At 18, few high school seniors have released two albums of original material, toured as an opening act for well-known country stars, taken fourth place in the prestigious Open Mic Madness at Smith's Olde Bar, or been a finalist in the Eddie's Attic Singer/Songwriter Shootout, all while keeping up their grades. Clearly Spencer Durham is not your average high school senior.
At a transitional age when many late teens are acting out through introversion or rebelliousness, Durham has rallied his parents and younger sister -- employing them as his street team, management and support.
This already-unique situation is made more so because the Dahlonega-based Lumpkin County High School graduate-to-be -- who plans to take a year off to work on his music career before continuing on to college -- taps into a retro, '70s-styled, Southern singer/songwriter rock vibe uncommon to most of his contemporary indie-, punk-rock- and hip-hop-loving peers.
"I'm the only kid in my school that listens to that stuff," he says. "That comes mainly from my dad."
Durham not only writes music that must seem like musty, ancient history to his schoolmates, but on his new album, Much More Than Words, he works with established veterans who have been playing professionally since before Durham was old enough to stumble around his crib.
Producer/drummer Gerry Hansen assembled members of renowned musician/sideman Randall Bramblett's band (guitarist Davis Causey, bassist Mike Steele and Bramblett himself on organ), to infuse a skilled yet rough-edged polish to the 18-year-old's sophomore release. The result recalls the roots sensibilities of the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes and Widespread Panic, without the extended jams. Perhaps not surprisingly, Durham's fan base skews to those twice his age and he plays clubs he couldn't otherwise get into.
The cultural dichotomy of his youth, the music he loves and the esteemed company he keeps is not lost on Durham, who is humbled by the experience. "I've spoiled myself with the musicians I've worked with. I've gotten to the point where I can't work with anyone my own age because I know what good is."
At this stage, that's a good problem to have.