Jack "Flute" Holland doesn't like to be told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, what he should think or act like or how he should feel.
He never has, and he's not likely to change anytime soon. With long black hair, plenty of body ink and facial hair, he's also a friendly, self-aware guy with a quick smile and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
He didn't always embrace his American Indian heritage. In fact, he rejected it, which in a roundabout way helps explain how he learned to play the flute well enough to have earned a nomination this year for a Native American Music Award for Best Debut Duo/Group of the Year.
He and bandmate Keith Talley, both 45, met in high school and call themselves Crazy Flute. While their CD, "Echoes From the Mountain," was recorded locally, it's hardly a straight line from their meeting almost 40 years ago to here.
The 17th annual Native American Music Awards will be held Oct. 14 at the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in New York. Unlike with some other music awards, fans can participate by voting for their favorites. You also can hear a sample of Crazy Flute at www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com/debut-group. To vote, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/NATIVEMUSICAWARDS
Called Flute by everyone who knows him, Holland rebelled early on against his father and grandfather, who tried to teach him his heritage.
"During a lot of my youth, I didn't care about Native American history," he says, thinking at the time, "Why should I? What did it matter?"
Even after marrying a woman of Cherokee heritage and moving to Oklahoma, where he was surrounded by others with similar backgrounds, he still wanted nothing to do with the teachings and traditions of his past, he says. He was into martial arts and cage fighting.
Soon after his wife gave him a buffalo bone necklace, a wide piece with several strands stacked on top of each other and traditionally used as neck armor by American Indian warriors, it broke. Not able to fix it himself, he took it to a shop owner named Tom Walker who dealt in all manner of American Indian supplies and materials.
"I asked him if he could fix it, and he asked me what tribe I was. I said, 'What does that matter?' He got offended and said he wouldn't fix it. Then I got mad, and he finally told me to come back tomorrow and he'd show me how to fix it. He didn't think I'd come back, and that made me even madder.
"I'm kind of stubborn. When he said, 'If you actually come back ...' Well, I had to go back then."
He did go back. Every day for almost two years, and he soaked up all he could about the history of American Indians from Walker, a sort of wise elder in the area. Holland also met a flute maker named John Hawk. Holland began helping him set up and break down his booth at powwows and other events. Cleaning up after one, Hawk asked Holland which of two flutes he liked best.
When Holland picked one, Hawk told him it was his to keep. Holland resisted, explaining there was no way he could afford to pay for it.
"I wasn't working because, well, that's what was expected of me, right? I thought being without money was better. Which probably helps explains why I have an ex-wife."
Hawk told him to take the flute and learn to play a song and to come back and play it for him as payment. A year later, Holland repaid his debt.
"The song was my debt, and I learned just enough," he says.
A flute player named Tom Minton happened by and, after hearing Holland make a flippant comment about how limited the Plains Indian siyotanka-style flute was, Minton picked it up and made a few runs up and down the instrument. Holland's mind was essentially blown — and changed.
Holland spent the next 20 or so years playing and learning the flute, only occasionally in front of other people. He started playing with Talley several years ago, and the two even recorded a few songs in a makeshift studio in Holland's bathroom.
They formed Crazy Flute in 2015 and started putting together a more legitimate studio on his property and learning how to use it.
"I didn't know what compression was or how to use it," he says of the recording tool.
Holland credits his new wife, Dana Holdren, with convincing him he was good enough to seriously pursue music and local music nonprofit SoundCorps for giving Crazy Flute a place to play. Crazy Flute plays regularly as part of SoundCorps' busking program called Sidewalk Stages.
"Echoes From the Mountain" was recorded at StarBrite Studios on Sand Mountain.
Talley plays Latin drums, djembe and rattle on the CD. In addition to the flute, Holland plays tongue drum, djembe and hand drum. Bradon Whetbruk, who Talley says is normally a death-metal guitar player, "recorded some amazing guitar parts" for it.
Talley says Whetbruk's guitar work was based only on what he and Holland had suggested to him in a conversation. He then recorded his parts and sent them in without hearing anything Talley and Holland had created.
"It was pretty amazing what he gave us," Talley says.
The songs on the album are all original instrumentals and based on traditional American Indian songs, though Holland says, "My vibe is not the lonely Indian on a horse on a hill with wind in his hair, mourning the loss of his people."
Talley was a trumpet and sax player in high school who has learned percussion playing with his friend. He says one or the other would come up with a melody or a rhythm, and they'd flesh out a song based on it.
Their next project will likely include vocals and perhaps some spoken word, Holland says.
For now, the two are planning their trip to Niagara Falls for an awards show neither would have predicted they'd be attending back when they were recording in Holland's bathroom.
"We are definitely going," Holland says.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.