Sawyer Gourdin had watched his grandfather play the guitar. At the age of five, he started playing himself.
This Friday, Gourdin is playing at the Rialto Theater as a solo act during this year's Battle of the Bands.
When he was younger, Gourdin spent a bit of time with his grandfather, Bob Hauser Jr., who he calls Papa Bob. His grandfather has been playing the guitar ever since he was a young boy.
"I was just mesmerized by it," Gourdin said. "One day he just handed me a guitar and said he was going to teach me something. I haven't stopped ever since."
Gourdin's first learned song happened to be "Flooding in Mississippi" by ZZ Top – a band he'd seen with his grandfather at AVA Amphitheater a few years back.
Gourdin later moved on to songs by artists like Nirvana and Blink 182. He played for small crowds around the time he was entering into high school. Growing up, he also learned how to play the bass guitar, drums and piano.
Once in high school, the Ironwood Ridge High School junior put his musical capabilities and a hobby for writing poetry together. and started to write his own music.
"When I first started writing I would just try my hardest to sound like whoever I was listening to at the time, to where a lot of it just sounded exactly like songs off the radio," Gourdin said. "It was just not too strong. As I progressed, I started to develop my own style, and I can't really compare it to anyone now."
Saturday, he will be playing to his largest crowd yet alongside five other bands. Gourdin will be on the stage alone, seeing as he is the single solo-act this year. Through his microphone and guitar, he will be performing songs from his heart.
"I try to stick more toward life experiences," Gourdin said. "I mean, I'm 17, I haven't experienced a whole lot. But, what I have, I try to get it out on paper if it is of great significance. I just try to write music that other people can relate to. I want my music to help somebody get through something."
In a second attempt at winning the Battle of the Bands this year, Soñar has changed its sound and approach, and even some of its membership.
Some former members are too old to perform in the competition. Others moved away for college. The six-person band of Soñar from last year's Battle of the Bands is now cut in half to Galen McIsaac-Davidson and Griff Tovey from Green Fields Country Day School and Jacob Lifton from St. Gregory College Preparatory School.
The all-music, no-lyric group describes themselves as "progressive." They've been together since Galen and Griff were in sixth grade. Jacob joined the band their freshman year of high school.
The band members agreed that defining music as progressive is a way of saying their music doesn't fit into any other conventional music genre.
"We make it a point to not make any song sound the same," Jacob said.
The band achieves this goal by taking musical talents and education from school, private lessons and years of playing to the practice room when they meet once or twice a week.
Jacob, who provides the keyboards to the ensemble, has been playing the piano since he was 5 or 6 years old. His parents got a piano, and within a year he began private lessons. He decided he liked playing the piano, and has stuck with it ever since.
"I have been playing classical for most of my life except for the past few years," Jacob said. "I definitely like to think that I bring some classical elements into the song writing. I like doing that because I kind of think that a lot of the classics have not been lost, but, been buried by pop music. So it's cool if you can fuse the two of them."
Griff started playing the acoustic guitar about eight years ago. He was inspired by a friend, who he looked up to, who also happened to play the electric guitar.
"I asked my parents if I could get a guitar and they got me an acoustic one," Griff said.
Since he was 11, Griff had a handful of teachers ranging in talent and techniques. Some would ask him to bring in some songs that he liked and they would learn those. Others were more about learning the basics.
Galen started out playing the drums along side his now-fellow band mate Griff in sixth grade and has been taking lessons off and on ever since with an instructor at a local music shop. He was influenced by ska and similar fast-paced, super energetic style of drumming.
"I have been pretty much playing for the band,' Galen said. "That has been my main motivation for playing."
Battle of the Bands
Friday, Feb. 19
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at 7.
Who is playing: Soñar, Sawyer Gourdin, Del Bosska, The Opposables, Odd Man Out, and Jurassic Parking Lot