I could possibly be the “Greenest” Musician in the world. What do you think?
I’ve meandered down many paths in my life as professional musician, business owner and advocate for building a higher consciousness for the planet. About eight years ago, this path led me into the “green industry” also known as the renewable and clean energy industry.
During Thanksgiving dinner, I expressed to my brother Bryan that we should start a curbside recycling program for our semi-rural community known as Morganton and Burke County and low and behold, through thought and action, we had our results, Simply Green Recycling. Together with Bryan’s wife Stephanie doing the hard work of managing the books, Bryan and I collected a quarter million pounds of household paper, plastic, aluminum / steel cans and cardboard in our first year. We offered a private subscription service of bi-weekly pick ups for a few dollars a month. It was fun figuring out the day-to-day logistics and how to squeeze by with a minimal budget and falling material prices and it’s still going strong today.
Recycling in the snow
Dad recycling on a cold day
Mozart helping me recycle
I continued on this route for three years and even closed my recording studio to the public to concentrate on the business and solely on my own music. Henceforth, I managed to put out two albums and do my famous ‘365 Songs for 2010’ where I wrote, recorded (full band with me playing all the instruments) and blogged a new song everyday (a lot of which were inspired by my daily activities of sweating and/or freezing going door to door sorting recycling). To make this even more hardcore, I had a two-hour commute each day from Asheville to Morganton and back every day. All of those songs are available on this site.
By the time I was ready to move on to the big city life in Atlanta, Bryan and I had recycled over a million pounds of materials from Burke and Caldwell counties. It was a very gratifying time in my life and I had a lot of good and hardcore times. My Dad, Jim Cates, worked for free all of those years by my side braving the elements and buying me lunch most days. He is one of a kind!
We packed up the dogs, cats, house and recording studio and moved to Atlanta January 2011 and I changed gears to sell, manage and market for a spray foam insulation company. Spray foam is a “green” product that I am very passionate about. When applied correctly, it can reduce home energy costs by more than fifty percent! I managed many jobs and got another crash course in sales and became extremely creative in marketing with a minimal budget (something I had applied to all of my businesses in the past).
During this time, one of my free marketing strategies was donating music to Atlanta Green Drinks in return for some ad space for the spray foam company. Playing each month for the large get together of Atlanta clean energy community professionals eventually led me to my current job with Inman Solar.
Inman Solar is a great innovative commercial solar installer and developer based in Inman Park, Atlanta. I relished the opportunity because although Inman is constantly doing big things all over, it still has the small business flexibility to hit the ground running and make projects happen without all of the bureaucracy of a big company.
In my four years with Inman, I’ve done a little bit of everything; installing panels, sales, prospecting, public speaking, managing, hiring, firing, field engineering, you name it. I’ve worked in Georgia, NC, Tennessee and Rhode Island mostly and although I haven’t really ever tallied it up, I’ve probably installed somewhere in the fifteen megawatt range or roughly one hundred thousand solar panels, enough to power around 6000 homes. I’ve had the pleasure of helping the Chattanooga Airport get closer to its goal of being the first solar powered airport in the world and in helping Agnes Scott College achieve big solar plans to name a few. I’ve also negotiated several ground mount megawatts with farmers and have even spoken at county commissioner’s meetings to negotiate taxes.
Richland, GA – 1 megawatt
2 megawatts – Buena Vista, GA
Obama landing by 1 megawatt at Chatt. Airport
50 kilowatts – Decatur, GA
1 megawatt – Nashville, GA
And of course, throughout my on going clean energy endeavors, I am still writing, recording and performing my own brand of feel good music. In Atlanta, I’ve managed to put out a few new records while playing private, corporate and original shows and have written original music for clients, recording artists and businesses. My latest effort “Life’s a Love Song” was actually partially recorded in my car, job trailer and hotel room while I was building three separate one megawatt solar farms in Nashville, Richland and Statesboro, Georgia. “When on the road, take your Apollo recording unit and get it done one way or another” has been my motto. Learn more about “Life’s a Love Song” here.
So as you’re reading this, I am probably managing a solar job that is about to come on line and provide some more non-coal, non-nuclear energy that will be powering someone’s home for the next twenty five years. Wish me luck and pray for me not to get shocked!
10 kilowatts – Ringgold, GA
250 kilowatts – Chattanooga, TN
1/2 megawatt – Raleigh, NC
50 kw – Atlanta, GA