He emerged for just a few days from his live performance retirement to accept his City Weekly Music Award nomination and release his “70 Love Songs” album. His mysterious persona once again took the spotlight, a place he hasn’t been lately.
Renowned Provo musician Drew Danburry’s mysteriousness roots itself in his varying passions (music, barbering and filmmaking) and in his choice to change his artist name for different music projects. Danburry claims his use of pseudonyms helps him retain his privacy and explore different characters. His delving into different musical identities reflects his approach to creativity and life in general: he explores.
“I don’t think music should reflect an individual so much as be an artistic exploration,” Danburry said. “I like the idea of separating myself as a human being from the musical product I create. I don’t know if any of those things are even possible, but if I can at least confuse some people along the way, then that sounds like a fun adventure.”
Drew, the barber
Tired of touring and the stresses of the music industry, Danburry became a full-time barber in 2011. He enjoyed discovering new people and their perspectives on tour, but barbering grants him a similar thrill as people from all over the world visit his shop.
Last week, a customer in his 20s walked into Danburry’s barber shop, his voice unsure as he asked where he should set his coat. “Wherever you want!” Danburry told him. “Make yourself comfortable. This is your home for the next 30 minutes.”
Customer Wess Musso described Danburry as cultured, open-minded and enjoyable to talk to. When Danburry cuts Musso’s hair, their discussions range from music, to skateboarding, to politics.
“Ever since the first time I went to Drew for a haircut, I felt like he was a friend to me,” Musso said. “It takes a lot of barbers a few times cutting your hair before they remember who you are, but Drew remembered my name and quite a bit about me the second time I went to his shop.”
Drew, the musician
With more than 750 shows worldwide, nearly 20 albums and mentions from many prominent music publications (NPR, Stereogum, Daytrotter and more) under his belt, Danburry’s musical experience spans a diverse spectrum.
Danburry’s music draws influence from differing realms: folk, electronic, beat poetry and surf pop, to name a few. At times he croons optimistic, Beach Boys-like harmonies. Other times, he channels his inner Pixies spirit with speech-driven cadences, straightforward melodies and occasional screams.
Danburry’s choice to quit touring and become a barber led some fans to believe he was quitting music. Such is not the case. Danburry now has more time to devote to his favorite aspects of music: creation and recording.
“Even as he makes the decision to stop playing shows, or gets burned out, music matters too much to him,” said previous bandmate Jesse Quebbeman-Turley. “He really just can’t help himself. He just has to make music, you know?”
Despite his rich history in Provo, Danburry doesn’t elevate or evangelize the music scene here, as many locals do. He said too many people defend Provo-grown music with a tribalistic “us vs. them” mentality.
“I don’t pay attention to it, to be honest,” Danburry said of the Provo music scene. “It’s not that I don’t care about it … I know that Provo has had some great successes in the past, and I think that’s awesome. Cool. But I just don’t like it when we divide the world into small groups, not paying attention to the fact that we’re all important, connected and equal.”
Danburry used a band he saw at the 2014 City Weekly Music Awards to back his point.
“The Circulars were so good,” Danburry said. “And I don’t care if they’re from Utah, or wherever. They’re a good band making good music, and that’s all I care about.”
Drew, the human being
The depth of Danburry’s split personality digs far beyond his varying passions and use of pseudonyms. He claims an equally split “red/blue” result when it comes to the ColorCode personality test. Although Danburry knows this test doesn’t fully dissect his psyche, he recognizes that as a “blue” he craves connections with people and as a “red” he seeks power and control.
Famous leaders often possess the red/blue combination, according to Danburry.
“All your greatest human beings and idealists, who are also hypocritical and crazy, are red/blue,” he said. “Because they know how to connect with people and win them over.”
Dave Dinsbach, Danburry’s friend since adolescence, said Danburry befriended peers of every stereotype in his youth, and they loved him. A varied crowd loves Danburry today. But Danburry doesn’t try to fit molds to please people, according to Dinsbach.
“Drew always knew who he was, and that was all he needed,” Dinsbach said.
Danburry once said he doesn’t care what people think of his music, or of him, for that matter. But he later admitted otherwise. When misunderstandings or impatience occasionally lead to bad reviews of Danburry’s barber shop online, he said it hurts.
“The whole dialogue where I say I don’t care what people think isn’t necessarily true, but I’m getting a lot better at it,” he said.
As life plows forward, Danburry manipulates variables he has the power to control: his musicianship, his career and even his name. But Dinsbach claims Danburry’s core identity remains the same.
“Life is difficult, but Drew has always been Drew,” Dinsbach said. “No matter what life threw at him, he has always been the same. Organized, but laid back. Adventurous, but still down to earth. A bit eccentric, yet simple in his ways of life.”