Despite a five-inch snowstorm one winter's evening in January 2004, more than 100 music lovers turned out at Washington's Uptown Theatre to listen to a Pittsburgh-based band headed by guitarist/songwriter Bill Deasy.
When Deasy and his combo return Saturday to the Uptown Theatre, the warm spring weather may encourage even more music lovers to attend.
"I've played Pittsburgh for a long time, so I expect a lot of folks from the city to drive down for the concert," Deasy said in a recent phone interview from Woodstock, N.Y., where he was cutting a new album in the studio of producer Kevin Salem. "But I also hope for a big turnout from Washington County."
One of the evening's draws will be Dave Throckmorton, Deasy's percussionist. He's a Washington resident and a musician Deasy calls "the best drummer I ever heard."
Also joining the group are Pittsburghers Taylor Sinclair on guitar, Gar Misra on keyboard and bass guitarist Scott Tamulinas, of Bridgeville.
"Right at the moment, we're flirting with naming the band," Deasy said. "Until we come up with something, we'll just go with the Bill Deasy Band."
Reluctant to categorize his music other than to call it loosely "folk-rock" on the order of bands such as Counting Crows, Deasy plans to include at his Uptown appearance many songs he wrote for his new album, "Chasing Down a Spark," due out in late June or early July.
"Intimate venues like the Uptown inspire a different sort of music," he said. "We'll probably be a little more introspective, but we'll also include several rock pieces. Overall, the concert should be more nuanced with different shades and colors than usual."
While Deasy has established himself as one of the musical mainstays of his native Pittsburgh, his music also has touched the hearts and imaginations of fans as far away as Japan and Germany, via his recordings and airplay. International venues he's played have included Germany and the Netherlands, where he performed solo on acoustic guitar.
In the past, Deasy's opened for such artists as Bob Dylan, Patty Griffin, Norah Jones and John Mellencamp, and he's performed the National Anthem at Pirates and Steelers games. His first real exposure to national attention, however, came via the Gathering Field, a band he formed in 1994 with Pittsburgh guitarist/producer Dave Brown.
By the late 1990s, Deasy said the band had run its natural course and was dropped by its record label, which "took a lot of wind out of our sails." After recording a couple additional albums, the band broke up in 2001.
An accomplished songwriter since age 15, Deasy's current portfolio of "good songs" runs in the 250 to 300 range with hundreds more "that just don't make the cut." His updated catalogue includes 70 to 80 songs that he performs in active rotation.
After the Gathering Field disbanded, Deasy considered working as a songwriter and hung out in Nashville, Tenn., for a while. Over the years, his songs have been recorded by an array of artists, including Martina McBride, Kim Richey, Howard Jones, Bijou Phillips, Michael Stanley, Billy Ray Cyrus and The Clarks. His music also was used in a national television campaign for "Good Morning America."
"When I write songs, I try to take my life experience, filter it through my heart and brain and put it out there in a way that people can relate to," Deasy said. "My songs come from life pouring out of me, and every character I create has a lot of me in it. I feel like I've done my job if a song resonates with other people; if it connects with them in some way."
After two years as a nonperforming songwriter, Deasy again felt the itch to play in front of a live audience. In 2003, the release of his album "Good Day, No Rain," a look at relationships from many angles and perspectives, shifted his focus back into live performance.
Now back on the touring circuit, Deasy will include many of his latest songs from his soon-to-be-released album at his Uptown concert.
"The recording will probably be the best I've ever done," he said. "I feel really good about it."
The Bill Deasy Band will be at the Uptown Theatre, 100 N. Main St., Washington, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Brindley Brothers, of Vienna, Va., will open. Tickets cost $10. Call 724-223-8101 for reservations.
Dave Zuchowski is a freelance writer who covers arts and entertainment for Washington Sunday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .