Similar to the romantic mythology of the Wild West consisting of wide landscapes where the dear & buffalo play under skies that aren't cloudy all day, the once open ranges of the local & regionallive performance circuit have witnessed a growth of fences that tend to coral contemporary realms of musical talent into competing territorial boundaries that often bounce between extremes of Hip Hop, Metal, and Country, with a handful of venues featuring artists embracing multiple genres and creative talents that truly give voice to the complexity of musical texture that defines both the talent & sound of the Great Lakes Bay.
Dani Vitany & Ten Hands Tall is an exciting new group that has started to surface and poses a refreshing antidote to musical predictability with a compelling delivery of fresh, energetic and totally Modern Country Rock that is achieved through an irresistible synthesis of musical veterans in the form of bassist/vocalist Rick Brown and drummer Dan Currier joining forces with the fresh & energetic talent of guitarist/vocalist Barry Forster, 19-year old guitarist Mike Shepherd, and 20-year-old vocal dynamo Dani Vitany, whom despite her young age possesses a vocal maturity capable of knocking notes clear out of the ballpark.
Although they've only performed together for a few short months, the group has mastered a set-list of 50 songs, rehearses diligently, and has already turned the focus of their collective creative eye towards harnessing their unique musical chemistry into original material.
For Rick Brown, who possesses a legacy of professional experience dating back 25-years to his work with the legendary Mick Furlo Band, his enthusiasm for this new project is obvious. “I've always enjoyed all the musicians that I've worked with in our area,” he explains, “but for me when I first heard Barry and we started working together, I was in awe. He's my own kid's age and we take the stage and it gels. The same is true with Dani. When we start playing music there is no age barrier there, because the music transcends it. Both Dan and I have been work horses in our industry for a long time, but I can't say the last time I've been this excited about a group.”
In terms of origins, Rick, drummer Dan Currier, and guitarist Barry Forster all worked together previously in Mandi Layne & the Lost Highway. And according to Barry, the genesis for 10 Hands Tall began when he, Rick, and Dan started talking about pulling something of their own together. “And then we co-headed a show with Dani's group at the time, Vengeance, and I instantly fell in love!”
“Originally we were talking about forming an all-guy group, but the minute I saw her it was a no-brainer,” continues Barry. “The key thing we were looking for is pulling a group together with a lot of vocals and a lot of harmony, which I'm a huge fan of, and put more drive into it. The goal for the sound was to put something together that was edge, with good vocal talent, not just screaming out tunes. We assembled the band with that goal in mind.”
And to complete the musical dynamic, Barry discovered co-guitarist Mike Shepherd (the two call themselves the 'Tele-Twins', because they both play Fender Telecasters) at a gig down at Flint's Machine Shop. “I was doing a gig there,” enthuses Barry, “and I was blown away by this kid and told the other guys that we really needed another guitar player and this was the guy. He walked in - this 19-year old - and was wearing a John Deere Cap and a Ricky Skaggs shirt. It was so cool. When he agreed to join the band, it was a done deal and we were full steam ahead. Everything is falling together perfectly.”
With influences that range from Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Justin Moore, Martina McBride, Ricky Skaggs, Albert Lee and LeAnne Rimes, the group notes their focus is on rendering 'Modern Country with an Edge to it'. Or as Barry puts it: “Pearl Jam with cowboy boots playing on MTV Unplugged.”
With their focus on vocals, Barry and Dani often trade-off lead vocals and work a few duets into the roster; and the group is working on original material that Dani has written, which she's incredibly excited about.
But mainly it is the wealth of material that opens untold possibilities that excites the band most. “Both guitar players are gelling so well and sometimes when you get better guitar players, they don't always play nice together,” smiles Rick. “But we're fortunate that way. And with Dani and Barry doing lead vocals and working together, it opens that Lady Antebellum-type style, which is unique to the area. There's really nobody else out there doing it. Our options are unlimited.”
“For me this project started like an instant family as soon as we got into the room together,” states Dan. “Everybody got along so well and shared a similar sense of humor. We're all nuts, are on the same page, share common interests and work ethics.”
As for when the musical muse first engaged Dani Vitany, the 20-year old confesses that she's been singing and training her voice for seven years. “I've been taking vocal lessons for five or six years now and I am definitely dedicated to my singing because there is nothing else I can picture doing.”
“I'm lucky enough to do something I love and have been making a living at it, so am putting every ounce of energy into my vocals and making them better,” she continues. “I practice religiously every day and its not like a job for me because its so much fun. I will sing anytime for anybody.”
When asked of one vocalist that truly informed her, Dani points to Carrie Underwood. “I was enthralled by her ever since she won American Idol, have been to her concerts, and am inspired because despite her talent, she is so humble and cute and has the entire package.”
With their focus turning towards originals, members of Ten Hands Tall are united in the collaborative approach to their songwriting. “All of us have musical ideas,” reflects Barry, “and I have some songs on my laptop that are 10 years old. Dani has her originals. We all have a few. I've been even thinking of working with outside song writers; and all of us have music that we've written over the years that can be utilized in some fashion. Creativity is coming from all over the place. But at this points it's about gathering the best songs we can possibly can get to perform. My philosophy is the best song always will win. However, in terms of audience, you have to be excited about a group. Once you have that excitement, the next goal is to get that out to people.”
Thus far 10 Hands Tall have played mainly in the Flint area, with their first live show happening at the Davison Eagle's in Flint. They are playing a Battle of the Bands at the Willew Lounge on December 6th, have done several benefits, and also have put together an acoustic show that is basically an 'Unplugged' version of their live amped-up Club show.
Their name of Ten Hands Tall was originally Rick's idea. “Dani was bored and sent me some names, only none of them stuck. So I said, 'What about 7 Hands Tall'? Dan owns a couple horses and donkeys, and we liked that because it's a unit of measurement. Plus there are five of us and we have ten hands together, so it works on a lot of different levels and rolls off the tongue well.”
Indeed, everything has fallen together so well for the group that they've yet to experience any serious challenges. “The biggest challenge was getting enough songs together so we could get out playing immediately,” states Dan. “We wanted to capture the energy and get it going fast. Everybody put in time individually to learn the songs and then we got together to polish them; but trying to learn 40 songs with no gigs lined up and then remembering the ones we learned a couple weeks ago was a bit tricky. It helps to have an acoustic show every other Wednesday. Rick plays an upright bass, we do a modified version of our night, so it's a unique approach.”
“There's no distortion or delay with the acoustic shows,” adds Rick. “It's raw and helped tighten us up. I think of it as folk with an edge. There are a lot of goose bump moments in this band.”
“We do a version of Blown Away by Carrie Underwood in both the acoustic and electric versions of our show that Dani just nails,” enthuses Dan. “She kills the song. The acoustic version is raw but emotive and takes your breath away.”
With so much positive momentum in play, Dani Vitany & 10 Hands Tall is poised for great things in the months ahead. “Some of those bars that have mainly a rock clientele we will do well in because we do Modern Country, which is like Classic Rock revisited,” reflects Dan, “but we connect with youth because we have youth upfront in the line-up. It's a different kind of country now than what it was in the '90s. We're mixing everything in one bowl.”
“We have the Energy of a Metal Band,” concludes Barry, “and if you want to know our real secret to success, it's due to all the Red Bull that we drink. Most bands are looking for a Jagermeister endorsement, but we want Red Bull.”
You can catch Dani Vitany & Ten Hands Down at The Backwoods on M-13 every other Wednesday and look for them at more venues in the days and weeks ahead. You can also contact them for bookings or other information by going to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 810-689-2675.