Teacher by day, rocker by night, Chris Lee is following his dream with Red Union Blue.
The Davis High School teacher started the local rock/pop/country band two years ago, and now has signed a record deal.
Want to hear their music? Red Union Blue will play a free, local show at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at Sundstrom Hill Winery, 2744 Del Rio Place, Suite 130, in Davis.
The band features Trena Thompson on vocals; Lee on guitars, keyboards and vocals; Rich Desideri on guitar; Tim Olsen on bass; and Geno Guerere on drums.
Lee has been teaching at Davis High since 1993. He teaches AP U.S. history, AP human geography, international relations, and race and social justice. He’s also the department chair of the DHS social studies department.
When Lee first came to Davis, he worked as a piano accompanist with choir and theater groups, and also did studio work.
“I was working with people and their music, and thought, this is a lot of fun,” Lee said in a recent interview. “The band thing came more recently.”
In 2012, Lee began playing guitar with Desideri, a local musician. They thought it would be fun to find others to play music with.
“At first we found ourselves working with musicians in Chico, rehearsing and performing in that area for about six months,” Lee said. “We wanted to base ourselves in Davis, since driving to and from Chico was a bit of a commute. We found players interested in coming together.”
The current rhythm section — Olsen and Guerere — had played together previously in various Sacramento-area bands. They’ve been in Red Union Blue for the past nine months.
“They’ve really given the band a groove and rocking foundation that gets audiences up and moving,” Lee said.
The key ingredient to the band is vocalist Thompson.
“Once I heard her sing, I knew she was the voice we had been looking for,” Lee said. Thompson found Lee through a musician posting on bandmix.com.
“She brings a very special sound and style to the songs with her powerful and distinctive vocals,” he said.
In addition to her soulful vocals, Thompson brought her talents as a songwriter to the table.
“The two of us have come together as a songwriting partnership,” Lee explained. “It took 20 years to find the perfect person to work with. She is an amazing musician with a wealth of ideas ready to come out.”
The band’s sound includes a range of musical styles.
“It’s a coming together of different influences and styles that makes this musical hybrid of rock, pop, country, folk and blues,” he said.
Red Union Blue recorded its first album, “Learning to Fall,” in 2013.
“This helped open quite a few doors for us,” Lee said, including a deal with the label Sunny Dragon Records. “They really liked the sound of the band and are looking to get the music out to a wider audience. We signed an EP/album recording and distribution deal with the label.”
Lee and the band are working on a new EP. They recently recorded drum and bass tracks and plan to record guitars, keyboards and vocals in mid-April.
“We plan to release the EP in June,” Lee said. “We’re bringing in renowned dobro/guitar/mandolin player Kathy Barwick for a few tracks, as well as other friends from Sunny Dragon Records.”
Updates on the EP may be found at redunionblue.com. Lee is very happy with the band’s line-up and looking forward to the future.
“It’s important to find the right combination of people who can carry out your ideas musically, that you also get along with,” he explained. “There’s always a push and pull in a creative situation, but at the end of the day we are still smiling and enjoy each other’s company. It took two years to find that combination of people. It’s exciting to have that.
“Our families are very supportive of all this. They recognize that this is important to us and that we have fun,” he added. “This band is fun. If it wasn’t fun, it wouldn’t be worth it. The fact that we get to go out and share it with audiences at shows and on record makes it even better.”