in Checking In, Music

Playing in a band – DNR

As I mentioned previously, I’d taken my singing much more seriously over the last few years, practicing for hours each week to improve my technique. At the end of last year, I got good enough to post a few audio clips and videos on a bandmate-finding website called BandMix. It took about a week before a few bands reached out to me, interested to talk to me about fronting their bands. I said yes to one which was a new Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band but we never rehearsed because of a surge in COVID at the time. I wound up leaving the band and it kind of broke up soon afterward. Then I got interest from a Beatles tribute band, too, but didn’t think the music was varied or interesting enough. Finally, a musician reached out who was interested in the same music I was – and it was across the gamut of styles. My interest was piqued!

In Beaufort, NC, tagging along on one of Kelly’s work trips at the end of December, I got a call from Chuck, the drummer, who proceeded to talk my ear off on all the stuff the band planned to play. A week later, I showed up at the practice space at Kit’s home and sang a few songs for him. He didn’t say much but his ear-to-ear grin told me all I needed to know. Thus, I became the frontman for DNR.

DNR is composed of veteran musicians, many with a decade or more experience playing in bands. As for me, this is my very first band. At our early rehearsals, held almost every Saturday morning, I found myself being stared at by my bandmates, waiting for me to take charge and get us playing. It took me a few beats (ha!) to learn how to actually lead a band, but basically I faked it until I figured out what I was doing. I never considered before how cool and powerful it feels to set this band (or any band) in motion. It’s not something I pondered when I was singing solo to karaoke tracks!

So we rehearsed and rehearsed, picked an interesting setlist, and missed various practices here and there due to vacations, COVID cases, and what have you. Finally, after months of hard work rehearsing, we held our first gig over the Memorial Day weekend: a surprise birthday party for Chuck’s wife, Claudia. There were about two dozen people in attendance and friendly faces at that, but re-watching the video I took I appreciate more and more how heartfelt the applause is that we earned.

As we were returning from a break I noticed Kit, our guitarist, was staring at me and chuckling.

“What? What’d I do? Did I miss something?” I asked him in a panic.

“You’re a natural!” he laughed, still grinning.

It was a great compliment. I could tell he meant it, too.

Being a frontman is more than just singing. I have to introduce the song, create banter with the audience, play percussion, get the tempo right when starting a song, and often adjust the sound board for the best sound. The guys look to me for leadership, which still cracks me up as I don’t really know what I’m doing. I guess I’m good at playing it off, though, or maybe just not caring anymore whether I screw up or not.

It is a very easy band to be in as everyone is sharp and witty. We have some real musicians, and take on music from Steely Dan, The Allman Brothers, The Moody Blues, The Doobie Brothers, Dr. John, and many others. While we were setting up for the private party gig, I played some tunes I thought we might want to add to our repertoire and, to my delight, I heard John (our lead guitarist) and Lance (our keyboardist) start to learn to play them. Such talent!

The other interesting thing about the band is that many of the members are nearly twenty years older than me! David, our bassist, is the closest in age at three years older (he is 56 at this writing). Some have been playing for 40 years or more. Many of the songs we play were new when they were playing.

In addition to frontman and recording engineer duties, I took on the role of social media person, creating the band’s Facebook page, website, and other social media accounts. I’ve used my experience in video streaming to record (and hopefully steam) our performances. At nearly every practice, I’ve recording the audio (and usually video) for critiquing later. I have gigabytes of media now, so much that I’m starting to wonder where I’m going to put it all!

The only downside is that we don’t have regular gigs lined up yet. I am working to motivate the band to get this done so that we are not just playing for our own benefit but entertaining others. It was such a blast performing for people. It definitely brings a new energy to it all. I hope we can get some spots on local stages (preferably outside) so we can continue to generate buzz and grow our following.

I am loving the work I’m finally putting into music. It’s never too late to follow your dreams, huh?