Local Musician wins songwriting award | AspenTimes.com

Local Musician wins songwriting award

Stewart Oksenhorn

Ever since his last band, Treehouse, shuttered its doors, Aspen singer-songwriter Dan Sheridan has been thinking about his solo career. For a few years, Sheridan had the distractions of a day job – delivering flowers and Chinese food, though not on the same routes – to keep him from his songwriting.

Last summer, though, Sheridan decided to put himself completely back in the game. He and his wife Lani moved to Boulder for the summer, where Sheridan could focus on writing and performing. “I wanted to see if I could write songs again,” said Sheridan, a native of upstate New York who has lived in Colorado for some 12 years. “I hadn’t done that in a while. And it was still there. I still had the passion for it.”

Returning to Aspen, determined to pay the bills by playing music, Sheridan did the apres-ski circuit last winter. He also worked on his latest album, “Small Town Love.” The CD, released in June, featured new songs as well as stripped-down reworkings of old favorites like “American Too.” Sheridan has already sold half of his first pressing of a thousand CDs, which he considers fine progress.

“It’s getting a better reception because people see me live, and this is a better representation of what I do live,” he said. “It all starts with the song, rather than with bass and drums. My music is about melody and lyrics; this sounds like me playing in the room. It’s not slick. As everything’s getting slicker in the world, this goes in the other direction. And there are a lot of people out there who like it.”

If Sheridan ever needed confirmation that his decision to concentrate on music was a good one, he got it last month. Earlier in the summer, Sheridan was selected as one of 10 finalists – out of 500 entrants – in the prestigious Songwriters Showcase at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. At the festival in mid-August, Sheridan and the rest of the finalists performed two songs apiece on the main stage. Sheridan came out the winner, earning a $3,500 Louis Hayes guitar and a full set on the main stage at next year’s festival.

“It’s really hard to have your songs judged,” said Sheridan, who earned honorable mention in the competition last year. “They’re your babies and you care about them. It’s intimidating. It’s not like a regular gig. It’s like ‘Star Search.'”

As unnerving as the competition may have been, Sheridan is glad to be able to use the win to further his career. “I want to make the most of winning this. This is a big deal in this community of musicians.”

Sheridan, though, isn’t sure of the mechanics for advancing his career. He hopes that the “Small Town Love” and the Songwriters Showcase triumph will help him find a top-notch producer who will help him with his next recording. And he wouldn’t mind finding a small band that believes in his music to back him. He does know that playing soft rock covers for skiers exiting the slopes is not his ideal future.

“I would just like to be at the next level,” said Sheridan. “I pay my bills with apres-ski stuff, which is good. But I’d like to be traveling around Colorado, doing opening gigs, doing showcase gigs, playing for people who like this kind of music, instead of trying to do my original songs at apres-ski gigs. That can get you down – year after year, thinking people only want to hear you do Jackson Browne hits. It’s nice to know your own art is valued.”