This blog is a good analogy for chasing a dream too far in advance, when life is happening right now. Nearly four months ago, I had an amazing day of music and learning, hanging out with the amazing musician, Denham McDermott (@denhamdenhamdenham). I had dreams and plans, so I held off on writing this, but alas, life does not always go as we dreamed, and this story deserves to be told.
It was the day of the 605 Summer Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, an annual festival. It finally felt like summer, as it should have, it was JUNE! Only a week before I had messaged Denham about hanging out with him for the day of the festival, so I could get some behind the scenes shots of him getting ready, as well as on the stage shots of his performance.
No doubt, no hesitation, he almost immediately responded with “sure”. I kind of thought he was mistaken, or maybe he thought I wanted to simply do a shoot before the show, so I pushed, asking if I would have stage access, as well. He confirmed it, and that was that. I knew I liked this guy, he had been in Fargo not long before this, and left a very positive impression on me. This dude could sing. This dude could rap. How do you tie that all together? This dude is one of the nicest guys I’ve met.
So I found myself in Sioux Falls. Our day started early, as Denham had a lot to do to prep for the show that night. I met him at 9:30 in the morning at a local grocery store, and jumped in his car with my bag full of gear, not really sure of what I was going to capture that day.
Several major things stuck out to me. First off, you don’t live a life like Denham’s and not make friends. The day’s first task was using a buddy’s vinyl transfer heat press to make some shirts for that night. Both of us were shocked by how soft the new shirts were that were delivered that day! I spent a good bit taking pics of this shirt making process, listening to this guy belt out notes to the likes of Maxwell, the tune was “This Woman’s Work”. I added the song to my playlist before I left.
We talked music, life and family. Speaking of family, it is incredibly important to this guy. I pointed out how much he adores his mother. “She’s definitely my biggest fan”, he said, and I could tell he meant it. It was some good talking. This dude can form an immediate bond with people. He speaks openly, and you could tell he would never lie to you. He talks with you as though you’re already friends.
However, the day had just begun, and there was plenty of work to do. The next stop was a short music video shoot. Promotion work for another show coming up. Denham works. He gets shit done. How many people are out promoting their next show, the day of TODAY’S show? I got to meet Joshua (@Novakjoshua), the videographer, and clearly a talented guy. I took all kinds of shots while they worked, trying to be as ninja as possible. It was truly fun to witness. Is this what I look like when I’m working?
After the shoot, we got some food. Denham had a restaurant in mind, but the day had kind of gotten away with us, and what did I say about dreaming? Life is going to happen, either way. Qdoba it was. I order my food, and this dude, this generous guy planning his own life, making his ambitions happen, pays for my meal. While we’re eating, he pays me a few compliments. I’m awash with pride, but the compliment he gives me that I appreciated the most, even more than his appreciation for my art, is “you do your homework. I like that”, in regards to me pointing out his love for his mother. That means a lot to me, because I try to pay attention to as many details as possible. Photography is a form of storytelling, how can I tell that story if I don’t even know it?
Next thing’s next. Time to get fresh (are people still saying that? Am I ruining it?). Denham has a barber that makes house calls. Which I didn’t know you could do. While we’re waiting, he gets some quality time with his roommate’s dog, whom was eager to have his picture taken. We watched “The Fighting Temptations”, we talked, and his sister showed up, another important person in his life. She is instantly kind, and welcoming, striking up conversation with ease.
I was able to take some truly intimate pictures while the haircut was going. Haircuts offer an interesting perspective on someone. They completely lack control, placing a decent amount of trust in the barber. It shows in the pics I was able to grab.
One of the questions I ask pretty much every musician I hang out with is “Do you get nervous before a show?” Mostly, they say no, but I always notice something special. Denham, like most other musicians I’ve worked with, go somewhere else right before the event.
I don’t mean they physically change location, no. They go somewhere in their mind. Whether it be the thousand yard glare, the rehersal where a guitarist picks soundless notes, or, like Denham, around the corner, occasionally belting out a sonata for an audience that isn’t there, soul already in the lyrics, this man clearly has his heart in music, and it moves him.
If you are lucky enough to attend a show where Denham takes stage, you already know that he takes nothing home with him. He leaves absolutely everything on the stage. It is gorgeous. It is moving. Sometimes, it is a little funny, but it always comes back to beautiful music. I had the honor of witnessing Denham take stage with a drummer, and pianist, something not often found at a Denham performance. I was able to take stage to get some absolutely amazing pics.
I had an amazing experience hanging out with Denham. I should have written this sooner, but those darn dreams sometimes limit our ability to perform. I can’t wait to see the great things Denham McDermott will do.