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He won't quit his day job

WANT TO GO?

The Vandal Band

WHERE: Sam's Uptown Café, 28 Capitol St.

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday

TICKETS: $5 INFO: 304-346-6201 or www.samsuptowncafewv.com

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some musicians have rock 'n' roll dreams. They fantasize about fame, record contracts and outrageous fortune.

Then there's singer/songwriter Travis Vandal.

The 32-year-old Charleston native who performs Saturday at Sam's Uptown Cafe with The Vandal Band explained earnestly, "If I'm being 100 percent honest, I'm happy to play locally in my home state and maybe play a little around the area, but being a father, that's more important.

"My kids come before music or anything else."

Small-town stardom is OK with him. Aside from the crowds he plays before as a musician, Vandal has an audience every day -- at least during the school year.

"I teach seventh-grade English at Elkview Middle School," said the father of two young sons, "and I just got the job as the eighth-grade West Virginia studies teacher."

He sounded like he could hardly wait for the fall semester to begin.

"That's really what I'm interested in," he said. "I'm a huge West Virginia buff."

Vandal loves music, too, and he doesn't have anything against making money at it, but he's pretty happy with the life he has.

He grew up around music. His father plays guitar, and playing music was his focus through his teen years. He didn't really do a lot of serious songwriting until his early 20s.

"I even tried pitching songs to Nashville," he said.

After a while, he had some success. At one point, he said, he was offered a contract with his songwriting publishing company, which sounded like a great first step toward breaking into country music.

He turned it down.

"They wanted everything for nothing," he said. "I wasn't willing to just give my songs away -- or yeah, I was OK with giving them away, but they didn't want to give them back to me if they couldn't sell them. They just wanted to keep them for ever and ever."

So, Vandal kept his songs and, two years ago, formed The Vandal Band to play those songs.

"I called up an old friend, James Townsend, to play bass. He brought in Marcus Gibbs on drums, and we played as a trio for a while. We put some songs together and cut an album after three months.

"We did pretty well with that. We sold some CDs and then added Brandon Hughes on guitar."

Vandal said they've had a pretty good run so far.

"We've made some good connections and were able to play some pretty good venues," he said. "We opened for Adam D. Tucker at Appalachian Park, and some really good gigs have fallen into our hands."

This summer, the band's schedule has picked up.

"We've got the show Friday at Sam's, and we're headlining at the Lewis County Fair, July 19," he said. "We're also working on a follow-up record. Things are going really well."

He's happy with them going only so far, though.

"I want my music to get exposure," he said. "There's a lot of radio stations online. It would be great if they picked up on me.

"I guess my ultimate goal is to land a songwriting publishing deal. I would love for a Toby Keith or Jason Aldean to put my song on the radio so I didn't have to."

Going out on the road and being away from his home and family for weeks and months at a time just doesn't appeal to him.

"Being a schoolteacher and a dad is just more important to me," he said.

Still, Vandal acknowledged, money would be nice. Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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