Know Your Heritage

The Destin-based band talks touring, success, community and giving back
Photo Courtesy Heritage Music|!!| LLC
Clockwise from left|!!| Dave Posey (percussion)|!!| Damien Kealoha (ukulele)|!!| Tony Verrechia (lead vocals)|!!| Eric Yra|!!| Hunter Dawson (guitar)|!!| RJ Hernandez (drums|!!| lying down) and Matt Moore (bass)

Shortly after taking stage on the local music scene for the first time in 2009, the six members of Heritage have released a full-length album, toured the country, won various awards and competitions and want nothing more than to give back to the community that has so graciously embraced them.

Heritage, a rhythm and blues/reggae rock band, began in 2007 when vocalist Tony Verrecchia and ukulele player Damien Kealoha began writing material together. They soon joined forces with guitarist Hunter Dawson, percussionist Dave Posey, bassist Matt Moore and drummer R.J. Hernandez to begin work on a recording project inspired by the sounds of 311, Incubus, Sublime and Bob Marley. “We went into the studio just to see what we could get done,” says Verrecchia. “We did four songs in about two days. We really connected and we barely knew each other. That was the push that got us started.”

Following that first studio session, Heritage released its first full-length album “Natural High” in 2009. Excited to get the word out, they began playing in as many local spots as possible in support of the album. “Our first big show was the CD release party at Blue Point,” says Verrecchia. “And ever since then we’ve just been more and more blessed.”

Word of Heritage began to spread rapidly as well as the number of shows the band was playing. Local venues such as Mellow Mushroom, Funky Blues Shack, The Swamp began booking the band regularly. Within a year, the group developed a huge local following playing to crowds in excess of 1,000 people, who responded to their message of positivity and unity.

Things began to heat up locally for Heritage. In an attempt to avoid over saturating the local music market they decided to take their music and message on the road. In spring of 2010, less than a year after their first show, the band members found themselves in a full-time touring schedule across the Southeast U.S. “(Touring) was insane,” says drummer Hernandez. “I got out of the Air Force and was touring shortly after.

When I think about that transition from year to year, it’s nothing but good.”

While on tour, the band played a show in Greenville, N.C., where they caught the ear of a local promoter. Upon building a relationship with the promoter and discussing plans for a future festival, Heritage Fest was born. “We had been talking about doing our own festival for a while with our genre of music,” says bassist Moore. “When we were up there, he suggested that we do it there. We were going to do it here, but when the oil hit, that kind of killed it.”

Heritage Fest took place over two days on the beaches of North Carolina with more than 700 people showing up on the first day. Heritage played both days of the festival. “It was unbelievable how well it went over,” says percussionist Posey. The event was such a success that the planning for Heritage Fest 2011 is already in the works.

Upon returning from a summer full of touring, performing and fun, the band members took their talents to and TK101’s contest for “Take Your Shot at the Opening Slot,” a contest similar to Battle of the Bands, where the winner earns a spot opening at DeLuna Fest. Earning a slot at DeLuna Fest, a three-day music festival on Pensacola Beach, meant that Heritage would get to share the stage with big name musical acts such as Willy Nelson, 311, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and Galactic. Eager to win the contest, which was based on fan voting, Heritage began using every outlet possible to encourage fans to vote for them. “All of our friends were sick of us,” says Dawson. “Everyone in the band was telling everyone they knew every day until they were tired of hearing about it.”

Although friends, family and fans may have been growing weary of the encouragement to vote, it paid off as Heritage won the contest, earning them an opening slot at a major festival.

“When we got there our fans really made a big showing,” says Dawson. “I had to put in ear plugs they were yelling so loud. I’ve never had that happen at any of our shows. It was a lot of fun.”

With rapid success stemming largely from the support of family, friends and a supportive local community comes the responsibility of giving back; a responsibility Heritage takes very seriously. They’ve had the opportunity to raise thousands of dollars for local and national charities such as Planting Peace, March of Dimes, The American Cancer Society and Camp Sunshine. “We helped Camp Sunshine raise enough money to send an entire family to the camp within the branch,” says Verrecchia. Camp Sunshine is a one-of-a-kind national retreat in Casco, Maine, for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. “We all feel the same way too. The more money we make, the more money we can use to help other people, and overall, that’s how we know we’re going to enrich this experience for ourselves.”

When it comes to Heritage’s message, it seems to be one of unity, gratitude, peace and love that stems from the various spiritual backgrounds of the band’s members.

“There are certain beliefs and certain morals that transcend religion,” says Verrecchia. “Regardless of what you believe, you can still have unity amongst humanity.”

Adds Dawson, “That’s huge for us. If you have an understanding of something greater than yourself, then you’re accountable for your actions. You’re accountable for not loving people that need to be loved or helping people who need to be helped.”

With such success in a short amount of time it would be hard to argue that Heritage doesn’t have the right idea. With hard work, an aggressive touring schedule, talented musicians and a positive message, it’s easy to see how Emerald Coast Magazine readers voted Heritage “Emerald Coast’s Best Musician/Vocalist of 2010.”

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Categories: Music