PITTSFIELD -- Dana Welts of Becket began his musical career as a classical musician more than 50 years ago.
But Welts, now 61, has come a ways since then. He plays around the county as a solo act and in several local bands.
It has been a journey with a few twists and turns. Welts spoke in a recent interview about his influences, playing original music in clubs and what shaped his decision to become sober two decades ago.
Q: You said you remember a previous interview with The Eagle. When was that?
A: It was a couple of years ago. I was voted the 15th or 16th best guitarist in the Berkshires. Are you working your way backwards for these stories?
Q: No, that was a totally different process. That was sort of a popularity conest. I'm sure you're a better guitarist than that.
A: No, no, no, that's fine. I used to put that on my posters; "Voted one of the Best Guiatrists in the Berkshires in the Berkshire Eagle."
It was great.
Q:Glad we could help. But let's go a little farther back in your career. What was the first instrument you played growing up?
A: I was trained as a classical musician. I played piano, clarinet and studied composition. I picked up my first guitar when I was 12.
Q: Was it love at first chord?
A:Sort of. I was still taking music lessons. So I had to finish practicing piano and clarinet and doing my composition lessons before I could pick up a guitar.
Q:But sooner or later, obviously, the guitar became a priority.
A: Yes, although i still have a few clarinets lying around the house. I still play them. I still practice.
Q:What did you listen to growing up?
A: The first album I ever bought was by Peter, Paul and Mary. The first rock album I ever bought was "You, Baby" by The Turtles. I was a big Beatles fan, as was everyone, and I loved the Byrds.
Q:A lot of kids in those days became involved in bands. Did you follow that pattern?
A: The first band I ever played in was The Weltswinds, which was a family band, with my father and brothers.
Q:What kind of songs did you guys play?
A: It's interesting you should ask. Mostly what we call now The Great American Songbook. Actually, I recently found a recording of a couple of our songs from 1965. I'll send you a copy.
Q:After a 20-year hiatus, you recently returned to performing live in 2008. Talk a little about that.
A:Well, I was always writing during that period, but it was just life stuff: Getting married, starting a career, having kids. I just couldn't find the time to go out and play gigs.
Q: But you've been gigging now for several years. Any specific reason?
A:Well, the kids grew up, and it looks like they're going to be okay, and a little bit of the empty nest thing was happening.
I still had a lot of songs I'd written over the years that I wanted to play. So I started looking for gigs again.
Q: When did you stop drinking?
A:Well, I had my last drink in 1990, actually. But when I started thinking about coming back, there was that question: You know, does it affect my creative process? Can I do this as well sober as I did when I was drinking? And the answer is ‘Yes,' obviously, but it was something that made me think.
Q: Do you have any favorite places in the Berkshires?
A: Yeah. The Milltown Tavern is great, the Dreamaway Lodge. I like playing the Lion's Den. It's a great listening room, and the people there are very supportive.
Q:Which, I take it, is not the case everywhere?
A:No. You know, you have places here, and everywhere really, where you do two or three of your original songs, and all of sudden some guy stands up and yells, "Mustang Sally"! And you figure, "Well, I guess I'll be doing covers the rest of the night."
Look for Dana Welts on his Facebook site, Dana Welts Music. You can also find his music on iTunes and his CDs are available at his shows.