Visionaries and Dreamers

Jeff and Deborah Badarak.

By Nikki Hedrick


Deborah and Jeff Badarak have two very different music projects gaining steam across Beachcomberland. The Visionaries is their vehicle for the classic songs they love, often presented as a trio with Jim Vasquez on guitar. And then there is Carnival Dreams, a tribute to Natalie Merchant.


“Well, we had our first show in December of 2017, and we got married last year,” says Deborah. “So when we started, we were dating, and we met about three years ago. It just grew from there. That’s when it all came together. We used to live in Michigan, and I grew up here, went to Fort Walton Beach High School and graduated there. I moved up there about 11 years ago.”


Although the pair attended high school in separate states, their story is a shared one of band classes, saxophone, and marching band.


“When I met her, she had never sung professionally before,” says Jeff. “She was like me, one of those people growing up that just loved to sing in the shower and sing in the car—always singing along with the radio. But then when she met me, one of our first dates was… I wanted to take her out to karaoke, because the first night we met, she just randomly started singing to one of the songs that was playing overhead on the house music.


“I heard her voice and I was like, Oh my gosh, you got to be kidding me. Such a beautiful voice. Just a tone that was…it was different, it caught your ear. So I took her out to karaoke for one of our first dates. Fast forward a year, and we’re out playing our first show, I think.”


When it comes to the song list for a Visionaries show, Deborah says the selection process is pretty straightforward. They aim to include “all of our favorites growing up, and just the songs that you really, really enjoy.”


“It’s just easy going, fun music,” she says. “It’s very important to us that people can engage in our songs. Every song that we do, people can sing along to. Might not be able to dance to every one of them, but you can sing along and bob your head back and forth.”


How did the idea of Carnival Dreams and a Natalie Merchant tribute begin? “I found her music and started exploring it and realized how much material she’s done with 10,000 Maniacs,” says Jeff. “And for some reason, I just connected with her voice. It touched something inside me. And the writing style of her music, it’s always been consistent…a real deep, heartfelt writing style.”


“Her songs are just so musically beautiful to me,” says Deborah. “And then you add the interesting lyrics on top of it, and it just makes the song fantastic.”


The Badaraks are also in the beginning stages of crafting original songs. “We have that desire,” says Deborah. “We have one original down. We’ve been so busy lately that it’s sadly taken the back burner, but it’s something we are working towards.”


Whether it’s originals, covers or their Natalie Merchant tribute, Jeff says he and Deborah are looking forward to “many years of entertaining the Panhandle here, the Emerald Coast. We definitely are here to stay. We love this place. It’s like paradise to me. And having grown up here, it is home for Deb.”


You can catch the pair at venues like Fort Walton Beach’s Giovanni’s One89 and Docie’s Dock, and 3rd Planet Brewing in Niceville.


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