At this point, y’all know me. I love a play on words. And while I considered slapping a great pun in the title like “Larkin about,” I decided any lark puns might be overused. So, I settled on an obscure reference to a 1980s fantasy film instead. I don’t think Dan will mind.
If you’ve been paying much attention to the live music scene around Statesboro lately, you’ve likely heard his name. So, I thought it was about time we sat down and got to know Dan Larkin a little better. Ever gracious, he was happy to oblige.
BH: You’ve been in Statesboro since 2018, correct? Tell us a little about your background and what brought you here.
DL: I’m originally from the Philadelphia area (Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is right outside of Philly), but I moved here in 2018 from Memphis, Tennessee, where I had been going to graduate school since 2010. As I’m sure you know, Memphis is overflowing with music. So, as a musician, it was the perfect place for me to go to grad school. I finished my PhD in Philosophy in 2017, and then, in 2018, accepted a tenure track professor gig here in the Philosophy Department at Georgia Southern.
BH: What sparked your interest in music?
DL: Growing up, my mom had a very strict “No TV during the week” rule, so instead of the noise of TV, there was always music playing in the house. My mom’s playlist included James Taylor, Jim Croce, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and other singer/songwriters...Oh, and also the “Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack. That last one is seared in my memory.
My Dad listened to more classic rock, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, The Kinks, The Who, etc. So, there was a solid range of music that sort of formed my influences.
BH: How long have you been playing and singing?
DL: As far as how long I’ve been playing and singing, I have been singing my whole life (my sisters are all singers to varying degrees, as well, so we were all in the choir growing up).
As for guitar, I think I sincerely started playing around the age of 15, and immediately got into the punk scene in a big, big way (including bleaching my hair at one point). Bands like NOFX, Less than Jake, Rancid, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Strung Out, Alkaline Trio and my favorite of the bunch, Hot Water Music, were my original influences as far as playing guitar. For the sake of musical range, I thankfully grew out of that a bit (though I do still love those bands).
BH: How long have you been performing in front of crowds? Tell us about your first gig.
DL: My first gig ever was with my first band (a punk band) called Mad Mardigan (Yes, we named our band after Val Kilmer’s character in Willow). I was 16 I think at the time, and the show was in the basement of our bass player’s grandmother’s house. I think four to five bands played, and about 50 people showed up, so it was a legit show.
That said, we were, as you might expect, absolutely terrible. I’m pretty sure I stared at my guitar the whole time, yelling as best I could into the mic, not moving at all out of fear of messing something up. But, despite that, I do still remember the excitement I felt, and the overwhelming nervous energy of playing live.
BH: You’ve become a big part of the Statesboro music scene in the last year. Has that led to a change in what life looks like for you?
DL: I don’t think it has changed my life too much actually, as music has always been a major part of my life since high school. In those days, we (my band Liam and Me) would have practice every night that we didn’t have a show, and then, after getting signed, we were on the road touring for much of the year. Even in grad school I played consistently, between my band, The Whiskey Republic, and an acoustic duo (called Rock and Roll Falcon...obviously we took ourselves very, very seriously), I was essentially playing 3-4 nights a week then as well.
So, while it hasn’t necessarily changed my day to day all that much, I have had a great time meeting everybody around town, as well as getting to know the other local musicians, and just generally becoming part of the music scene here (which I will also add has been very welcoming!)
BH: Take a minute to brag: What is a performance/moment/show/etc. you are incredibly proud of?
DL: I have been lucky enough to be in a number of great bands so far in my life, so it is tough to choose one thing, but I think there are two that stick out. My first real band, Liam and Me (which is a Big Lebowski reference) got signed in 2006. We went through a bidding war of sorts with contract offers from Virgin and Capitol Records, though we ultimately signed with a smaller indie label, Thrive Records. As a result of the contract, we had the opportunity to tour the country for a few years, playing some fairly large venues and opening up for some pretty major bands. One show in particular that sticks out was the House of Blues in Anaheim, California, where we opened for Under the Influence of Giants. They had sold out the whole venue, so we got to play in front of 3,000 people. It was absolutely surreal.
But to be honest, as cool as that was, my favorite shows were in the more intimate venues. The best show with Liam and Me was back in 2012 (that show was actually recorded and is available to watch on YouTube), where we had a mini reunion show in a small venue in NYC. It might have been a 200-person capacity venue, and we sold it out and played for people that we actually knew from all those years struggling with the band. That was a great time.
The second favorite gig was with my band in Memphis, The Whiskey Republic (also my favorite band name of any band I’ve been in). Those guys in that band were also my best friends in Memphis, so when we played our farewell show before I moved to Statesboro, it really meant something to all of us.
BH: How has music impacted your life?
DL: As I think it is fairly obligatory to include at least one quote in these types of things, and, as I am a philosopher, I feel equally obligated to maybe let Nietzsche answer this one. As he, perhaps not so famously said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Now, I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to sum things up nicely.
BH: What has been your favorite aspect of performing for local venues here in the Boro?
DL: Playing in Statesboro has been very different in many ways from playing in places like Memphis. One aspect that really sticks out is that I really feel like I know the people coming to the shows, I know the owners of the venues, I know the bartenders, I know the servers, and I know many of the other musicians performing as well. There is a genuine sense of community that is really, really difficult to cultivate in bigger cities. Playing a venue here almost feels like you are playing a friend’s house party, which has made my job endlessly more enjoyable.
BH: Are there any upcoming shows or events that you are particularly excited about? Why?
DL: I am particularly excited about the New Year’s Eve show at Tandoor and Tap. Given there haven’t been too many options for New Year’s in the past here in Statesboro, I’m not only thrilled to be playing on NYE (which is always a blast), but just to be at a party where I will know so many people. Should be one hell of a time.
BH: Now for the essentials! How would you describe the music you make?
DL: When playing out, I really try to throw in a mix of everything. But, the most fun stuff for me is always going to be classic rock, some alt-country, and the singer/songwriter types. As for my own original music, if I had to pick a genre, I would have to say it sits squarely in the alt-country sound. As a point of reference, bands like Wilco, Deyarmond Edison and Whiskeytown, and artists like Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers approximately make up the sound I am floating around.
BH: Who have your biggest musical influences been?
DL: As I mentioned, punk was an initial major influence (particularly Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio), and I still think in many ways that never left me as far as my performances go (I tend to fidget and move quite a bit). But as for my own music, I’d say the most influential have been people like Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), Ray Lamontagne, James Taylor (his early records), The Beatles, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Tom Petty, Wilco and more recently, Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers.
BH: If you could perform with any performer living or dead, who would it be and why?
DL: Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music (who is very much alive). Hot Water Music was my absolute favorite band in high school in college due almost entirely to the passion that Chuck and Chris (the two lead singers) put into their music and performances. And, while I do love Chris and his contributions to the band, Chuck’s stage presence just really struck me in a big way. So much so that I modeled my performance after him (it was initially a blatant rip-off, but I’d like to think I’ve gotten a bit less derivative since then!).
Also, I had the opportunity to meet him twice, once while in South by Southwest, and once while recording the Liam and Me album out in LA. He was incredibly kind (and cool), and was gracious enough to bring me into their section of the studio to hear his unreleased solo album (which is damned good). Now, my influences and style have shifted dramatically since my punk days, but if given the opportunity, I honestly cannot think of anyone I would rather share the stage with. It would be just too much damned fun to thrash around with one of my heroes.
BH: What was the last song that you listened to on Spotify/Apple Music/CD/Whatever?
DL: Just Let Go - Sturgill Simpson. He’s my favorite artist at the moment by far.
BH: Where can people follow you to keep up with your appearances?
DL: I’m admittedly new to (and bad at) the social media game, but I do have an Instagram finally. You can track my upcoming shows at @danlarkinmusic on Instagram.