2017-04-06 / Front Page

Local musician to release new album

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

Rob Duquette, 46, takes a break at his drum set in his home studio after some improvisation. Duquette will finish his upcoming album, “Trust the Night,” this month on behalf of his band duquette, with plans to release the album in June. (Garrick Hoffman photo) Rob Duquette, 46, takes a break at his drum set in his home studio after some improvisation. Duquette will finish his upcoming album, “Trust the Night,” this month on behalf of his band duquette, with plans to release the album in June. (Garrick Hoffman photo) SACO – Although he’s been playing musical instruments for most of his life – and performing live music for more than 30 years – Rob Duquette, 46, of Saco doesn’t plan to stop rocking anytime soon.

Duquette – whose music career has ranged from founding and leading folk band Cactus Highway with his wife to leading a world jazz ensemble to recording children’s albums – began recording a new 11-song album, “Trust the Night,” in fall 2016 and plans to finish it in mid- April under the band name of duquette. The album will likely be released in June.

“I guess I’m edging toward calling (the music) alt-folk or singer-songwriter . . . (but) it’s becoming more and more like a rock band,” he said of duquette’s musical style.

Duquette began playing music in the single digits, when there was an organ and a Yamaha acoustic guitar lying around the house at his disposal. He also dabbled in piano. Eventually in junior high he joined his school band’s percussion section and began writing original music at 15. Years later, in 1986, he started playing cover songs in bars in Boston, New Hampshire and Maine. He received his master’s in jazz studies, and although he always played guitar and piano as a child, he focused most of his studies on drums. He’s made a living through music since the 1990s because of his versatile musical abilities, he said.

Duquette moved to Maine in 2003 after touring the country with his wife as Cactus Highway for all of 2002. Before touring he lived in Boston. Since moving here, Duquette has recorded two albums – one a seven-song extended play album entitled, “This Time,” and one a children’s album, entitled, “Love is Contagious” – and has introduced a program into the community entitled “Kindness.” He’s also played percussion, drums, guitar and vocals for Jonathan Edwards, who gained popularity in the 1970s for his song “Sunshine.”

A father of a 9- and 11-year-old, Duquette brings “Kindness” into schools about three times monthly to help students make kindness a part of their lives and make both their school and local environments friendlier and bullyfree, according to his website. He covers topics such as being kind to ourselves and others, being thankful, helping others, making friends, not passing on anger to others and being friendly to the earth and school environment. He also encourages students to believe in dreams and a purpose in life.

“My biggest love is doing kids music,” Duquette said. “Being able to do kids music and duquette has been my end goal. The ‘Kindness’ program is maybe the most important thing I do, in terms of trying to make the world a better place.”

His band, duquette, was formed in 2012 and bears an alternative style to his children’s music. A year later, after releasing “Love is Contagious” as a solo artist under his name, he released “This Time” under duquette – though he played all the instruments himself.

“(‘Love is Contagious’) is a five-song CD that did really, really well around the country,” he said. “I played all the instruments myself. I thought, wow, that was really easy, I should do a duquette album finally.”

However, recording both “This Time” and “Love is Contagious” were isolating experiences, he said.

“When I did those (albums), I was very much into it and I was really having fun. But it was isolated,” he said. “I was very much in my own world, especially since I did all the instruments.”

When he set up a PledgeMusic page for his new album in fall 2016, a website that enables artists to garner funds for their music and connect them with fans, it became a different experience than the previous two albums.

“This time I felt so much more connected with the audience and other players,” he said. “Not only was I able to raise the money first and not go into debt, it felt great to be connected with everyone. I realized it’s a really great way to be connected with friends, audience and fans, right from the start.”

The page allows fans to donate money to Duquette’s project while also receiving perks. For example, $15 can purchase the album; $25 can purchase a signed copy of the album; $30 can purchase the album with a signed drum head, and $50 can purchase the album with a handwritten lyric sheet with a song of the fan’s choice. All purchases come with an access pass, which includes a digital download of the album, access to Duquette’s updates and shipping and handling.

Although Duquette has already reached his financial goal with PledgeMusic – an amount which he said he didn’t wish to share – he’s leaving the page open for donations because the goal doesn’t cover all expenses, he said.

Duquette records all music in a multi-purpose space in the basement of his Saco home. The space – which includes a drum set, keyboard and amp – is also used for monthly rehearsals. An additional space adjacent to the room is designated for drum lessons.

The upcoming album will be an effort by a three-piece band, including Duquette, and will feature five guest musicians. Besides Duquette, the band includes bass player John Kumnick of Kennebunk and keyboardist Jake Sturtevant of Poland, both of whom contributed to the recording of the album. Guest musicians include Jonathan Edwards, Joe Walsh, Mark Paquin, Travis James Humphrey and John Mailander. Kumnick has collaborated with notable musicians such as Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Chuck Berry and Ben E. King. Paquin plays bass for hard-rock band The Pretty Reckless, the first female-fronted band to reach No. 1 in radio rock charts with its first two hit songs.

“I really like playing with him as a drummer,” Kumnick said. “We have a certain intuitive, easy-going relationship where we don’t have to think about it too much, we just play. It works out really easily. I know where he’s going; he knows where I’m going.”

Kumnick said the album essentially began as a duet.

“When we did this record, it started off with just me and him playing the songs,” he said. “We just wanted to forge ahead. I think it came out really well. There’s a lot of good songs and a lot of good playing on this record.”

He also praised Duquette’s abilities as a musician.

“I think he’s a really, really good songwriter, really good singer and an excellent lyricist,” he said. “He probably does too many things too well. He’s quite a dynamo when it comes to doing music and being creative.”

Following the release of the album, Duquette plans to play live performances, though it won’t be a full tour as is standard for artists releasing a debut album, and may not include the other two full-time members of his band, he said. He said if Kumnick or Sturtevant aren’t able to accompany him on the road, his model for touring will be akin to rock-and-roll artist Chuck Berry’s.

“Chuck used to drive around in his car, go to a town and find a couple local guys to back him up,” Duquette said. “My business model is: I show up into a town in, say, Connecticut, Massachusetts or New York. I play solo, like my kids shows. I’ll grab a local guy or two and we’ll be duquette – the Chuck Berry method.”

Duquette plans to perform a children’s show and a duquette show if he lands gigs, he said. He said he’ll also perform on radio stations if he receives airplay through those stations, which he said is typical for a performing musician for promotion. Radio promoters are able to tell an artist where he or she receives airplay, he said.

Duquette, knowing he wanted to receive promotional help for the album, contacted Charlie Gaylord at Crooked Cove, a CD manufacturing and service company based out of Elliot that’s operated since 1979. Gaylord has known Duquette for more than a decade, he said, and runs a local radio show on WBLM called “Greetings From Area Code 207,” which features Maine artists.

“I have lots of media contacts in Maine,” Gaylord said. “We’re going to do a press release and schedule events. He’s looking to book Portland gigs. My immediate task is to help him do that, like at Longfellow Square,” although no events have been scheduled through Gaylord yet.

Gaylord said Duquette wanted to create an album of his own because of his past as a sideman, and because he wanted to commit to a musical style that deviates from what he’s been performing for the last 10 years or so.

“He’s been a side man. He does children’s gigs and jazz, but he wants to focus on his new band,” Gaylord said. “People know him from so many different things. He wants to bring all the focus onto this one project.”

Duquette plays once a month at Funky Bow in Lyman, playing all original music. He’ll play there from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 21.

“Art is one of those things we need to support,” Duquette said, “especially if it’s positive.”


To purchase or receive updates on Duquette’s upcoming album “Trust the Night,” or to learn more about him as an artist, visit his PledgeMusic page at http://www.pledgemusic.com/ projects/duquette, or visit his website at http://www.robduquette.com.

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