The Breedloves: Jay’s Story

“Let the song breathe. It’s something from the heart. Enjoy.” says Jay Kirkland, of the acoustic duo the Breedloves. This axeman, half of an inspirational couple who are partners in life and in music, breathes ethereal rhythms into his guitar, ukulele, and mandolin which bathe the listener in warm and gusting zephyrs. The Breedloves’ website does not lie when it says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin.”  With Jay on lead guitar and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and uplift their audience.

This father of three and grandfather of six shares as much from the heart as his fingers with his sublime riffs and compositions. I have seen many guitarists over the years, but Jay’s brilliant playing always makes me gape in wonder. Not only is he a gifted instrumentalist, but Jay also moves his audience with the loving looks he gives Barbara during their performances. 

Jay Kirkland was born and raised in Richmond, California a city on San Francisco’s East Bay. Culturally diverse and home to shipyards, the historical Ford Assembly Building, and multiple beach walks and hikes it was the perfect place for a creative boy like Jay to grow up. Raised in a very spiritual home, his mother with Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox Christian roots and his father a mix of Scottish, Dutch, French and German, Jay was blessed to have multiple cultural influences. They divorced when he was young, but soon after his mother married his stepfather, who had a profound impact on Jay’s love of music with his record collections and stereo blasting Motown and rock.

Rock and roll was everywhere during his youth. One of his early influences was Credence Clearwater Revival and he often paused to listen to their bluesy beats on the radio. In third grade he saved his allowance until he had enough to buy their album before begging Mom to take him to the store. Proud to actually purchase a record, he marched up to the counter and put a fistful of bills and change on the counter. Grinning ear to ear, he hugged that cardboard square to his chest the whole way home. 

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     Jay always loved to entertain his family and friends. As a little boy he used to put on Elvis Presley records and gather his family in the living room. Then he’d scrunch his face into what he thought was Elvis’s smoldering sneer and launch into his best impersonation of “All Shook Up” or “Jailhouse Rock.” Wanting to be authentic, he gyrated his little hips and even went so far as to splash water on his face to mimic perspiration.

Reveling in rhythmic patterns, Jay began playing a toy drum set when he was five and guitar at twelve. He continued strumming on it for the next couple of years until ninth grade when he enrolled in a guitar class with Mr. B., who also taught Kirk Hammit from Metallica and Les Claypool of Primus. Under Mr. B’s tutelage Jay’s craft grew until he joined a neighborhood band at sixteen. Then between skateboarding, studying, and riding bikes, he’d jam with his buds at local venues such as parties and dances.

Jay also studied martial arts and boxing throughout his teens, training with golden glove champion Ron Esteep for many years. The discipline, which he continues to study, helped to mold him into the man that he is today. At the same time he was inspired by personalities such as Evil Knievel and Bruce Lee who illustrated a “Go big or go home,” approach to life, one he has incorporated in his own philosophy. Jay says, “Whatever you do, don’t just go through the motions. No matter what you do, do it with passion.”

Jay dabbled in small bands for many years until his mid-twenties when he began to take it more seriously. That’s when he became a second lead guitar player for Line Drive, a heavy metal group out of the Bay Area. His first professional band, they opened for acts such as BTO, Motor Head, Vicious Rumors, and Ruffians. At the same time, he was working construction, starting a family, and doing studio work.

One challenge he liked was to turn the radio dial to try and play along with whatever was on. Not only was it fun, but the practice helped to build his musical chops. This led him to auditioning for a slot on a TV show called, 30 Seconds to Fame, where each contestant exhibited his/her talent for 30 seconds.  Jay played a medley of nearly a dozen songs on the guitar in half a minute and, luckily, Eddie Van Halen who saw the show was so impressed with Jay’s playing he got in contact. Eddie continued to reach out with the two of them speaking often about his desire for Jay to become part of a super group with Sammy Hagar.

 Jay finally relented to Eddie’s requests and joined a project that wasn’t named yet, which consisted of Mark Anthony, drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sammy Hagar.  They never performed any live shows, as they were working in the studio on material, but Sammy and Eddie were having a falling out, and Jay decided to not get in the middle and bowed out of the project, then they ultimately hired Joe Satriani and the band Chickenfoot was formed.

Over the years Jay has performed with Canned Heat, singer songwriter Eric Burdon of the Animals, Leon Hendrix, Lester Chambers, and Archie Lee Hooke. Jay was in Jokers-N-Thieves when he met Barbara ten years ago when he hired her band, Led Graffiti, to perform in a benefit concert. They had an immediate attraction, but Jay waited until they’d been dating a while before sharing his talents with her.

Barbara says, “When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open, and tears were streaming down my face.” Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

Although he has always been blessed to feel every note, their relationship together forever changed Jay’s approach to music. In many ways, Jay’s beginnings with Barbara made him feel as if he were playing for the first time. This is evident to anyone watching them perform. His eyes light up as if he sees her bathed in glowing light. “It’s a trippy journey with us because I didn’t plan for this. I’ve taken lots of unexpected trips, but this is a wonderful, beautiful accident. Her style isn’t always mine. She’s East Coast and I’m West Coast.”  

Their relationship also introduced Jay to the organization called Guitars Not Guns. Barbara had already been volunteering some years for the philanthropic group and often spoke of the difference it could make in children’s lives.

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

     Soon Jay too was teaching at risk kids to play guitar and has found the experience moving. Jay recalls his most poignant moment was with a silent little foster girl. She had been in care for much of her young life but the only way she communicated was by whispering in her older sister’s ear. Not a word to her foster parents in two years. One day while Jay was teaching, he told her she was doing a good job. “Thank you,” she whispered.  

Jay says, “I looked over to see her foster mom crying. She said that that was the first time she’d ever heard her speak.”  He calls times like these God’s wink. “Your prayers might not always get answered right away. God is winking but he has a plan for you. It will happen at the right time.”

Now ten years into this beautiful accident, the Breedloves wheelhouse includes everything from romantic acoustic originals to jazz to blues to metal and fusion. The duo enjoys remixing covers and adding different instruments to their show, whether it is ukulele, saxophone, keyboards, or flute, with innovative interpretations of covers from Sly and the Family Stone to Fleetwood Mac to Johnny Cash. All the while having a blast doing it, says Jay. “I’ve played with a lot of musicians in my life, but she really loves it.”

The Breedloves currently have one CD and close to a dozen individual songs recorded out of seventy originals. Their music can be found on I- Tunes and Spotify as well as their website The Breedloves Band – Music, Musician, Music, Guitar (the-breedloves.com) They play at various venues from music festivals to wineries to an upcoming tour. For a list of events see The Breedloves Band – Shows, Music, Shows, Musician | The Breedloves Band (the-breedloves.com). You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Jay and Barbara. Two musicians embodying symbolic sounds of beauty incarnate. See them play and you will know love personified.

And be part of the Breedloves’ magic.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

The Breedloves: Barbara’s Story

Is it possible to breed love? What does that mean? Well, for one inspirational couple, who are partners in life and in music, to breed love is to create and share their ethereal sound with the world. As the first line of their website says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin, the Breedloves acoustic duo.”  With Jay on ukulele, lead guitar, and mandolin and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and move their audience.

Barbara and Jay breeding love in Sausalito

Jay and Barbara met after Jay hired Barbara’s band, Led Graffiti, for a benefit concert. Barbara says, “We had a physical attraction the day we met…I didn’t know that Jay played guitar until months later.” As the story goes, they spent many weeks getting to know each other and growing closer, each sharing tales of family and youth. Barbara told Jay about being raised by loving Italian and Sicilian parents in Silver Spring, Maryland while Jay regaled her with his own history in Richmond, California.

Yet in all that time, she still hadn’t heard him play.

“When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open and tears were streaming down my face,” says Barbara describing how she discovered his talent. Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

And so their musical journey began.

Barbara’s Story

Born into a friendly Italian and Sicilian Catholic family in Washington D.C., Barbara was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. This middle child with one older sister and a younger brother happily recalls lots of big noisy dinners with her extended family. Close knit, her paternal grandparents lived with them until they passed.

Surrounded by music from infancy, her mother, a secretary and medical transcriber, played piano while her dad played mandolin, bass, and guitar. Although both loved music, it was her Dad who influenced Barbara the most. Between writing for the Washington Daily News and running a newspaper delivery business, he led his own band. The Sal Caruso Orchestra was a popular 7-piece ensemble that usually had gigs every weekend.

Barbara took piano lessons from the age of six until nine and started playing guitar around eleven. Early influences included Motown as a pre-teen and teens rock and roll later.  She took lessons for a couple of years in school, but a lot of her learning came from friends. Although she dabbled with it, Barbara preferred the sweet sounds of strumming rhythm over playing lead guitar. As a teen, she used to sit in her room and listen to bands like Eagles, America, CCR, and Neil Young while trying to figure out the chords. Barbara was one of the lucky few kids at her high school who could navigate from jocks to brainiacs to band geeks.  Popular, friendly, and attractive, she was nominated prettiest eyes in 9th grade.

After high school she attended the University of MD planning to major in horticulture. However, the campus life did not suit her, so she dropped out and began working office jobs, moving to San Francisco in the late ‘80’s. Always trying to position herself for better opportunities, she eventually landed a job as a legal assistant at a law firm where she spent the next twenty-nine years until she retired to play music full time with Jay.

For many years she didn’t do much musically but strum her guitar now and then. All that changed in 2005 when she discovered Red House Studios, a cooperative organization dedicated to promoting musical learning. With a variety of classes and workshops, she was thrilled to find a place where you could bring a guitar and learn a variety of songs. They also taught people how to perform together and had “band foundries.” Her time there built both her confidence and chops but also helped her to meet the fellow musicians for the four bands she’d later become part of: Led Graffiti and Red Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin tribute bands, as well as an acapella group and Barbara and the 1, 4, 5’s.

For several years, Barbara was a legal assistant by day and a musician by night performing in shows and festivals throughout California. She loved the way the music richened her life and then, about fifteen years ago, she heard about a special organization that fostered guitar playing for underprivileged kids. She was at music festival cruising the stalls when she happened upon a Guitars Not Guns booth. She began to chat with the volunteers about music, playing guitar, and the group’s mission statement.

“Would you like to teach guitar to the kids?” Frank Darling, the President of the Contra Costa County Chapter, at that time, asked.

Barbara didn’t even think twice before agreeing to volunteer, a decision that forever altered the course of her life. She loved teaching the kids and watching their confidence grow with each passing week. Later, she began to take on organizational duties such as putting together “graduation” gift bags for the kids, garnering donations, and public relations work in the community. Within a few years she was the president and director of the Contra Costa County Chapter, a position she holds to this day.

In 2009 she was honored by Diablo Magazine with The Threads of Hope Award for her volunteer work with Guitars not Guns. She says, “It was honor I will always cherish. My Dad evenflew out from Maryland to come to the award ceremony.”

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

Barbara was already living a life of purpose when she met Jay ten years ago. With their immediate attraction they started to do things together like do live karaoke with a house band. She would play guitar and sing while Jay played guitar with the band. They had different styles; Barbara strumming to the Beatles and Zeppelin while Jay preferred the rocking sounds of Van Halen and Hendrix.

The Night Barb and Jay Met

One morning at Barbara’s they decided to give playing together a try. Although Jay rarely played acoustic, he slowed down and started to teach her the rhythm parts of his originals. Barbara found his pieces both moving and inspiring. As time went on Barbara shared some of her favorite classic rock tunes while Jay played lead.

Barbara says, “I started playing…and I knew magic was made.”

Yes, it was. And we, their fans, all are so thankful.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net