Hair Styling by Rachael Qualls-Cole
Clothing by Old Made Good (OMG) out of Nashville
Ben and Dorothy DeBarry are difficult not to like. The two Tennessee natives are quickly making a name for themselves by combining skillfully crafted songs that invoke both old-school country and bluegrass and modern pop/jazz. But their talent alone is not what makes them so likeable. The former high-school sweethearts turned real-life romance couple, embody a tenacity and positivity that is not only catapulting their success, but also serving as an example to others who are interested in following their passions and realizing their dreams. The two delve deeper into the lessons that have served them well, what inspires their music and some of the challenges they have faced along the way.
What age did you start playing music? What was your first instrument?
Ben: Dorothy started singing in church around the age of 12 and I gave her a guitar and taught her how to play it when she was 18. I was always exposed to music through church and through my parents at home. I especially remember hearing ragtime piano tunes being played by my father at an early age. They always got my energy up and going for sure. I began playing the guitar when I was 10 and I just never stopped.
You two teamed up in 2006 as The Danberry's but how did that come about? Did you play together previously?
Dorothy: We are from the same hometown (Dickson, TN) and dated for about four years in high school and college. After five years apart, we ran back into each other on June 14, 2006, and were married exactly four months later. After we got married, we started playing various cover projects, writer’s nights, and bar gigs. We formed The Danberrys in 2010 when we started writing and recording original material.
At what point in your life do you say, "Ok, I'm going to take this leap. I'm going to give it my all and throw caution to the wind to pursue what I love"?
Dorothy: Ben has always been on the musician track. He’s always known that music is his purpose in life and all of his decisions have been based on this knowledge. Before we got married, he taught private music lessons for many years and also made a decent living playing cover gigs in Cookeville, TN. I made “the leap” about a month ago. I’ve been a CPA for about seven years, and I’ve known for a long time now that accounting work is not what I’m supposed to be doing. My worries about bills and retirement funds and all that jazz were holding me back from seeing my true purpose. I just had an epiphany one day. My corporate job was taking up all of my energy and, while I loved the people I was working with, I didn’t enjoy the work and didn’t have much energy left for music. So the next day I quit my job.
What has been your greatest obstacle thus far?
Ben: The greatest challenges are usually mental. However, in Dorothy’s case, it was a physical challenge for many years due to her diagnosis of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. TOS is a problem very similar to carpal tunnel and other hand/arm/repetitive stress injuries. Some “top doctors” told Dorothy that she probably wouldn’t be able to continue her work or play her guitar again, basically leaving her disabled at the age of 26. Luckily she didn’t accept that answer and through massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and super good vibes she healed herself and is now ready to rock.
What or who has been the greatest source of inspiration to your sound?
Dorothy: There really isn’t a way to pin down THE most influential source. The music we’ve listened to, the act of living, sounds from our childhood (for me it was sounds from the country: tractors, katydids, etc.), and other musicians we have come into contact with have all equally contributed to our sound. Our sound is really just a big mesh of everything we have ever listened to and admired.
Who has been your greatest teacher?
Ben: Once again it is hard to just name one but we would have to say: Doc Stone (Ben’s guitar teacher from the age of 10-18), Cindy Freeman (Our high school choir teacher), and all of the wonderful musicians we’ve observed and learned from (too many to call out here). Not to mention life….life experience is the best teacher.
If you were not a musician, what would you be doing?
Ben: Going slowly insane…….Seriously!
If you could only pass on one piece of advice to future generations, what would it be and why?
Dorothy: Getting advice from a trusted source is usually good, but always listen to your intuition. That loving, guiding voice within you will always point you in the right direction. I ignored my inner voice for a long time and by the time I decided to listen, it was screaming at me.
You know that Faces lyric, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger”? What is that thing you wish you could have known?
Ben: That your dream is only a dream if you look at it that way. Dreams can be realized. It just takes a strong will and a big heart and a strong group of friends and family that love you for who you are and who you are trying to be.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Dorothy: We really just want to bring happiness and musical inspiration to as many people as possible. The how’s, when’s, and where’s don’t really matter.
What does music mean to you?
Dorothy: Music is the universal language. It transcends cultures, time, and even species. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that everything in the universe and beyond has a rhythm or song to express and share. We just try to reach into “the abyss” and translate some of what is already there.
Where are your favorite places to play?
Ben: In our music room at home and at pickin’ parties or other small, intimate gatherings.
What is your greatest challenge currently?
Ben: Balancing the other demands from life (work, friends, family, etc.) to allow enough time for our creative energy to really have a chance to get flowing