Wichita nightlife: Married musicians are in perfect harmony

02/13/2014 2:19 PM

02/13/2014 2:34 PM

Before they became a couple, Erin and Alan Craddock considered themselves background singers.

Erin had sung for commercials, worked as a studio background singer and had recently joined Wichita’s Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band as the tutu-wearing, triangle-playing backup singer to band leader Carter Green.

Alan had steadily performed over the years in a variety of Wichita bar bands. But when he founded his most current band – popular local cover band Monterey Jack – he assigned himself the role of lead guitarist and background singer.

But once Erin and Alan met, fell in love and got married, that changed.

Though the two musicians, now married four years, still perform their backup gigs, they’ve become the co-lead singers for their own musical project that is putting them in front of audiences all over Wichita nearly every weekend.

The Erin Alan Project, an acoustic duo the couple started one year into their marriage, is regularly on the calendar at Mort’s Martini Bar, Heroes Sports Bar and Grill, The Artichoke, Oeno, the Brickyard and more. Appropriately, the couple will perform a Valentine’s Day gig Friday at Deano’s Grill & Tapworks, 9747 E. 21st St. N.

The act showcases Alan’s five-octave range and guitar mastery and Erin’s big pipes in a small package – plus her willingness to tackle the kazoo, harmonica, melodica, tambourine and gourd maraca.

The act also showcases the enviable perfect harmony that Erin and Alan possess both as musicians and as a couple. They’re perpetual newlyweds who go everywhere together, share a Facebook page and genuinely like each other.

“There’s nobody I’d rather be singing with,” he said. “I would be perfectly happy to do what we do at home, but to be able to go out and share it with other people is a gift.”

Alan was formally introduced to then Erin Mills through a mutual friend years ago. When he met her, he realized she was the girl who went with the voice he already loved. A fellow band member had once played him a recording of Erin singing, and he remembers thinking how much he would like to perform with her.

When they started dating, singing was one of their main pastimes. They’d hang out in the basement for hours, taking turns suggesting favorite songs.

After a year of this, the duo realized that their voices were melding and that their harmony was jelling. Alan used a Monterey Jack connection and got them their first gig – a 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. stint at Mort’s. Erin remembers that she was a nervous wreck. Performing in the front was not her thing.

But the night went well, and that gig helped them book another, then another. These days, the Erin Alan Project is in such demand that the couple rarely has a weekend free. (The two also still perform with their other bands, and both hold full time day jobs – Erin as a pediatric medical assistant and Alan as a metallurgist at a local laboratory.)

With each performance, Erin says, both she and Alan shed a little more of their background singer identities.

“Alan gave me a lot of confidence. And in fact, we’ve kind of done that for each other,” she said. “He was under the impression he would always sing backup, too, or just be a guitar player. But together – and it’s really cheesy – but we both helped each other. We both gave each other the confidence to do what we do right now.”

On a recent Friday night, the duo had a gig at Heroes after-work party. When they set up, it was 5 p.m., and the bar was nearly empty. They started out quietly, traveling through a few pop hits in their library, including Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” and “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

But as the after-work crowd grew, so did the duo’s presence. They received loud applause during covers that showed off Erin’s belting ability, like “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song made famous by Janis Joplin. They also threw in one of their mutual favorites – “Jackson,” a song popularized by Johnny Cash and June Carter about an unhappily married couple.

Alan says he particularly enjoys the irony of singing that song with Erin.

Emma Russell, the managing partner at Mort’s, is the person who gave the duo their first gig. Now, they’re a customer favorite, she said. People love their expansive music library, which spans generations, she said.

But people also just love them.

“I love their story,” she said. “I love who they are. They sound amazing and they feel good. You can feel the fact that they love what they’re doing and they love each other.”

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