Dan Monea can’t remember his life without music.
Monea, the vocalist, guitarist and chief songwriter for the popular Canton-based trio, Hey Monea, started playing the piano at the age of 3.
While his parents weren’t performers, they always had music on, Monea recalls. His uncles and grandparents were all musicians.
Monea was about 15 years old when he started playing guitar. It was a classical acoustic guitar that his dad bought him from a Hartville nun’s garage sale. A year later, Monea asked for an electric guitar.
“That kind of changed everything for me,” said Monea, who had become obsessed with the guitar-driven rock music of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Van Halen and Metallica. “… I had an ear for music, so the guitar came naturally for me. Plus, girls like the guitar. I wasn’t particularly cool until I figured out that I was good at guitar.”
While Monea and his younger brother, Nate, grew up playing blues and classic-rock tunes as a duo, they formed their first band when Dan Monea was roughly 16. The brothers and a friend called their punk rock and rockabilly trio “Stomp Box.” Dozens of band iterations and names followed.
After high school, Monea worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse while continuing to play music on the side.
“As much as I enjoyed being an LPN, I found myself continually being drawn to music,” Monea recalled. “I went to full-time music and part-time nursing when I was 21.”
By that time, he was a regular in the band, Hooked On Tonics. They had released their first record and were having some success with their live shows.
In 2010, when Hooked On Tonics, which now included Nate, was ready to release a second record, they decided to change the band’s name.
“Hooked On Tonics sounded like a bar band,” Monea said. “It was a little bit cheesy, and it’s also a play on words—Hooked on Phonics from the ’80s and ’90s—and no one knew that anymore, so the joke was lost on people at a certain point.”
After auditioning 10 potential names, from Rat Racer to The Gryphons, the pop-leaning rock music band settled on the name Hey Monea.
“Even in early adulthood, they always called us ‘Monea,’ never Dan or Nate, it was always ‘Hey Monea,’ ” he explained. “It was pretty natural.”
Since then, the band has played all over the world, including Hard Rock Calling in London, which was headlined by Bruce Springsteen and Lady Antebellum. Hey Monea also created an annual music fest in Canton, called the Little C Music Festival.
Nowadays, Dan, 36, who married longtime girlfriend Jessica in September, is working in the studio that he and Nate purchased in Canal Fulton. They’re working on Hey Monea’s next record as well as writing jingles and background music for commercials. The band—Dan on guitar, piano and vocals, Nate on percussion and vocals and Steve Fernandez on bass—will be back on tour in January.
Monea’s Local Picks:
Most admired local CEO or business owner:
“There’s so many, but one I really admire is Josh Brewer from The Auricle. His commitment to the live music experience in Canton is unsurpassed. Both from the perspective of the bands and the audience, he consistently puts a very high quality product into the community.”
Favorite date night:
“A bottle of wine and an intimate, delicious dinner at Fronimo’s Downtown. Then a game of skee-ball and a High Life at Buzzbin Arcade.”
Favorite place to shop:
Arrowhead Vintage & Handmade Goods. “You never have any idea what you’re going to find there. Vintage clothes, retro decor, records, toys. Dave and Melissa do an awesome job curating a truly unique shopping experience.”
Favorite lunch spot:
Basil Asian Bistro. “The menu is huge, and every dish is amazing. My favorites are the pad Thai and the massaman curry. But the spicy scallop roll is also a must try.”
Most memorable spot:
“I love being in the center of downtown (Canton). Surrounded by sculptures, murals, music, food, coffee, shops, galleries—put me right in the middle and turn me loose!”
Favorite drink spot:
“George’s Lounge is my absolute favorite watering hole. The staff is like family, the drinks are cheap, the burgers are amazing and the atmosphere is classic. And the jukebox is the perfect complement to all of it.”
Favorite local event:
“Little C Music Festival, of course. … I also LOVE Downtown Canton Flea, and I also really love First Friday in January. The ice sculptures, Froth Fest, all of it.”
Favorite place for kids:
“I don’t have any kids, but when I was a kid, I very fondly remember going to the Canton Palace for movies and musicals. Some of my absolute favorite childhood memories are there looking up at the indoor sky and watching something great with my family.”
Favorite coffee shop:
“Cultured Coffee & Waffles is tough to beat!”
“This is so tough. I have favorites in every category. But if I had to pick a ‘last meal,’ I think I would say Lucca. Although my favorite that I frequent the most is Eadies Fish House.”
Favorite thing to do:
“When I’m not performing at one of the amazing local music venues, my favorite thing to do is go fishing in the Nimisila Creek!”