Fishin’ Musician

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In February, I said I was going to occasionally write articles about people who are only tangentially related to the charter fishing business here but contribute greatly to make it what it is. The article that month concerned  local musicians who entertain us in the clubs here when we’re not fishing, focusing on three “veteran” (I don’t dare say “older”) entertainers and the relationships we’ve developed. I’m revisiting that music theme this month, but for a very specific reason, i.e., we had the privilege of taking one of the best young talents in Key West and his friends fishing on  April 11. By day, Chad Burtch is a local realtor with Key West Real Estate Sales & Rentals, LLC. His real passions - singing and song-writing - give him a release on  nights/weekends from the pressures of his day job as well as a nice second  source of income. They also give those of us privileged to hear him entertain a whole lot of pleasure. Another of his passions -  fishing - also gives him a great release, when he gets the rare opportunity to do it due to the busy schedule caused by those other pursuits. He grew up in the northeast fishing for trout in the Delaware River and it’s tributaries, and has always been an avid angler. As an adult, he had bartended and sang in the Boston and New York City areas during winters and on Cape Cod in the summmers, fishing whenever he could. He moved here in 2009 and bartended at the now defunct “Alamo.” I become acquainted with Chad and his musical style during countless happy hours I’ve spent at the Conch Republic Seafood Co., just a “stone’s throw” from our slip at the A&B Marina. He’s played regularly there for some time. As mentioned in that February article, there’s a similarity between the relaxation you get from a great day fishing and that you get from the right music played at the right time. Tired as I might be after a long day on the water and cleaning up the “Hooker” afterward, I instantly decompress as soon as I get close enough to hear Chad’s happy-sounding music as I wander in for a yet another fun happy hour. He has a kind of easy, up-beat style that puts his own twist on popular tunes - from classic rock to Dave Matthews - we all know but just haven’t heard done quite the way he does them.  In the music biz you would call him a “stylist.” All I know is that he takes countless tunes I love and makes them even better. (“Long Black Veil”, “Walking In Memphis” and “Halleluiah” are three of my favorites!) He also does great original numbers and is currently working on his first CD. A few of his songs have even made VH1. He’s also good at tailoring his music to the venue/occasion, e.g., what he plays at 10 PM at the Hogs Breath is likely to be louder and more danceable than what he plays for a happy hour crowd at the Conch. And, as I think about it, that’s the same kind of thing that we charter captains do daily, too. We take the same old songs, i.e., fishing the waters around  Key West , and we try to “stylize” each trip to fit the conditions as well as the needs/desires of the customer. I only hope that I do half as good a job of that in my trade as Chad does in his. 4-13-13-Burtch-2I  also know there’s something cool about watching and/or hearing someone do something well that you wished you could but can’t. That’s one reason pro sports are so popular. It also explains why I’ve always been fascinated by people with great musical talent. I have absolutely none! Don’t even sound good to myself in the shower. Check out http://www.myspace.com/chadburtchmusic/music/songs/ode-to-boston-25981736 for a short sample of Chad’s style.The songs “Ode to Boston” (not related to the recent bombing,) and “Somedays” are quality stuff. You can also see a video of  Chad  teaming up with another great local musician, Jeff Clark, with whom he often plays at Virgilio’s “Martini Mondays,” to do his “Somedays” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMu0a3OKly8&nofeather=True Because of my happy experiences with him, I was especially flattered when Chad said he wanted us to take him, his “best friend ever” Taylor Hanan, Taylor’s dad Jim, and their friend Bill Schoonbeck, fishing. Flattered, but a little stressed. There’s a double-edged sword that comes with taking out locals, especially someone as high profile as Chad . Obviously, it’s a big compliment they’ve chosen you over the other great captains/boats that we have here in Key West. If you have a good day, the subsequent word of mouth publicity can also be gratifying and profitable. However, captains/mates often refer to a “friends and family curse” - i.e., you seem to have your worst days when you  take out either of  those groups, and I definitley had a fear of that, especially as the offshore bite had been extremely unpredictable all season. As I’ve said in a past article, you want someone like Chad to be able to say something more positive than “he’s got a nice boat” if he’s ever asked about his own personal experience with you. Some people refer to that type of endorsement as “damning with faint praise” and it’s always a worry when you rely on “word of mouth” referrals as much as I do. Trust me, we feel lousy about a slow trip with a one-time customer from “East Nowhere” but we won’t have to see that non-local every week or so as a constant reminder and he/she probably won’t have the same effect on potential future referrals. Chad’s friends, by the way, were all non-locals. Taylor is an equity broker  in Greenwich, CT; Jim runs an underground dog fencing company in Waterford, NY; and Bill works with foreclosure rescues in the West Palm Beach area. When the day arrived, I was even more concerned  about that “friends and family curse” thing. The wind was blowing from the southeast, predicted to be 15-20 knots with 4-6 foot seas. Not bad for catching fish, but right about at that point where customers, especially novices, tend to become seasick. I wasn’t so worried about Chad. He had done offshore tuna fishing up north previously, so I figured that he could take it. But I didn’t know the tolerance level of his friends or how rough a time they may have had on Duval Street the night before. They weren’t locals and were visiting an old friend, ingredients that easily lead to self-induced damage in Key West. Not to worry! All four did just fine and, though it took some effort, they were rewarded with three nice dolphin, including a big 24 pound cow. We went as deep as 700 feet looking for a “big dumb hungry monster,” but all of our bites occurred in shallower water between 180 and 200 feet. All were on surface outrigger lines with trolled, rigged, dead ballyhoo. Not a great day fish-wise from an absolute point of view but,  given what had been happening in preceding days, a success.  Chad was happy because he had wanted his friends to see and catch a decent-sized offshore fish; the guys seemed to have had a blast; and the information obtained over the radio indicated that our big dolphin was the catch of the day. It was also great to have time to get to know Chad a little better. Even got to hear him do a little “a capella” harmonizing with Taylor during the trip. As a result of our chat on the boat, I came to realize that he is an even nicer guy than I had thought and he loves being on the water as much as I do. Better yet, he told me he was going to organize a group of his friends from the clubs around town to get back out for another trip with us as soon as possible. That kind of tune ls always music to the ears of a charter captain. Guess I don’t have to worry about that “damning with faint praise” thing being a problem after all! I’m really looking forward to having Chad back on my boat soon, so that we can catch him even bigger and better fish. We’ve made “beautiful music” fish-wise once and I can’t wait to see if we can’t “harmonize” (or is that “dolphinize”) again. In the meantime, I guess that I’ll just have to be content tracking him down where he plays and  catching his act over one or two cold ones. I suggest you do the same. You’ll thank me for it. Thank him, too, with a nice tip!


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