From Jambands to Cool Jams: The Many Stages of Dan Rockett
From harboring rock n roll dreams as an elementary school drummer to strumming an acoustic guitar at high school parties to serving as a mainstay of the Boston jamband scene in the ‘90s to working in Los Angeles with R&B hitmakers like Timbaland and Polow Da Don, singer/songwriter/guitarist/engineer/producer Dan Rockett has truly lived the musician’s life. His career is a prime example of just how diverse the “jamband” universe really is and illustrates the unpredictable directions to which a creatively open approach to life and music can lead.
In a recent conversation looking back on his life and times, Rockett proved an engaging, entertaining and thoughtful interview subject.
DB: When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional musician?
DR: When I was 7 years old, my parents asked me what I wanted to play in my elementary school band, which everyone had to participate in. My options were trumpet or drums and I remember thinking, “The trumpet is cool but I can’t be in a rock band playing trumpet.”
DB: When did you first start performing rock music for an audience?
DR: When I was in high school, playing guitar was a personal thing, something I’d do to mellow myself out, a safe haven for my teen angst. Growing up in East Greenwich, RI, there were keg parties on the beach every weekend, and sometimes I’d bring my acoustic guitar and play a few Neil Young songs, or whatever I was learning at the time, just for fun. Then I was asked to play a few school events, which is the first time I really got up and played in front of people.
DB: What did this lead to once you graduated high school?
DR: Applying to colleges, it never occurred to me to go to a music school like Berklee. To me college was for English, philosophy and all that stuff. When I went to Boston College (in 1990), I met guys who went to Berklee and realized, “Holy shit, I could’ve gone to music school.”
But I’m glad I didn’t. I had a great time and learned a lot that shaped my abilities as a songwriter and lyricist, which I take seriously.
DB: When did you really get serious about writing and playing music for a living?
DR: I had been playing acoustic guitar gigs while I was at BC, and when I got out I started playing more. There was band called The Daddies that was a bunch of guys from the New England Conservatory and I opened some shows for them. We hit it off as friends and one night I jumped on stage and we did a 20-minute version of “The End” by The Doors and we really clicked.
They then came to me and said they’d like to be my band, which blew my mind, because they are still some of the best musicians I’ve ever played with. Technically, they were at a different level than I was. I do what I do and do it well, but I work within my confines.