Dwain Messer

ASHLAND It’s been a long road for Dwain Messer, musically speaking.

The social studies teacher at West Carter High School descended from a musical family and has pursued a music career for years.

Now, he has a single that’s getting airplay.

The song, “Ease My Troubled Mind,” was written by Messer and produce by Mark Beckett, son of the late Barry Beckett, a keyboardist, session musician and producer who recorded with Bob Dylan, Boz Scaggs, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Dire Straits and others. He said it was recently added to the Music Row charts and “is still developing.”

Although it seems the sentiment was perfect for the COVID-19 pandemic time trame, Messer said he wrote the song three or four years ago.

“It was just about one of those days,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not write a song that would put people’s minds at ease?’”

Messer, a graduate of Morehead State University, said he’s written with other people in the past, but this one is all his.

“It was one of those weeks. You just had a bad week and things don’t go right. Everybody has those,” he said. “I was in my home studio and thought I’d sit down and do a little writing. Some days you do OK and sometimes you start, but you don’t finish.”

He said after reflecting on that bad week he’d had and wishing for a simpler life, he began writing.

“The song just wrote itself,” he said, noting he began writing on Friday night and finished working on it Sunday afternoon. “It’s just a song about life in general and ups and downs people experience and my thoughts about it were my upbringing and faith. I got to thinking, Wouldn’t it be cool to put a spiritual message in a secular way?’”

So close

Messer had a brush with the music industry in a big way several years ago.

“I almost had a record deal with RCA, but it fell through because the person who had been ‘courting’ me, that’s what they call it, got let go from the company, so I had to go back to square one,” he said. “Ralph Ezell, a Grammy Award-winning producer at the time, he was in the band Shenandoah, died of a massive heart attack. ... He produced me on those cuts (for RCA) and shot me to the label.”

He said all that was left for him to join RCA was to sign a paper that was prepared and had his name on it, but with the changes in the company and the death of Ezell, it wasn’t to be.

“The music changed, too,” Messer said. “I’m more traditional and the music changed to pop sounding.”

Meanwhile, Messer said he made a living by teaching.

“I always enjoyed teaching, but when you have a dream to do this, you gotta have the time to do it,” Messer said. “I knew I was going to have to plan for that, which is why I didn’t do the music major. He said he has friends who studied music performance and found it a difficult way to make a living. Music education would have meant being a band director, which leaves little time to chase a dream.”

But he has done the work, performing for crowds as large as 30,000 while opening for such artists as Lee Ann Womack, Kenny Chesney, Terri Clark, Clay Walker, Bryan White, Ricky Van Shelton, T. Graham Brown, Gene Watson, Exile, Shenandoah and others.

Performances have helped him build a fan base from Mexico to China, while getting airplay throughout Europe. His single “Surrender” from his self-titled debut CD hit 36 on the top 40 in Europe in May 2006. He also had a No. 1 hit with “The Picture in the Mirror” in Austria.

Messer also was one of only eight contestants in America to be selected for The Family Channels Wild Wild West and Atlantic Records search for new talent.

In his blood

Messer came by his lifelong dream honestly. His father is a musician and his mother sings.

“They used to have a gospel act and I did sound for them when I was a kid,” he said. “As I got older, I started doing a tune or two with them at church shows.”

In high school, he knew he wanted a career in music, but he hadn’t decided on a genre.

“In college I had a few friends who played bluegrass music and we were able to get some gigs for pocket change,” he recalled. “Bluegrass was fun to do.”

After college, he started working and decided it was time to get some experience performing, so he formed his own country group and performed his own music. He also made some trips to Nashville to learn how the business works.

“It’s been a learning experience and it’s ongoing,” he said.

As for “Ease My Troubled Mind,” Messer said he is hopeful.

“We’re just hoping the single goes great and, so far, it’s taken off to a good start,” he said. The song has received airplay in some larger markets, as well as in Bowling Green, Pikeville and Flemingsburg, but it hasn’t been heard on local stations yet. It can be heard on Facebook and Instagram and cam be downloaded on iTunes and Spotify.

“There’s nothing like people listening to your music and having them say, ‘I was sad and I heard your song and it lifted me up,” he said. “When you’re singing and people are singing along, it really touches me.”

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