When Tim Vana decided to get back into music at the age of 40, it was not surprising that many people rolled their eyes and sighed. "I'm sure most people figured it was a mid-life crisis", Tim says. "I do admit that turning 40 caused me to contemplate seriously what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I have always told my children (Kim, 26; Dawn, 24; and Charlie, 16) to pursue their dreams. I figured I better take my own advice." So he started writing songs again, and began performing his original material at open mics in the Chicago area. "I needed cold audiences to get an honest reaction to my music. You don't prove anything playing at parties for friends and family."
He was encouraged enough by the reaction of strangers to enter his songs in a singer-songwriter competition run by the Lake County (IL) Folk Festival, where he placed 3rd out of 205 entrants from all over the country. "My entries were LULLABY, which I had written at 19, and GOTTA PAY THE RENT, which I had written at the age of 40." Both of these songs ended up on LOCAL TALENT, which was released in August of 1997, two years after he began what is turning out to be an actual career in music.
It's one thing to write some songs and play them to people who like them. It's quite another to begin producing your own music in a CD format. Tim explains:
"My music is what I refer to as "Chicago Folk". Influenced by Steve Goodman, John Prine and Mike Smith, to name a few, it draws from traditional folk, blues, country and rock, but in a way that reflects the blue collar image of the area. Let's face it, it's not likely to attract a horde of reps from the big labels. Those days are long gone. The big labels are only interested in acts that can fill arenas, not coffee houses and small clubs. So the type of music that I like best, the kind that originated in small venues, the kind that tells the stories of he working class, is no longer going to get played on commercial radio or promoted by big labels with huge corporate structures to support. If I was going to get produced, I would have to produce myself and try to find my own audience."
Lest you think that Tim was just embarking on some quixotic quest, he assures you that this is not the case. "I've been in business for myself my whole life", says Mr. Vana, whose day job is that of Dispatcher, Vice President and co-owner of Community Cab Dispatch, in his hometown of Des Plaines, Illinois, where he has lived for all of his 49 years. Surviving in business, any business, for three decades takes a combination of business acumen, guts, and determination. These qualities are standing him in good stead in the enterprise of music writer-performer-producer. "I sold enough copies of LOCAL TALENT to make a "profit". The thing is, you spend the money in large chunks and you get it back in small bits, mostly. I did plan the project well enough so that, at the concert at which it was released, I sold over 130 CDs, which enabled me to pay most of the outstanding production costs. One advantage of doing it yourself is that you have complete artistic control. Another is that you don't have to sell a million units to be successful. If I can find a large enough audience to sell 25,000 units consistently, I could quit my day job and concentrate solely on my music".
When asked about the origin of the name of his debut CD, Tim is typically direct. "Listening to the junk that's currently getting airplay on commercial radio, I figured any reasonably talented guy in the entire nation could put a group of musicians together from his own neighborhood and do at least as well, if not better. All of the musicians on LOCAL TALENT are from Des Plaines, and I am very proud of the job they did".
Randy Cequa, on bass, was Tim's instructor in Music Theory at the American Conservatory of Music. He has since accompanied Tim in most of his concerts. Pete Hutenbach, on lead guitar (acoustic and electric) teaches guitar and is a member of the St. Stephen's Folk Choir, which Tim has been a member of for 35 years, and is a past Director of the Choir. Joanna Hincker, who sings lead on WHEN THE FIRE EXPIRES and CARRY ON, has sung with Tim for 25 years. She has since gotten married and is now Joanne Fosco, and is currently working on a CD project of her own. She and Tim are very close. Bob Hauck (bass and electric guitar) now lives in Tinley Park, Illinois. Katherine Burke, who sings backup on several tracks, sings lead on YOU'RE AN ANGEL, which she also wrote. Her sister, Michelle Burke, sings back up on this CD. But scratches the surface of her amazing vocal prowess a little more on Tim's second CD, RIVER OF THE PLAINS.
1. Gotta Pay the Rent
2. Two Way Street
3. Old Dog
4. Can You Come Out and Play
5. The Other Season
6. When the Fire Expires
7. Missed Your Calling
8. You're an Angel
9. Carry On