By Melody Vallieu
TROY — Some musicians live their dreams out in color — others in black and white.
After 10 years of living their dream of performing around the world, Hawthorne Heights is coming home to start their anniversary celebration — back where it all began.
The band will kick-off The Silence in Black and White Ten Year Anniversary World Tour playing at a small venue, Hometown Hookah in Troy, on Aug. 1. Tickets — limited to about 100 — are on sale at the store and online at the band’s website, www.Hawthorneheights.com.
“We’re just focused on remembering what the last 10 years has been like. We’re doing a little bit of a time machine thing,” JT Woodruff of Troy, lead vocals and guitar, said. “We’ve never forgotten who we are or where we came from.”
All other members of the band also are from the area, including Micah Carli of Troy and a Troy High School graduate, lead guitar and vocals; Matt Ridenour of Dayton, bass and vocals; Mark McMillon of Dayton, guitar; and Chris Popadak of Dayton, drums.
Woodruff — who worked at United Dairy Farmer and delivered pizza, while performing with the band at small venues on weekends, prior to being signed — said they wanted to come home to their roots to start off the milestone tour.
“We’ve always kind of been based in Troy, rehearsed in Troy and I’ve just really enjoyed Troy,” said Woodruff, who moved from a smaller town in North Carolina to join the band. “It was life-changing when I moved to Troy.”
Woodruff said they wrote their first album, The Silence in Black and White, in Troy at Carli’s mom’s basement in Troy.
So it only seems natural — five full-length CDs later — that they came home to Troy to record their The Silence in Black and White 10th year anniverary album.
“We kept it emotionally heavy instead of distorted guitars. We recorded it in Troy. If we were going to do it, we were going to do it stripped back to how we started off,” Woodruff said. “We are really happy with how it turned out.”
Woodruff said much has changed since the band got their first contract. He’s now 36, married to wife Niki, who grew up in Pleasant Hill, and has a daughter, Avery, 6.
“We’ll talk to the kids that initially started buying our records, and they say we can’t believe it’s been 10 years,” he said. “But I was already their age and had been playing for years, so it’s really hard to believe.”
The band also suffered the loss of one of its original members, Casey Calvert in 2007, from a prescription drug interaction issue, according to Woodruff. Calvert was found dead on the band’s tour bus prior to a show.
“It was really tough. You were losing a friend as well as a band member. We used songwriting as therapy,” he said. “It helped me to be able to write him into a couple of the songs, as a tribute.”
Woodruff said he believes the incident brought band members even closer together.
“It’s something you strengthen up from or you pack it in. It was, in a way, able to make us stronger.”
Woodruff said the band’s career has taken them to every state in the U.S., throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.
“We’ve been to a lot of great places. We’ve played everything from somebody’s basement to arenas to a baseball stadium in Japan. All of those songs we wrote right here in Troy have allowed us to go to all the cool places, and then come back home,” he said.
Hawthorne Heights members have long been known for clean living — members don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Woodruff said he believes this has helped the band, who are sometimes on tour for months at a time.
“At after parties, people are always asking if they can buy me a drink. I’m just sitting their drinking my Diet Coke,” he said. “I don’t agree with any of that stuff. We’ve just been these laid back guys from the Midwest. I think that has helped us. No one has had any outside issues. That has helped us keep our sanity.”
Woodruff said he has learned some lessons from the music industry that also incorporate into everyday life.
“You pick your battles and learn to roll with the punches. I think it’s such a blessing to have a recording contract that I don’t think there’s a need to be rocking the boat at every turn,” said Woodruff, who said the band is now with Red River, a branch of Sony. “I’ve learned people should focus on their happiness, that’s a good lesson in general for life.”
Woodruff said while he doesn’t know what the next 10 years will bring for members, he hopes to continue songwriting.
“I wish I could plan in advance. Sometimes you have to take what you are given immediately,” he said. “Ideally I would love to be able to spend more time at home because that is where my family is. I will be musical as long as someone will allow me to be musical. I think I’m grandfathered in.”
Woodruff said he hopes the band’s success is a life lesson for others — musicians and others chasing their dreams.
“It’s crazy. It’s really something you can’t get used to. You just can’t let yourself get used to it,” Woodruff said of success. “If you want something, and you try as hard as you can, it really can happen. That’s all we really did.”