Ian Decker

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    Ask any musician what qualities it takes to be successful and you might hear some of the following: talent, vision, dedication, ambition, experience and above all, passion. Singer/ songwriter Ian Decker has developed his skills as a songwriter and nurtured his talents as a musician since adolescence, but a true passion for music is something Ian was born with. A lifelong fan of rock and pop music, Ian Decker has now released his compelling debut CD, Falling, a collection of nine songs that illuminate his relationships with family, friends and his audience. From thoughtful ballads to inspiring anthems, Falling’s nine tracks blend a modern, adult alternative sound with classic pop influences reminiscent of The Eagles as well as newer artists such as David Grey. It is an ambitious first effort that’s clearly been a lifetime in the making.

    Born and raised in Marietta, Ohio, Ian’s love of music was first inspired by his father. “Growing up,” Ian remembers, “My Dad was always singing or whistling in the car and we always had the radio on. He also had a big collection of records by rock bands and singer/songwriters from The Beatles and Elvis to Three Dog Night, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Grand Funk, Steppenwolf and Blood, Sweat & Tears.” Ian loved to sing along with his favorite records and, as his vocal abilities developed, he immersed himself in school music programs, choirs and talent shows. “As I started discovering music on my own,” he recalls, “I really got into popular artists of that time such as Herbie Hancock, Pat Benatar, Men at Work and whatever friends threw my way.” Once he was exposed to the heavier, guitar-driven rock of artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Boston and AC/DC, Ian knew he had to learn to play guitar.

    At fourteen, Ian borrowed his first guitar, a Harmony acoustic “with a broken High E string” from a friend. “I learned the C and G chords, until I finally needed to buy the E string to learn the D chord,” Ian laughs. “Once my parents saw how dedicated I was to learning the instrument, my Dad bought me a Cort six-string acoustic for my fifteenth birthday. By the end of that year I was saving to buy an electric guitar so I could venture deeper into classic rock and hair bands!” Ian credits Bon Jovi with helping him to develop a distinct rhythm guitar style, while Journey’s Steve Perry inspired him vocally. “I also appreciated the fact that these bands were comprised of songwriters, recording all original music and doing it successfully,” says Ian.

    Beyond singing and playing guitar, Ian started unlocking the mysteries of the recording studio in high school; using two boom boxes to record primitive multi-track mixes of his original songs for friends. After graduation, Ian enrolled at Ohio University in Athens, where he studied Music and Audio Engineering. “When I hit college,” he says, “I spent half my time in the music department the other half in the recording studio.” The young singer/songwriter augmented his studies by gigging out as a solo performer; playing guitar and singing both covers and originals at coffee houses, charity benefits and local bars. In 1991, Ian recorded his first studio demo of his songs “She’s Taken My Heart” and “The Way Home.”  At the same time, Ian joined the cover band Head First, playing local parties with a set list featuring songs by bands from Zeppelin to Violent Femmes.  “Before joining Head First,” he explains, “I’d only done solo, acoustic gigs. Now I was the lead singer, so I learned how to front a band and feed musically off others.”  Ian also teamed up with his Head First band mate, Bob Crock in the side project, Ian & Bob. “We basically played our Head First songs, but I also got to play mellower, acoustic stuff like James Taylor, Harry Chapin, Bread and Jim Croce. I definitely grew more adept at playing guitar while singing and I proved I could play for diverse audiences.” Ian earned his BA in Communications in 1994 and immediately joined the prestigious Audio Engineering Society (AES).                                      

    While working as a producer/engineer on local and regional band demos, honing his song writing skills and polishing his solo act, Ian kept his chops up by playing live with a couple of different local projects. “Ian Decker and the Parrotheads was a good-time party band where our sets featured a handful of Jimmy Buffett songs,” Ian laughs.  “We were all basically in it for fun, but that band gave me a much needed outlet to play live.” Later Ian joined a popular cover band, The Bud Wizer Band, featuring Ian Decker, playing classic rock along with modern rock hits. “That gig helped to get my name out and led to an invitation to perform solo at the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in 2002,” he offers. “The Festival committee had seen me play in a band situation so they knew I was musically versatile and could work a crowd.”

    As Ian established a solo following and began introducing more of his original songs, he continued with his DIY ethic by starting a record label, Tri-Diamond Records in 2003.  “I knew that once I made a record I’d be doing the majority of distribution and marketing,” he explains, “and realized it was best to get a label name established.”  A short while later, Ian started KyThom Publishing through performing rights organization ASCAP (with whom he was already registered as an artist), allowing him to retain full radio royalties on his music.  

    Recorded from 2002 to 2004, Ian Decker’s debut, Falling is a true solo effort, with Ian writing all the material, playing nearly every instrument himself, and recording and producing the album in his home studio. “I wanted to include these nine songs because they show different styles of my songwriting and production ability,” says Ian. “Most of the songs are based on or inspired by my personal life.” As a husband and father of two young children, Ian’s biggest challenge in completing the CD was simply finding time to write and record. “Beyond having the main riff and a few lyrics,” Ian remembers, “The song “Falling” was literally written as I recorded it, simply because I had little free time outside the studio. Life kept calling my attention elsewhere, hence the first line, “Looking for another hour in the day.”  Between kids, work and a family illness we were dealing with, I sacrificed a lot of sleep to complete the album. This song truly reflects what I was going through at that time, making it one of my favorites.”   

    When Ian’s mother in-law became gravely ill, he worked through the stressful time and poured out his feelings to his wife in the heart-felt song, “Mother’s Love.”  “I am a big Goo Goo Dolls fan,” Ian confesses. “One night when the kids were in bed and I was by myself writing, I started thinking about the song “Black Balloon.” That’s when the first line of “Mother’s Love” came to me: “You came back down from your black cloud last night.”  This song encapsulated everything I wanted to tell my wife the whole time her mother was sick. She was gone a lot and our schedules often didn’t match, so two years passed before we could really talk about anything.  Writing “Mother’s Love” gave me a way to talk to my wife when she wasn’t there, and it helped me deal with the loneliness I felt at the time.  “My Life” is a song from the same period that touches on similar feelings,” he continues. “I really felt lost not being able to play out, losing what following it seemed I had, so “My Life” is a song for the audience about the audience; basically a promise that I’d be back playing for them for many times to come.”

    Throughout his career, Ian Decker has performed over 500 gigs in and around his home state of Ohio as well as shows in Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many of the songs on Falling are already audience favorites. “People really like the live version of “What If” and the acoustic arrangement of “Falling,” Ian offers. “At The Start,” a song about what might happen if you could go back and re-live parts of your life from the beginning, gets a great reaction because it seems bigger live, even though I do it solo acoustic. I’ve been performing that song for a few years, but I still love playing it.”    

    “I made Falling because fans at my shows kept asking for a CD they could listen to at home,” Ian says. “While I worked on the disc, lots of people said it couldn’t be done; that family obligations would get in the way. Now I really feel peace of mind and a great sense of personal accomplishment knowing I actually did it. By finishing Falling, I have something to give back to fans who’ve supported me over the years. It’s also helped me get my foot back in the door of the regional music scene and given me a new respect for all musicians working tirelessly to make their dreams come alive. I’m a guy with a love for music and family,” Ian concludes. “Neither would be complete without the other and, thankfully, I have both. I want to keep growing as an artist, write the best songs I can, enhance my recording skills and continue to reach people through music. I’m living large, no matter what anybody else thinks.”

 

 written by: Gail Worley at www.worleygig.com ROCK CRITIC AT LARGE!

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