Dave Givan has wanted to be a touring musician since he was 7 years old, give or take a couple years, but his path ultimately took him in another direction: He became a husband, father and only an occasional drummer.
Until now. Givan has realized his dream, and done it one better. He’s on the road with one of his best friends, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, as James tours to promote a solo album while MMJ is on hiatus.
They’ve already completed a few shows, including one with The Flaming Lips in front of 10,000 people at a festival in Texas, and the tour officially kicks off Wednesday in Louisville at the Brown Theatre. It continues for 20 more dates, culminating in July at the Newport Folk Festival.
But don’t call it a comeback. Givan might be more than a dozen years removed from his last working band, but he’s never had that moment where he fully let go and moved on.
“There are lots of people that tried to get me to have that moment, but no, I never had that moment,” said the notoriously dry Givan, 34. “I still haven’t, I don’t think.”
Givan began air-drumming at age 7 and built his own, admittedly “pathetic,” drum set at 11. By 13, he finally had a real kit, practiced for hours daily, and was already thinking about starting a band.
While in middle school, he got together with buddies Aaron Todovich, Ben Blandford and James, who was still going by his real name, Olliges. They went through a couple of names, including the regrettable Chains of My Own, before settling on Month of Sundays.
Month of Sundays had a run of around five years, but never quite took off. It was not a lark, however, and cemented Givan’s desire to play music for a living. “Oh, we were serious,” Givan said. “We would have died for it. We were ready to take it all the way.”
But the band played itself out. James moved on and started My Morning Jacket in 1998 while Givan and Blandford hooked up with Patrick and Chris Hallahan to start Panure. When Patrick Hallahan later joined My Morning Jacket, Givan, Blandford and Chris Hallahan moved to Baltimore in 2001. They began a short-lived band called Insects, and Givan ran a recording studio, where he specialized in hip-hop.
My Morning Jacket, meanwhile, went on to international success.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Givan said about parting ways with James. “I think we both followed the path that we were supposed to follow. I was definitely proud of him, more on the positive side than negative. Those guys are like family to me. I grew up with them, so of course I’m proud of them.”
In 2008, Givan and his wife, Chrissy, moved back to Louisville and started a family (Nora is 3 and John, 1). Chrissy, director of orchestras at Iroquois High School, helped Givan stay sharp by recruiting him to play shows with her students.
He built another studio in his home, worked as a DJ around town and always made time to drum.
“I was always doing music and never took anything else as seriously,” Givan said. “All of the jobs that I worked, and there were a slew of them, they were just to pay bills. There were lots of gas stations and bars, but I always played music.”
When James began working on his solo album a few years ago, he needed a drummer. He and Givan had remained close — they co-host a weekly radio show on WFPK (91.9-FM) called “Sir Microcosm” — but it had been nearly 14 years since they had worked together in Month of Sundays.
“There’s a chemistry there that I don’t think will ever go away,” Givan said. “It felt comfortable.”
“I love Dave,” James said. “He’s my friend and a hell of a drummer.”
Givan contributed to eight tracks on “Regions of Light and Sound of God,” which was released in February, and again got the call when a tour was planned, joining fellow Louisvillian Kevin Ratterman, who plays keyboards and guitar. Givan wasn’t expecting the job, but he “wasn’t surprised, because nothing Jim does really surprises me,” he said. “I was definitely honored.”
So far, the rock star life has mostly meant work, sleep, travel and shows that go by in a blur, Givan said. Being separated from his family has been a hardship, and scoring child care has been an issue, but Givan said that Chrissy understands that he’s living one of his dreams. She’ll get to see him do so Wednesday, along with a few dozen more family and friends.
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m thinking about doing my job. I’m a drummer, and I’m just charged to be playing drums again.”