Former metal band member to play acoustic at Blue Mountain Winery
Andrew O’Day of Frederick, Md., spent years playing in a metal band.
He and his friends played as they left high school, doing gigs on weekends and booking short tours. Andrew played for a while as a drummer and for a long time as lead vocalist.
After about a six-year run, the other band members were ready to move on with their lives, but O’Day still wanted to play music.
“It was really different for me because for everybody else, it was a hobby. They went to college and they were getting ready for their degree jobs,” he said.
At the time, O’Day, 32, was working in retail at Best Buy to make ends meet.
“It was tough when we split up,” he said.
It was after that that the Northern Virginia native began playing at wineries and breweries and eventually developed a personal style that suited him as well as audiences of that niche market.
On Sunday, Aug. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., O’Day will perform at Blue Mountain Wine Crafters Boutique Winery in Funkstown. O’Day is known for his soulful covers, his poignant originals and his tendency to get the listeners singing along.
But he wasn’t immediately comfortable with the change in venue.
Finding a new niche
Following the break-up of his metal band According to Plan, O’Day’s brother, who had retired from the military and was living in Alabama, made him an offer.
“He was like, ‘Hey man. Quit your job. Pay everything off and come stay with me and work on your craft, your music,’” O’Day said.
At around 24 years old, he paid off his car, cashed out his 401k to buy a guitar, and committed to study and practice. Prior to that, O’Day knew enough basic guitar chords to write songs, but was not skilled enough to play live.
“I knew I would have to figure it out if I was going to play on my own,” he said. “I had to make it work at that point.”
O’Day stayed in Alabama a little more than a year, doing gigs and playing in his brother’s garage. He recorded videos of originals and of covers to songs like John Legend’s “All of Me.”
O’Day returned to Woodbridge, Va., to visit family and learned of “all these wineries and breweries popping up everywhere” that hired acoustic artists. At first, he wasn’t sure about the idea.
“I thought, ‘What the heck. I can’t play wineries. That’s for old people,’” he said laughing. “I didn’t know. Previously, I did shows for college kids at 2 a.m. I couldn’t imagine playing at a vineyard.”
During his visit, O’Day booked three shows. He played them and headed back to Alabama. A month later, through email contact as a result of those gigs, he booked five or six more winery shows back home. He traveled north to play them, and the next time he returned to Alabama, it was to “get my stuff.”
“It was so weird how it fell into place. Granted, when I moved back, I had to grind three years non-stop. I’d stop into places with my guitar and say, ‘Let me play for you.’ Sometimes I played for free. I had to figure it out. It wasn’t a pool hall or night club,” he said. “It was a totally different demographic.”
The scene was new for the wineries and breweries in the area as well, as they were quickly gaining in popularity and paving the way as they went.
“I figured I would go on that journey with them,” he said.
Gaining footing as a solo act
O’Day soon found that it was not as hard to make a living as a solo act as it had been in a group. For one, all the band members needed to share the money earned. In addition, going solo gave O’Day more musical freedom.
“I ended up really liking it. My creativity was unlimited. I could do whatever I wanted musically,” he said. “I play smaller events, private parties, wineries, weddings, coffee houses. It’s more intimate and it fits my style, my genre a little better.”
His dad, Dan O’Day, was a drummer for the Baltimore-based band The Upsetters, which toured decades ago with artists including Otis Redding. Dan passed away when Andrew was just 16 years old.
“I would definitely say I got my soul and blues side, the old R&B stuff, from him,” O’Day said.
His performance at Blue Mountain will cover Top 100 from “almost every genre.” Doing covers successfully requires versatility, he said. His catalog includes almost 300 covers as well as his originals.
“I play a range of ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, all genres, Neil Young to Otis Redding to Bruno Mars. I try to play for the group in front of me, to keep them humming along and hanging out,” he said. “I try to play what people want to hear. At home, I can play whatever I want to play.”
Playing upside down
Audiences at O’Day’s performances might notice something unusual about his handling of the guitar. His unorthodox style is “not on purpose,” he said.
O’Day is left-handed. As a child, he would sneak into his brother’s room to play his guitar while his brother was away overseas in the military.
“He wouldn’t let me use it. The only time I could play was when he was gone,” he said with a laugh. “I’d sneak in his room and pick it up. I never knew it was right-handed and that I was playing it upside down.”
O’Day later tried to play right-handed and tried re-stringing the guitar, but he ended up going back to the way he initially taught himself to play.
“I’ve had to teach myself different shapes for different chords. I wouldn’t recommend it, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s been a pain learning over the years.”
Clearly, his “upside-down” playing hasn’t held him back.
In 2017, O’Day was named Prince William County’s Best Musician. He is engaged to be married in January 2020. He has a passion for supporting local businesses, and local businesses, he said, are supportive of him.
“I would say I’ve hit my goals so far. My ultimate goal, in the beginning, was to get a show. That happened, then I thought, ‘OK. Let’s make a living.’ That happened,” he said. “Now I can come home every night from doing what I love and pay my mortgage.”
Quality of life is different for one person than it is for another, he said.
“I’m really blessed to be in this position. I don’t really want to be famous or anything like that,” O’Day said. “Success for me, right now, is that I make a living off of what I love doing.”