A wedding comes to life with music. On the big day, your song can make the moment or get the party started, but it doesn’t have to break the bank or — for a smaller wedding — take up the whole room. Hiring a solo musician can be a relatively economical, logistically simple and aesthetically versatile choice.

Arcata-based musician Michael Dayvid, a cheerful and soft spoken 27-year-old from Southern California, has been performing at weddings in Humboldt County for the past five years.

“Having a solo acoustic musician can bring something more intimate and, I think, heartfelt,” said Dayvid as he sat in Eureka’s Wine Spot a few hours before he was scheduled to play during Arts Alive. Small groups of people were already waiting patiently for Dayvid to pick up his guitar and take his usual corner in the room.

Dayvid’s repertoire is broad, encompassing Top 40, jazz standards and originals alike. The Wine Spot gig that evening went for hours, with patrons passing around a binder full of some 200 songs that ranged from classic pop covers of Talking Heads to delicate folk songs of Fleet Foxes. Smiles, laughter and song filled the space. And when he’s booked for a wedding, if the couple manage to stump him with two or three requested songs, he’ll learn them. He said there’s more room to grow in a repertoire when you play solo than there is for full bands.

“They just send me an email and I’ll learn it and be ready to perform it the day of,” Dayvid said. Once, he said, a bride’s mother requested that he learn 25 jazz songs. “I learned 20 plus songs for that event,” Dayvid said. That wedding sparked one of his only rules, which is a limit of two to three new songs, though he’ll learn four or five for an additional fee.

“I still play all of those songs that I learned for that one event. Some of them even became staples,” he said, adding that jazz became one of his favorite things to play at weddings.

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Like a lot of people who find themselves along the North Coast, Dayvid said he followed his love to Humboldt State University six years ago. After marrying, he worked his way into the music scene gigging at bars around the county, which paved the way to performing at weddings. Most of the couples who’ve booked him have seen him play during his regular performances in Arcata or Eureka, or else they’ve heard him at another wedding.

Typically, that means playing guitar. “It tends to set the right mood because I can ramp up the energy and play dancing music, or I could do a really quiet intimate piece,” Dayvid said.

His latest solo wedding performance was at the Lost Whale Inn, which Dayvid said is among his favorite places to play for a wedding because of the ocean view. Although he mostly plays guitar, Dayvid said he had the opportunity to have some fun with the inn’s piano during a dinner toast.

Depending on how large the audience is, Dayvid might bring a single amplifier that can be set up with little space, which is good news for an intimate wedding. Dayvid said his “sweet spot” to play is about 30 to 40 audience members, which lets him play loud enough without being overbearing.

“One thing I make sure to say to everyone I play for is ‘thank you so much for including me in this part of your life, on this day.’ I think foremost, it’s an honor to be able to help people build that perfect setting for their wedding,” Dayvid said. “When my wife and I were planning our wedding, we put all this forethought and all this planning, and all this emotional energy into getting everything just the way we wanted it. And so, for me, it's an honor to be selected.”
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Sam Armanino

Sam Armanino

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