David Winkles is the leader of Southern City Lights, an award-winning wedding band from Heflin. The last two years in a row, Southern City Lights won The Knot’s “Best Of” and Wedding Wire’s “Couple’s Choice Awards.” You can find the band on Facebook or their website, southerncitylightsband.com.
What is your background in music? I have played music since I was 12 years old. I was a praise and worship leader for about 10 years. I realized the only thing I had a passion for and that I thought would feed my soul was music. I started picking up more work and getting more work than I could play. I had this amazing band that had been playing with me since I was 18 years old. At the time I was about 30 years old, and I made us a professional wedding band. Weddings are the most fun gigs. Your job is to make a special day even more special and as good and fun as possible. We do it every Saturday now.
What instrument did you begin playing? I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I needed an instrument to write songs to. As soon as I started playing, I was hooked; you could not stop me from singing. They would say, “David, please stop singing! Just for a few minutes!” But that is what it takes to get your voice strong. I just had a natural passion for it.
What were your influences when you started performing? Dave Matthews Band, Jars of Clay — believe it or not Linkin Park! As I got older, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and Matchbox 20.
What is the earliest performance you remember? I could not wait to get in front of people and sing. I would invite my friends over to my house and sit them in front of me and sing, and they would not care, but it did not matter. I just wanted someone to show my music to. My first actual gig was at a coffee shop in LaGrange, Ga., called Higher Grounds. I started by singing “If You Could Only See” by Tonic. I had sung this song a hundred thousand times because it was one of the 20 songs I knew. I started playing it, and I was completely out of key, but I was so nervous I could not get back in key. I stopped in the middle of the song and thought I could not do it. I got my composure and started playing again.
Tell us about Southern City Lights. The praise and worship band that I formed became Southern City Lights in 2017. In praise and worship music, you have to pay attention to everything that is going on, move in and out of songs easily, stop or start a chorus again, and do it all seamlessly on the fly. We got really good at that. At a wedding you also have to pay attention to everything that is going on. We all grew up playing so many different styles that we can do any genre. When we started out, I am sure we sounded like a Dave Matthews cover band, but by the time we started doing this professionally, we could play any genre. You can hire me solo, acoustic all the way, up to a nine-piece band with drums, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, saxophone, violin, female vocalist, keyboardist and one of my drummers plays banjo and harmonica.
Do you have a funny gig story? There was one this past year in Marietta. They said they would have a tent for us because it was going to rain. We get there to set up, and it is one of those Walmart tents. This was a nice wedding, and they gave us a 10x10. It started leaking while we were setting up, so we threw everything into the barn and played up against a wall. Before that, at the ceremony, I was playing acoustic. It was this really pretty grassy area in front of the lake — beautiful and uncovered. It started drizzling while the officiant was talking, and it became an all-out downpour. If the officiant had said, “All right, let’s go,” we would have, but he did not move and kept talking like nothing was happening.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at email@example.com.