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Daniel Rocha: From Jock To Rock

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By Johnny Griffith

Life takes us on strange journeys at times. Twists and turns make life not only interesting but can serve as character building exercises that define who we are. Local musical phenom Daniel Rocha has been on one of those crazy journey’s that has taken him from East Texas to music venues all over the country and back again as his path continues to unfold.

Originally from Whitehouse, Texas, Rocha was a product of Whitehouse ISD and Grace Community school. Exposed to R&B at an early age, Daniel spent his formative years obsessing over guitar licks and perfecting the instrument. Taking a left turn, he decided to pursue a sports career briefly before realizing his true self was found in the secret chords of the melodies he had floating around in his head. Rocha decided to pursue a music degree at Greenville College in Illinois, majoring in Jazz while honing his craft in performance, production, and writing.

After graduation, Daniel returned to Texas and took up the role of ‘guitar for hire’ until the desire to be the master of his own destiny became too strong, and he struck out on his own. A couple of albums and countless live performances later, Rocha takes his blend of blues, jazz, soul, funk, and pop to fans of all demographics as much as he can. We managed to slow him down just long enough to give us a better idea of what he’s got going on:

Johnny: What got you started in music?

Daniel: My mother used to sing at churches, and so I was always exposed to music growing up, sitting under the record player listening to everything from Ronnie Milsap to Hendrix to Bob Dylan. I was staying up late listening to Austin City Limits, I dug that.

Johnny: Who were your early influences musically?

Daniel: I loved Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Elvis, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Springsteen, Segovia, Django, Marvin Gaye, Prince; anyone doing anything well, I loved.

Johnny: When was the moment you felt that you could do this as more than just a hobby?

Daniel: I saw guys playing guitar that I knew and said to myself, “You know it doesn’t look all that hard, I could do that.” So I did. The singing and the music theory was harder to digest because I took it up so late. It’s like a language. You should start kids early with basic music theory exposure; it’s much easier to expound on it later after that.

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Johnny: You have an extensive background in jazz in college and an eclectic musical resume along the way. How has this shaped you for a solo career in music?

Daniel: Yeah I’ve done a lot of things up to this point: led bands, produced hip-hop, been a country sideman lead player, played in party bands, done the blues thing; other than metal I’ve run the gambit. I think being able to play and sing really anything is a blessing as well as a curse. I’ve seen guys that know a handful of chords and a couple vocal runs go far because they keep writing the same song and playing the same thing. They’re easy to pigeon hole, so they’re met with success often times. Jazz, theory, and technique are great for writing and playing, but it’s harnessing it that can be a struggle. I think wanting to do something well and refine it is tough. Sometimes the greatest things get thrown in the trash because it didn’t meet expectations of the artist or they got bored with it. Sometimes it’s the simplified version that’s so readily palatable.

Johnny: Your music seems to be an amalgam of several different genres, each shining through as the mood or song dictates. How would you describe your original music?

Daniel: Singer Songwriter. I write about what’s going on in the world or how I’m feeling or about a movie I saw. When inspired, I can churn out a song in a matter of minutes and generally that’s the best way because if I pick at it too long I generally chuck it. I honestly hate recording music; it seems like such a process to me. I prefer live performing because it’s real and creating in the moment. Most music these days is so DJ formulaic and fit for public consumption that I’m guessing the lyrics, changes, and breaks 30 seconds in. Almost every hit song these days I can trace directly to another song or pieces of a couple popular songs both the music and lyrics have been plagiarized from. This is done intentionally because it’s easy to sell something to folks that’s already part of their subconscious.

Johnny: What have been some of the biggest personal challenges in pursuing this as a career?

Daniel: Just keeping on. Most folks unacquainted don’t see it as a real career. They come by that honestly because we’re browbeaten by society to fit the mold and chase the dollar so much so that sometimes the arts take a back seat to other conventional careers. Artsy dreamers don’t help the matter much because they’re generally lazy or can’t get out of they’re own way long enough to accomplish much. I do really well; I don’t struggle, but I should push harder towards being a national touring artist versus just putting in my day’s work.

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Johnny: What have been a couple of your most memorable successes?

Daniel: I played solo for 25,000 people at the Gaylord last year and entertained them successfully for a full hour-and-a-half show. That’s incredibly hard to do by yourself with just a guitar. I’ve gotten calls to play lead on tours for lots of artists, just never one that interested me enough to do it for any prolonged period of time. I’d have to say even with all that, my daughter has been one of my greatest achievements up to this point.

Johnny: Are you typically a one-man show or do you collaborate with other musicians during live sets?

Daniel: I’m typically a one man show, though sometimes I’ll book some stuff as a band.

Johnny: How many originals do you have? Do you have a favorite cover song you like to include in your sets?

Daniel: I literally have hundreds of originals I’ve written over the years. When it comes to cover songs, it would have to be “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins or “Purple Rain” by Prince. I have always just dug those tunes.

Johnny: If you could share the stage with any living artist, who would it be?

Daniel: Well, since Prince is gone, it would have to be Stevie Wonder.

Johnny: What kind of experience do you want people seeing your set live for the first time to go away with?

Daniel: I used to want everyone to be in awe of what I can do and that has its place, but these days I want them to feel good, warm, loved, interested, and nourished in a way that they’ve been lacking. If I can make that connection with people through the groove or through a couple really nice moments sonically that touched them, that’s what I’m most interested in.

For more info about Daniel Rocha find him on Facebook or go to



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Around East Texas

Jason Herrin, Shooter Jennings, Dirty River Boys in Concert this Weekend

Upcoming Concerts

March 9th (8pm) Jason Herrin will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door. Cover is $7.

March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at

March 10th (8pm) – Dirty River Boys with Pushwater will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $15 for general admission.

March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, respect and as he will readily admit, even a bit of obsession. His new album “Probably Wrong” follows the Austin-based performer’s ultimate goal is to reinvent himself with each record he makes. Tickets are $13-$20.

March 17th (8pm-1am) – St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre will take place at Click’s Live, 1946 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. The St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre features Edge of Misery, No Due Respect, and LowLife. Cover at the door. Doors open at 8pm.

March 22nd (7-10pm) – Zach Winters and Jason Barrows will perform at The Foundry Coffee House, 202 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler. They will be performing songs from their new albums and changing every city they visit to the city of brotherly love. Early bird tickets are $10. Pre-sale ticket are $12. At the door tickets are $15. Doors at 7pm and music starts at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome. For more info go to or

March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.

March 25th (8pm) – Texas Sunday Returns with Brandon Rhyder at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $15 for general admission.

April 7th (9pm-1am) – Post Profit with Travis Christian will be at Garage Bar, 418 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. There is a $5 cover.

April 7th (7pm) – Sam Riggs will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at

April 8th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Jason Boland & The Stragglers will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $20 for general admission.

April 12th (8pm) Wesley Pruitt will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door.

April 12th (7pm) – The Legendary Johnny Rodriguez in Concert – Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodriguez, has had fifteen top-ten singles and 6 number-one hits since 1973. Some of Johnny’s classic hits include: “Pass Me By,” “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” “Riding My Thumb To Mexico,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “Just Get Up and Close The Door.” For tickets call (866)710-8942. Tickets start at $35.

April 15th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Chris Knight will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at Tickets are $20 for general admission.

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at


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The Blacksmiths: Still Like That Old Time Rock & Roll

By Johnny Griffith

Bob Seger has a well known hit from the early 80’s called “Old Time Rock And Roll.” This song laments the lack of soul in the contemporary music of that time period and declares his intent to keep playing classic rock as a solution. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Mr. Seger, but the closest thing we have here in East Texas is Chris Austin of the local classic rock band, The Blacksmiths. A native of Chapel Hill, Chris played drums on the drumline at Chapel Hill High School and went on to graduate from the Dallas Sound Lab with a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Techniques. Blessed with parents that loved music and supported him in his endeavors early and often, Austin developed a love for classic rock through the sounds he heard coming from his parents’ collections and eventually started a band and is still playing to this day.

We managed to get a word in with Chris recently to find out more about The Blacksmiths

Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band? Any changes over the lifespan of the band?

Chris: The current lineup consists of myself on lead guitar and vocals, Joshua Stewart on drums, Angelo Lopez on bass/rhythm guitar/vocals, and Ben Carter on bass and vocals. Angelo and Ben have both been filling the shoes of bass player when available, but recently we decided to shake it up a bit and go with a 4 piece instead of 3 with Angelo on guitar as well…as our busy schedules finally allowed. The lineup has changed immensely over the years. I haphazardly started this project about 6 years ago with a couple of friends just messing around in my kitchen,,,which was the only place we had to set up all the equipment at the time…typical broke musicians haha. We eventually gained a keyboard and rhythm player and were a 5 piece band by the time we started playing shows. We decided to go back to a 3 piece after about a year for convenience and scheduling issues. Our drummer at the time had to move for work but introduced me to Joshua before doing so. Joshua had played with Angelo before with “Something Blue” and I met Ben after watching him play for “King Richard and the Bayou Boys” …and as they say, the rest was history.

Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?

Chris: My parents were very into music and had a plethora of vinyl records to dig through. I was turned on to The Doors, The Who, The Allman Bros, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, CCR, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, David Bowie…but most importantly Led Zeppelin. When I was 12 I received a cheap electric guitar and Led Zeppelin IV on cassette tape for Christmas and that changed everything..

Johnny: At what point was the decision made to be a primarily classic rock band? Have to say you guys are a bit younger than most of the other ones in the area.

Chris: That’s really the stuff I always enjoyed playing the most and felt most comfortable with, because those tunes were ingrained in me from a young age. When we first started, we tried a lot of 90’s stuff and some 80’s Metallica and Misfits which we were pretty decent at but learned pretty quickly what we had more fun with. Even though we’re a bit younger, I feel we were all entranced by that era of music growing up. We were very lucky to have Miss Robin Griffith from XLN on 5th street give us the chance to really explore our potential. We played every Sunday there for quite a while as the house band which gave us a lot of quick feedback from the crowd…and from the venue owner haha.

Johnny: Is there any specific period of classic rock you guys gravitate towards over others?

Chris: Not really, I’ve just personally loved the 70’s era most, but we cover the 60’s and 80’s as well. We do seem to cover a lot of Creedence Clearwater and The Doors though, if that says anything.

Johnny: Where did the band name come from?

Chris: The guys from the original lineup and I were hanging out after practice having a beer or two and trying to come up with something, After a length of time and much pondering, we looked around the room and noticed the main theme of what we were looking at…which was old, broken down, second hand, very junky equipment that I had been hoarding and frankensteining together with duct tape and zip ties for years. I’m really not sure how we didn’t shock or hurt ourselves but I remember us saying…”well, we sure know how to make something out of nothing…like a dang ole’ blacksmith” (speaking of the ramshackle but playable equipment). And just like that, it stuck.

Johnny: do you guys do any originals at this point or is it primarily covers?

Chris: I’ve had a couple of blues tunes in the works for a while but we’ve honestly been so busy playing shows and working full time day jobs or careers it’s been tough to find time, but I think this is our year to shine.

Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?

Chris: I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences along the way getting to play with some amazing musicians. I was the guitar player in a band with Jonathan Scott from Resident Hero for a while and grew up with the singer Ryan White. I also toured a bit as guitar player for Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue out of Austin. I’d have to say though, my favorite memory thus far is a recent one. Joshua and I were both taught drums by Nardo and I learned guitar from Larry Stanley. We had the opportunity to open for Mouse and the Traps for the New Years Eve party at Love and War in Lindale and man was it an experience! We got to open for the guys who taught us everything in a packed room. Too cool

Johnny: Where can people get their Blacksmiths fix over the next couple of months?

Chris: Our next scheduled gig is March 31st at Club 155 on Frankston highway…at least for the public. We do a lot of private parties, bike rallies, and events as well. But always keep an eye out for us at XLN on 5th street…that’s our main stomping ground

Johnny: What do The Blacksmiths have on the radar through the rest of the year?

Chris: We have a lot of new stuff planned for this year. A whole new set of songs, some killer merchandise and a new demo ep. Also, I’m told that you might see us opening for Mouse and the Traps again in the near future…so keep your eyes peeled

Johnny: What can a new listener expect to see at a Blacksmiths show?

Chris: A good ole’ Rock show with lots of classic favorite tunes played by guys that do the best they can to respect and represent the music for what it is….life and love

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