Musicians Juggle Lives as Small Business Owners

May 14, 2014

Dave Cleveland of Seventh Son
Dave Cleveland of Seventh Son

 At night, Curt Tramel is the backing guitarist for the Celtic band, Fonn Mor. But during the day, he's the owner of the ice-cream and local produce shop Station 66 in Battle Creek.

Credit courtesy of Curt Tramel

Tramel books other bands to perform at Station 66, but sometimes schedules don't line up. So Tramel has his band fill in for outdoor concerts when other groups can't make it.

“The best advertising for us is word of mouth," says Tramel.

"And we have a lot of old memorabilia, and old signage, an old gas pump down there. It really fits well with the antique car club scene. And car clubs really communicate a lot. They talk amongst themselves and word spreads fast.”

Tramel says even when the doors of Station 66 are closed in the winter he still has to juggle booking his band and preparing his shop for the new season.

Credit courtesy of Curt Tramel

 "We take that opportunity to clean the floors and strip them and make sure everything is spic and span-just really clean," he says. "We also look at adding new menu items doing some research on experimenting cooking different things."

Tramel’s life is a balancing act between his business and his art, but he’s not alone.

Now working part time, Dave Cleveland used to work 60 hours a week at his heating and cooling business. He also played in two local blues bands—The Cats in the House and Seventh Son. Cleveland still performs with Seventh Son today.

Cleveland says the good thing about running your own business is that you can set your own hours. The downside:

"When you are not out in the field actually working on somebody's heating and cooling there are other things that have to be taken care of-you got to do the books. It can be really time consuming, it can take a lot of time. After grinding it out for sixty hours in a given week, it's nice to have a Friday night or Saturday night to look forward to playing to kind of change it up. They work pretty good together but there is not a whole lot of time for anything else."

Bill LaValley is a mental health therapist at W&D LaValley Inc. on weekdays and plays in Big Boss Blues on the weekends. He sits in his office space with his guitar on a stand in the corner. LaVally says he had held a job at an agency for about 20 years, but when he lost his job, he says he had to recreate himself.

Bill LaValley of Big Boss Blues does therapist paperwork at his office
Bill LaValley of Big Boss Blues does therapist paperwork at his office

"Here I am running my own business and loving it," says LaValley.

"So if I have a weeknight show I can schedule a late morning or if I have to leave early, because I have to travel I can end my day earlier if I need a week off.“

LaValley says he splits his time. Fridays are reserved for booking venues and therapy paper work while Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for concerts.

Managing a business is stressful enough without being in a band, but Dave Cleveland says the release he gets from playing music makes it worth while.

"Just playing together with other people does a special thing with your brain," he says. "It’s hard to say what that process does but it’s something that if you don't do it for a while you miss it."