After nearly a decade playing bass in the Bloomington scene, Glenn Myers now finds himself touring nationally with the dynamic act Diane Coffee. Yet despite his great success, Myers remains the same humble, grounded man he has always been.
by Donovan Wheeler
Watch Diane Coffee’s performance at NPR’s famous Tiny Desk series, and the band’s titular front man pulls you toward him. Adorned in metallic eye-shadow, commanding the session with his multi-range vocals, and drawing the camera after him as he moves around Bob Boilen’s cramped office setting, Shaun Fleming (the former Foxygen drummer who launched Diane Coffee in the midst of a move from New York to Bloomington) does what all band leaders must do. He makes the day his.
photos courtesy of Diane Coffee
Standing just over Fleming’s left shoulder, wearing the same sky blue tux his high school friends claimed he wore to prom, Greencastle native Glenn Myers works his bass guitar, throwing in backup harmony—a stoic counterbalance to Fleming’s flamboyant stage presence. The way Myers tells his story, luck plays a predominant role in his rise from talented but obscure bands in the Bloomington scene to his spot alongside one of the music world’s most engaging and rising figures. But if you really listen to him—in those moments when he’s trying to casually explain how he has changed from his youth—what you hear him confess is the real reason he’s found success.
“Glenn is an extraordinary player,” Fleming says. And it’s obvious when you watch him work the frets. In the Tiny Desk performance, the camera gives us a shot of Myers’ technical mastery as he moves through a solo bassline from “Spring Breathes,” the lead track for the band’s sophomore album, Everybody’s a Good Dog. In that shot, you have your answer to that nagging question we ask whenever someone makes it: luck probably helps, but skill helps more.
“The NPR experience was surreal,” Myers explains. “We filmed that the day after my birthday; we were three days into a two month long tour; there had been no days off; and I had gotten sick immediately…I was ill during the first show in Atlanta. So I was feeling pretty crummy when we drove to D.C. But then you show up at NPR’s national headquarters, and I’m kind of dazed. I pulled out my phone to take a picture of this amazing office, and someone said, ‘You can’t take pictures in here.’ Suddenly I’m thinking, ‘Oh, right…I kind of forgot where I was.’”
The Tiny Desk Concert Series—a now-revered musical experience which stemmed from an improvisational decision to invite Portland area folk singer, Laura Gibson, to play at Bob Boilen’s desk at the offices of All Songs Considered—marked a watershed moment for Myers. Perhaps less so in its appearance, which he described as “just another office at first…cubicles, cluttered desks…” but certainly much more so in terms of its significance. “You see Bob Boilen’s desk, and you realize everyone else who has been there…legends like Bill Callahan…amazing.
“Glenn is an incredible human being. He’s the kind of person that you would want by your side in any situation. He’s warm-hearted, funny, a regular mountain man, and always down for pretty much anything. I’m thrilled to have him as a member of Diane Coffee but more so to call him my friend.”
Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee
While Fleming was building his career with Foxygen, bouncing back and forth between the coasts, Myers was attending Indiana University, majoring and telecommunications and jamming with his friends in local bands. His first gig was with the short-lived Living Well, but it would be his second act, the regionally popular Calumet Reel, which would begin to cement Myers’ musical credibility in the local scene. Despite the bands’ eclectic style and energetic live shows, a combination of factors—both personal and somewhat technical—ended The Calumet Reel’s run before it could have delivered on its potential.
“It’s hard to coordinate five people and get everyone on the same page,” Myers says. “When that doesn’t happen, and when communication breaks down…that can affect relationships.”
“I was best friends with all those guys, and we had been through a lot,” he adds. “What was discouraging is that we spent a lot of money to make [our eponymous] record. We also had a clear idea of what we wanted, but the record we put out—in our minds—didn’t live up to what wanted. We did it all live because we sought that country sort of sound, and when we didn’t quite get there…and when you don’t feel as if you can’t stand behind something you had worked so hard to create…that was disheartening.”
Fast forward almost four years, and Myers now finds himself happily reunited with some of those old bandmates from his past efforts. Besides teaming up with former Living Well drummer Ben Lumsdaine, Myers has also been able to “rekindle” his friendship with Drake Ritter, the former Calumet Reel guitarist who—along with keyboardist Caleb Hickman rounds out the core of Diane Coffee. But while many old faces with deep local connections have found a way to work together again, it’s the new face who gives the act its identity and does so by creating one of the best working environments Myers has experienced.
“It’s nice to work with someone who knows what he wants,” he says of Fleming. “And [Shaun Fleming] knows exactly what he wants. He has a clear vision when we work on a project, and he’s very precise in terms of what he wants. That makes it easy for us, and that’s a very nice.” From Fleming’s point of view, the sentiment is mutual.
“Glenn is an incredible human being,” Fleming says. “He’s the kind of person that you would want by your side in any situation. He’s warm hearted, funny, a regular mountain man, and always down for pretty much anything. I’m thrilled to have him as a member of Diane Coffee but more so to call him my friend.”
Diane Coffee is on the very early leg of what will be a cross-country winter tour. After a stop at Bloomington’s Bluebird last week, the band appears at Fountain Square’s Hi-Fi on Thursday followed a host of Midwest shows, then a trip to the West Coast. “For the most part life on the road is pretty monotonous,” Myers says laughing, “but it’s punctuated by moments where you are having the best time of your life. But it’s a lot of eight-hour drives, cramped into a van, trying to eat well (so you don’t get sick), and there’s a lot of worry and stress when we’re driving in the winter conditions. But I get to see the country, and I get to see the continent transform as I go farther west. It affords a great opportunity to travel, which is something I like to do.”
In between tours, Myers logs time with other bands who needs him (recently touring with The Kernal, a Tennessee-based country act). But he devotes much of his time living up to Fleming’s aforementioned “Mountain Man” label. “I’m living out in the woods in a Brown County log cabin with my girlfriend,” he says. “So it’s been kind of nice to just take it easy and make some music out in the woods.”
What the future holds for Glenn Myers is a question he doesn’t ponder. A man of the moment, Myers is enjoying his experience doing something that he says he’d dreamed about for over ten years. When he and his bandmates assemble in Indy later this week, there’s little doubt the vibe he exudes from the stage will testify that the dream is quite real.
Additional photos–courtesy of Diane Coffee