This is the latest in a Gazette series profiling Pikes Peak region bands.
Jeremy Facknitz never bought into the concept of a stage name.
“I realize Facknitz is a horrible German name. It’s not very marketable,” the 41-year-old singer-songwriter said. “I never wanted to play as Jeremy Starshine.”
The Detroit native got his start in music playing trumpet in the high school band. He learned to play guitar his senior year after his aunt gave him a Yamaha acoustic.
“I was going to be a baseball player, but then I just started playing guitar nonstop,” he said. “It was the end of the grunge era, and (the band) Bush was on the radio, and they’re awful. I thought, ‘I could do this.’ I’m glad the guitar came along.”
He started playing professionally in 1997 with The Ottomans. The band was named Outstanding Local Alternative/Indie Artist Group in 2001’s Detroit Music Awards, the same year as the White Stripes. The Ottomans broke up in 2002, and the White Stripes, led by fellow Detroit native Jack White, rose to national stardom.
Facknitz lived in Cincinnati, Boston and St. Louis before heading west. He got his first taste of the Pikes Peak region in 2006, when he performed at The Perk Downtown.
“It was a free show upstairs. I made $4 in tips. But I looked out the window to the mountains and thought ‘I could live here.’ I could’ve moved to a bigger music town like Austin or Nashville, but in those places I’d be just another guy waiting tables. I wanted to stand out a bit,” he said.
Facknitz made the move to the Springs on New Year’s Day 2007 and started playing breweries and bars such as Rico’s and the former McCabe’s Tavern. He counts Paul Simon, James Taylor, Ben Folds, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Paul McCartney and the Beatles as some of his biggest influencers.
Facknitz got to the point where he was playing up to 100 gigs a year to carve out a living. The performance-heavy schedule took a toll on his health and his psyche. He was diagnosed with viral meningitis in 2017, which prompted him to perform only 60-70 shows per year.
“I was playing so much, and I started to think ‘I worked really hard on these songs and no one is hearing them,’” he said. “Trying to take it to the next level was a challenge.”
Facknitz has become an expert in marketing himself, and working smarter — not harder.
“It was easier just to play the bars, but begging people to like you is hard work,” he said. “So much of what I do is marketing now. I feel like 90% of my days are spent in front of the computer.”
He’s recorded five albums and writes about three songs a month.
“I want my audience to relate to what I am saying in my songs. My music is very personal and sometimes people say ‘Wow, thanks for writing that song.’ Other times, the reaction from them may be ‘too much information.’ Boil it all down and we are all human beings experiencing much of the same things. My music is very honest,” he told The Gazette last year.
“What I’m doing now is more like what first got me into performing. But I have two small kids, so I’m still always tired,” he said.
He met his wife, Lindsay Weidmann, also a singer-songwriter, at one of his gigs at Rico’s.
“She came to see me play and was with someone else, and at the time I was with someone else. She gave me her CD and I played it in my car for two solid months,” he said.
Facknitz started taking voice lessons from Weidmann.
“I was hot for teacher,” he said. They eventually got together and toured the Pacific Northwest. And he wrote a beautiful song about her, “Hey, Lindsay!”
“I could say that music is responsible for all the good things in my life. It gave me my wife. It gave me my friends in Colorado Springs. ... Now I’m taking a wider look at what’s been given to me,” Facknitz said.
He’s about to go on tour in Canada, “playing tiny towns like Kaslo and Nelson (British Columbia) and Medicine Hat (Alberta). People aren’t as jaded as they are in the bigger cities,” he said.
The downside is being apart from his wife and kids — Elaina, 5, and Evan, 2.
“I have some songs about my kids and if I can’t get through them, that’s when I know it’s time for daddy to come home,” Facknitz said.
He sees the Pikes Peak region as an untapped market. “I get the feeling that people don’t really know we’re here. I look at it like a dam — you keep tapping and tapping and eventually the floodwaters will come.”
His dream venue is playing to a crowd at storied venue Red Rocks Amphitheatre. “That would be amazing, phenomenal!” he said.
But smaller shows — sometimes playing with a band and sometimes solo — are what he loves best.
“I don’t like really big venues. I like being able to make a connection with the folks in the last row,” Facknitz said. “The best gigs are the house concerts. They’re keeping people like me alive. Usually the host will let you stay over and feed you, and you get to play for a listening audience.”