For every lead singer out front wowing the crowd, dreaming of the cover of Rolling Stone, there’s a working musician or writer in the background happy to be a part of the show without the pressure and trappings of infamy.
Few illustrate that better than Indianapolis’ own Dave Elwert, who spends more than half his year working as a touring drummer with the likes of Corey Cox – who he’ll join onstage Saturday at Legends Day at the track in an opening slot for Blake Shelton – Joel Levi and Seth Cook.
For someone like Elwert, the life of a touring musician is the best of both worlds, allowing for steady work without constant interference.
“Maybe I need to have an alter-ego or dress up like a ninja or something like Here Come The Mummies and never reveal my identity!” he says, laughing. “It’s funny, because there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with being an artist. And though playing with a bunch of different people and seeing that on a different level, I can go back to the hotel and say ‘I would never want to do that!’ I love playing with them, but I don’t want to have to.”
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In between touring stretches, Elwert spent much of the last year putting together his fourth solo album Adventures, which draws on his love of '80s synth-pop and throws in modern hooks.
“[With Adventures] I was trying to make a pop, radio-friendly album,” he explains, “But in terms of the space I recorded it in, it literally was the back bedroom of my house, which I’ve converted into a studio. If you walk into the room you can barely walk, there’s drums and keyboards everywhere. But synths, I’ve always had a guilty pleasure for that sound. They were around a lot in the '80s, but when I was growing up ... if you played a synthesizer it wasn’t going to work out well for you.”
Working with a few long-time fellow musicians to craft his originals, Elwert says he has more freedom to make sure the songs he writes speak for him.
“As a songwriter that’s where I’m trying to start, just trying to write a song that at least I can identify with,” he says. “I hope that if I can identify with it, hopefully someone else out there can. If the song is doing its job, bringing out the emotion that inspired the song in the first place, it still may not be a perfect song but it can be a great one.”
Ten years ago, fresh from college graduation, Elwert says he pursued his own music more intently for a time, but discovered that the more lasting connections he was making were with other musicians, many of whom chose him to produce their music..
“Everybody’s gotta work,” he says. “It just worked out to where I was one of these guys who plays with a bunch of other people, which is great because it allows me to justify things. I don’t feel like I’m under the gun quite as much when it comes to writing and recording. I’m not doing that as a means to pay my bills. Although everybody would love to see a certain amount of success with their songwriting, I don’t rely on it.”
And though he never had the opportunity, or perhaps even the inclination, to find personal fame fronting his own songs for audiences, there’s a sense that in the end things worked out exactly as they should.
“I’m grateful it worked out the way it did,” he says. “I feel like when you’re in the spotlight, you eventually find yourself a sound you identify with and every album is at least similar in some ways to the one before. I hated those restrictions. So it’s been nice, as I write, not to have to worry, ‘Oh, this doesn’t fit in with the stuff I did before.’ That doesn’t even matter to me. A song is a song, so whatever makes the most sense to me at the time, that’s the style I get to roll with.”