Two summers ago, Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald and one of my bosses, came up to my desk and simply said, “Come with me.” Me being me, I immediately thought, “Oh no, what have I done?” I followed Cliff all the way outside when he turned to me and said, “Listen to this guy sing.”
That guy was Lyle Divinsky, who was playing out on the patio of Portland House of Music. Cliff couldn’t believe his ears, and I responded with something like, “So, it’s your first time hearing Lyle. Pretty great, isn’t he?”
Divinsky’s got one of the most soulful voices ever to grace the Pine Tree State, and I’ve seen him perform a number of times through the years, both solo and with his band Model Airplane. Straight up, he’s awesome.
And then something amazing happened. Divinsky got asked to not only join, but become the lead singer and a songwriter of Colorado-based jam and funk band The Motet. Fast forward to last week when, while sneaking a looksie at my phone during dinner, I caught a Facebook live stream of Divinsky singing – and crushing – the national anthem before a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field in Denver. Two mornings later, I got him on the phone and got the entire story of The Motet recruitment and what it was like to sing the anthem. The next day, The Motet played a sold-out show at Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.
Wanna hear Divinsky’s performance of the anthem? Head to The Motet’s Facebook page and scroll down to May 30!
How did you wind up singing the national anthem at the Rockies game?
We had come up with the idea of trying to get our music more present in the Colorado scene, especially where we’re such a Colorado-based band. Our manager came through, and he got me in to sing, which worked out really well to also be a bit of last-minute promo before our Red Rocks show.
How much time did you have to prepare?
I’ve known for maybe two months. The last time I sang the national anthem was at my state championship basketball game at the Civic Center when I was a senior playing for the Portland High School team.
How was it for you to perform it in Denver on that baseball diamond behind home plate?
It was probably the most nervous that I’ve been in as long as I can remember. It didn’t really kick in until I started singing. The difficulty of the song is you’re singing one song as opposed to having a set to build up to the tough one, and it’s also a cappella, so there’s no band behind you, and also everybody knows the words. So if you mess up the words, all eyes are on you. Then, it also has a really big range; it starts low and ends very high and has a lot of dynamics in there. It’s definitely not a walk in the park by any means. I felt like I did a good job.
So tell me the story of how you became the lead singer of The Motet. Were you familiar with them? How did this all happen?
I knew who they were, and I dug everything that they were doing. My two best band friends in this scene (jam band) are Turkuaz and Lettuce. They were the first calls that The Motet made when they made the decision that the old singer and them were parting ways, and they were going to be looking for somebody else. Turkauz gave a lot of love my way, and then when they were talking with Eric Krasno (of Lettuce), who was producing the last record that I ended up coming in on and writing for, called “Totem.”
So you had several musician friends sing your praises to the guys in The Motet. What happened next? Did you get a phone call?
It came from Joey Porter (keys). I remember the moment. I was driving away from playing a lunchtime cafeteria gig at Springfield College.
When did this occur?
This all happened at the end of 2015. It went from talking on the phone with Joey once or twice and then I talked with Dave (Watts, drummer and founding member of The Motet). Then, as a tryout, Dave sent me an instrumental, and so I wrote to that and that ended up being “The Truth” (the first song on “Totem”).
Here’s The Motet with Lyle Divinsky performing “The Truth” at Red Rocks in Colorado on 7.22.16
So you had to not only lay down vocals but also write lyrics?
Yes. They didn’t want just another singer. They wanted somebody who could write and who could help craft a song. I turned that around in three days and sent it back. Then, they sent me another instrumental a couple of weeks later, which ended up being “Fool No More,” the second song on the record. It was a pretty serendipitous situation.
When did you actually get together and play with the band for the first time?
They asked me to come out and do some rehearsals and do a tour with them and see whether it fit. I got a call two days after the first run of shows telling me that I had made the group, and I took the position.
Was there any hesitation on your part?
I knew that it was the right call for me. It was interesting timing. I had just released my solo record a month and a half before, so I had to ditch this thing that I had really been working hard at for a long time. But it was a pretty easy decision to make. I dug the music, and I really dug them as people as well as musicians, so I knew it was a good fit.
You’re now a full-time Colorado resident. When did you make the move to Denver?
That was in December. Model Airplane did two shows at Portland House of Music right after Thanksgiving and then got in the truck and drove out there.
You performed with The Motet last summer at Red Rocks. Had you been there before? What was that like?
That was almost exactly my six-month anniversary with the band, and it was also the first show that I played in front of the hometown crowd. The first time that I ever experienced Red Rocks was walking up from the tunnel downstairs and I walked into the backstage, saw it from there, and it was like “Holy (expletive)!”
Safe to assume that was one of the greatest nights of your life?