Showcasing Cleveland County’s Talented Local Musicians
Heartbreak Rodeo’s David Henson says their band name comes from a favorite analogy.
“Life is like the rodeo,” he explains. “You draw the bull you draw, and a lot of time it ends in heartbreak. When we get up to play, we have that same eight seconds to sell the song.”
And as one of Norman’s most popular bands, Henson and fellow musicians Michael Bendure (guitar and vocals) and Chris Walsh (bass) often find that their songs sell themselves. “This band is all about fun,” Walsh says. “It is fun for us and fun for everyone who watches us.”
The three-piece acoustic band came together three years ago when Bendure was scheduled to play at the Norman Music Festival. “My previous band fell apart, and I knew David through the Norman Songwriters Association,” he says. “We were familiar with each other’s music, so David suggested that maybe we could back each other up.” Bendure and Henson are both established singer/songwriters with a collective 50 years of experience, so a natural partnership developed.
“David and I got to the point where we were playing consistent gigs over the next two years,” Bendure says. “We thought that we could kick it up a notch if we could recruit Chris. We initially asked him to do one show with us, hoping that he would have so much fun that he would want to keep playing.” Walsh officially joined the band just over a year ago, and the trio has since played their signature mix of folk, Americana, country and rock at nearly 100 shows across the state.
“One of the best things about our shows are performing cover tunes that people know,” Bendure explains. “We play some songs that people love and some that are distinctly Heartbreak Rodeo. We play a blend of both cover and original music. We are constantly pushing each other to give 100 percent and have fun while we are doing it.”
Singer/songwriter Derek Paul grew up in Broken Arrow, but says that Norman is the longest place he’s ever lived on purpose. “I joined the military straight out of high school and traveled around for awhile. I was deployed overseas in Iraq for a year, and that’s where I learned to play guitar.”
Paul moved back to Cleveland County to play in a band called the Handsome Devils, which helped him establish roots in the local music scene. “I love Norman because it is big enough not to be too small, but small enough not to be too big,” he adds.
Paul started playing music full time in 2009 and has been averaging over 200 shows per year ever since. He often plays solo acoustic gigs, as well as with his current band, a folk rock band called the Patron Aints.
Paul formed the Patron Aints with his friends and local musicians Alan Orebaugh and Aron Holt.
“We started at an open mic night at The Deli,” he recalls. “We knew a lot of each other’s songs and would sing harmony. It was just an organic thing that just keeps moving and growing.” Musicians Tom Young and Justin Morris completed the group, which now plays every Monday from 7-9 p.m. at The Deli in Norman.
Paul also hosts a songwriters and storytellers event at Norman’s Hollywood Corners on Tuesday evenings. “I bring in a different songwriter each week to share their music and tell the stories behind them,” he explains.
“Music has always been an outlet for me,” Paul muses. “I’m proud to be able to be a musician and still keep my bills paid. And the friendships that I have made and the people I meet everywhere just add to it.” Paul currently is working on a solo album, which he hopes to release next year.
Music is a family affair for Shawnee native Kierston White, whose brother Bryon White is a popular local folk musician.
“About 10 years ago, my brother passed me one of his first guitars, a pretty yellow acoustic Fender,” she explains. “He taught me how to hold it, strum to a metronome, and change my strings. I practiced for hours every day because I wanted so badly to play with other musicians and understand that language. He has influenced my songwriting and playing more than anyone.”
White had been writing poetry for several years and realized that she wanted people to hear her words.
“I thought I had some pretty good lines,” she says. “I knew I had something one day when I played Bryon a song. I was nervous about others hearing it, but he said that it was a good song that people have to hear.” This encouragement, along with the performers that she watched perform each year at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, helped define and shape her growth as a musician.
White currently performs solo, as well as with a group of other local female country singers known collectively as the Tequila Songbirds. She released her first album, “Don’t Write Love Songs,” composed solely of her original music, in 2014.
“I am still here because I love my friends. I can’t even describe to you how rich they make me feel. Making music with my friends is possibly the greatest joy of my life.
“Since I live in Norman, I play as often as I can at The Deli. In Oklahoma City, I enjoy playing at The Blue Door,” she adds. “I am currently in nursing school, so you will definitely catch me playing more in the summer and on school breaks.”
Thriving Local Music
One thing that these local musicians agree on is that the music scene in Oklahoma is thriving. “The local music scene is growing, that is one thing I am sure of,” White concludes. “It seems like every time I turn around there is a new mini-festival or venue.”
Paul encourages people of all ages to get out and see a live local show and experience many of Oklahoma’s talented musicians. “We have so much talent in Oklahoma, so much that people in other areas are trying to imitate what we do naturally. Oklahoma music really is its own native brand. It must be something in the water,” he says, laughing.
For more information and for show information: