Dan Van Vechten: Simply Dan

Dan Van Vecthen is a man with a guitar and a voice. Soft spoken at times and a person who enjoys the fine rough points to a song. A guy who simply is honored to be able to do whatever it is that he does that people seem to enjoy. His words not mine, by the way. Within a recent conversation over email and the local watering hole The Crow’s Nest Dan simply said, “There is nothing special about me whatsoever - I have my strengths, but any talent I have I can name 10 people I personally know who are immeasurably better than I am at it.” This was a conversation about the community here in Cincinnati. To which Dan has immersed himself in. He has learned from a bevy of extremely talented folks, and those would be the people he would give credit to before taking any for himself. But, alas this is not about them, this about Dan Van Vechten a man who didn’t start playing guitar until college.

He has always sung for family or friends, but didn’t pick up that strung box until later on in life. When a friend down the hall had an old nylon string guitar he taught himself a few melodies. Another friend taught Dan how to read tablature out of magazines, and Dan says “took off learning songs from there.” Now as he puts through this recent conversation where I just asked to give me a little background information through that conversation came this, “For about 10 years I played for hours a day, and for a few of those years I would make extra cash in the summer playing happy hours and opening for bands.  Over time I focused more on my professional career and the guitar started collecting dust in the corner.  I moved to Cincinnati in 2009 for a job at a local college as an administrator, and one night I stumbled across an open mic.  I was impressed with how good the locals are around here, and I started going back prepared with songs to play.  Over time I started learning more songs that were either written locally or are major influences to people who play locally, and that has ended up influencing me to submerge myself in the Cincinnati music scene.  Over the past two years I have gotten back into being serious about music again, but I have far surpassed what I was able to do 10 years ago.” 

This submersion that Dan speaks of comes across in his music. He has fully immersed himself into learning styles of playing and picking and chord structure. He along with some great songwriter’s in this town have opened up to Mr. Van Vechten and given him an arsenal of musical weapons to choose from. His songwriting is honest and genuine. His songs come from a place that he has lived. That is all anyone can ask for. It is the heart of the person that matters the most. There is no fakeness with Dan and his songs. They have come from him painstakingly playing them over and over and over and over again so he can “work out the kinks” before he would even think about playing it out at an open mic or a show. With the help of songwriter’s group that formed here in Cincinnati back in February 2013 Dan said that “had it not been for that I probably would have never wrote a song.” This gave him the confidence he needed and every two weeks they would get together and bring their works finished or unfinished fresh ideas, and just songs and it helped Dan develop the ideas that he had but just weren’t finished. That turned into a couple songs that he actually enjoys playing and now here we are. 

Now with Dan where he is I asked him what’s next? What is upcoming for you? This was his response, ”This summer was a very busy one for me.  I got to play at a lot of new places and was able to step up for a few festivals. I have finished recording an album of original songs, which is about to go into duplication and I will have ready as an LP within the next couple of months.  I am very excited about the final product as it includes some incredibly talented musicians playing along with me.  The album and performances associated with it will be titled, The Simply Dan String Band: First Take, and I am looking forward to having a product to distribute.  The next step will be to build the band that sticks together, pushes each other, and gets traction as a band so I can expand on sound dynamics and vocal harmonies.  Heather Buckley and I have been singing together for a little over six months as the duo "Van Buckley", but we both have so many other obligations that it's difficult to build a band around us.  We have had a very positive learning experience so far as we figure out the difference between performing solo and having band sets, and going back to playing some of the songs we do solo just isn't the same.  Being in a band is still new to me, but I plan on continuing to jam with other players until something more consistent falls into place so I don't have to build a band from scratch every time I get booked someplace.” From just this conversation I have had with him I could see in his eyes the thrill he has for this upcoming LP being released. The excitement was palpable. I think it for him might feel like the culmination of something and new beginnings as well. Seeing how far this music will take you. 

We finished up our conversation with the question I like to ask all my musician friends, why music? Of all things to do why this? He replied, ”I have a tendency to completely submerge myself in any hobby or interest that grabs hold of me and make myself as much of an expert as I can.  For many years I let the hobbies I grew up with get replaced with a professional career, which I also approached with the same intensity and zeal for expertise.  Over time I found that the career isn't as fulfilling and real as I wanted it to be, and I realized that I rarely felt like I was among people who I could relate to or who could relate to me.  I've always felt like the real me was an alter ego, and today I have the chance to play that role.  Through music in Cincinnati I have found an enormous community of people who have become teachers, mentors, peers, and friends.  I never thought I would be an active musician again, and I would have laughed out loud if someone told me a couple of years ago that I would be completing a CD people out there are going to buy.  Whether or not people actually buy it remains to be seen, but at this point in my life I am connected to some pretty great people and I believe in myself in ways I haven't felt for a long time.”

Dan Van Vechten truly loves doing this music. It his passion and you can see it when he gets up there and performs his songs. You can catch Dan at any of the open mic’s throughout our great town whether it is at The Southgate House Revival on Monday night’s, Tuesday night’s at The Crow’s Nest, Wednesday night’s at Cosmo’s, or Sunday evening’s at Wunderbar. Aside from the open mic nights Dan does play gig’s and Tuesday the 16th he will be opening up for Brothers Landreth at The Southgate House Revival. Bring a friend, tell a friend, and come yourself and check out a man who has been working really hard to do what it is that he does, and has taken hard work and dedication and put it to song. Dan Van Vechten, simply Dan.