Van Herk, familiar face in Culver business, explores musical ‘Daydreams’ on new album
If First Farmers Bank manager Chad Van Herk has been noticeably absent a few days recently, he’s had good reason. He’s been in California, in front of a film camera filming a music video in conjunction with his latest -- non-bank-related -- venture: a new album of self-penned and performed tunes.
It’s not exactly a secret that Chad Van Herk, a familiar face in Culver’s downtown business community, is also handy with guitar and vocals. Besides gigs in the Plymouth area (including the patio at popular Opie’s Deli there), in recent months he’s serenaded crowds ranging from boisterous partiers at the Edgewater Grille in Culver over Lake Fest weekend, to more subdued but likely just as enthused seniors at Culver’s REAL Meals. Now those Culverites who haven’t had a chance to take a listen can give the singer-songwriter’s just-released second CD, “Daydreaming Days Away,” a spin.
Van Herk calls the 14 tracks on the disc “a story of sorts, and through its delivery I like to think of it as a ‘mind wash,’ allowing the listener to relax a bit with the introduction and title track, then consider the world and all it has to offer as a gift for you to enjoy, cherish, learn from, respect and, from time to time (and ultimately), escape.
“Within the verses,” he continues, “one will find anecdotes of angst, love, self- and global awareness, humor, mysticism, self-reflection, and meditation.”
Chad Van Herk, a Plymouth High School and Ball State University (Cum Laude) grad, first picked up the guitar about 14 years ago, teaching himself to play from a chord book/CD combo. Becoming bored with that method, he says he soon began scouring that then-brand new invention, the internet, for chords for his favorite songs, “which provided much more pleasure.” He replaced a callous-causing, borrowed acoustic guitar with a Washburn Lyon electric, a $50 garage sale purchase, though within a few short years his passion for an acoustic sound became evident, and he bought a 70’s Madeira by Guild at Wagoner’s Music Shop in Plymouth.
“I put down the electric guitar,” he notes, “and chose the mellow route to unplugged freedom.”
Van Herk soon began writing songs based on his travels and experiences.
“I followed the advice of one of my earliest inspirations for adventure, Earnest Hemmingway, who urged to ‘write what you know about,’” he says. “Inspired by Indiana summers around the campfire and within and upon local bodies of water, the first song worth mention that I ever wrote was, ‘The Raft Song,’ which is on (my) first album and presented therein as a reflective, slightly melancholy tune of remembrance of younger days gone by.
“As my world became larger and my travels further, so too did my songs begin to accumulate and find their way to campfires, lamplights, and sunsets as time rolled on and new horizons were met. After a sabbatical throughout the Caribbean by boat, I’d managed to write a few more songs, and when a couple years later I found myself back home again in Indiana, I was inspired by the re-acquaintance to the seasons and by my newfound state of mind and wrote a few more. These can all be found on my first album, ‘Leavin’ Footprints,’ which I recorded and released in winter of 2009.”
Van Herk says his songwriting and playing style is “easily recognizable as a blend of artists from my earliest influences such as early Jimmy Buffett, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley through the more recent beach folk/rock reggae-ish works of Sublime, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.”
Johnson’s style likely inspired the most common comparisons, and Van Herk admits he’s “naturally evolved to assimilate” some of Johnson’s musical approach. More recently, he adds he’s drawn inspiration from Brett Dennen, Mason Jennings and Conor Oberst.
“Much has happened in the past few years,” he explains, “and all of these experiences, discoveries, and awakenings have been assembled poetically and musically in the form of song, and the album can be considered a form of autobiographical account of the past half decade or so.”
It may not make it directly into any songs on the disc, but one of those happenings of the past few years was Van Herk’s employment at the bank in 2006. Late in 2008, he was named branch manager in Culver, replacing longtime head Larry Miller at the latter’s retirement. Wife Elizabeth shares Culver as a professional base. She’s worked for around a decade as an equine professional there, teaching lessons and organizing and directing the horses and their care.
Both of Chad Van Herk’s albums can be heard in their entirety at his website, free of charge, at www.chadvanherk.com. They’re also digitally available for download and purchase via iTunes, amazon.com, Napster, and other sites, and physical CDs may be purchased through www.cdbaby.com. They’re also for sale at Culver Coffee Company for only $7.77 each.
Those hoping to catch Van Herk in live performance may get a chance, although currently he has no dates scheduled in the Culver area.
“I just might surprise Culverites now and then,” he says, “mostly unannounced, at local restaurants and bars this summer and autumn.”
In the meantime, you can catch him live at the bank, though likely without guitar in hand.