Schatzi + the String Boffin stayed quiet for most of 2017. The usually hyper-busy sibling duo Dannica Lowery and Ben Parsons put their band on hold, as Lowery had an extended period of medically ordered vocal rest. Parsons still could be found playing around Beachcomberland, including becoming a member of Mose Wilson and the Delta Twang…but what did that mean for Schatzi + the String Boffin?
If you are lucky enough to know Lowery on a personal level, she is quick to smile, honest, and always aims to be the best version of herself. But during the vocal scare, she took to Facebook and let everyone in a bit more. There, she fearlessly shared glimpses of her inner turmoil as she was doing rounds of steroids in hopes that she would be able to perform again.
The good news is she got the “all clear.” But in classic Lowery fashion, her first gigs out were far from ordinary.
“There were 1,700 submissions from all over the country,” Lowery says of the Nash Next competition that took place in early November. “We went through to the fan voting, and the next round was competing locally. We were in Baytowne (Wharf) representing the Fort Walton Beach division of the Nash Next stations. Then we won that round, and we had to submit for the video round. The Cumulus executives judged it and picked the top 10 in the nation. We were one of the top 10 acts.”
With a phone call from Cumulus’ New York offices and an all-expenses-paid trip, Schatzi + the String Boffin were off to strut their stuff in front of a Nashville audience at the Wildhorse Saloon.
“It was super fun and everyone was really nice. All the other contestants were incredibly nice,” says Lowery. “The Wildhorse Saloon is a pretty prestigious place in Nashville. A lot of national acts have performed there. From the live feed, it didn’t look like it was a very big production, but if you were actually at the venue, every time they hit a kick-drum, your heart felt like it wanted to bust out of your chest. It was loud and booming.”
All contestants got the star treatment—green rooms, limos, catering—but it was one of the event guests that put a chip in Lowery’s composure. “Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn happens to be one of the first concerts I ever went to,” she says. “It was Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire at the Pensacola Civic Center. I was seven and awestruck. It was incredible.
“My emotions and anxiety were already running high. I had already said in a previous interview with Nash Next what my first concert was. So when he showed up, they were like, ‘Let’s get this great photo opportunity to introduce Dannica to Kix Brooks.’ Well, I just…at the moment burst at the seams. Everyone was snapping pictures, and I’m ugly-crying and trying to recompose.
“Then I unloaded my entire life story onto this poor man. But once I got that cry out of the way, I was fine. I think it was just the pinnacle of all my anxiety at the moment. I just couldn’t hold it in.”
The dynamic sibling duo had a pleasant surprise when many of their friends and fellow musicians attended to root them on. “I didn’t expect that,” says Lowery. “People made a big deal about it, which is great because it is a big deal to us. But I didn’t think that everyone would jump on the bandwagon to support us like they did. It was wonderful and meant a lot, and it made us more comfortable to have people there that we knew.”
Lowery admits she had some battles with confidence to get back into singing—was she ready? “I think this was that point where it’s like, yeah, I think I am. If I can come straight out of vocal rest in May, submit to a contest and then make it into the top 10 of the nation, I think I am ready to jump back into the music scene. It’s been a swift kick in the rear not to lose this momentum. I think we’re really going to dive headfirst back into it.”
For now, that means a focus on resuming local gigs, changing up their setlist, and writing new material. “Especially right now in the offseason, I think we are going to use this as our creative time,” says Lowery. “I can’t speak for my brother, but we are working towards rehearsing more and working on our social media more. But who knows? We made some really good contacts with the event, so we’ll see where those take us.”
Instead of slowing down during the period of vocal rest, Lowery tapped into other creative outlets. From teaching several varieties of yoga and painting, and opening the Etsy shop for Wild Woman’s Medicine Cabinet, she has remained busy as ever.
She is currently working with local vocal coach Alissa Steffens to maintain proper care of her vocal cords. “The best of the best have coaches, so why wouldn’t I have a coach?” says Lowery. “She has stretched my range from two octaves to nearly four—it’s crazy. The timbre of my voice is so much more rich, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to actually work with someone.”
Even though Schatzi + the String Boffin didn’t walk away with the grand prize at Nash Next, Lowery views the competition as a success. “We can look back on that performance and feel like we slayed. We rocked it. We put on a great show, and watching the playback of the live feed—and I am my own worst critic—even after that, I still feel like we sounded great. The vocal nodules were just a roadblock that I’ve bounced back from.”
Cheers to that, Dannica.
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