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Celebrating 20 Years with Lucid Dreamer, I sat down with David Norcross in what is the most in-depth interview ever with the all-around good guy.  We talk about everything from his musical career to his love life to his stint in the Society of American Magicians.  If you think you know David, think again….

Andy Billings: It’s been a long time since I have sat down with you for an interview but 2008 is the 20th anniversary of Lucid Dreamer and you have a lot going on this so thanks for sitting down with me.

David Norcross:  Andy, it is my pleasure.  Yea, it has been a while since we’ve done one of these things. We should do this more often.

AB:  Agreed, especially when I get LPD to pay for such a great lunch. (this interview was conducted at Denny’s).  So it has been twenty years since you began Lucid Dreamer.  How would you sum up the last 20 Years?

DN:      Fun. No, rewarding.  No, incredible. You know I can’t do it.  To sum up twenty years of memories in a word can’t be done.

AB:       Well, I didn’t ask for just one word. (laughs)

DN:      (laughing) Good one Andy.

AB:       Seriously, though.  What are your thoughts about the last 20 years?

DN:      You know, the whole Lucid Dreamer experience is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  It has been and continues to be something that I have benefited from at every turn. Looking back over the years, Lucid Dreamer, or the philosophy and meaning of Lucid Dreamer, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I just didn’t call it Lucid Dreamer. The concept of being part of a band and performing my own songs or songs with a band was something that I really wanted ever since I was a kid.

AB:       If I remember right, you were ten or so?

DN:      Yeah.  I was getting more and more into music at this time.  We are talking ’72 so there was so much good stuff around.  I was into The Partridge Family and other great groups of that time.  My Dad was a Hank Williams fan so that was being played.  My older brothers were getting into the rock and roll stuff.  The Beatles were gone but their individual stuff was out there. There was something about playing music that just captivated me.  Maybe it was the girls running after David Cassidy that inspired me, I can’t say for sure.  I just knew I wanted to play.

AB:       Although, really you would have been more of a Danny than a David.  Right? (laughs)

DN:      Hey! What are you trying to say? (Not really laughing at the reference to the pudgy 10-year old versus the svelte, lean teenage heart-throb)

AB:       Anyway, so you got a guitar for your birthday and the rest is history.

DN:      A bass guitar and an amp.  Didn’t know too much about it but soon began to learn to play a little, thanks to Mel Bay® and his instructional booklets.  How many people started out using his books?  I bet a huge percentage did.  Anyway, I got moving on that, plucking around on it and all.  I wasn’t as diligent about it as I should have been but over the next few years I improved and started learning a little guitar as well.

AB:       It was during this time you wrote your first song? 

DN:      Yeah.  I first tried the plagiarizing route.  I thought that might be the easier way to go.  At the time, my first real girlfriend, Kelly broke up with me.  So I did the lazy thing and took the words from Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up is Hard to Do and wrote them out and was going to give that to her. Contrary to popular belief I didn’t give her “my” poem.  Instead I wrote a song called, I Only Want to Be Alone with Thee.  It didn’t go over too well. Who in their right mind would write a song with the word “Thee” in it, apart from a hymn or Christian rock song of course.

AB:       Really?  I thought with that title it would have had her running back to you in no time.

DN:      It still hurts…

AB:       Oh.  Sorry about that.  So let’s move forward to when you really did start writing songs for real.  That was what, 1979?

DN:      Yep.  For the first few years of high school I kept toying around with playing music and stuff and by the time ’79 rolled around I was either going to be a musician or a magician.

AB:       A what?

DN:      A magician.  You know the magic stuff? Marshall Brodien.  Mark Wilson. You know.

AB:       Really? A magician.

DN:      Oh yeah.  I was really into magic and even joined the Society of American Magicians.

AB:       You’re making that up.

DN:      Nope.  It’s true.  I was gearing up to be a magician. 

AB:       What happened with that dream?

DN:      Well, it died when I met another magician when I was working at Burgerland® there in Grand Prairie, who totally put me in my place.  So hello music.  It was about that time that I finally got tired of seeing other guys moving ahead with their dreams of being in a band and me just sitting there.  So I talked to my best friend, Jeff Norrod about getting together.  We tried to find a couple of other guys that were interested in getting together but we didn’t have much luck. Over the next few years we had some small projects going.  But I’ll tell you that that whole thing about writing music and playing my own songs was still very much alive.  And that’s the way it was in ’88 when Lucid Dreamer was being formed.  A chance to take all of the stuff I had written, all the stuff I was currently writing and the stuff that would surely come and put them out there.  Conveying a story, message or thought with music had always been a desire but now was really taking off and was important to me.

AB:       Take me back the summer of 1988 when this unnamed project was being formed.

DN:      Well, it had been about a year and a half since Route 66 had disbanded. Vince and I had tried a few other ideas but nothing seemed to really gel.  I knew that I needed and wanted to continue in a band so the question was what kind of music I really wanted to play.  I liked the oldies but I wanted to get more classic rock songs going. I knew that I wanted to play originals – either all originals or a mixture of originals and covers – but some originals.  Now at this time the songs I had were some of the early stuff – things like Forgotten Words, Letter After Letter, Where Are You Now, She Looks Good, She Wants to Be Wanted and Rock Never Rolled This Good. But I had probably ten to fifteen “keepers,” and I felt like that was enough to get started.  And I felt like I had matured enough in my playing and gained enough knowledge of the business over the past few years to get something going.

AB:       Matured enough?  You were already in your twenties then right?  So what do you mean “matured” enough?

DN:      Well, before Route 66, though I was in a few bands it was really nothing to speak of.  I mean Jeff and I had some stuff going on but we were clearly not getting out and playing like we wanted.  So when Route 66 came along, I really had to mature as a usician.

AB:       So what about personnel? Where you thinking about using Jessie or Vinny?

DN:      Of course. But at the same time, I was undecided about the direction I really wanted to go so I just had a lot of ideas floating around in my head. I had been thinking about getting together with Jeff and trying to get Jessie on drums. I thought about using no one that I knew.  Placing an ad for musicians was something I thought about but didn’t really want to go that route, but it was something that I was considering at the time.  In the end, I knew that I wanted to work with Jeff so that was one thing out of the way. 

AB:       And Troy and Charlotte?  How did they get involved?

DN:      When I found out that Troy played drums but was willing to learn bass, I thought about trying to get Jessie involved with drums and have Troy on bass.  Charlotte was working at Beefer’s® there in Grand Prairie with Troy and we just started talking about the possibilities of her singing.  With that in mind, I began thinking of some country tunes that we could do as well as some other originals that I had written with a country flavor to them.  There were so many ideas that were floating around at that time that we were sketching out different scenarios and possibilities.

AB:       It sounds like it was certainly an exciting time for you.  What are some of your fondest    memories from the early days?

DN:      The whole year of 1988 is certainly considered to be a really special time in my life.  I had really gotten involved with church, I had gotten a new job at LTV there in Grand Prairie and I was really ready to get something going musically. When we, Jeff, Troy and I really started to talk about the possibilities of getting a band together, I think the excitement of what we were trying to do and what we set out to do was something I will always regard as an important time for my life and for the band.  The ideas that were generated that first year were the ones that formed the foundation of the band. And while some of the ideas didn’t gel, the basic concept of what we wanted to do – what being a Lucid Dreamer was really about did.  And that was the philosophy of our dreams – life’s threads - making up the fabric of reality - that was a real thing that we lived by.

AB:       Quoting Bill Longshort there I see.  As a side note, how was he involved with Lucid Dreamer?

DN:      Oh, Bill, Andy (Matheson) Jeff and I go way back.  We were fortunate enough to meet him at the right time and hang around him and Andy Matheson during the early years of the Kountree Tater Tots.  Both were such influences on us.  When we settled on the name of Lucid Dreamer, his book came to mind.  Bill was such a positive influence for anyone that knew him – or still knows him.  His book is one I still have in my library.  It’s just such an inspirational book.  Anyway, when we were doing the jacket for the album, I wanted to include his quote as it really says so much.

AB:       That’s so cool.  I know exactly what you mean.  I’ve always been impressed with his positive attitude, even in those times in his life that things weren’t going so well.  Anyway, sorry about that.  Back on track.  Those early years sound like they were really a fun time for you.

DN:      When I think about the times sitting in the dining area of Beefer’s and talking these ideas with Jeff N, Troy and Charlotte, I just remember those times with a happy heart.  Going down to the Grand Prairie Inn to practice with Troy – him using the Saint George bass – going over lyrics with Jeff or experiencing what would eventually become lyrics with Charlotte – all these things remind me of the heart of the band.  And that heart never left – even in the down times, even today.  While there were other times that I will always remember with fond memories, I will always look at 1988 as the fondest.  When we decided to stop working on material that didn’t offer a positive image or outlook, I could feel that it was the right thing and the right time.  When Jeff Wade and Joe Roman came on board they had the heart that we were looking for and over the next few months we began the fine tuning process.  The songs began to take on a different feel.  It was a completely different feeling then I had with route 66.

AB:       How was this different from Route 66?

DN:      As we talked about before in your book, “Get Your Kicks with Route 66,” Route 66 was a fantastic experience. Vinny’s concept of the band was really appealing to me.  The idea of playing the great songs from the 50’s and 60’s was just the thing I wanted to do. Just the name of the band was Awesome! Anyway, getting involved with Route 66 took me to a different level in music.  The stakes for that band were higher then I had ever experienced before. But those were all cover tunes and they were done as close to the record as possible and that’s what Vince wanted – that’s what I wanted. 

AB:       So while the band did what it was supposed to do, there wasn’t a lot of room for originality. 

DN:      Not that I was ready for it anyway. I mean at this time, this was some new territory for me and I really wanted to get it right.  And we did get it right.  It took a lot of work and practice and all that to get it going but it was a great experience for me and of course I met Vinny during that time and we’ve been friends ever since.  But as far as the originality of Route 66, there wasn’t room for it for me to try and express myself in playing bass or keys or whatever.  I was so focused on getting the parts right and that came first.  I think that comes out in the early recordings we did.  I wanted the bass to sound like the bass on the record. So I didn’t have time to try to work on my own stuff with any real earnest attempt.  I remember starting a few songs during that time period, like Get Thee Behind Me Satan, again with the Thee thingbut I didn’t do too much with them.  So with Lucid Dreamer, the originality of the songs was what I thought would make us or break us – not from a business standpoint but from a personal standpoint. And because of that there was a different feel with the band. And I have to say that Charlotte stirred a lot of feelings that had been dormant for a while – I mean that musically as well.  You can certainly tell that by the number of songs written and started during this time. 

AB:       You were definitely writing a lot of stuff then, that’s for sure.  And these were basically all about Charlotte?

DN:      Well, not all about her, but certainly 98-99% of the stuff I was writing was about her. I remember that I was writing stuff on anything I had in front of me, things like bits and pieces written at work, things on Beefer’s napkins, old notepads, anything that was available because the words and ideas just kept coming.  Now some were trash but some were definitely keepers.  But the ideas were always flowing.  I remember one time sitting in my car outside of a house where the Beefer’s Christmas party was being held, that was in ’88, trying to finish a song I had started when I left the house before going inside – all I could find to write on was an empty Beefer’s bag in the car. I just think about the whole experience of writing the songs and collaborating with Troy or Jeff as such a great experience. I mean, I had collaborated with Jeff before but this was different.  This was us growing up and moving to the next phase in our lives.  And this is when we were developing the concept of “Lucid Dreamerizing” a song.

AB:       So December 18, 1988, Lucid Dreamer holds a party to announce the band to the world.             You had already begun working on the Charlotte Demo and I believe that this was             debuted there?  

DN:      Oh that was a great party too, let me tell you.  We had so much fun.  The demo was exciting to share with everyone and the snacks were great!  

AB:       So you are ready to go into the studio and start recording.  Tell me about that experience.

DN:      I remember that by December 1988 I had decided which songs I wanted to do.  Putting    together various takes using a four track and pinging it down and recording additional stuff.  After the first of the year I had finished up All Your Dreams and knew that this  needed to be one of the songs.  So for December and January it was really about fine tuning what I wanted to do in the studio.

AB:      Now a lot has been said about these sessions.  Some of the questions that come up from time to time are about your dominance with the sessions and the musicians used on the recording. 

DN:      Yeah, I get that from time to time.   First of all, let me say that there were a lot of reasons for who played what on what and none of it was about musical ability. As I said, I was very nervous about this whole project and very unsure of myself as a producer going into this whole thing.  That’s why I did a lot of the instruments myself or had Jessie playing on some of the songs.  I was really uncomfortable with the whole thing.  I was excited but uncomfortable.  It was also about schedules, opportunities and comfortability in the studio.  Also remember that when we started recording in March, we had already had a shift in the personnel in the band and so there was a little bit of consternation going into the studio.  But I felt that the project had to move forward.  I couldn’t afford to lose the momentum. So for me, it was about getting who I could to do what they could on the project when they could do it.  But Lucid Dreamer has always been and will always be a band that is not confined to X number of people.  We have been open to several people in the studio and on-stage to sing or perform with us.  I mean, Patrick wasn’t in the band but he played bass on Susan and adds some vocals as well and I had even asked Vinny to do lead vocals on some stuff as well.

AB:       And as producer?

DN:      There is no question I was dominant.  I was producing this thing and I was very passionate about everything.  So going into the studio, let me say that I was more than a little nervous about the whole project. I had gone in and done some work with The JNB and of course Route 66 but I won’t say I was comfortable about being in the studio.  When it’s your money, you really tend to pay attention to everything. So I wanted to be as prepared as possible.  I spent several months working on the demos for each of the songs and made lead sheets for each of them. I knew what I wanted to do with each song and it was a matter of going in and doing it – which was a different thing altogether.  I would block off an 8 hour session – usually on a Saturday and just go in to do what I needed to do. The bed tracks came first and then I just built it up from there. The Fantasound / Patrick McGuire Recording sessions were a definite highlight.  The whole experience of putting together the music and seeing the songs come to life piece by piece was remarkable.  Laying the bed tracks was a great time and listening to the songs today brings back the memories of the whole session.  It seems like yesterday that I was working on the solo for She Looks Good and having a tough time with it.  Troy and Patrick were in the control booth and they just let me play it a few times without telling me tape was rolling.  The second practice they recorded it and that’s what you hear.  Adding various vocal parts here and there, playing the drums on Say You Love Me Today or when Troy laid the drum tracks to All Your Dreams, all these things were such an experience.  Bringing home that completed master was an awesome experience.

AB:       You had originally wanted to do Where Are You Now and You’ve Got to Know. 

DN:      Yeah.  Both of those were ones I really, really liked.  Both appeared on earlier demos but when we got into the studio, we ended up with Where Are You Now only as a bed track and nothing for You’ve Got to Know.  With Where Are You Now, you get a cleaner demo version on The RemastersYou Got to Know didn’t gel well during the pre-production phase and by the time we actually went into the studio it just wasn’t there.  Maybe one day it will show up somewhere.

AB:       Were there any funny stories that happened while recording?

DN:      No.

AB:       None?

DN:      Nope.

AB:       Uh… I thought there might have been one or two… So you started a transition period about the time the recording was released.   What brought that on?

DN:      I think it was already there when we began.  We had wanted to do positive songs, and once the Charlotte thing didn’t work out, and I mean that musically, I could feel a greater shift to Christian Rock.  Not totally, but the foundation was there by the summer of ’89.  By November, I had bits and pieces of songs that would eventually make their way to the Better Way collection.  Melanie (note the three syllables – as Better Way) was a quick experience that actually pushed the process along. You can attribute Better Way and God Won’t Let You Down to her.  The main ideas behind these two songs (and a few others) were meant to let her know that there was a better way and that God would not let her down in her time of need.  I don’t know if she ever got the messages but I hope so.  I would like to think she did. But it was during this time that some of the songs actually began to mention God, Jesus and Salvation.  Not all of them, but several did. It was from that time forward that the band shifted gears. We began to work on the songs that would become the Better Way Collection

AB:       So as you headed into the 90’s what was going on with you personally and how did that affect the band?

DN:     Late ’89 was another big change for me personally and when changes like that occur, it affects all aspects of your life, especially how you deal with things, how you perceive things and how you write music.  I had gotten laid-off from LTV then rehired in ’89, so I was back on track financially and was making some good money, obviously enough to finance the recording project.  Late that year, I got reacquainted with the Kale family.  Mr. Kale, Jackie, was the manager of Mott’s 5-10 in Grand Prairie.  I worked there in the late 70’s and early 80’s and he was my manager for a while.  I hadn’t seen him for a while but I had gone into the store a few times and one day he tells me about this lady there, Melanie, and he sets me up with her and invites me to their company party.  So I go but as it turns out, while Melanie and I dated a few times nothing really sparked between us.  She was reeling from a recent breakup and had some personal issues that she needed to work out.  But, as luck would have it, at the Christmas party there was another lady there that had mentioned to Jackie that she would like to go out with me.  Totally taken by surprise I said sure not knowing what to expect. 

AB:       And this lady was Joyce?

DN:      Yea.  And as sure as I was about Charlotte, I was that much more with Joyce.  She was the first real in-depth relationship that I had ever had.  She was intelligent, funny and not bad looking…

AB:       And she was working there at Mott’s?

DN:      She worked for Tandy as her real job but was working as the night manager at Mott’s a few days a week. 

AB:       So you had something in common?  The whole Mott’s thing…

DN:      Yeah, but you know what? I really don’t remember too much discussions going on about Mott’s when we were together.

AB:       And if I remember right, you two were really contemplating marriage.

DN:      Oh yeah.  We had discussed it and all.  As I said, no other person at that time had made me feel the way she did.  It was really a complete relationship, or almost a complete relationship.  We had one major hurdle and that was religion.  While we were both Christians, we had a different outlook on denominations.  What is funny about this as a side note, there are several early songs from ’80 and ’81 about Robin who worked at Mott’s as well and we too had similar religious discussions pertaining to denominations. That’s where Forgotten Words came from, by the way.

AB:       That’s interesting. (not said in a deadpan way, either…)

DN:      Well, anyway, by the time 1990 rolled around, I was looking at a new life.  I was writing more stuff, coming off of the Melanie thing; I had several songs that were getting fleshed out.  Then this new thing with Joyce, it just made the creativity explode and before I knew it I had several new songs to bring to the band.

AB:       But the band was changing some at this time.  What was going on then?

DN:      You know you hear about creative differences and all of that stuff but reality is that sometimes life just gets in the way of being in a band.  Things change and sometimes it’s not that someone doesn’t want to be in a band it’s just that other opportunities come along.  In 1990, this is what was going on with the band. By the middle of 1990 the band had gone through some changes – and with our personal lives as well – and the end result was the band was now comprised of Jeff W, Troy and me. Again, it wasn’t because we didn’t want Joe or Jeff, or they didn’t want to be in the band.  It wasn’t because we had a fight or anything like that; it was about schedules, life and priorities. And at this point in time for Jeff and Joe, there were other commitments.  It was what three of us experienced later on in ’96.

AB:       So the three of you got material ready for your second release.

DN:      I remember sitting around the table in my apartment working on the new stuff and what could we do with three people. And the songs didn’t stop. We had probably 20 songs that we were looking at to record.  In the end the 10 of these showed up on Better Way

AB:       You’ve talked about the sessions for Better Way but were there any funny stories that happened during recording?

DN:      No.  I wish there were but no, there weren’t.

AB:       This time you switched studios.  What happened there?

DN:      At the time, a coworker had a son that had done some recording in Arlington at new studio that had opened up.  So we booked some time over at Dub 1 Sound with Steve Paul, for the BNP.  We cut the Old Gospel Greats album there. This is when he was over off of Bowen. When we finished there, I knew it was time to get in the studio with Jeff and Troy and get our next CD out. So when we began recording with him, he had moved to his new studio on Abrams.  We also ended up using him for Vinny and The Jets’ Armed and Ready Demo in 1994 as well.

AB:       What were some of the highlights and lessons learned from this session?

DN:      Well, production time was something that we were always concerned with and in this case, we wanted to get a product out as soon as possible.  I think we all agreed that we could have done a little more – that’s evident from The Remasters.  Highlights for me? I have to say it was the rawness of the record.  God Won’t Let You Down to me is just a great rock song - great riff and just raw power coming out of the speakers. I think it was one that I really took some time to work on things like the bridge and the leads and then when we added the backwards cymbals and the cowbell, it just took off. Lyrically there are some definite highlights.  I like Don’t Runaway – again the rawness but also the words.  The Truth has always been a favorite lyrically too and The Day because it is such a personal song.

AB:       You’ve spoken about The Day as a personal song before.  For someone that may not be familiar with it or you, would you give us a little insight?

DN:      You know, one day I was going through some books and ran across one I received at baptism called The Church Member’s Manual.  Inside was the presentation date and it got me to thinking about where I was at that particular point in my life and then I got to thinking about where I had been.  I’ve talked before about getting away from church late in high school.  This happens to a lot of people.  They get a taste of freedom and sometimes it is too much for some to take.  So I got out in the world and tried a lot of things that were not right and so I was thinking about those times and the day that I really woke up to what was going on in my life and how I was so thankful that the Lord pulled me through and back into His world.  Unfortunately in some ways and fortunately in others, the song is autobiographical all the way.

AB:       Then came Zombie Way?

DN:      The whole Zombie Way thing was really an experience and I am so glad we had the opportunity to do it.  Glenn Fairchild was the brother of Brian, a coworker of mine at LTV.  He had given me several sets of lyrics he had written and he had one in particular, Zombie Way.  He wanted to have it set to music and I tried different things with it and finally ended up with a straight ahead rocker.  At first, the vocals were sung normally but when we were in the studio, Glenn had heard me sing it Boris Karloff style and wanted to do it that way.  He and the band did the backing vocals.  Any studio experience is good for you so we had no problems and we got to do The Warning Song which I really liked and we keep as a staple in our shows all these years later. I remember we played a live demo for him at Turner Park Pavilion – the same place we had been kicking off the Lucid Dreamer Line up with Jeff and Joe.  We played several songs, included Zombie Way and The Warning Song.  It went well and we made arrangements to go into the studio and begin the project.  We went in to PMR Studios and just had a blast.

AB:       What about Armies on the Rise?

DN:      At that time we had a version of it but I can’t remember how it was – we had several different ones – finally later we came up with the harder version.  I’ll have to go through some of the tapes and see if there is a complete version of an alternate take.

AB:       So what about your performance at the Grand Prairie Inn?

DN:      We had a big show there.  It was such a transition time for us. What you hear on the tape of the show is a mix of the “old” Lucid Dreamer and the “new.”  There weren’t many shows that you would get stuff like Twist and Shout and God Won’t Let You Down.”

AB:       What were some of the highlights from your live performances?

DN:      Well, as every musician will tell you, the people always top the list.  No matter where we played, what we played, how we played, there were always the fans supporting us and encouraging us.  There were a lot of “road” stories – like the time we had a VATJ gig and a Lucid Dreamer Gig on the same day – that was interesting getting from one to the other.  We had some great times at places like The Upper Room, FWRC, and Jammin’ for Jesus. The Larry Locker Series are always fun and rewarding.   One of the other things that I have enjoyed from the live shows was actually getting to watch other bands.  Many of our shows were festivals or all-day events, so getting to relax and enjoy some music from other bands was always great.  We have seen every style imaginable.  Some were really good performers and it was great to see them get some accolades locally and nationally for a few them as well.

AB:       So there was some more changes happening in 1993?

DN:      Well, layoffs came again at LTV and before I knew it I was without a job.  This was a really bad time for me and Glynda because she also got laid off.  So we were without work for a while.  Very trying times.

AB:       How did this affect the band?

DN:      It did.  For a while we were blowin’ and goin’.  Then the layoffs and things got tight.  So the band wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.  But what did happen was that during this time, Vinny was getting ready to open up a café in Cedar Hill.  I was back in the drapery and upholstery business and he called about upholstering some chairs and booths for him in the café.  While we were there, I mentioned that I was out of a job and he offered the manager’s position at the café.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  So I took the job. 

AB:       So how did Troy and Jessie end up in a band with you at the café?

DN:      Well, I told Vinny that I had worked some tunes up with Troy and Jessie and we could play the opening of the Café and have Vinny come out and sing a few songs with us.  Well, we played but it was so jammed packed that we didn’t play that much and we couldn’t get Vinny away to sing with us.  But what it did do was put the fever back into us to play together again.  So when October rolled around, we had decided to come back out.  Well it was on the same day as their Country Day on the Hill Celebration and while we were still jammed packed, we managed to get some tunes in.  Well, the organizers heard that Vinny was singing out front and they invited us to come down to the main stage to perform a few songs.  That’s the big lightening show, as I call it. Anyway, all of this leads up to the Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce calling Vinny about a charity auction and if his band could play.  Well, the thing was we didn’t really have a band formed. So we figured out what we could do and ended up with Vinny and The Jets, with Jessie on drums and a friend of Vinny’s, Robert on bass.  The rest of that story is for another interview.

AB:       So that answers that question.  But what about Jeff?

DN:      Well, Robert was a friend of Vinny’s from his church and he figured that Jeff was playing with us in Lucid Dreamer.  But eventually we gtot the idea of having Jeff come in and switching up our instruments.  We played one gig that way.

AB:       So where did that leave Lucid Dreamer?

DN:      Actually we were still getting together trying to get gigs.  Working on stuff.  It was of course at the end of ’94 when VATJ played the Christmas gig in Gainsville that we met Larry Locker.  I remember him telling me about his desire to have a Christian Ministry and put on festivals and such.  Well, of course I took that opportunity to let him know that Jeff and I had another band available for bookings.  He eventually called and we got some gigs going with him.

AB:       Is this where the name change came about?

DN:      Yeah.  I almost forgot about that.  We had talked about making the band name more appealing to the public for a while and we thought about the name Zion.  So we went through a little phase playing under that name but it wasn’t long before we got back to our senses and put Lucid Dreamer back on the stage.

AB:       So this was 1995 and going into 96 there were some changes coming to the band and maybe a period where it looked like the band wasn’t going to go on.

DN:      I guess around it was around that time. Some people thought it had to do with the transition between Kyle and Troy but I think there was a little bit of that and more.  Vinny and the Jets had moved into a different time as well and I was caught up in working on the new stuff for the girls and then when Kyle joined I worked on the classic rock stuff.  When you’re concentrating on doing something like this, it makes it difficult to work on original material which is what I was saying earlier with Route 66.  In addition, I had been looking for a real job since the café closed. So there was this time that some things had to be placed on the back burner and Lucid Dreamer was one of those things.

AB:       What got you back into it?

DN:      Well, I think it was getting a little more stability in my personal life. By the summer of ’97, I found some contract work in Savannah that was going to lead to a permanent job when I got done.  I think that was the start or turning point to get back to writing and looking at where we were and what we really wanted to do to move forward with the band.

AB:       So what did you decide to do?

DN:      So I worked for two months in Savannah and while I was there I was able to take some time to not only review the VATJ stuff but I had taken my guitar and purchased a keyboard while I was out there and I got to where I would go back to my room and just work on music.  I think this was the beginning of getting back together with Jeff and Troy and back on the stage.  By the summer of ’98 we were back together and working on some new stuff as well as revisiting some of the forgotten tunes.  We got booked with Larry at Bachman Lake again and that helped us get back in the groove.

AB:       You went through another period of transition with the band in 2001.  What was going on then?

DN:      I think by the end of ’98 and into ’99, VATJ stuff really picked up.  We were really building on some of the things that we had talked about for a long time and some of the things that I had worked on while out in Savannah. Jessie was now back with us and we had added Mike Britain to the lineup as well as the bringing on of Stephanie, Jackie and Vince. Obviously this was really a change for us. We had more people and were doing a lot more variety of songs and it was difficult working in the two bands.  While Lucid Dreamer would still play the festivals like Bachman Lake, there wasn’t a lot of time to write new material or practice what new material we had written.

AB:       So what got you more involved with Lucid Dreamer?

DN:      Well, by 2001, Jeff and I really started discussing getting more active with Lucid Dreamer.  VATJs stuff was kind of slowing down – the Vince, Stephanie and Jackie project had dissolved and we were back to where we were before.  Also in 2001, I started working more on the websites for both bands.  Setting up the stuff for Lucid Dreamer, I just started feeling that I wanted to do more with the original stuff and get a little more active in it.  Thinking about this made me want to perform more with Jeff and Troy.  So Jeff and I got together and called up Troy and said let’s get something going.

AB:       How did the addition of Jennifer come about and how was the transition of adding a female to the group?

DN:      By 2002, Jeff, Troy and I had made some changes to the set list.  We had been invited to play at a birthday party and one of the requests was that we play the first five songs from Third Day’s Offerings CD.  We had always had Russ Taff’s Winds of Change in the set list but there weren’t that many covers.  So this was a bit of a challenge for us but we arranged them Lucid Dreamer style and ended up putting them in our set rotation.  We took these new songs and the ones we had to places like, The Rock and Jammin for Jesus.  Toward the end of the year, the idea set in that we could actually add additional worship songs and do an acoustic type of set.  Some people may remember that we had actually auditioned a couple of female singers in the years prior but none worked out and at this time, we didn’t set out to specifically find a female singer.  We were just thinking of the next level.

AB:       You ended up adding Jennifer.

DN:      Yeah.  What happened was, I was working on the Website and with another RFR Artist, SilverStar and we were working on the cover of their debut CD, Cowgirl Princess.  During the search, I met Jennifer and we talked about SilverStar and what we were looking for but as we talked it came to light that her background was Christian praise which led to a discussion about Lucid Dreamer and singing for the band.  She was learning to play the guitar as well so there was an immediate attraction to adding her to the band.  I met with her and gave her a CD.  We discussed how we had wanted to add some more P&W to the set list and this would give us an opportunity to do that. And since we had a gig at the Haven for a New Year’s Eve party, we asked her to come out and see us to see if she was interested in joining. 

AB:       What did she think?

DN:      Well, it turned out to be pretty good.  She had some good ideas about our performance and some ideas about what we could do. She liked the band and what we were doing and was pretty excited about the possibility of joining.

AB:       And she was writing or had written some songs as well?

DN:      Oh yeah.  She brought Worship You with her to her audition and we messed around with it for a while.  She was very excited about the whole thing.  We ran through a few cover tunes and then made a demo of Worship You at that time.  When we recorded that I knew we needed to get into the studio and record that, which is what we ended up doing not too long after that.  And when you hear that song, knowing that we wanted to do something a little different with the band, it simply clicked.  We had what we were looking for.  She brought in a couple of other tunes including Love Is and Mercy Falls which were some pretty good little tunes.

AB:       So now you’ve got 4 people, each writing material, Troy with Rain on Me, Jeff with I’m So Happy and Don’t Runaway along with Jennifer’s stuff which really makes for some strong material.

DN:      No doubt about it.  If you look at the Set Lists from that time period you’ll find some great songs. The songs had the Lucid Dreamer ideals and style with them which is what I really liked about them.  When you listen to the demo for Worship You and the final studio version there was quite a bit of difference – that’s the Lucid Dreamer difference that shows up in the songs.  When you listen to the demo, for example, you have a straightforward praise type song.  With the studio take, you get the additional arrangement of the soft/hard/soft contrast that moves the song into a new level.  Other songs received this same treatment, from stuff I had written like, Immortal Love where Jeff came up with the bass line over the Dm to Bb progression to Love Is, or even the cover tunes like Better Is One Day or Open the Eyes. Now it’s not always an easy choice either.  Sometimes you get an idea going that you think is just the best thing but when you present the idea to the group the reception is not as well as you expected.  I always think back to the early days when we were just getting started, to have someone tell you that your idea was not the best route took some getting used to.  There were some of the songs, particularly on the second album where we had some different arrangements then what we ended up in the studio.  It took a while to get to our arrangement of Living It Up for Christ for example.  Some of the stuff that never made it to any recording like Below the Power Level and Inner-G went through the same kind of thing.  More recently there was a song a couple of years back that Tonya, Jeff’s wife had written called, As A Child.  She had a set of lyrics and I was trying to come up with the music.  I had a couple of different tunes going but in the end, the one I used just didn’t work out right.  The same thing for a song I working on called Cool 2 B Christian.  All of the elements were in place for the song, but the feedback I got from the group was concerning the title and chorus part. But that’s what makes a band a band. 

AB:       So you saw some success with this format and personnel. 

DN:      Right away we saw it.  And there was a freshness that was there too.

AB:       So it was a good idea to move away from the 3-Piece concept.

DN:      It was definitely a good idea at the time.  The band needs that constant motion.  Even if nothing seems to be going on, there still is something going on.  Whether it is new songs being put together or what have you, there will always be something going on.  In this case, I think we had a wonderful find with Jennifer.  Her spirit really was an uplifting thing for us.  Her passion for the music was something that breathed new life into some of the older songs and with her doing the vocals, there was more freedom for me on the guitar.  Add the idea that she was learning to play the guitar and you had the perfect combination. Even to the point of being able to add some keyboards to some of the songs. We saw an opportunity to expand into an area that we hadn’t been in before.  We still played the same places – festivals and stuff – but we were also able to move into a Praise setting and bring that style of music to churches or insert a Praise set into our regular rock stuff.  This was something we started looking at when we played The Haven and some of the other coffee house gigs. 

AB:       And then you hooked up with Randy.

DN:      Randy’s great.  We did a gig out in River Oaks where he organized an all-day event.  We played that and got invited over to another session he had put together with the FWRC and their Food Pantry Program which gave us an hour of music every Sunday night. We were able to utilize many of the softer tunes there as well as work on the “unplugged” type set list.

AB:       What were some of those like?  What songs were on the set list?

DN:      Really fun gigs.  With Jennifer we started really adding in some cover tunes that were well known.  We added Above All, Open the Eyes, In the Secret and Breathe.  These added a whole new dimension to the band and we were still able to play originals.  We added Worship You as well as Love Is from Jennifer.  The FWRC gigs were the best.  They were easy, no pressure gigs and we really reached a lot of people there.

AB:       Now isn’t this where you met Cindy.

DN:      Yeah.  Cindy was backing another band at one of the festivals Randy organized.  Troy and Jennifer spoke with her there and it turned out she was doing some music stuff at a church around the corner from them in Oak Cliff. 

AB:       And she was a songwriter too?

DN:      She had written several songs. We talked and thought about expanding the band with two female vocalists – a full time rhythm guitarist and concluded that it might work. So we toyed with that idea for a while. She brought in about 4 really good praise songs and we added them into the set which really ended up fleshing out the whole show.

AB:       Y’all played a Bachman show with her as well.  What was that like playing in that version of Lucid Dreamer as compared to the earlier versions? 

DN:      Well, all the Bachman shows were great.  Playing with Jennifer and Cindy was different.  I enjoyed the freedom from having to do vocals, that’s for sure.  Being able to concentrate on the guitar while they took care of being out front was good.  The earlier shows were all Rock and Roll shows – except for an acoustic number here or there. But both lineups conveyed what Lucid Dreamer was all about.

AB:       But eventually it didn’t work out with Cindy.

DN:      No. There were a lot of different things going on and it never gelled the way we had hoped.  And the thing that I really noticed was that for the festivals and bigger shows we were doing, it wasn’t working to try and put in a praise break.  One or two softer songs during the set were enough.  Putting in more didn’t do either style justice in the end.

AB:       Was this what lead to them leaving?

DN:      Yeah. By this time I think there was so much going on in the background and there was a desire for Jennifer and Cindy to do all praise stuff.  Both put a lot of time in at the church that Cindy was going to and they really liked that setting more than the festivals or shows we were doing. So while Jeff, Troy and I wanted to continue with the mix of music – but as always a little on the heavier side, Cindy and Jennifer were really gearing toward all praise – which is what they were really feeling led to do.

AB:       So was that a surprise.

DN:      In some ways it was. But when you stop and think about the situation as a whole, it is understandable.

AB:       Where did that leave the band?

DN:      We had to decide to move forward – which was actually back as a three piece or try and find another female vocalist. 

AB:       Now is this when Jeff was moving?

DN:      About this time Jeff’s job was going to be taking him out of state.  When he decided to move to Arkansas, we knew it was going to be tough to find another vocalist and try to keep the band together that way so we decided to go back to the three piece band and go from there.

AB:       And what does that mean for the band?

DN:      Well, it means that for us, we will be very selective about playing gigs now as we will need some “well-in-advance notice” to play gigs over the next year or so.  But that doesn’t mean that we have ended the band or anything like that.  We’ve had a few times where we didn’t play many live shows but we still kept working and promoting the Lucid Dreamer message.

AB:       And that’s where you are at today?

DN:      Exactly.

AB:       OK –let’s switch gears a little.  Let’s talk about some of your songs.

DN:      OK

AB:       So we’ve mentioned a few, but you’ve got hundreds of songs, many from the early days.  Have you ever thought about releasing any of those songs?

DN:      I do have a ton of unreleased songs – most are unreleased for a reason – most notably that they aren’t very good. In fact, some downright stink.  You know I was going through some of them the other day and there are some I had to wonder what I was thinking when I wrote some of the lyrics I read. But there were also some pretty good tunes that were written around the Route 66 days that I like.  Now will these make it on a Lucid Dreamer record? Probably not.  Will they make it on another RFR artist’s record? That would be OK. 

AB:       Would they not show up because of lyrical concerns?

DN:      A few, but mainly the musical style.  There were some that were good country tunes and I’ve talked to SilverStar about them.  There were some heavier tunes that I’ve spoken with Nature’s Child about possibly doing.

AB:       Any examples of the songs you would record for Lucid Dreamer?

DN:      Well, there are a few that I would consider.  But we still have about 15 that are in our new song stack that we want to put on the next CD so I’m not sure when the earlier stuff would show up.  We’ve talked about putting a couple of the early demos on the greatest hits CD but nothing concrete.

AB:       Alright so let’s talk about some of the songs you have released and some of the history behind them.  Let’s take the first release. What are the stories behind the following: She Wants to be Wanted, She Looks Good and Susan

DN:      Well, SWTBW was about a lady named Vera.  This goes back to my younger days.  She hung out at a bar we used to hang out at called Pat’s Place.  We had played there with Route 66.  It was a neighborhood bar – nice and small and never crowded.  We would go and play shuffleboard and throw some darts. There was a lady named Vera and it was my interpretation as to how her life was based on my conversations with her.  She was quite a bit older than us, probably in her 60’s at that time – we’re talking 85, 86 timeframe.  SLG was not about Charlotte.  Everyone thought every song was about Charlotte at that time but this was about a girl named Gina who worked at Taco Inn where Jeff and I would hang out from time to time. She was one of those girls that just looked good.  Susan was not about Susan our neighbor from St. John’s Way, but about a girl that I knew when I was at Fox Photo.  The song was written in Nashville one night out by the pool.  I never dated her or anything like that but her name was one that I thought of when I was working on the song.  She looked like Linda Hamilton, by the way.

AB:       Now when you started writing the Christian stuff, what was that like?

DN:      It was a little different from time to time.  On some stuff it just worked, liked with Get Thee Behind Me Satan.  I wrote that back in the Route 66 Days but didn’t know what to do with it.  The coming forth from the fire was something I had written one night while laying in bed looking at the fire in the fireplace.  The rest of the song was written in the back of Vinny’s truck one night after practice when he was giving me a ride back to his house.  Debbie was sitting up front and there wasn’t any room in the cab so I was sitting in the back with all that delicious El Paco food. Perhaps it was the temptation to eat a few of those iced bread things – whatever they were called – that prompted me to write the song.  Songs like Counterfeit Smile were not written as Christian songs but were just songs about people I knew or situations I knew so those were easy.  When I specifically tried to write a song about Jesus that was very difficult in the sense that I wanted it to be right.  I wanted to say the right thing. I didn’t want to say anything that would contradict beliefs for the sake of the music.  Songs like The Day were easy in the sense that they just told my life story.

AB:       OK, I‘m gonna throw some songs out there and see what happens.  How about Living It Up for Christ, Immortal Love, The Way You Love Me, Gotta Have Jesus, What Can I Do, Voice of Warning, He Saved Me, Living in Disguise and Work to name a few.

DN:      Well, some of these are just straight-forward songs with no real hidden meanings.  But, things like Living It Up For Christ came from a sermon someone gave that just had a real neat message to it.  Immortal Love is an old hymn and He Saved Me comes from the book of Psalms.  Now Living in Disguise is an early songs – this was ‘82/’83 time period while I was walking down a hall one day in college. What Can I Do was written about someone that found herself asking the age-old question we ask ourselves from time to time.  This particular individual in the first verse was 17 and was pretty mixed up.  Her parents had divorced about 5 years earlier and her life was crashing in all around her.  And just like so many others, this confusion creates the perfect environment for Satan to come in and peddle his wares.  A very sad situation, but the point of the song was that there is something you can do.  Now for this girl, she went through some very rough times over the years but is now really trying to get it all together.  Work is a new one for us but the song got its start about 7 years ago one trip out in Virginia.  There was a Laurel street off of one of the main roads where my Sister In-Law lived in Spotsylvania and every time I drove by it, I would always think, you can’t rest upon your laurels.  Over time, I fleshed out the song.  For The Way You Love Me, I had just gotten the 12-String and was playing around with the open E chord up the neck and I’ve always loved the little bridge part from Triumph’s Hold On, so I used those two chords along with the E.  The words were one of those things that just came to me when I was contemplating why sometimes my love for the Lord is not as strong as it should be and that His love is always the way it should be. Gotta Have Jesus was just a straightforward look at the fact that no matter what you have, what you make, what you are, there’s only one way to get to heaven.

AB:       I Love the video for it.

DN:      Thanks.  I do too.  From a Christian point of view, it just makes sense. Voice of Warning was one that I had written back in the 89/90 time frame and was just a song warning about the end times.

AB:       Love One Another, When Will It Stop, In Your Eyes …

DN:      Love One Another was one that I had started one day during church service. One of the preacher’s scripture readings got me thinking about how we need to love one another.  At the time, two close friends were going through a tough time with their marriage and you know when that happens sometimes things get said that wasn’t really meant to be said but then it is said and the damage is done.  That started the song and from there the song just took shape and was written at the same time that The Way You Love Me was written – hence the 12-String.  When Will It Stop was written one day while waiting for a meeting to start.  I had just heard some news story about something so ridiculous that I was like, man, when is this going to stop.  It just flowed from there.  When I wrote In Your Eyes I was dating Joyce at the time. As I mentioned earlier, I thought she was the one. You know what I mean?

AB:       Sure

DN:      Well, she was very religious and she had that something special about her.  You could tell she loved the Lord.  So I wrote this song in response to that. 

AB:       Now isn’t that where This Time came into the picture.

DN:      Yes.  When it didn’t work out between us and I began dating Glynda, that same love for the Lord was there from her but she had so much more. I don’t mean that as a negative against anyone, I’m just saying at that time in my life it worked out with Glynda because we clicked on so many levels.  That’s where This Time came from.

AB:       So what about Glynda?  How has she been through all of this?

DN:      I have to tell you that I have been blessed beyond belief with that woman.  She has been supportive of me from the beginning.  Just as The Day is autobiographical, so is This Time.  When I wrote This Time, the lyrics just flowed because of the truth of how I felt.  I remember writing that one Saturday morning.  I had gotten up, letting the dog out and just started writing the song.  I remember writing the part where it talks “about all of the lines,” and how with Glynda there wasn’t anything missing from the relationship.  This was truly the one.  So from the beginning she has always stood behind me in all my musical endeavors.  Whether it was Lucid Dreamer or Vinny and The Jets, or whatever she has been there.  And that has been a huge part of me getting to where I am today. At times she has been a sounding board.  I remember giving her a copy of the first album, before we started dating and the fact that she listened to it and actually discussed the songs with me was something.

AB:       So here you are in 2008.  Jeff has moved to Arkansas and Vinny and The Jets is taking off again.  So where does that leave Lucid Dreamer? What do you have planned for the anniversary?

DN:     Well, no matter what happens to any of the band members, we will always be here.  That’s the philosophy of the band.  In good times and bad, we’ve stayed with it.  As I mentioned, sometimes not playing as much but still together in some way.  And that’s where we are at right now.  We’ve got some things planned – including our first show of a few gigs at the 46th Annual Celebration®.  We will probably have one more around Christmas if things go as planned.  We’ve got 2 releases coming up – a live CD of different songs through the years. I’m still working on the song selections for that and then we’ve got a greatest hits coming out in the fall as well.  It will be a good sampler to have of the band.  We are still working on our songs for our new CD which we were hoping to have by Christmas, but it’s not official.

AB:       I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and reminisce with me.  Do you have any parting words? Maybe a Summation for the reader?

DN:      You know, we are still plugging along.  Maybe not as active as we have been. 20 years ago I got together with these other guys and started on this long ride.  We’ve been through so much. Regrets? Oh there are always things you wished you could have done different but in the end you don’t know if the different way would have been any better or not.  People have come and gone, many songs have been written, many guitar strings changed.