As 2015 came to an end, Lyle Divinsky's immediate future was pretty well mapped out. He was releasing a solo album, “Uneven Floors,” and getting ready to hit the road to promote the new music.
That all changed when Divinsky was contacted by The Motet, a funk band that suddenly found itself in need of a new lead singer. Even though “Uneven Floors” was making some noise behind a top soul music single in the United Kingdom, it didn’t take Divinsky any time to change his plans and find out if he was the right fit for The Motet.
“It was pretty funny timing,” Divinsky says in a phone interview. “I had just put the record out. I had actually started to get some love from over in the U.K. and Japan about ‘Uneven Floors.’ I was just about to click send, trying to book a bunch of stuff. I was running my own thing, like managing myself. So it was a lot of work, and then The Motet opportunity came around.”
The Motet represents a significant step up on a career level for the singer. The only initial issue for Divinsky was whether he could continue to do solo and side projects if he were to become The Motet’s new singer. And that concern was alleviated immediately.
"It was kind of a no-brainer to me,” the singer says. “I know a lot of the guys in the band also have little side and solo projects that they pursue. I talked to them, making sure I would still be able to do something like that as well. I definitely want to keep that going.”
With career considerations out of the way, the main question to answer was a musical one. The Motet was recording its seventh studio album, “Totem,” and had essentially completed basic tracks for the songs. The group needed lyrics and vocal melodies for some songs and wanted to improve on the lyrics and some of the completed melodie.
So to test their musical chemistry with Divinsky, the group sent him the instrumental tracks for “The Truth,” a song that looked destined for the scrap heap in its lyric-less form.
Divinsky transformed the song and was soon meeting with the rest of the band for rehearsal. After an initial run of shows in early 2016, the singer became an official member of The Motet.
It makes sense that Divinsky is a good fit for the funk-centric group. He grew up in Portland, Maine as a fan of funk and soul music — courtesy of his father, an exceptional singer and big fan of those genres.
Divinsky attended Skidmore College near Saratoga Springs, New York, and around 2009 moved to New York City to pursue music. He paid his dues: scraping around for gigs at night, playing solo in the subway tunnels of the "Big Apple" during the days. He discovered that he could actually make more money in tips in the subways than he could with club dates with his band. So he often used the subway tips to pay his band members.
It was slow progress to be sure, and his fortunes got a boost when he was chosen for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Abe Olman Scholarship award.
"I had been playing in New York for about four years at that point,” Divinsky says. “They gave me some money to spend toward music. I got to take some trips and learn about a bunch of music and get myself a little bit of gear so I could keep on doing the thing.”
Eventually all roads led to the release of the “Uneven Floors” solo album and the chance to join The Motet and help finish its “Totem” album. The spirited, soulful and richly funky tunes such as “The Truth,” “Fool No More” and “I Know It Too Well” give every indication that the current lineup of Divinsky, new sax player Drew Sayers and holdover members Dave Watts (drums), Joey Porter (keyboards), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Gabriel Mervine (trumpet) and Garrett Sayers (bass) is set to make its best music yet.
Divinsky says fans who see the Motet this winter will experience a group that's developed considerably as a live unit during its time touring together.
"We’ve learned so much from each other as we go,” the singer says. “Every night’s a conversation and every night you get to learn a little bit more about each other’s playing and where the songs want to go and how we want to kind of morph things to best suit us and best inspire us. I think we’re getting to the point where it’s just become like we don’t have to think about it nearly as much. When you’re able to just be in the moment with each other, then that’s when the special moments happen. I think where we’re at and what we’re getting into, those special moments are just coming more and more frequently because of that.”