The long and winding road

Ari Herstand sets out on a journey to make music that touches a chord

Claire Joseph

With the outpouring of acoustic musicians following in the footsteps of major-label artists such as Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Jack Johnson, it’s hard to determine who has talent and who doesn’t.

When the path has already been beaten, paved, plowed and salted, is it good enough to just be able to drive?

Maybe the answer to this question must remain an enigma.

Clearly, there were acoustic musicians who came before those listed above. And, with masses of musicians following in their footsteps, there will be other artists who achieve stardom.

The point, though, is that if you sound like everybody else who’s famous, you’re good, but whether you’ll be famous too could be a different story.

Ari Herstand, a music business and songwriting student at St. Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music, is good.

Herstand, who lists some of his musical influences as the Dave Matthews Band, Damien Rice, Mayer and Ben Folds, sounds a lot like the guys he idolizes.

“I want to be a successful singer, songwriter. Success being the million-dollar word,” Herstand said.

Herstand’s demo CD sounds heartfelt, and it’s clear he is good enough to play on the same stage as any of his idols. In fact, Herstand has played on the same stage as Chris Castino, of The Big Wu, and Mitch Rutman, who plays on the Dave Matthews Band “Live in Chicago 12/19/98” album. This experience sets Herstand apart from the guy down the hall in your apartment building.

For Friday’s performance, an ensemble band will join Herstand’s acoustic strumming.

“The music stays stylistically the same – nothing drastically is different – but there’s just a little more ‘oomph,’ ” Herstand said. “The beatboxer and the bassist and the cello kind of add a new element. It’s kind of a weird combination, but it flows pretty well.”

Accompanying Herstand is bassist Kevin Bychowski and three University students – beatboxer Anthony “Soundshaker” Brown, cellist Lucas Shogren and vocalist Christy Schmalfeld.

Playing the Steak Knife is not Herstand’s ultimate goal, though.

“Ideally, I’d love to play at a larger scale, touring constantly and having a large fan base, but you know, I just want to be successful as a musician,” Herstand said.

As he says in his song, “Proud Honeybee,” Herstand and his followers are “dreamin’ that one day we’ll be on top of it all.”