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The Examiner (San Francisco)
December 20, 2002

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There was an article about Howie Day in the December 20, 2002 issue of The Examiner newspaper in San Francisco, CA. Howie talks extensively about opening for Tori during her On Scarlet's Walk Tour. Read this article below or online at

Day dreams come true

Special to The Examiner

Dream opportunities sometimes can be nightmarish situations.

That's the possibility young songwriter Howie Day faced when he agreed to be the opening act on the Tori Amos tour, which touches down at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in The City tonight and Saturday.

Setting the table for a celebrity of Amos' magnitude guaranteed that the relative newcomer would get to play in front of big crowds. But there was no guarantee as to how these fans -- who rank as some of the most passionate and devoted in the industry -- would react to the bittersweet pop tunes of this mostly unknown singer-guitarist.

"It was a little bit intimidating. I was a little anxious," admits the 21-year-old performer from Maine. "Her fans are super intense on her and really, like, religiously big fans. That worried me a little bit. I was feeling that I was going to go out there and they would be chanting 'Tori!' or something."

So far, there are no reports of fans chanting the headliner's name during Day's set. And it probably won't happen during the San Francisco gigs either.

Despite the potential hazards of the job, this thoughtful, sensitive pop tunesmith reportedly has connected with the crowd in the same way that Rufus Wainwright was able to during Amos' 2001 tour.

"It's been great," Day says from a tour stop in Utah. "(Amos' fans) have been probably more open to me than I've experienced opening for other people. So, I'm psyched."

He should be psyched. Anybody in his shoes would be.

Not long ago, Day couldn't even walk into a bar and buy himself a beer. Now he's opening for a superstar Amos -- and he's done the same for the likes of Dave Matthews, David Gray and Sting.

That's pretty heavy company for a spikey-haired kid from Bangor to keep so soon.

But "soon" is a relative term. Day is young, but he's not inexperienced.

"I've been playing music pretty much all my life," he says. "I started playing the piano when I was 5 ... When I was 13, I decided that the guitar was much cooler than the piano. Of course, now I am realizing that they are both pretty cool. But playing guitar started me singing and writing songs."

While most kids were working paper routes or stocking shelves at the local video store, Day was booking himself at local clubs and bars on weekends. Things started off slowly, and the teenager definitely had to pay some dues.

"The crowd was more interested in getting their drink on than hearing some 15-year-old kid sing," he remembers.

Day started off covering songs by the likes of the Beatles, who the singer sheepishly admits were his earliest influence, even though it sounds so "clich." And every so often he would slip in one of his own tunes.

As he improved as a performer, the tide turned and customers stopped requesting Beatles tunes as frequently. They wanted to hear Day's own folk-oriented coffeehouse material.

By the time he graduated from high school, Day had become a significant regional draw, able to fill moderate-size places in his native Maine. In fact, his career was progressing so well that he rethought his original ambition of attending Berklee College of Music.

"I think my idea for going to Berklee was just to meet other musicians," Day reasons. "I just wanted to get out of Maine and go somewhere where there was a music scene. I figured I could start playing open mike nights and in bars and work my way up.

"But I kind of did that in Maine, which is pretty uncommon. I don't think that many people have done that. I found plenty of gigs in Maine. I refined my show and got used to playing in front of audiences while I was in high school. I kind of skipped over that step of going down to Boston to get plugged into a scene."

So he went on the road, playing every college town he could find on the map. He took club gigs and performed at university campuses. He was tireless in his approach, putting on more than 300 shows in 2001 alone.

During that period, he also managed to find time to record and finance a studio record entitled -- for no particular reason -- "Australia," which is an amazingly mature record full of delicious pop hooks and lovesick folk-blues. The fact that it was recorded when he was only 19 makes the effort that much more impressive.

Of course, the impressive fact that mattered the most -- at least in the eyes of some record label executives -- was that Day was able to move nearly 30,000 copies of his record independently, through his Web site ( ) and at live shows.

Several labels became interested, and Epic finally won the prize. Early this year, the label re-released "Australia," and reaction has been very favorable. Day now spends his days doing media interviews and his nights opening for the likes of Amos.

It might seem a bit much for a 21-year-old pop singer with a guitar to handle. But Day has been ready for the dream to come true for quite some time.

"I've always known that I would end up singing and performing for people," he says. "I think, even at a pretty young age, I just thought it would work itself out one way or another -- kind of a weird trusting optimism."

Howie Day opens for Tori Amos at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St., San Francisco. Tickets are $29.50-$39.50. Call (415) 421-8497 or visit .

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