Please introduce your band
We have 4 core members as well as other studio musicians. We play many different genres of music, but we mainly identify with Americana/folk. The band was started by Dave Hamilton in 2015 and is mainly comprised of studio musicians from metro Detroit.
Tell us about your lineup
Dave Hamilton - songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, Amy Dixon-Lavery - songwriter and vocalist, Jeff Warner - songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and mandolin player, Tumbleweed - harmonica and Mark Byerly - producer, congas and keyboards. We also feature Takashi Iio and Keith Leonard on bass and Rick Beamon on drums. The Happy Curmudgeons released their first album, Meant 2 Be, in Dec. 2017. They are currently working on their second album with producer, Mark Byerly. The new album will feature guest appearances by Jim MOOSE Brown (Bob Seger Band) and Bobby Balderrama (Question Mark & The Mysterians).
How did the band meet?
Dave had written many songs since he minored in music in college. He entered a song competition in 1989 and finished in the top 4. The top 4 finish gave him an opportunity to talk with Lou Reed who convinced him to continue writing original material and find an audience. Dave also met Neil Young at that time who also encouraged him to write music for himself. Good things can happen with hard work and unrelenting determination.
Dave played a charity relief show for the Flint water crisis and ran into an old friend, Jeff Warner. Dave & Jeff began writing songs that ended up on the Meant 2 Be album. Amy Dixon-Lavery was brought on board for her outstanding vocal range and Tumbleweed became part of the band shortly after the release of Meant 2 Be. The band continues to work with producer; Mark Byerly, who has played with Bob Seger, Carlos Santana and Justin Timberlake.
Dave met Jack White during the recording of songs for their second album in 2019. His company, Third Man Records - Detroit, mixed the first two singles for the second album. Jack Russell, featuring Jim MOOSE Brown, was released in Feb. 2020 and 2nd Chances was released at the end of 2019. 2nd Chances won the Best Song at the 2020 W.A.M Music Awards in the Americana/folk category. The song was written by Amy Dixon-Lavery and Dave Hamilton.
What's the story behind your band name?
Well, Dave Hamilton was talking with Stu Cameron. Cameron was a former bandmate with Dave in a group called the Angel-headed Hipsters in the late ‘80s. Dave and Stu were writing songs and trying to come up with a name for the project. Dave was thinking of something with an H and C for the first letter in their last names. Stu came back with what audience would come out to see some Happy Curmudgeons like us? Thus, the name was born and Dave ran with it.
Tell us about your influences!
Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Bob Seger, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Grand Funk Railroad, Salvador Dali, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Richard Thompson, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor, Bobby Balderrama, Donald Fagen, Jim Morrison, Rascal Flatts, The Band, Doc Watson, Paul Butterfield, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jack Bruce, David Gilmour, Prince, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Rich, Neil Peart, Jim Croce, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and our own artist - Pauly M. Everett
Could you describe your approach to songwriting?
Dave usually dreams of his lyrics. After he has an idea for the lyrics, he begins writing music for them. Jeff Warner usually fills in the gaps for Dave if he’s missing something. Jeff Warner writes off of emotion and puts the lyrics together with what he is feeling and playing. Amy Dixon-Lavery has a topic or story in mind and then writes her lyrics. Dave and Jeff write the music for Amy's songs. Tumbleweed is writing new material with Dave and you will probably find an instrumental on the second album. Mark Byerly is a fantastic producer that takes the ideas and puts them on the canvas. He has played a huge part in the songs for the second album.
Describe your band's first big break
Our first big break came after mailing 250 CDs out to college radio stations that would give Indy artists a chance to be heard. We started getting hits on Apple Music & Spotify. Today, the band has over 1 million streams on Spotify. The Happy Curmudgeons recently won Best Song with 2nd Chances at the 2020 W.A.M. Music Awards in the Americana/folk category. The award helped awareness for the band and generated radio play, downloads and streams. The individuals in the Happy Curmudgeons not only work hard but put their love and messages into their music. They are dedicated to finding the heart of the musical note.
Tell us about some of your most memorable gigs - both good and bad!
The worst gigs are easy, like not getting paid after having a deal made. The worst gigs during a performance stem from forgetting lyrics (mainly Dave) to breaking a string during a crucial part of the song. The key is to roll with the punches and make it as seamless as possible. Our favourite gig was playing a BBQ in Michigan that was sponsored by a philanthropist that donated his own money to feed people that came to the show to see new bands and have a great time over Labor Day weekend. We got to headline the show in 2019. Greta Von Fleet also played at the same venue in the past before their recent success.
What advice do you have to those who want to start a band?
The best bits are playing shows when you are connecting with an audience. It is truly amazing to have someone send us mail and tell us how much a song or our music means to them. We want to be the better part of someone's day through music. The worst part is trying to get played, having critics tell you something is not good enough, you do not play the genre they like, and generating revenue to make the whole thing move forward.
What are some of the challenges you face being in a band?
The biggest challenges are having good material to record. You need to have the funds to get into a studio and market your songs. You need a lucky break and people in the industry that can give your stuff a fair chance to be recognized. You need dedication from your band members to love what they are doing no matter what is happening.
What does it take to be successful as a band?
Care about your songs and what goes into them. When you play live, if you play for 1 person or 1000 people - play the same way. Play with passion and love and your audience will find you. You need the utmost determination and rhino skin. There will always be critics that are ready to knock you down. You must rise above the unjust criticism and hone your craft into something unique.
How important is music theory?
Wow, music theory is very important. You must have a plan for each song, even if you have improvisation in the tune. Jazz players may sound like they are all over the place to some ears, but musicians know what is happening and the anticipation. Music theory is the blueprint to get where you need to go for songwriting.
Tell us about the releases you've put out to date
We released our first album, Meant 2 Be, in 2017. We released our first effort on cd and still managed to sell over 5000 copies. Meant 2 Be is still available on Amazon on cd and for streaming. We have done well with streaming on Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify. We have also been a featured group on Reverb Nation. We were nominated for some of the material on Meant 2 Be in different categories, but we did not win any awards. We did release the title track for our second album at the end of 2019. We also released Jack Russell in 2020 as a single as well. Both tracks have videos on YouTube and will be featured on our next album, 2nd Chances.
What has been your band's biggest achievement?
Our biggest achievement is being musicians that play music for the sheer love and get a chance to record it. We make music for us first and hope we can find an audience that appreciates what we do. We enjoy the freedom of playing what we want and with a group of talented individuals. We are very happy and fortunate to get the chance to have our voices heard and we do not take that for granted.
How do you view the current state of the music industry?
Music is one of the toughest businesses to earn a living. You do not get paid much for streams, our music has been copied illegally in Russia, and promotion is vital and expensive on a limited budget. It is difficult to make a deal with a label that can help you without giving up financial rights or artistic freedom.
What are you working on right now?
Our next album will be called, 2nd Chances. Our artist, Pauly M. Everett, already has the album cover done and anyone can check it out on our Facebook page or our website. We are halfway through right now and still have about seven more tracks to lay down. We will also have an all-acoustic version of 2nd Chance’s as a bonus track at Amy's request. Mark Byerly, our producer, is doing a great job keeping us on target and we hope to have the album released this year.
What is your focus for the year ahead?
We are totally focused on the studio and completing all the tracks for 2nd Chances. The title track and Jack Russell are available on YouTube and other streaming platforms. We are planning on having at least 15 tracks on the next album. We will still have a blend of classic rock, blues, folk, country and Americana on the album.
Thank you so much for dropping by the WeJam studio! Where can we follow your progress?