We sat down with Dave to talk about where he started, what inspires him and where the band is going from here.
Bridge: Let’s start by having you tell our readers who you are…
DH: Well, My name is Dave Hamilton and I am originally from a small town in Ohio. I started playing guitar at age 10 and began taking lessons at age 12. I minored in music at Miami University where I also got involved in the electronic music program. I studied guitar while I was at Miami with Jim McCutcheon, who is also known as the Guitar Man on PBS. I was very lucky to meet some great musicians during my college days – Lou Reed, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman and Laurie Anderson. Lou Reed and Neil Young gave me great advice that I follow to this day. They both told me to keep writing music, find your audience and ignore the critics.
Bridge: How long have you and The Happy Curmudgeons been making music?
DH: I began writing new material in 2014 that turned out to be the bulk of songs on the Happy Curmudgeons first album, Meant 2 Be. I did a benefit art walk show that year for awareness of the Flint, MI water crisis. I met an old friend there, Jeff Warner, who is a fantastic musician. I proposed we get together and write some songs. Jeff helped me finish 3rd Coast and Meant 2 Be, both ended up on the album – Meant 2 Be. My fiancee, Amy Dixon-Lavery is an outstanding vocalist and we brought her into the group at that time. We started recording the first album on August 1, 2015, thus giving birth to the Happy Curmudgeons project. I also met Pauly M. Everett at the benefit show and he came up with our cover art for Meant 2 Be.
Bridge: We have to ask about the name! Whose idea was it, what is the inspiration?
DH: The Happy Curmudgeons name – this comes up a lot when people first hear about us. I played in a band in the late 80’s and early 90’s called the Angel-Headed Hipsters. I still write with one of my former band members, Stu Cameron. Stu was helping me write Carnal Boogie and asked what I was going to call the band. I said we should take the letters from our last names and come up with something. He said, “Who is going to come out to listen to a bunch of Happy Curmudgeons like us?” and the name was born. Stu told me he thought it was horrible, so that sealed the deal.
Bridge: (laughs) You gotta love it! Everybody needs a Stu in their life!
Your sound will undoubtedly be a throw back for many listeners. Tell us who some of your main inspirations are…
DH: Wow, I have so many inspirational musicians that have influenced me and music I appreciate. Ok, so here are a few in no particular order: Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Grateful Dead (& Robert Hunter), Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, The Kinks, CCR, Graham Parsons, Chris Hillman, The Band, Steely Dan, The Beatles, The Stones Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Bob Marley has been a huge influence. I also really appreciate the Avett Bros. and Bill Strings and of course Jack White, Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad – great musicians for sure
Bridge: You basically just compiled a list of all of my favorite artists!
Speaking of, we heard about your meeting with Jack White! Care to share more about that?
DH:How did I meet Jack White? I attended a fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease hosted by a former Detroit Tiger player, Kirk Gibson. Alice Cooper, Wayne Kramer (of the MC5) and Jack White were in attendance. Jack White played a small acoustic set and we got a chance to talk at the end of the night. I told him we had worked with Bill Skibbe at Third Man Records in Detroit and he mastered ‘2nd Chances.’ I gave him a copy of the CD and he asked who was producing the band. Mark Byerly is our current producer and has proved to be an integral part of the Happy Curmudgeons. Mark has played with Justin Timberlake and most recently, Bob Seger. Jack was very kind and said I look forward to hearing more from you guys and best of luck. We are currently using Third Man Records to master the rest of the tracks for our second album.
Bridge: That had to be incredible for you! Handing off your CD to an absolute legend!
Let’s talk vision, what do you want your listeners to get out of your music?
DH: I hope they get enjoyment, peace, inspiration and the spiritual part of our music. Music is very therapeutic and it can be like a drug. Music is my personal prozac. It keeps me from getting depressed. I see people that retire and do not have anything to do. I feel music will always be a part of my life. I love playing music with people I love. I hope that love comes through the music. I want people who enjoy our music to have a feeling of community. It is always nice to share a space with like-minded people and have a place to go to feel connected. We wrote a new song, Be Kind, and that song says it all. We want to create an environment were people can escape a stressful day and relax. Music can heal people, creating it or listening to it.
The best part of the Happy Curmudgeons is a get a chance to create and play music with someone that means everything to me, Amy Dixon-Lavery. She not only has a great vocal range, she is an amazing person that is very inspiring.
Bridge: Please tell me you’re going to write a song called “Personal Prosac” (laughs) I think we all need to hear that one!
What current projects are in the works?
DH: Our current project is finishing our second album, “2nd Chances.” We are currently back in the studio with our producer, Mark Byerly. I think we should have 10 to 15 original tracks by the time we are finished. Pauly M. Everett already finished the album cover for us. We have released three singles from “2nd Chances”-”Jack Russell” and “I Know How You Feel.” All of the singles have videos on You Tube and are available on most of the streaming sites. “2nd Chances” won a 2020 W.A.M. music award for Best Song in the folk/americana category for us last year. Covid-19 has delayed the project, but we look forward to completing it.
Bridge: That is a lot of original tracks! We can’t wait to get our hands on them! In the meantime, we will absolutely be sharing those videos for our listeners to check out!
Aside from finishing that project, what goals do yous guys have for the band now that live music is starting back up?
DH: We are very happy to get back to playing live shows! The core four members of the Happy Curmudgeons are myself, Amy Dixon-Lavery, Jeff Warner and Tumbleweed. We use other session musicians to complete the band for various shows. The thing I love about playing live is the interaction with the audience. It gives us a chance to play new material before we record it and see what works. Playing live is not only a gateway to creativity, but gives you a chance to explore your soul.
Bridge: That is an incredible way to describe it!
We ask everyone this, only because I get such a kick out of it…If you had to pick one song to be the soundtrack to your life what would it be?
DH: Wow, it is really to difficult to pick one song to be a soundtrack for my life. I can give you three songs – Ripple by the Grateful Dead, In My Life by The Beatles and You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.
Bridge: And before we go I want to touch on that second album one more time-2nd Chances
What can your listeners expect from this album
DH: So, you said you are currently working on your second album – 2nd Chances. What can your listeners expect from this album? A lot more, this album is not just mainly my songs. We have a lot more collaboration and it has made this project better and the songs a lot of fun to record. We have some other special guests on this album as well. We have Jim Moose Brown (from the Bob Seger Band) on 2nd Chances and Jack Russell. Bobby Balderrama (the original guitarist from Question Mark & The Mysterians) will be on Rustic Glory, Pedro Espinosa is on a Jeff Warner song called All On You and we are very lucky to have Vaughn Mortimer from The Outfit on a couple of tracks. Jeff Warner and Vaughn Mortimer play together in a bluegrass based band called The Outfit. The Outfit is fantastic and everyone should check them out now. It has been fun playing and working with other gifted musicians and making an album everyone will be proud of at completion.
Thanks for having me! Peace and love!
Follow The Happy Curmudgeons on social media and check out their videos on YouTube at the links below!