Howie Day was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1981 and started playing piano as a child. At age 14 he began strumming the guitar. He immediately showed an affinity for the instrument, and by the next year he had his first professional gig at an area bar called Captain Nick's.
On the MTV website, Howie Day remarked, "I knew ever since I was five years old that I wanted to be a rock star. It kind of got pushed into turbo at age 15." When Day was 15 his mother met rock guitarist Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, and told him about her son. Matthews gave them tickets to his concert. "It was definitely an inspiring show for a 15-year-old just starting to play guitar," Day recalled.
Day started playing in bars in his hometown of Bangor, Maine. "I'm sort of embarrassed looking back on it now," Day admitted in the Chicago Tribune. "I don't know if bars were such a good place for a 15-year-old kid to be." At age 17 he went out on his own to tour the Boston coffeehouse circuit. He began writing music and worked on recording an album. He also began building up a large collegiate fan base. He was concentrating so much on his music, touring, and recording, that he missed more than 45 days of school during his senior year of high school, and was in danger of not graduating. According to the MTV website, he recalled that he was able to convince his teacher "that I could do a quarter's worth of English homework in a weekend, so my first time ever in New York, I was sitting in a hotel room doing vocab tests."
Following high school Day continued to tour, and in 2000 he independently released a self-financed debut album titled Australia. The album caught the attention of the larger record companies when Day sold 30,000 albums through tours and word-of-mouth sales. After a bidding war he signed with Epic Records, a division of Sony, and within another year, sales of the album had reached 100,000 copies.
Day's performances were unique. Since he toured on his own, he got creative in finding ways to enhance his music. "There's only so much you can do standing up and strumming an acoustic guitar as a solo performer, so I was searching for something," Day told Guitar Player. "Then I saw Joseph Arthur at a small coffee-house in Philadelphia. He looked cool, so I stayed to watch his show, and I was floored by how he used loops to construct a wall of sound. A few months later, I was in a music store and saw the Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. So I thought I'd take a shot in the dark and mess around with it." Day started to record his own music and then play along with it. He layered the vocal and instrumental sounds to give a fuller sound. "For the first year, my set up was completely different every night because I was always trying something new. There was no consistent group of effects—I'd bring a whole suitcase full of pedals and plug everything in. Eventually, I found the tools I liked, and I settled on two pedalboards," he told Guitar Player.
Day refused to take himself too seriously, however. While performing he would frequently use the old ventriloquists' trick of drinking a glass of water while his voice sang the melody in the background. Fans started attending his concerts with tape recorders, and so the Howie Day Trading Board was established, to allow fans to trade concerts online. "It's such a huge compliment to think people like what I'm doing enough to record it and pass it along to their friends," Day said on his official website. "It keeps me on my toes too, because I can't go out and play the same show night after night."
In 2003 Day released the Madrigals EP, a group of pieces that he recorded in his own living room. Along the way, his music also found its way onto the big screen on the soundtrack of I Am Sam, a movie starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer. He also found spots on small screen episodes of Dawson's Creek, The Real World, and the soap opera Passions.
Day began touring as the opener for well-known artists including Sting, Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, and Tori Amos. He watched and learned, gleaning information to increase his success. "Watching how hard Tori works and seeing how she carries herself as an artist was an education for me," Day said on his website. "She gave me a lot of great advice but one thing kept coming back to me in the studio. She said it is crucial to stay true to your artistic vision when you record or you'll regret it the rest of your life. She reaffirmed that the biggest mistake I could make would be to ignore my instincts."
In the spring of 2003 Day recorded his next album, Stop All the World Now, at Olympic Studios in London, England. Instead of working with his own tapes, he worked on the album with other musicians, and in several of his songs a 25-piece orchestra was used as backup. "When they started playing 'Numbness for Sound,' it was a little emotional for me," he said on his website. "I could remember sitting at home, strumming my guitar and thinking about how great it would be to have strings on this song. A few months later, it was happening." Stop All the World Now was named the Debut Album of the Year and Day captured the Outstanding Male Vocalist award, both at the Boston Music Awards ceremony in 2003.
Day began touring with a four-piece band, including Jay Clifford on guitar, Simon Jones on bass, Les Hall on keyboard, and Laurie Jenkins as drummer. In 2004 Day and the band opened for Barenaked Ladies on their tour of the United States, and later toured with the Stereophonics. It appears that Day's talent, combined with his creativity and determination, will propel him to even more success in the future.
Australia, independently released, 2000; reissued, Epic, 2002.
Madrigals (EP), Epic, 2003.
For the Record …
Born in 1981 in Bangor, ME.
Independently released Australia, 2000; released Madrigals on Epic, 2003, released Stop All the World Now on Sony, 2003.
Awards: Boston Music Awards, Debut Album of the Year and Outstanding Male Vocalist, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Epic Records, 550 Madison Ave., 24th Fl., New York, NY 10022. Agent—Aaron Pinkus, William Morris Agency, Inc., One William Morris Place, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Website—Howie Day Official Website: http://www.howieday.com.
Stop All the World Now, Sony, 2003.
Guitar Player, September 2002, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2003, p. E.4.
"Howie Day," Live Daily, http://www.livedaily.com (March 18, 2004).
"Howie Day," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com (March 18, 2004).
Howie Day Official Website, http://www.howieday.com (March 18, 2004).
"Howie Day—more than your basic guy," Chicago Tribune, http://metromix.chicagotribune.com (March 18, 2004).