Singer and guitarist Jesse Dunn has been scrambling these past couple of weeks. All the snow dumping in the basin has kept him busy shoveling, ensuring the cars and tour vans are in working order, and tending to the house. It’s menial but important work while his band Dead Winter Carpenters hibernate, the small grind that keeps the gears of life turning. But when he gets inside from the cold, he can warm himself by the fire against wife and fiddler Jenni Charles and the other person that has been keeping them both occupied recently, their beautiful newborn girl, Mabel.
As any parent knows, babies change things. For a traveling musician who is in a full-time band and playing more than 150 shows a year, the biggest change is time. Dunn knew Dead Winter Carpenters would have to slow down its touring to carve out time for life with Mable at home. When Dunn learned that bassist Dave Lockhart was expecting to add to DWC’s family band status with his own baby this April, that fact became even more clear. But when you’re forced to slow down the mechanism by which you provide food, clothing and shelter for your family, how do you compensate?
Dunn decided to step back into his former role as a booking agent. He was groomed, as most musicians are, by doing all the booking himself in his earlier years. Both in Dead Winter Carpenters and his previous outfit Montana Slim String Band, Dunn was the de facto agent for his bands, connecting the dots between bars and clubs scattered across the land. It was in this previous life he met friend and agent Sidd Kalstrom, who eventually started his own booking agency with Mike Kaiz called Blue Sun Entertainment. Knowing he was going to spend more time at home, Dunn reached out to see if Blue Sun needed an extra hand.
“I knew I’d have more time on my hands at that point. I’ve always taken an interest in the booking side and management. I’ve had my hands in it with Montana Slim and Dead Winter Carpenters, and thought that I had a knack for it. So I think that it was a natural progression more recently when I was touching base with Sidd. He was expanding his agency and I thought I could add something to that relationship. He took a risk on me. He knows that I was capable, in my persistence and love and passion for music in general, but also on the business side,” Dunn said.
Dunn has been working with the company since September and has a number of bands under his responsibility. In addition to working with Della Mae mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner and roots outfit Crow In The Canyon, Dunn is leading a mini Reno-Tahoe takeover of Blue Sun Entertainment by helping with booking for both Jelly Bread and The Sextones. It’s an exciting time for the company and the guitarist is happy in his new role.
“I’m extremely proud to be working with Sidd and Mike. They are a top-notch agency. We have some really great up-and-coming talent and are looking forward to what it is coming down the line. These are super hard workers and I’m fortunate to be working with them,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s experience helming multiple bands’ touring duties has served him well. He understands booking is more than throwing darts at a map and finding a place to play. It involves an in-depth evaluation by both band and booking agent to decide what the vision is for the band. Depending on what type of band you are, there are a number of ways to pick which venues or festivals you want to play or how you want to release your music. Being creative and open to possibilities is essential to getting a band out in front of people. But the No. 1 thing Dunn stresses to bands, something that he learned the hard way, is that expectations have to be practical.
“You need to be realistic about certain things. Shoot for the moon, but have a grasp on what the reality is of the situation. Don’t become discouraged when certain things aren’t coming through the door that you had hoped. You gotta have a bit of a thick skin and a persistence to get out there and follow your vision. Be confident in your music and know the more work you put in on the music side, as well as the social media and management side, the better you are going to be. Whether everyone believes in you on the outside doesn’t matter, you have to be first and foremost passionate about what you are doing,” Dunn said.
Even with Dunn’s new job and the influx of little ones in the Dead Winter Carpenter’s family, the guitarist is still gearing up for a big year for the band. DWC is shooting to play about 80 shows this year and will be working its way to the Midwest and East for tours at some point, never a small feat for a West Coast band. Its main focus for 2017 is going to be heading into the studio in the fall to start laying the groundwork for a new album. With the musicians spending more time off the road caring for their families, Dunn is hopeful he’ll have extra time to spend songwriting, a process that is most fruitful when he is not on tour. He certainly is confident he’ll have plenty of things to inspire his writing.
“There’s a lot to come out and a lot of creativity and a lot of songs to be written about this (new presidency), which a lot of people are up in arms about. I think politics drive a lot of creativity and a lot of art historically. Then having a baby is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened. I’m sure it’s cliche to say but it is an incredible thing, so I am definitely drawing a lot of inspiration from Mabel. Personally, I write tunes and we kind of pick and choose the ones that fit the band’s sound. Whether a song gets recorded or not, there have been a lot of little ditties that have been floating around,” Dunn said.
With a little less time in front of fans this year, any chance to catch the Dead Winter Carpenters in 2017 is going to be a happy family reunion of sorts. Just remember to try and not wake the babies sleeping in the green room when you’re hollering for an encore.