It’s been two years since Ducain won the top prize in the first Talent West Virginia competition, which nabbed the foursome from the Mountain State some cash as well as a recording contract with Mon Hills Records.
A year later, as work on the band’s debut album was winding down, everything came to a screeching halt.
“All the music was already recorded, and we were in the middle of recording all the vocals when the pandemic started,” recalls singer-guitarist Jeremy Sargent. “Once we were able to get back in the studio, we just did a lot of singin’ and screamin’.”
Sargent, guitarist Austin Lewis, bassist Rich Mills and drummer Jared Holley finished things up last summer and fall, and Ducain’s self-titled debut arrived April 9. It features a brawny mix of guitar-charged rock with strong connections to classic Southern rock and grunge.
To mark Ducain’s first album, Sargent recently tackled a handful of topics related to notable music-related firsts in his life and career.
His first favorite artist:
Jeremy Sargent: “If we’re going way back, I’d say my first favorite artist was probably Michael Jackson. I was probably 5 or so, and I loved him (laughs). I got the Bad album for my birthday or some other holiday, and that was it. He was soul, he was pop, he was rock, he could dance, and he could sing — he could do it all! I used to moonwalk in my socks on the kitchen floor pretty regularly. Besides Michael Jackson, my dad was my other favorite artist and musician. He was and is always playing, writing and performing.”
His first concert:
Sargent: “My dad has always been in bands, so I guess my first concerts were some of my dad’s family-friendly cover band’s gigs. My first “buy a ticket” concert was Fishbone, Stone Temple Pilots and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2000 at the Charleston Civic Center. I have no idea what the ticket price was, but it wasn’t a lot — maybe $30. I went with a big group of my friends from school. We got to be on the floor and were about 30 rows back or so. For a first concert, it was an amazing start. Stone Temple Pilots stole the show that night, for sure.”
His first guitar:
Sargent: “I learned to play guitar on some of my dad’s guitars. Mostly a Fender Telecaster, but the first guitar I ever bought was a Jay Turser semi-hollow body. I never knew the model was exactly. I bought it at a place called Route 60 Music in Barboursville, West Virginia, and I paid somewhere around $200 for it. I still have the guitar, but it is unplayable now. It was left in my parent’s garage for a few years after I upgraded to a Gibson Les Paul Studio, and it got pretty messed up. I wrote my very first original song on that guitar.”
What he recalls from Ducain’s first gig:
Sargent: “Our first gig ever was in 2016 at a place called The 505, which is Huntington, West Virginia’s ‘house show’ venue of choice. I think our set was somewhere around 45 minutes or so. We played mostly originals but also did a few covers. I can’t remember which covers exactly, but it was probably ‘Bright Lights’ by Gary Clark Jr., ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers and ‘Molly’s Chambers’ by Kings of Leon. I’d say there were about 75 people there total, but most had to listen from the porch and random rooms throughout the house. There was a good reaction from the crowd, and I think they were kind of surprised, because we just kind of came out of nowhere. We practiced and jammed without playing out for over a year, just making sure we were proud of what we were going to show people. We got paid exposure, or nothing, however you’d like to say it (laughs).”
On winning first prize in 2019’s Talent West Virginia competition:
Sargent: “We were given a tip that we needed to enter this contest, and we decided we might as well give it a try. To enter, we had to have a live video recording of us playing an original song, and luckily enough, we’d just had a recent concert recorded. So, we pulled a song from that recording and sent it in and got accepted. There was some voting, and we made it to the next round, which was the live contest.
“We drove three hours to Morgantown with no idea what we were about to walk into, but we were excited to just play live. There were tons of great acts, and we enjoyed watching them and getting to know them while we were there. When we went onstage, we just had fun like we always do when we play live and played our song ‘Mountain Mama.’ I honestly had no expectations and did not expect to win. So, when I was standing there waiting for the results, I was not ready at all to accept an award or to talk. They called our name for the grand prize, and all I could come up with when I was asked how I felt was ‘shocked and blessed’ because I was totally unprepared. I think the best way to describe how we felt is beside ourselves because we were just going there to have some fun and somehow, we ended up winning!
“We were all so excited and happy and celebrated with a late-night dinner at Sonic — because it was about all that was open — and calls to our families (laughs). Looking back on the time since the contest, we’ve had tons of fun and many great experiences that all stemmed from the WV Talent contest. We’ve made tons of new friends and gotten to record an album we’re all so very proud of.”
First word that comes to mind when asked to describe Huntington, West Virginia:
Sargent: “Music. Huntington has been a hotbed for great music and bands for as long as I’ve known. American Minor, AC30, Bobaflex, Ona, Tyler Childers and the Food Stamps and many more have all called Huntington, West Virginia, home or a second home. You can find some sort of live music on just about any given night of the week in Huntington — in non-pandemic years, of course.”
The backstory behind the album’s first single, “Thick As Thieves”:
Sargent: “ ‘Thick As Thieves’ is a song about family ties. Family has always been the most important thing in my life, and that’s something most West Virginians can relate to. We know our family will always have our backs, and I think that extends to West Virginia as a whole. While I was writing, our region had recently been impacted by some very damaging floods. It really hit home for me seeing people step up to help one another out. For as long as I can remember, if someone in the family had a problem, there would be an army of Sargents ready and willing to help. The people in Appalachia are supportive like that, just like family. Everything just fell into place, and I felt it was important for me to put into words the ties that bind us.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Ducain (left to right): Austin Lewis, Jared Holley, Jeremy Sargent and Rich Mills