. “I want to eventually go to college for philosophy and logic and I want to study jazz, because that’s how you get really good. Jazz is so expansive and eclectic that you can’t really put a cap on it. Eventually, I want to be in a huge jam band, like that’s my thing – improvising – so I want to be in a giant, live band and front that, basically.”
He’s already gotten a taste of that locally, having opened at the D&R Theatre for Randy Hansen in 2010 and blues-man Robert Cray last year.
“I just want to play everywhere. I love playing live,” Peinado said. “Studios are cool, but it’s not as natural, not as spontaneous when you have to keep doing it over and over.”
Ward and many of his Southern California music cohorts believe that “adventure” will lead to big things.
“Caleb impresses everybody down here — and up there — he comes in front of,” Ward said. “He’s going to get something big going in the next few years and he’s going to be gone, so the Harbor should enjoy him while it can.”