Chris Watts, with Bryant Tench opening
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
Where: The Crimson Moon, 24 N. Park St., Dahlonega
How much: $11, get tickets
Walking down the halls of the Ninth Grade Center at Gainesville High School, it is possible at times to hear literature teacher Bryant Tench pull out his guitar and play and sing a little bit with his students.
With Tench’s background, it’s not that surprising. He grew up in a musical family, played in a band in high school, studied classical guitar at Truett McConnell University and is now playing in a band based in Clarkesville.
What is surprising is that Tench only recently came to believe he has a good singing voice.
“It’s cool to discover you have a talent for something this relatively late in life,” said Tench, 39. “I kind of made up my mind that I wasn’t a good singer. We were kind of just trying to get these tunes out and Jeff (Mann, a fellow band member) recorded me. And I heard myself. I said, ‘Wait a second. That doesn’t sound too bad. As a matter of fact, on a couple of tracts, I said, ‘I probably would even pay to hear me.’ It’s crazy.
“Since then, it’s a weird irony,” he added. “I’m a literature teacher, have studied classical guitar, but at least half the time people are talking to me about my music, they’re complimenting me on my voice. I lived three decades of my life thinking I couldn’t sing. I was just under that misconception. I’m no Pavarotti, but my voice doesn’t detract from the music. I think it’s really cool that you can find something that late in life.”
Tench said he has been influenced by many artists including John Prine, a two-time Grammy winner and singer/songwriter who has been performing for more than four decades.
“John Prine is a big songwriting hero of mine,” he said.
Tench will take his voice to the stage for a solo concert on Aug. 12 at The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega. He is opening for Nashville-based singer-songwriter Chris Watts. Tench usually plays with his band, Drunk on the Wind, whose name comes from a line from the James Dickey poem, Cherrylog Road. But the band already had its third annual homecoming show at the Habersham Community Theatre scheduled for Aug. 19.
“I didn’t want to do anything to pull away from our crowd for the homecoming show and Crimson Moon is more of a smaller kind of listening room,” he said. “Chris and I talked it over and decided I would come by myself. I’m excited about playing with Watts because he’s been kind of instrumental, through our mutual friend, of just introducing me to a lot of good music that has shaped the way I think about him.”
So what should those attending the show expect from Tench and Watts in their separate sets that night?
“I would expect good narrative songwriters who are trying to break outside the cliche that a lot of country music sometimes falls a lot into,” he said. “Then you look for a new kind of metaphor. You put it into your own words, which John Prine is crazy good at. It’s a way of putting a spin on what you’re trying to say, something that is new and insightful. That’s what I aspire to, and hopefully on my best days, that’s what I’m able to hit. Chris is a very solid songwriter.”
Watts describes his music as Deep South Americana, while Tench said he is “country folk or Americana. Americana is a really broad umbrella.”
While he is playing solo in Dahlonega, Tench said he enjoys playing with the band he said Mann pushed to start.
“I never wanted to be in a band; I only wanted to play one show,” he said. “So, we got this gig that I wanted, and we had well over 100 people there. Right now, we’re kind of on course to sell out a homecoming show in Clarkesville.”
Tench said he does tell his students about his band and his music.
“I’ve got to be a little bit careful because these are drinking and cheating songs, but it gives me a little bit of cred with them,” Tench said. “If I’m trying to work in some Shakespeare with them and they ain’t buying it, I don’t know that ‘Mr. Tench is in a cool band’ really gets me that far, but it buys me a little bit.”
On some occasions, he pulls out the guitar.
“The kids, they really enjoy it,” he said. “We talk about ballad structure, rhyme schemes and when (Bob) Dylan won the Nobel Prize.”