Lewiston singer and guitar player Daniel Mark Faller spent much of his nearly 50-year career performing with bands, but don’t assume he’s lonely on stage now when it’s just him and recorded tracks.
He looks almost meditative, strumming his guitar, eyes closed.
“Which is what I do a lot anymore,” he said, “because I don’t have to worry about my backup band, so I can just close my eyes and go to my happy place when I’m playing.”
For years, the only option for good sound was to play with a band, and he said he’s grateful to have played with what he believes are some of the best bands to come out of Lewiston.
“I appreciate and I love everybody I ever played with, but when you’re in a band there’s drama,” he said. “I play with tracks now instead of a backup band, because I’m a singer and what a singer looks for is a platform to support your vocal.
“Now, with my tracks, when I hit play and I close my eyes, I’m thinking about nothing but the song.”
Faller, who turned 70 last week, is getting ready to book gigs for his 50th year as a professional musician next year. The father of four and grandfather of 10 experienced multiple transformations in the industry during his career, but he’s not wistful for the way it was. He’s too busy shaping the next chapter.
“I think I’ve reinvented myself in the last 18 months,” he said. “And that’s something you have to do. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of changes.”
His reinvention has come via the Northwest’s winery circuit, which led him and his wife of 43 years, Becky, to log 10,500 miles so far this year as he performed at venues from the San Juan Islands to northeastern Oregon to Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities.
The days of people starting at a bar at one end of town and hearing five live bands by the end of the night, Faller said, are over.
“Those were the old days, where you didn’t start playing till 9 o’clock,” he said “I don’t wanna play past 9 o’clock. And the beauty of wineries is they all agree with me.”
When he plays wineries, the music complements the event but usually isn’t the sole focus. The way he sees it, if the audience, which might be planning to hit several venues, decides to stay for another round, he’s doing his job.
“To do that, you have to connect,” he said. “You have to talk to them. You can’t just sit there and play songs. And if you find the right balance between B.S. and music, it works.”
Faller’s country-folk-rock repertoire spans Willie Nelson to Radiohead and includes a few of his own songs. “A Dawg in Cougar Country,” about being raised a Husky fan in Seattle in the 1950s and ’60s and then moving 30 miles south of Pullman’s Washington State University, features in his current set lists.
Mostly, though, he plays covers, and another shift in his career has been moving, at Becky’s suggestion, from lesser-known selections to popular music that hits the nostalgia button for many audience members.
Faller’s philosophy for much of his career centered on the challenge of connecting audiences with new music, songs with “a good storyline, a good melody, all of the elements that make it a good song, because — I still believe this — that you could be the lousiest band in town and play ‘Brown-eyed Girl,’ and people would love you, because the music is doing the work, not the band.”
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he saw 47 shows canceled in 2020 alone, Becky convinced him to reevaluate his song choices.
“Some of them are still obscure, but most of them you’ve heard before — stuff like ‘Sundown’ by Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. That one goes (over) everywhere I do it — it’s amazing how many people like that song,” he said.
“Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil gets audiences going as well.
“So now I see the transition,” he said. “People are enjoying this music. They like hearing songs they know. It makes them comfortable, and it brings back memories, and you can see the smiles out there.”
Faller had a “straight job” most of his music career, starting in radio, which he “stumbled into” through the live music business. He worked for area stations for more than a dozen years, then started an advertising agency. He got a job at Lewis-Clark State College while running the ad agency, then closed it to work full time at the college as a workforce training coordinator.
Now, it’s all about the music, and as he and Becky traverse the Northwest, another industry change plays nicely into their mobile setup.
Whereas bands once judged each other based on the sheer amount of sound equipment they set up at a gig (“We had huge stacks of speakers on both sides of the stage,” Faller said), high-quality sound is no longer a product of size.
“All you need now is Bose, and it sounds so good,” he said, referring to the sound system he uses now. “You don’t have to crank it way up to make it sound thick. It still sounds full and everything at low volume. People can still visit and hear themselves think, but yet the music sounds convincing. And that’s all with equipment that can fit in the back of Becky’s Toyota.”
Acknowledging he’s probably in what will be the last five to 10 years of his career, Faller said if he can keep doing what he’s doing on his way out he will, “because it’s fun.”
“I like people being happy," he said. “And that’s the other thing about the winery market: The people are very happy.
"It’s different times for an old folk singer like me,” he said. “(But) it’s still fun, so I’m still doin' it.”
Stone (she/her) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stretch Wabash, 1976-82
Seidel Brothers Band, 1982-92
The Big Newtons, 1995-2022
The Working Poor, 2013-19
“See it in Your Eyes,” Seidel Brothers, 1984 (cassette and vinyl).
“Etched in Song,” with Marty Lukenbill, 2003 (all original).
“Amber Waves,” solo, 2004, (half original).
“The Rising Cost of Wisdom,” solo, 2006.
“A Showman's Life,” solo, 2007.
“Natural Causes,” solo, 2009.
“Musical Residue,” solo, 2011.
“La La Land,” solo, 2013.
6 p.m. Dec. 2, Hops & Vine, Lewiston.
7 p.m. Dec. 3, Plumb Cellars, Walla Walla.
6 p.m. Dec. 9, Vista House, Lewiston.
6 p.m. Dec. 10, Blackberry Brew Pub, Juliaetta.