Brian Whelan was one of the very first guests on Independent’s Day, stopping by our studios for the second episode way back on March 9th, 2011. At the time, he was making the rounds in a number of Los Angeles bands and building a reputation as a formidable player on a number of instruments. That reputation put his name on the short list of players being considered for a vacancy in maverick country legend Dwight Yoakam’s band. Yoakam needed a versatile musician who could sing harmonies and cover parts on several instruments, including keyboards, accordion, guitar and pedal steel guitar. But Whelan had never really played the latter, a complicated beast of an instrument that requires all four of a pedal steel player’s arms and legs to make its characteristically weepy and lonesome sound. Yoakam met with Whelan and asked the younger musician if he thought he could learn how to play pedal steel for the gig. Whelan wisely replied, “Yes,” and in doing so, he stepped into the role of a full-time member of Yoakam’s band that would find him playing years of top-tier shows and recording on two of Yoakam’s albums. Whelan, who used to be called “The Kid” in Los Angeles music circles, summarily skipped a few grades and got paid to earn what is tantamount to a PhD in real-world music by apprenticing with one of the masters of modern country and western music. And now, after four years, Whelan has taken the courageous steps to leave Yoakam’s band and strike out on his own. After all, no matter how good the gig is, your name will never be on the marquee if the spotlight is always on the other guy.