While most workaday musicians are slaving away in the trenches, pining from the beer-soaked stages of nearly empty clubs for a break that may never materialize, other musos sail right on into the welcoming bosom of The Biz, seemingly without effort or pain. But luck, as the old saying goes, gets you only so far — you gotta have talent too.
Young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dan Hunter, frontman and sole creative force behind PlayRadioPlay, has luck and pluck. Several months ago, the 17-year-old Aldeo native received an e-mail from an upstart manager, James Allen, who promised to take Hunter’s unique brand of futurist softcore to the mainstream masses and beyond. Around the same time, Hunter got a MySpace message from Virgin Records, one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. “I wasn’t sure if it was real,” he said. He took on Allen, and, before long, PlayRadioPlay was signed to Stolen Transmission Records, a subsidiary of Island Records, a Virgin property. Allen, Hunter said, “knew how to make the most of the offer.” Hunter dreamed up and laid down his new record, The Frequency EP, entirely in his home studio. He is also pounding away on expanding the e.p. into an album. Producers Lester Mendez (Santana, Shakira) and Garrett Lee (U2, Snow Patrol) are just two of the heavyweights on the PlayRadioPlay team.
In the meantime, Hunter will be gearing up to perform across the country as part of the annual Vans Warped Tour. The Frequency EP is primarily a collection of sweet, catchy ballads. The songs are flawlessly structured and bespeak a veteran musician. Hunter, however, began playing just a few short years ago. Apart from a few formal bass lessons, he is self-taught. On his own, he intensely studied and mastered guitar, drums, and, perhaps most importantly, production software. Inspired by a music technology class in high school, the aspiring songwriter bought a copy of a program named Fruity Loops and was on his way. As his knowledge of machine-made knickknacks grew, Hunter graduated to more serious software packages, like Reason and now Logic.
Although Hunter plays every instrument and sequences every bleep and bloop on the e.p., he will tour with a backing band, primarily, he said, to “flesh out the electronic parts of the music.” Joining him on guitar will be Fort Worthian Braxton Cantrell, who has his own solo project, Balance Problems, plus two of Allen’s mates: drummer Jonathan Cook and bassist Neil Keller. Creating, orchestrating, and performing music is an intensely personal experience for Hunter, who said he uses the craft to “put a positive vibe on a not-so-positive past.” Hunter’s father passed away unexpectedly before the youngster’s freshman year of high school. To cope, Hunter turned to music and drugs — a heavy load for a 14-year-old. When his mother discovered her son’s indiscretions, she sent him to a rehabilitation center. Now squeaky clean, Hunter proudly advertises himself as “straightedge,” which means that he doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex. Also a Christian, if not particularly a Christian songwriter, Hunter believes that his fans like the fact that he “stand[s] for something,” even if his fan-base doesn’t necessarily share his ideals.
A quick look at MySpace.com/PlayRadioPlay proves that there’s an audience — a huge audience — for Hunter’s “straightedge.” In addition to collecting nearly 80,000 online “friends,” he has found more than a million listeners, who accessed PlayRadioPlay’s sampler of streamable online tunes — not bad for a project that emanates from a teenager’s home studio in a small town. To Hunter, his online community is “the main thing” in his music career. “I feel very connected to my fans,” he said. “Bands who didn’t start in the digital realm use MySpace as just a secondary thing, but not me.” Hunter takes his success in stride. After he completes The Frequency full-length, he plans to keep touring and, hopefully, headline big venues. Star status would be nice, he said, but he’s also looking beyond PlayRadioPlay. Eventually he’d like to put down the microphone and focus on the production side of music. By which time, when Dan Hunter is a music industry veteran and hopscotching all over the globe, maybe some of his friends will have earned their diplomas and degrees.
Wed w/Under The Influence of Giants at House of Blues, 2200 N Lamar St, Dallas. $14.