Seymour native Brian McKenna has fond memories of playing music in his hometown.
He’s been playing in bands since middle school and remembers one of his first big gigs playing at the Seymour Oktoberfest.
This year, McKenna, who now resides in Indianapolis, returned to play at the annual festival with his current band LemonWheel.
Although it rained during their performance Friday night, McKenna said he had a great time and hopes to perform in Seymour again in the near future.
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McKenna recently took the time to answer some questions from Tribune reporter January Rutherford.
Q. Where do you live now and how long have you been away? Did you graduate from Seymour High School?
I graduated from SHS in 1986. I worked some odd jobs and then went on to study music at Vincennes University. After graduating VU in 1990, I moved to Indianapolis, which has pretty much been my home ever since.
Q. What do you miss most about Seymour?
My friends are the number one thing I miss. I have managed to stay in touch with a few over the years. Social media has made it fairly easy to reconnect with the rest.
I miss the lack of traffic and Larrison’s too. There are some great greasy spoons in Indy, but none with the vibe and menu like Larrison’s. I try to stop there whenever I’m visiting friends or passing through.
Q. Do you still have family in the area?
I do not have any family in the area. My mom and dad moved to their hometown, Madison, after I moved to Indy, and my sister moved to Atlanta. That was probably 1995-ish.
Q. How did you get into playing music with LemonWheel?
There was another cover band in Indy, Living Proof, who was auditioning bass players. I made it to the final two. The guy who got the gig is a beast. Just a phenomenal player.
They referred me to LemonWheel. LemonWheel sent me an email, and I went to the initial audition. Everyone was so inviting, laid back and super cool. There was a real easy feeling to the audition.
In the meantime, I had been in talks with the guys in the band 812. I played guitar with them for a handful of shows and a whole lot of good times with old friends.
At that point I was driving back and forth between Indy and Seymour. I have a family, and that was definitely taking a bit of a toll.
LemonWheel called me back for a second audition. I wasn’t going to go, but my wife at the time said, “The money is good, and it’s local, so we will see you on the weekends. You are going to pick up that bass and go pass that audition.” A week later I was giving notice to the guys in 812.
Fortunately, those guys understood and have been 100 percent supportive the entire time. Love those guys!
Q. Have you been in other bands?
Too many to list. There are always projects, one offs, fill-in gigs and the billions of bands between junior high, high school and college.
Q. What led to your love of music and performing?
Our family is musical. Mom and sister play piano a bit. Dad played some clarinet.
What I think really inspired me were the holiday get-togethers at my grandmother’s house. My uncles Mike and Dick would play guitar while my grandmother, mom and all the aunts would sing around the kitchen table. Mainly standards, country oldies, some 50s stuff, etc. They would have multiple harmonies and everyone was smiling and laughing. Great memories.
As far as my love of performing goes, I remember watching shows on the Beatles and just seeing people lose their minds. It was and still is amazing at the effect that boy band had on music and culture even still today.
Growing up with that was great, then in 1975 my next door neighbor turned me on to Kiss Alive. It was all over after that.
I never wanted fame. I never wanted fortune. If someone is in music for either of those reasons, then they are in for some very heartbreaking surprises.
I wanted to travel, play to as many people as I could and hopefully see a few of them smiling and singing the words to my own songs.
Q. Do you remember what year you first played at the Oktoberfest? Was it with a local “garage” band? What do you remember about that performance?
The second live gig I ever played was at the Oktoberfest. I was in 7th or 8th grade, so I’m guessing 1981-ish? Maybe ’82?
I remember B.S.-ing my way in to a prime time spot. I forget who I spoke with, but I pushed and pushed and pushed for it. I think she finally got tired of me calling and just booked us. It was a local cover band called Fugitive.
I remember we opened with “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I also remember getting booed a bit. Man … I’m sure we were pretty bad. It was still a good experience. Any stage time is good experience at that age.
Q. What was it like returning to play here again? The weather was less than ideal, but you guys stuck it out.
Yeah. The weather was definitely less than ideal, but the others in the band are pros, and as they say, “The show must go on.”
I was absolutely blown away by the fact that several people stood in the rain for an hour or more watching, singing, dancing and having fun. I was stoked to play in the hometown again despite the weather.
It was great to see friends and acquaintances from back in the day, enjoyed the local sites, ate some sati-babi. It was a great day.
Q. Has much changed about Oktoberfest?
The only significant change I noticed is the rides have moved from the library parking lot. The food is still great. Kids seem to be doing pretty much the same thing I did as a kid. Adults still hang out in the beer garden.
Actually, what I noticed more were all of the changes to the city itself. Driving around a bit during the day of the show, I could really see how the town has grown.
Q. What do you do when you aren’t playing music?
I usually work six days a week and some doubles on Fridays, so I’m pretty much a homebody when I’m not playing music. I am not a bar guy, so if I’m not playing a show in one, you probably won’t find me in one.
I met and married the most amazing woman ever. We were married this past July and can honestly say I never knew what love was until I met Angel.
She has four kids, and I have three, plus we have two grandkids. Our kids are 24, 23, 16, 12, 11, 11 and 6. All girls (God help us), except the 16 year old. Between our own jobs, LemonWheel, the kids’ jobs, church groups, the kids’ sports and school activities, we always have something going on.
I have been a Corporate Trainer for the past 11 to 12 years. I am changing fields a bit and going into a management position with a logistics company. It’s an exciting change for me.
Anyone who thinks they can play music full time and not have a day job is pretty much crazy. Even when I was a touring musician, I still had a solid 40-hour job when I got off the road. Unless you are extremely lucky, you will need that day job.
Q. So when are you planning to coming back to Seymour?
We (LemonWheel) would love to have the opportunity to play in Seymour again. It’s always a matter of details. It’s a risk for clubs to book an out-of-town band even if some of the guys/gals are from the town. Hopefully it will work out in 2016.