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For John Medeski, music has always been about healing

John Medeski

For John Medeski, music has always been about healing. "Music just kind of sucked me up," he says. "For me having music was a great way to deal with the hard things in life."

Best known as one-third of the avant-garde jazz / funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood (aka MMW), Medeski began playing piano as a kid, growing up in Florida. By high school, he was sitting in with the likes of Jaco Pastorius and Mark Murphy.

He lived in Boston for college, and then in New York in his 20s. But Medeski was always drawn to nature. "I learn a lot by being around things humans couldn’t create," he says. "Like trees and mountains. I just don't think humans are that clever or that important."

Despite his love of the natural world, John is an innovative electronic (or at least electric) musician. He twists and squeezes the sound of his keyboards — distorting, filtering and processing the instruments to find unusual and sometimes otherworldly textures. Maybe that’s why he lists NASA’s recording of a black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster as one of his favorite recent musical discoveries.

Medeski is a highly collaborative musician: in addition to MMW, he has been a part of numerous musical collectives including The Word, Mad Skillet, Hudson, Saint Disruption, and multiple John Zorn projects.

We spoke recently about the healing power of music; what attracted him to music as a boy; his creative and professional development; and the moment in 1996 when MMW discovered their jam band audience.

Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, composer and creative coach. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.