Musicians react to questions about the bands they played with in high school the way you might react to your mother pulling out naked baby photos in front of friends.
They’ll laugh, but they’ll cringe, too, remembering the youthful sincerity of then-profound songs on love, philosophy and nuclear war. Their cheeks will turn red with embarrassment thinking about clothes worn to fit a teen perspective of what a real band looks like, and there’s always a coming of age story that plays out on a talent show stage; it’s seldom pretty.
But the Brooke Danielle Band is a high-school band with a plan. The seven-piece country group formed around singer Brooke Danielle of Centre, after the release of her 2012 solo album. In the two years since, they’ve become a local touring force and recognized name, so much so they’re opening for country legend Merle Haggard on Thursday at Center Stage in Rainbow City — no small feat for any band, let alone one that’s not old enough to drink.
“To live up to that, it worries you a little,” said Danielle. “You just have to know what you’re doing is the right thing.”
Calling the group a teen band is technically accurate; the peak age is a stately 20 years old, and more members are in high school than out. But the “teen” label belies the group’s dogged pursuit of a big-time career in Nashville, their nightly practices after school and work, and the singular focus on reaching their next goal.
Danielle and her parents set forth what she calls “a five-course process” for the band in 2012:
Step 1: Record the solo album.
Step 2: Build a band and play anywhere that would have them. That meant shows nearby, in Nashville and at Flora-Bama, a honky-tonk Danielle describes as “the crankiest bar you’ll ever go to.”
The group is currently working on the third step of the plan, recording an EP at Nashville’s Rukkus Room, a studio known for serving high-profile acts like Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift and Alan Jackson.
“We’re not that average band, the same old group that gets together in the garage to mess around,” said Garrett Bell, rhythm and steel guitarist. “We’re at a steady 200 mph trying to get this thing going.”
Once the EP is recorded, it will be available to fans and used as a demo reel for major labels based in Nashville, where the band hopes to move as soon as possible. Their dedication to the dream caught the attention of Jeremy Reeves, owner of Center Stage, the venue hosting Haggard.
“They do a good job, have a pretty good following and they’re talented kids,” said Reeves, who also owns the Gridiron, where he first saw the band. “They’re spirited and I saw it as an opportunity to give them a chance.”
If Step 4 is getting the attention of a record label, then Step 5 might be dominating country airwaves, or simply reveling in the rewards of having paid their dues. For Danielle, it’s too early to get caught up in those possibilities, and she prefers to stay on task.
“It’s crazy to think we’re at this point,” said Danielle. “There’s still a long way to go.”