I caught up with Daniel Van Vechten to talk about his debut album, under the moniker, Simply Dan String Band. The new album is aptly titled, “First Take” and it’s a great collection of songs and performances by Dan with the support of some talented local players. It has a folk feel and is beautifully recorded. Dan tracked at Tommy Cappel’s, All Nighter Studio, which is quickly becoming the “go-to” place for local folkies. Everything is clear and crisp and arranged with only what serves the songs. No busyness. Just solid tunes, delivered in a “story-teller” style. Appearing on the record are; James Funk, John Castetter, Jeremy Pittman, Will Kimble, Suzanna Barnes, Patrick Hu, Hank Becker, Aaron Hedrick, Jeff Roades, Heather Buckley, Rob McAllister, Sleepy Andy Tracy, and Jeremy Francis. It was very encouraging to hear his take on finding his way into the local music community!
kt: How long have you been playing out and do you think it’s difficult for new acts to find their way into our music scene?
dv: I have been playing guitar for over 20 years and singing for longer than that. I used to occasionally play out a long time ago, but over time I let music fall into the background while I focused on other things. I discovered an open mic on the west side a few years ago, and I was inspired to dust off my guitar and show up every now and then to play the few covers I could still remember. Around two years ago I started seeking out new places to play and lucked into finding venues that had open mics packed with gifted musicians and songwriters. I started learning as much of what I heard as I could, with a lot of those songs written by the people in the room. I was invited to join a songwriting group, and over the next few months I was lucky enough to regularly meet with an outstanding group of folks who gave me inspiration to learn as much as I could and keep trying my hand at making songs of my own. That group got smaller and smaller as time went by, but it was because everyone was in bands that played a lot. My inventory of songs had changed over to stuff I was excited about playing, including some songs of my own, so I bought some sound equipment and started to work on booking.
I don't think it's hard for a new act to play if they are smart about how to do it and they get along with people. There are so many open mics in town that all someone has to do is show up with four songs and the guts to sing them to a room full of strangers. By the time you're done you will find a room full of people ready to talk shop. As I got to know people, I would be invited to play short sets while their bands took breaks, or I'd get added to a bill with multiple bands in a place I would not have normally been able to book on my own. Between songwriter groups and open mics, I found myself around some very gracious people who offered advice and opportunities.
kt: Who are your biggest influences?
dv: My early influences included a lot of folk-style music. I would learn entire James Taylor and Paul Simon albums because I loved the way they played, and many of the songs I write have that mellow style to it. I love blues and blues-based rock too, but I will absorb whatever strikes a nerve at the time and dive into it. Right now I am really into Honky Tonk music. I am also very taken with anything that comes from Cincinnati, and I consider it tribute to cover local songs I like. About a third of the songs I play were written by people I personally know.
This collection of musicians playing on the cd with me are all folks I met pretty recently and made a connection with through our music. The music community in Cincinnati is very welcoming and supportive, and that creates an atmosphere good people want to be a part of. Shared songs have made for some great friends and unbelievable moments together, that's for sure.
Be sure to check out Dan at his release tonight at The Crow’s Nest with support from Blue Caboose and VanBuckley. Check Dan out at www.simplydanstringband.com.
Favorite Tracks: Guardian Angel and Grow Bananas.