Heritage Spreading Out from Deep Roots
December 10, 2013 by Harbor Partin
For a few years now, Heritage has been a constant staple of the Emerald Coast music scene. Whenever they play in South Walton and Destin, you’re sure to find the place packed with people there to dance, have fun, and take in the good vibes that come from their great mix of rock, reggae and island music. It’s no wonder they were voted “Best Band” for 2013’s Best of the Emerald Coast awards.
But that’s not the only thing that separates Heritage from the rest of the area’s music scene. While the band continues to keep the party going at venues all over town, more and more of their time has been spent touring, recording and garnering acclaim all over the country. It could only be a matter of time before Heritage pushes itself into the national limelight.
Heritage is made of up of vocalist Tony Verrecchia, guitar player Hunter Dawson, Bassist Matt Moore, Drummer R.J. Hernandez III and Saxophonist and keyboard player Jamah Terry. The group first came together at the end of 2007 as individual musicians involved in other projects that had been invited by Tony and former Ukulele player Damien Kealoha to collaborate on some songs. Hunter recalls that right away the group melded together quickly, despite being from different musical backgrounds.
“From the first time we stepped foot in the room we knew we wanted to play music together,” Hunter says. “Just super easy and the vibe was undeniable.” Heritage has had time to hone their performances, gel their musical personalities and evolve their sound into what it is today.
They’re no strangers to hard work either. In addition to self releasing two albums, 2009’s “Natural High” and last year’s “Out There,” Heritage have not only worked hard in the local club scene, but they have also booked their own tours all across the Southeast. Their biggest tools for success in building an audience has been purely word of mouth and and a growing reputation for being a live act with a truly unique vibe.
The differences in the types of shows that Heritage plays suggests that the band is at some what of a crossroad. At home, the band will play a mix of covers and originals for hours at a number of bars, clubs and restaurants around town. Out on the road they’re a different beast, playing a much more focused collection of original songs, working to make a lasting impression and turn and audience into fans.
“There’s a balance of working and having a rock show,” Hunter says. “But we like being able to feed off that energy of a shorter set where we play our own songs.”
The band’s two-week run on the Van’s Warped Tour this summer was a step further in growing a broader fan base, playing 15 dates throughout the country, going from Florida, to Texas, to North Carolina, to Michigan. It was their longest tour and took them further away from home than any other tour they’ve done. The band was thrilled to be rubbing elbows with other musicians that spend most of their time on the road.
“It was so different from what we were used to. We’d load our gear, play six songs and then we were done,” Hunter says. “We’re kind of on the bottom of the totem pole, but it was a great experience we got to meet so many great people.”
In the midst of dozens of other acts vying for people’s attention, Warped Tour gave them a unique opportunity to hook people with their music in a short amount of time and were surprised to see just how quick their fan base could grow right in front of their eyes.
“We’d usually start with 12 people at the start of of our set, and by the end of almost every set there was 150-180 people,” Hunter says. “We had a lot of people walking to a different stage to see another band who would stop on their way and end up checking us out.”
The tour definitely gave Heritage a taste of what’s possible on the road and what opportunities they’ll work towards in the near future.
Where Heritage's sound is going seems a little uncertain. With new sax and keys player Jamah joining the band six months ago, long time ukulele player Damion recently exiting the group and R.J. planning to leave in the near future, the dynamic of Heritage’s music is bound to evolve and break some new ground for them. Hunter was adamant though that Heritage’s positive message and feel good music will always be a part of the group’s DNA.
“We know we don’t want to lose that high energy and good feeling music that has helped us,” Hunter says. “But we also want to make sure we’re still writing about things that are important to us.”
Heritage is booked to play at Pier Park in Panama City Beach on New Year's Eve for the annual Beach Ball Drop. You can also hear Heritage play at Funky Blues Shack in Destin on December 13 at 10:00 p.m., at The Red Bar in Grayton Beach on December 15 at 7:00 p.m., and at Local Catch Bar and Grill on January 5 from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. To see Heritage's full schedule, visit www.HeritageBand.com.