Probably one of the more difficult paths for ambitious and talented young people is stepping in with the shoes of a parent who has achieved notoriety first, along the same path. For 16 year old bass player Declan Miers, his path was made a bit steeper by virtue of his dad, Jeff Miers being one of the leading music journalists in the region, and a pretty good musician himself.
That steeper climb isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have been keeping an eye on Declan for about a year now, and there has been plenty of buzz. But the reality also exists that dad can open doors for his son too, which made it a scenario where I basically needed to see it for myself. In the last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to cross paths with Declan at a couple of shows, and I definitely saw for myself. He had a playing style which to me appeared to be a cross between Cliff Burton, and the Isley Brothers. The kid is good on his own two feet…
I met with Declan recently, and one of the first things I mentioned was recent time off he had with his family. “We stayed home, and with dad being off it meant listening to music in the yard,” he quickly replied. Pretty much told me everything I needed to know, I suppose. A staycation filled with one of the constants of his life, music. The first obvious question was what got you interested in music, and his response was, “It’s basically my dad’s fault.”
We spoke of his early experience with music, and a common question people ask him is “What was your first concert?” “Before or after I was born?” is the usual response. Being born to a family with strong musical roots, music was always around, he was just accustomed to it. “One of the first things my dad said to me was look at those guitar player hands”, Declan recalls. He picked up the guitar at 4. He had a short scale guitar. The video game Guitar Hero was a big influence also in his young days. “Well, I kind of want to learn this song on a real guitar,” he mentioned, in reference to the video game experience.
He also took classical piano lessons. Started at 5, he hated it. He also played cello. Classical music was always there, but so was childhood, “I really didn’t take reading (music) very seriously. My reading chops would be better.”
He fully committed himself to music at 9 or 10. “Dad got me at Music is Art festivals to play in front of people”, as he recalled some of his first experiences on a stage. He also studied with Nelson Starr. He was tough as all good teachers are. Declan had questioned himself during those times, “do I really want to do this?” Sports were always there for him too. But it didn’t take long to continue on his path. “This is for me, this is my life.”
He was mainly a guitar player until 12. He attended Music is Art camp at Buff State. The counselors split us off in bands. “My counselor was Eric Crittenden,” he says. “He has been one of my mentors for as long as I can remember.” Eric said to him, “Yo, D, I know you have a bass at your house. Bring your bass for this.” It would be his turning point. “I really, really loved it,” he remembered very fondly. They played numbers by Eugene Mc Daniels, Amy Winehouse. It got him on the path to want to be a bassist. It was the groove, the soul. There was no going back.
Declan currently attends Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. He’ll be entering his junior year, majoring in instrument music. He also performs at school with the classical guitar ensemble, under the direction of Jared Tinkham.
His first 2 jazz concerts, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spaulding got him into jazz and more complex music. Experimenting sonically, philosophically. He also plays at church, which has allowed him to hook up with the Buffalo funk scene, where is really flourishing. He has hooked up with keyboardist and songwriter Toney Rhodes, and has become his go to bassist for many of his recent gigs.
One of the more interesting things about the Buffalo music community is a pedigree of great bass players, including Billy Sheehan, Rodney Appleby, Jerry Livingston, Rick James, and more recently Zuri Appleby. Declan is finding his way out of his dad’s shoes and stepping in to a world with unlimited possibilities. Keep an eye out for this young man, he won’t be around these parts forever…
You can see Declan perform here:
Tonight at Hydraulic Hearth after Live at Larkin with Toney Rhodes
DBGB Tuesday July 26 with Verse
Waterfront Wednesdays at Waterfront Village Wednesday July 27 with Toney Rhodes
August 18 at Canalside, opening for T Pain