By David Lacy
When he was about 8 years old, Shea Stratton would accompany his father and his older brother to rehearsals at the Davis Musical Theatre Company, where the two were performing in “Evita.”
“I spent my nights in the theater during rehearsals and performances,” the younger Stratton recalls. “I stumbled across my voice while singing songs from that show.”
Stratton, a 1998 Davis High School graduate, auditioned for the very next play at DMTC — “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” — and landed the role of Benjamin.
He quickly became enamored with music and discovering what his own vocals could produce, but admits that for some time “it was a passion that actually took a back seat to baseball.”
Stratton, who lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, will be returning to Davis with his band State to State on Friday at G Street Wunderbar, 228 G St. The group released a new album, “No Bounds” in February, available on iTunes and the band’s website, www.statetostateband.com.
State to State also will be playing at The Caravan Lounge in San Jose on Saturday.
In addition to Stratton, State to State features Mike Schneider (drums) from Texas; Andrew Orvis (guitar) from Wisconsin; Patrick Morgan (bass) from Detroit; and William Driskill, a bassist from San Diego who played on the album.
Stratton credits his best friend and fellow DHS alum, Nick Carvajal, for introducing him to the realms of rock.
“When I first learned of U2 around 1992, rock ‘n’ roll was all I could think about,” Stratton said. He became euphoric for live performances; he played guitar and sang in everything from friends’ garages to talent shows at Emerson Junior High.
After graduating from DHS, Stratton continued to make music. He released several solo projects, including the stadium-rock-sounding single “Hollywood” in 2007. In 2010, one year after the band formed, State to State released a self-titled EP.
The band has drawn comparisons to U2 and early Muse from Examiner.com, and Buzzbands.LA wrote that State to State owes much of its sound to “a handful of bands you saw in stadiums 10 or 15 years ago,” an assessment Stratton welcomes.
“I think that we fit in a place that is waiting to come back,” Stratton said. “Right now, guitars aren’t in demand so we’re kind of lying in the weeds waiting to become relevant. In the meantime, we’re happy to not cop trends. I haven’t turned the radio on in years.”
Shea isn’t the only family member performing today. Older brother Cole, a 1994 DHS graduate whom Shea watched sing and act alongside their father Pat in “Evita” more than two decades ago, is one of the founding members of SF Sketchfest.
Now in its 13th year, the San Francisco comedy festival has featured performers “from every major North American television comedy smash of the past 25 years” including “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.” This year’s lineup included comedy legend Alan Arkin.
When asked if he’s competitive with his brother, Shea quips, “if anyone is competitive, it’s Cole, but I’d only say that’s true on the softball field.” The brothers play coed softball each week in Santa Monica and watch the Detroit Lions together every Sunday during football season.
“He’s always been a great supporter of me no matter what I’m doing and I wish only the best for him,” Shea says. “I’ve always respected his love for music. His iPod is way more impressive than mine.”
And this Friday, Shea Stratton returns to the town where he and his brother first discovered their love of performance. The band is on a West Coast tour, playing at a variety of venues. It’s the part of the job Stratton enjoys most.
“I love the behind-the-scenes work, but live performance is what it’s all about for me,” he says. “I thrive for that attention. In my day-to-day I enjoy anonymity, but my persona feeds on the spotlight.”
He says the “performance high” is a much healthier one than the other intoxicants he admits to having abused. He has been sober for more than eight months now, and, in addition to supportive friends and families, attributes his continued success with sobriety to his rescue pit bull Zuul.
While Stratton may enjoy the limelight while performing, he shies from it in his daily life. He joked: “having a rescued pit bull with serious co-dependency issues doesn’t lend itself to a party lifestyle, but I’m fine with that.”
When asked how he readies himself to hit the road, Stratton responds, “tour is easy to prepare for. Pack a bag and live carefree. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend time and make money in the process. I’m in a band with great people who don’t mind that I bring my doggy.”
In fact, the group has adopted the rocker canine as the official tour dog.
Join Stratton in his reunion with family, friends, canine and the very place he first found his greatest passion.
And if you would like to bring him a slice of Woodstock’s Pizza — a personal fave — he’d likely be quite grateful.
— David Lacy is a former Davis resident and Davis Enterprise staff writer who is a writing specialist for the Center for Excellence in Writing and Community at UC Irvine.