The Moment Steve Vai Thought He’d Never Play Again

Steve Vai said he briefly believed he’d never play guitar again as he recovered from a recent shoulder surgery.

He’d already undergone one operation on his back, but then required a second procedure that forced him to reschedule his 2022 touring plans to the fall. In a new interview with FaceCulture (video below), he revealed there was a moment when he thought the situation was much worse.

“The shoulder started years ago and it was something I was experiencing when I was working out,” said Vai, who released the latest album Inviolate on Jan. 28. “I let it go… I kind of crossed a point of no return where therapies weren’t going to work and they had to get in there and fix it. And they did, and they did a great job. And it healed. And I made Inviolate. Unfortunately, over the summer, I tore another tendon, and that’s why we had to move the American leg of the tour to the fall — because I had to get another surgery.”

He added that he hadn’t been worried about the development, but continued: “[T]here was a moment after I got the sling off where I started to try to play and there was nothing there. I couldn’t pick, I couldn’t strum. And I thought, ‘Okay, this is what it’s like at the end of the day for a musician.’ And for about 10 seconds that thought – ‘This is it; I’m done’ – that was in my head. And I can honestly tell you that with that thought, there wasn’t any fear. But there was a disappointment, of course.”

Vai explained he “wasn’t devastated” because he knew he could continue expressing himself using other outlets if the guitar was no longer available to him. “I don’t define myself as just a guitar player,” he said. “Music isn’t my life – music is something I do in life. Life is much bigger than what you do in it. So I never felt restricted in expressing creative musical ideas, even if I didn’t have a guitar, and I always knew that that was going to be there, no matter what.

But then another little voice came in, the voice of my higher self – it usually comes in to the rescue – and it said, ‘Shut the fuck up and just start playing. You know you got this.’ And I said, ‘Okay. Yes, sir!’ And I just started, and it came back.”

Watch Steve Vai Speak to FaceCulture

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