CLARKSBURG -- Nathaniel Stalnaker and Brandi Taylor of Clarksburg are following their dream to become musicians. These 18-year-olds started their own band called "Out of the Blue." So far, weddings, reunions, car shows and a mall appearance make up their performance gigs. Their music style isn't what you may expect for a group their age -- the four-member ensemble specializes in 1950s and 1960s music. This is their story as told to staff writer Jennifer Biller.
Nathaniel: We both played in bands before, and we decided it was time to do our own thing. So, we branched off and started doing '50s and '60s rock.
Brandi: One of my best girlfriends, Jennifer Wright, plays keyboard, and we brought her in. We knew a drummer that graduated a few years ago, Jimmie Canon, and he came in to play drums. We all do vocals.
Nathaniel: We've only been together for about a year now, but all of us have played in a band before except our keyboard player. We play songs like "Rock around the Clock" and lots of oldies.
It's hard to make a living at this. For a while, it was costing us more to rent our equipment than what we were making. We'd play a show for a $100 and end up splitting $50 between the four of us.
Nathaniel: My aunt came up with the name for the band. I was talking to her one night and telling her we needed a name, because we had a gig the next week. So she wrote down all these names. I read the list, and Brandi said she liked "Out of the Blue."
Brandi: When he said the name, I thought that's kind of cool because we kind of all came together out of the blue.
Nathaniel: My grandmother bought me my first guitar one summer for a Christmas gift. She told me she expected me to learn a few songs to play for Christmas. So, I sat down and learned about 10 songs in a week the first time I ever picked up a guitar. I was the entertainment for the holidays.
I play guitar and drums. For a while, I was in a country band playing drums for them. The guy who played lead guitar for them -- he taught me the guitar a little. I taught myself the rest.
Brandi: I play guitar and bass guitar. I heard the band he was in, and I thought they were awesome. They were our age and were so good.
Nathaniel: We'll get a song and listen to it and break it down into sections. We break it down into the drum part, the rhythm part, the bass part, the lead part. It's kind of weird. I can listen to a song and if I want to hear the bass line, I can hear the bass line. I can tune the rest of it out and sit there with my guitar and play the bass line. I play by ear mainly. It's kind of real freaky to everyone, because no one in my family has any music background.
Brandi: We kind of just throw everything together. Everyone has a lot of potential and a lot of talent. We don't really say who sings lead vocals. We try to sit down and figure out who's voice is more appropriate for the song.
Nathaniel: I'm the lead player and singer, but I'm not the designated leader of the band. It's a group effort. I've been in bands before and when you have one person who is heading the band and runs the bookings himself, he has too much stress.
Ninety percent of our shows come from word of mouth, where somebody will hear us and tell someone else. If someone requests a song and we don't know it right on the spot, we'll take a 15-minute break in between sets and I'll sit there and try to figure out the chords. If someone wants to hear something bad, we'll try to figure it out and play it.
Our first show last year was a car show, and we had maybe an hour worth of songs and played for four hours. We kept repeating them over and over. This year, we played there for four hours and repeated three songs. We have more on our song list now. We did a few songs that we didn't even know we knew. Someone requested them, and we just winged it. It was fun.
Brandi: I'd like to do some original stuff and write our own music. Me and the keyboard player have written some original stuff. We do the words, and then we'll sit down with one of our other musically talented friends and have him pick out the strum pattern and the beat.
We can start humming something, and right out of the blue we'll have a half a song wrote. A lot of the original songs are slower songs or love songs about losing someone you love. You can take personal experiences, turn them around, and twist them until you get something you like.
Nathaniel: From what I've heard, the key to a good band is to do a lot of different kinds of music. You get more of a crowd. Because one person may not like the Eagles, but they like George Jones.
**To reach Out of the Blue, call 783-5216.