Instrumental to Success

Dave Desmelik of Brevard has been a touring musician for 20 years. Photo by Matt Rose.

Dave Desmelik, a Brevard-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, has been a professional musician for 20 years, taking his instrumental and lyrical tunes across the country and Atlantic Ocean. He spent time in Colorado and Arizona, finding success in Flagstaff with a newgrass outfit called Onus B. Johnson (the trio was a finalist in the 2001 band competition at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival). He finally settled in Brevard, NC, and is now married with two young boys, Holmes and Vincent. At a recent photo shoot, Desmelik sported a Mohawk, worn to support Holmes, who’s lost his hair during chemotherapy — the 6-year-old has an inoperable brain tumor.

Over his career he has released 10 CDs, including last year’s Old News. Desmelik’s style of Americana mixes thoughtful, sometimes melancholy songwriting with impressive guitar licks (think: David Rawlings meets Neil Young).

He took some time away from touring and fatherhood to answer Bold Life’s questions about his musical path.

Is it nice having a gig close to home after so much traveling?

I love playing in Hendersonville. I’ve always had a good response there. It’s right down the road from where I live, so the convenience factor is wonderful for me. I do so much driving with all the gigs I play that the ones close to home are very welcomed these days.

What kind of band setup do you have?

I do solo, duo, and trio gigs, just depending on what the venue wants. When I do the solo show, which is what I’m doing at Sanctuary Brewing, I tend to bring more instruments [including guitars in different tunings, a four-string cigar-box guitar built by a friend in Transylvania County, and a baritone ukulele]. The show will be half lyrical, half instrumental. Everything I play is all original. I’ve got a lot of albums, so I have a lot of songs to pull from.

Do you find that the crowd listens as intently when you do instrumentals?

Probably, honestly, they listen more to lyrics, but that doesn’t stop me from playing lots of instrumentals. No matter where I’m playing, I tend to get lost in my little bubble of music.

You had sort of an epiphany about becoming a full-time professional musician …

I was in Colorado, living in Breckenridge, and I had just had knee surgery. I was sitting at the bar and saw this guy playing guitar and singing, and I said, “I can do that.” Someone who was close to me at that time was sitting beside me and said, “Yes, you can.” I still remember that to this day. For whatever reason, that was a motivator. I knew music was always powerful in me, and I gravitated toward it. I’m glad I chose that path.

What are three songs you wish you had written?

How about “Mother” by Pink Floyd, “Old Friends” by Simon and Garfunkel, and … let’s see … “Exodus” by Bob Marley. I tried to go right off the cuff, without really thinking very deeply about it. I have no idea where all that came from. I’m just shooting from the hip here

How do you balance being a father and touring life?

I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t travel as far as I used to. My wife is a teacher, so in the summertime I’m afforded that and can do a little more traveling. I book gigs that keep me busy and keep me traveling, but not too far. Unless I have a place to stay, I don’t travel too far where I can’t drive back. As I get older, I’m leaning toward the earlier gigs.

Dave Desmelik plays Thursday, May 26, at Sanctuary Brewing Company (147 First Avenue East). Call 828-595-9956 for start time and more information.

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