Argentinian musician takes off

BY EVAN CLARK | MARCH 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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Diego Davidenko sits on his living room floor near the fireplace with his trusty companion Arvo, a 2-year-old Labrador-boxer mix, at his side. He plays the guitar and sings a song titled “I’m Waiting,” which he wrote after a late-night experience at a Perkins Restaurant & Bakery in New York, where he patiently waited over an hour for his waitress to serve him a cup of coffee.

The 31-year old recently completed his début solo album, which highlights his acoustic folk sound. And with a few local gigs lined up, Davidenko’s music career is taking off. Just only two months ago he made the decision to stop pursuing a Ph.D. in musical composition and focus on his music full time.

At the age of 9, Davidenko moved from Argentina to the United States, where his interest in music began after discovering his parents’ Beatles albums. This interest carried over to guitar and saxophone lessons in middle school. He continued to study music in college and earned a masters’ degree in musical composition at Syracuse University. He was enrolled at the University of Iowa to work toward a Ph.D. in composition until he had a change of heart.

“While I was getting my Ph.D., I realized that it requires me to immerse myself 100 percent into composing, and that was not allowing me to spend any time on my songwriting,” Davidenko said. “I wasn’t happy for that last semester of school, and I realized that songwriting is where my musical passion lies, and so I decided to leave school and give it a go.”

He has never looked back. He said his parents were worried and wondered what he would do for money, a concern he also took into consideration.

“I think my parents were worried that I was kind of losing direction, but both of them are completely supportive of me,” Davidenko said. “At this point, I’m completely going for it. I found a job that I know I can’t live off of, but I don’t think that for the moment I would be happy if I wasn’t doing this.”

When his brother Nick heard the news of his decision, he was confident that his younger brother was doing the right thing and had no doubt that he will succeed.

“I’m very supportive of Diego,” Nick Davidenko said. “I think his true love has always been writing and playing songs, and I think he found that classical composition really wasn’t the right direction for him. But now he’s doing what he loves full-time, and I’m a big fan.”

Drawing inspiration from Beck and the Beatles, Diego Davidenko performs under the name Almost Circle, and he writes songs about everyday experiences and observations. With song titles ranging from the brutally honest “Girls Don’t Like Me” to obscure soda reference “Loopy Limon,” anything is possible. This quirky aspect of his songwriting is something his former UI colleague Brian Penkrot finds quite refreshing.

“I think that there’s kind of a stereotype of folk music nowadays that it’s simply background music for coffeehouses,” Penkrot said. “But I think there’s a lot of honesty in what [Davidenko] writes, and his music is kind of a fresh prospective coming from that folk-music genre. I hope to see [Davidenko] succeed with his music career.”

Even if a career in music doesn’t work out for Davidenko, he said he’s not worried as he puts down his guitar and pats Arvo’s head.

“My decision to leave school is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about now,” Davidenko said. “I just know that music is what I need to do now. At the time, I had to think twice about the decision to leave school for this career, but I don’t regret it at all. I’m not sure what my goals are in music, except just to keep doing more of it.”

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