Living

Eastern Idaho teacher is frontman for country-rock group

Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Ball spends most of his time under the hood of a car, teaching high-schoolers the ins and outs of auto mechanics.

But that’s his day job.

Ball’s an automotive teacher at Blackfoot High School. But when the bell rings and he leaves school for the day, he transforms into a singer/songwriter heartthrob and main man behind the “Aaron Ball Band.”

Ball and keyboard player Dave Bowman, 44, are the group’s two mainstays. Together, they have performed in venues, festivals and concert halls around the world.

“I’ve always wanted to (pursue music) as a career, but music is a tough thing,” Ball said. “The saying is, ‘Real musicians have day jobs.’ I’ve been a full-time musician before, but there’s not a lot of financial stability. (Teaching) is great, I’m home by 4 o’clock every day, I’ve got my weekends and summers to tour, so it just works out well.”

In January, the band performed for the second time at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, shortly after wrapping up a tour in New Zealand.

This summer, the group is planning a tour in the United Kingdom. The group’s track “Second Gear,” has “received substantial radio airplay” since its 2010 release, according to an online biography about Ball. The song also hit No. 2 on the charts in New Zealand.

Now the band’s in the process of signing a recording contract with Peerless Records, an independent, New Zealand-based label.

Despite their global success, both Ball and Bowman come from humble, eastern Idaho beginnings.

Ball’s earliest dip into music was as a jazz drummer in his teens. He also wrote poetry at that time. Eventually, Ball taught himself to play guitar. He’s taught school in the past but has taken time off intermittently to tour with his music.

In addition, Ball is a father to two children, which he calls his No. 1 role. Ball’s students largely are unaware of his rising fame, he said. As far as his children and their friends are concerned, he’s nothing too special.

“My friends don’t really think much of (his music career),” 13-year-old Cannon Ball said. “They just think he’s my dad. But I think it’s pretty cool, he gets great opportunities to explore the world. Sometimes, I wish I could come along.”

Bowman, who works as an operations manager for radio stations in Pocatello, took piano lessons in his youth. He studied music at Idaho State University for a time before dropping out to work as an accompanist in Pocatello School District 25. Today, Bowman plays in three bands, including Ball’s group. Recently, he auditioned for America’s Got Talent and is waiting to hear back the television show.

Ball and Bowman have each played in various bands separately over the years, but about three years they decided to team up for the Aaron Ball Band.

On the band's “New Beginnings” album, Ball recorded most of the instrumentation — vocals, guitar, percussion and keyboard — while Bowman accompanied for the tail-end portion of piano and keyboard tracks. Other intermittent band member and friend, Chris Wheelock, contributed bass tracks on the album.

They now are working on a new album.

Both say the band takes sacrifice, everything from family to work to financial investment. But neither would have it any other way.

“Music kind of gives us the opportunity to break out of our shells,” Bowman said. “We both get to do something we love to do and I think that’s pretty cool.”

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