WSM Nashville, 650 AM is the radio home for the Grand Ole Opry, which has been broadcast live over the airwaves since its inception in 1925. For their 86th birthday celebration, WSM teamed up with Sonicbids to find some great emerging talent for the festivities. Lucky for Nashville locals, The Danberrys: their music struck a chord with WSM and were chosen to participate in the big celebration. Lucky for me: I got to chat with Ben and Dorothy from The Danberrys and heard all about it.
WSM was celebrating their 86th birthday with promos that ran for 86 days – and you participated in that celebration with an on-air performance, a gig at Tootsie’s and then another The Ryman Auditorium in the same day! Was it exhausting or did the adrenaline kick in for you that day?
Ben: We were feeling great all day. Our day began with an 8:00 A.M. on air interview and performance on the legendary WSM radio station. We are typically not morning people but on this day we were fully awake and energetic for our morning engagement. We did take a nap that afternoon and when we awoke it was time to get to business. The rest of the night was great and I felt that our energy level was right where it needed to be.
Dorothy: My energy level was on eleven for most of the day, which was good because the day was pretty full with an 8:00 A.M. on air interview/performance on WSM and then two gigs later that night. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I just watched in total envy while Ben slept like a baby. Of course, we tried to take a nap after the WSM interview, but my adrenaline kept me awake while Ben just snoozed it up…again! I feel like the combination of no sleep and the adrenaline kept my energy right where it needed to be all day. Ben, of course, was totally cool: right where he needed to be mentally and energetically all day. I don’t know how he does it!
For your gig at the Ryman, you opened for the legendary Robert Earl Keen. What was it like share the stage with him? Did you get any personal interaction with him at all?
Ben: It was a great honor to perform on the same bill as REK. He has a great live show, and he has awesome fans, totally loyal and ready to feed the stage with their energy. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk to him. We spent most of our post-gig time at the merch booth meeting new people and hanging out with friends and family who had come to see us. We did try to intercept REK backstage, but we didn’t really want to bother him in his dressing room. We also went to an after-party hosted by his management group hoping to see him, but he wasn’t there. Major bummer on that front, but maybe it will happen one day!
Was there any special significance for you for either of the gigs you played that day?
Dorothy: The Ryman is one of the most historic American venues, and I would say that this is probably a well-known fact. We both were honored beyond words to play in such a historic room. The gravity of that honor had us both a little nervous beforehand, but a calming effect came over us as soon as we walked into the building. The house staff were amazing, generous, supportive, and genuinely kind. The building itself, and especially the stage, had a reassuring aura-- like a feeling of unity and comfort--like you were being watched over and championed by an unseen force. Now we totally understand what people mean when they talk about the “spirit” of the Ryman.
Ben: The night had extra special significance for me due to the fact that I had performed at the Ryman as a guitar student in the 90’s. My music instructor held our recitals there every December for a few years, and the concerts were always labeled “Future Stars”. It was surreal to once again enter from stage right and perform in that beloved building. This time, however, it was the real deal and it was an amazing 15 minutes of music. The building is really an instrument in itself. During the chorus of our last tune, you can hear what sounds like a third vocal part on the recording, yet there were only two of us. The night was also extremely special due to the fact that so many of our friends and family were there to cheer us on.
How have those gigs helped you in your career? Did you generate a lot of buzz or get any other special attention or gigs because of that day?
Ben: After playing the Ryman, we have gained the confidence that we can play anywhere. Once you play that stage, most other stages seem to pale in comparison. We have some things currently brewing in our camp, and this opportunity definitely helped solidify our place as professional musicians and songwriters.
If you had the chance to do the day all over again, would you change anything you did or what happened?
Dorothy: Honestly, I think the day went better than we could have ever imagined. There were no hitches of any sort, and both audiences were very receptive and responsive. The whole day was quite magical, and the coolness and professionalism of the people at WSM, Tootsie’s, and the Ryman really made everything flow so easily. You can always second guess decisions and nitpick performances, but there’s really no value in that. What’s done is done, and things are exactly as they should be.
What’s next for you guys? Any new music videos, records or tours coming up?
Ben: As of now, we have two new songs recorded that are currently being mixed for release in early 2012. We’re also planning a music video for one of these songs that will be shot in the near future. We have an album’s worth of songs ready to be recorded, and I’m sure that process will begin soon. Currently, we’re looking for someone to help us with booking and promotional stuff so we can spend more time working on the music rather than the business aspect of the project. Right now we’re doing our own booking for the 2012 festival season and we’re playing in and around the Nashville area pretty regularly. Of course, we’re always writing new material and getting ready for whatever else we’ll be meeting on the path.
Check out a video of The Danberrys' acoustic set at The Ryman. Learn more about Sonicbids here.