Written by Jeff White
It's hard to believe that eight years ago a group of 5 guys from Fair Haven started a rock band that continues to evolve and get stronger to this day.
In March of 2011 in Sea Bright, the annual Keith McHeffey Fun Run, to honor a fallen friend from the 9/11 attacks, was hosting its tenth-anniversary race. The post-race party, held at The Mad Hatter, was expecting a huge crowd. Owners, Scott and Amy Kelly, gave me the green light to fill their stage with live music for the day.
I was excited about the opportunity to help make the party a big success, but I hadn't played music in nearly ten years. My first instinct was to call my old friend and longtime bandmate Geoff Nicholas to form an all-star group.
Geoff and I always wanted to play with drummer John O'Neil and thought this would be a great opportunity if he was interested. Geoff also spoke very highly of Dan Corboy, who I hadn't seen since high school, as being one of the best guitarists around. Coincidentally, we all grew up in town, and over the years, each of us had also amassed a solid 10,000+ hours of playing in bands. Along with Bob Bandiera, Thom White, John Amabile, and a host of many other great musicians, the day turned out to be a great success. So much so, that we began practicing together to see if we might be worthy of getting another gig somewhere but with no long-term plans.
Shortly after that, another Fair Havenite, John Amabile, was asked to join the band as lead singer. It was effortless playing together and people kept asking us what we called ourselves. Reluctant to take ourselves too seriously, but in need of a band name for a coming event, we chose a name based on the town we all had in common, and on April 11, 2011, The Haven was born.
While I could write a book about all of the lessons learned over the years, I think the easiest thing to do is to summarize some of the elements that have contributed to our success:
1. The Sum Of Our Parts: This is probably the most critical thing we have going for us. While we all share many similarities as regular guys, each of us has a unique set of musical skills and talents that set us apart from one another. Like pieces of a puzzle, when connected, they create a magical big picture that otherwise can't exist without each of the elements. Unless all five of us are available, we now respectfully turn down gigs because they're just never quite as good as a full "Haven" show.
2. Humility: Musicians all have egos that come in various shapes and sizes. Ego is probably the most significant contributor to both the success or failure of a band. In The Haven, we have what I would like to call "humble egos." Each of us knows that we possess unique talents, yet none of us ever tries to outdo another or become overconfident. We complement each other and keep ourselves in check regularly. It's hard not to be humble when we live in an area with so many amazing bands and musicians.
3. Candor: This is an important one. Being brutally honest with each other, and in negotiating with customers, has helped us to grow year after year. Telling a bandmate he needs to turn his instrument down or play a different chord, something that usually triggers anger, is viewed as collaborative and helpful in our band. We rarely argue, and that's due to us being very direct with one another.
Having candor with customers is something we've gotten better at too. We all tip our hats to Brian Kirk for demonstrating to musicians the importance of building a brand. Bands work incredibly hard to learn songs, purchase gear, and give up a lot of personal time to entertain others. It's not easy. Groups that have brand notoriety and deliver a great show deserve better compensation for their efforts. We are very upfront about this.
4. Respect: We respect each other's family commitments, work commitments, scheduling conflicts, conflicts of interest, differing viewpoints, and individual privacy.
We also show the same respect to those we interact with at gigs including business owners and their staff.
5. Friendship: We are a band of brothers from other mothers. Like a sports team, we have a bond that grows stronger and more special over time. Unlike most sports teams, our roster doesn't change each year. We're fortunate in that its rare for a band to hold onto the original members for 8 years and counting.
6. Fanship: I chuckle when people say they are big "fans" of our band. Not because I'm mocking them, but for me, it doesn't seem fitting that a small town, cover band of middle-aged dads, would have "fans" the way notable rockstars do. Instead, and I speak for all of us, we like to view everyone who regularly attends our gigs as friends. We wouldn't be who we are or where we are as a group if it weren't for our friends.
So on behalf of Geoff, John, Dan, John and Me, thank you to all of our friends who make us feel so special and loved every time we play. Cheers to all of us and our next eight years together!