It's a low rumble, akin to a bass guitar. There's a rhythm to it that can quickly get feet tapping as Lincoln Durham starts singing about a girl named "Annie Departee." It might take a moment, as you watch Durham tearing into the small guitar he's holding, before you notice something strange — his guitar only has one string. Yep, all that noise and attitude is from a single, stretched strand of metal.
It's the only song Durham plays on that one-string, but he's got enough other instruments to keep his concerts interesting. There's a three-string cigar box guitar, there's his go-to resonator guitar and he's not afraid to beat the living hell out of an old suitcase using some drum sticks, either.
Durham takes the one-man band label to heart and feels if it was just him and a single guitar, people would get bored quickly. When he brings his amalgam of instruments to the Double Door stage on Oct. 28, he's going to let his songs do the talking, howling and conjuring of an old blues spirit that enthralls audiences each time he plays.
"It took me a while to embrace it," Durham says of the "one-man band" label. "Until I got a band, I wanted to see how much noise I could make. Then, as I started to really practice — I was writing parts for my foot more than just tapping it. Fans would come up to me at every show and say, 'What you do is so cool. Don't ruin it by getting a band.' I felt like I fell into something that made me different than the rest."
Durham played in bands when he was younger — mostly in cover bands — and was even a Texas state fiddle champion by age 10, but it wasn't until his 20s that he started to develop into the artist he is today. He had started writing songs around age 20, but took time off to "find himself" as a writer. While he intended to start a band, he knew it was cheaper to do it on his own. He also didn't feel right asking someone to play alongside him for free or even for $10 when they could probably make more money somewhere else. That's when he started developing his sound into something bigger.
"The instrument does dictate the song," Durham says. "If I'm tinkering around, the song will evolve from the instrument I'm playing. I play cigar-box guitars, fiddles, banjos... When you're in a one-man band, you have some limitations and you write songs to those limitations and that becomes part of my sound. I'll write a song and be on to something that's not quite right, so I'll grab another instrument and it'll take on a completely different spirit. A lot of times, it ends up being the vibe that I want."
Durham says his songs have been a kind of coping mechanism in his life during tough times. He says he's always been a brooding, serious kid that was into stuff like Tim Burton and Edgar Allan Poe, so it's no surprise that his lyrics tend to the darker side of life.
"I've always been a fan of very poetic, Southern Gothic faux religious... I generally put it into that state of mind when I'm writing so that it's got an old, dark, Southern sound to it," the Texas native says. "The lyrics come out when I'm really mad about something, or aggravated or emotionally distraught."
He's not worried if you don't know the meaning behind his songs. He's not one for much banter between tunes when he's on stage. He says all of his emotions got poured into the lyrics he wrote, but he wants his music to be open to interpretation.
"I let the songs speak for themselves," Durham says. "If you're doing it right, it's your intimate little thing that you've created and you present it to the audience and it becomes a shared thing. I don't want to tell somebody else what they should be thinking about a song. You might love a song because of what it means to you. There don't need to be rules on what a song means and why screw with that."
Durham's early days with the fiddle helped shaped who he is as a performer because of the comfort level he now has. He's surprised when he hears about musician friends who get nervous butterflies before going on stage.
Though Durham grew up playing country music, it was Nirvana that inspired him in a new direction. "I wanted to play guitar and scream," he says. "I had dreams or assumed that I would be a musician of some sort. Of course, I assumed I'd be platinum by now. That didn't work out, but I am a musician."
Durham says that if it were up to him — if he could afford it — he would have two or three more instruments in his arsenal and would change them up every couple of songs. "I'd like to learn the accordion — not the big one. A concertina? The squeeze box. I'd like to do a song on that. There's a few things like a small keyboard to play piano on. One day..."
At this point though, Durham makes the most of whatever's around him. "Everything is eligible to be hit or strummed," he says. His favorite though — even though he only has one song written for it at this point — is that one-string guitar.
"When I first saw that one-string guitar — it was like 20 bucks," he says. "I wanted to see what I could do with one string and if I could make something interesting. I'm not some amazing guitar player. I don't know what would happen if I could go from a major to a minor chord on some of these instruments. I've toyed around with writing another song on it so I can utilize it a bit more. It gets talked about the most and people seem to really get a kick out of it. I've managed to get such a beefy sound out of it that people usually walk away talking about it."