Dovydas Mascinskas is a musician who goes by DØVYDAS.
At shows in Bradenton and Sarasota, Mascinskas sometimes plays to empty rooms. Other times, they might as well be empty.
“You come to a gig as a musician in this area and it’s four hours, it’s outdoors, it’s 85 degrees, it’s humid, it’s mosquitoes, no one cares, they’re drinking, no one claps and no one listens to your music,” Mascinskas said.
It can be a little disheartening.
That is, until he gets home. With a click of the “upload” button, Mascinskas shares video clips from his live shows and watches as the audience expands exponentially.
Mascinskas recently hit 227,000 followers on video sharing site YouTube.
His profile, under the name DØVYDAS, gets hundreds of new followers every day.
If they come for the music, they stay for the humor.
Mascinskas is not afraid to poke fun at himself or a situation.
The videos are often full of subtitles, cutaway scenes and unexpected quick edits.
“I take what I do very seriously. My music and craft and art. I do not take myself seriously at all,” Mascinskas said.
Crowd members often shout requests during shows. If Mascinskas has heard the song before, he will try to play it.
A camera attached to the headstock of his guitar captures the impromptu covers.
Some of the covers are true to the original, like a recent request for Johnny Cash.
Others take an experimental turn, like a thoughtful cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
A typical three- or four-hour set is mostly original material. The music of DØVYDAS is diverse, genre-bending and sometimes made up on the spot.
In addition to guitar and vocals, Mascinskas utilizes a drum pad, synthesizer and live looping to create a musical atmosphere.
Mascinskas often plays out with a band of talented local musicians. Saxophonist Allan Cook is one of the core members.
“I was driving across the Skyway Bridge one day and he called me and said, ‘Could you back me up this weekend?’ ” Cook said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I happen to be open that day.’ He said, ‘I understand you don’t have to practice.’ And I said, ‘No, I’ve got a pretty big ear.’ That’s how we met. We wound up playing at the Clam Factory that Saturday night.”
Cook has a lifetime of musical experience. He became a full-time traveling musician after high school, but, afraid of being a broke artist forever, he went to college for engineering and eventually founded his own company.
When Cook’s wife died 8 years ago, he decided it was time to play music again.
Cook describes himself as a hired gun who plays with all kinds of musicians, but Mascinskas stands out.
“David is different,” Cook said. “He’s extremely talented. I’ve never played with Prince, but it’s gotta be kind of that way.”
At a gig in Ybor City, Mascinskas once handed Cook a set list of 13 unfamiliar songs.
“We never know where he’s going to go,” Cook said. “It’s a blast.”
The other regular band members of DØVYDAS are Joe Bruno on bass and Sammy B. Warren on drums.
According to Cook, it is a rare combination of talent.
“We have rehearsed virtually nothing, we create on stage, and each guy in this band is able to zone,” Cook said. “What I call zoning is when your head is so deep in the music that you’re not on stage, you’re in the song. All four of us zone together, which truthfully I’ve never experienced with any band before.”
Cook has also witnessed Mascinskas’ sound grow and develop in the years since they started playing together.
Mascinskas is originally from Lithuania. He started playing guitar at age 14, inspired by blues and early rock and roll legends such as Ray Charles, The Beatles and Johnny Cash.
“I just heard those songs and I wanted to do that,” Mascinskas said. “That hobby phase went away really fast when I realized that there was nothing else that I wanted to be doing.”
With a practice regimen of four hours a day, it did not take long for him to catch on. He attended school to study drums (guitar was not offered) and learned music theory.
At age 17, Mascinskas appeared on Lithuanian talent shows “Talentu Ringas,” (which translates to “Rings of Talent”) and “Lithuania’s Got Talent.”
At the time, he went by David Smash; his first name, Dovydas, is the Lithuanian version of David, and the moniker had a similar ring to one one his favorite musicians, Johnny Cash.
Mascinskas became semi-famous in his home country, but he still could not secure a recording deal that he was happy with. Record labels in Lithuania would only take him on if he agreed to sing in Lithuanian, a move which would have limited the audience for his music to an area about the size of New Hampshire.
Around that time, blues musician Steve Arvey, a resident of Sarasota, was in Europe doing guitar demonstrations for Gibson. Mascinskas reached out to him on Myspace.
Arvey was impressed with Mascinskas’ talent and encouraged him to pursue music.
“Maybe jokingly, he said, ‘You should come to Sarasota area and play music with me,’ ” Mascinskas said. “I took him up on it.”
Mascinskas was 19.
Upon his arrival, Arvey loaned him a Stratocaster guitar to get started.
“I’m really proud of him,” Arvey said. “What he does is so much different than anybody else.”
In the U.S., Mascinskas expected to find people listening to Elvis, and maybe driving around in 1951 Cadillac El Dorados.
Instead, he found blues musicians playing to half empty bars.
Blues simply did not exist like he thought it would.
“Down here it’s more of a tiki bar situation,” Arvey said. “I was one of his guitar heroes and when he came to America one of the first places he saw me was a Kojack’s Rib House. I was working there Thursdays and singing songs about chicken and green beans. He thought that was so funny.”
For a while, Dovydas tried to work within the limits of the music scene.
He formed a band of talented local musicians, and they made it to the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge in 2016 and 2017.
But something did not feel right. Mascinskas says the judges were not open to innovation.
“I really got to see the current state of the blues music industry,” Mascinskas said. “I thought it was going to be like Joe Bonamassa or John Lee Hooker packing huge arenas, but no, it’s not. It’s like a person in the intensive care unit.”
“We weren’t blues enough for them so we couldn’t win,” Cook said.
Mascinskas, now 25, recently arrived at a new conclusion. Guitar-based music has not fallen off of the pop charts because people don’t like guitar, but because guitar players have stopped innovating.
“For example, take synthesizer and the spectrum of variables in frequency,” Mascinskas said. “It’s sort of like ear candy. Whereas guitar basically has the same circuitry as it had in 1960. It’s not necessarily that you have to shred faster or play more intricate scales, but maybe just try to apply in a different way and think outside of the box.”
His new goal is to take his knack for blues and rock guitar and translate it into different kinds of music, whether it is electronic dance music, pop, experimental or hip-hop influenced.
“You can introduce a known craft but in a different light,” Mascinskas said.
Not everyone will like it, but Mascinskas says he’s not bothered by that.
Mascinskas points out that blues music was rebellious when it came on the scene.
“I like to draw this parallel to people. Some may disagree, but I’m dedicating my lifetime to this and I believe what I’m saying,” Mascinskas said. “Contemporary hip-hop has more in common with 1950s blues performers than 2018 blues tribute bands do. It used to be rebellious to be a blues man. They even had made up names like the hip-hop artists of today.”
Mascinskas compares hip-hop monikers like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and Jay Z to blues monikers like Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf.
“At the time blues was where the young people would go to night clubs and dance and have a good time while that music was playing,” Mascinskas said. “It was dangerous from the point of view of parents and grandparents. That’s what drives the culture.”
Mascinskas recently recorded an album in Nashville that reflects his new philosophy.
Think Post Malone and Lady Gaga, Mascinskas says, but with tons of electric guitar and blues rock vocals.
The album is currently being mixed and mastered.
If it does well, Mascinskas hopes to take the next step in his musical career and move to Los Angeles.
For now, you can catch him at local shows in Bradenton and Sarasota.
Mascinskas says he has come to enjoy the chance to improvise and have fun with a live audience.
“You have to make a conscious decision,” Mascinskas said. “Am I going to play these four hours and complain to myself about how I’d rather be doing something else? Or am I going to change my mentality and actually have fun with it? I make jokes, laugh at myself, laugh at the situation and try to get my head into the most creative state of mind possible so that I can come up with music and improvisational instrumental soundscaspes. And maybe somebody will listen.”
On YouTube, the world is listening, watching and giving DØVYDAS a thumbs up.