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BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire

The Drinkwater Brothers want it all. John and Matthew have always wanted it all, and have never seen any reason why they shouldn't go for it all. Growing up on Long Island, their time in school was riddled by people telling them that they could not pursue their interests in performing and sports because there was no possible way to succeed at either unless their focus was absolute. Asking themselves and each other why they should conform to the standards, they decided that they should be true to themselves and not only pursue both areas of their passions, they would do it with a vengeance. Now 22, the Drinkwaters are accomplished performers who act, sing, dance, play a variety of instruments, and write songs. They are also well-rounded athletes who have played baseball, basketball, golf and, most notably, football, and always with the encouragement of parents who told them "You can do both of these things until you no longer have the talent to succeed at the next level." Always believing that they could, they did.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireJohn, the younger of the twins, was always destined for a life in show business, landing on his elementary school stage while in Kindergarten, performing "I Feel Good" in the school talent show. Ever supportive of his brother, Matthew joined him on stage and together, The Drinkwaters' music act was born. Their parents being music-lovers whose musical tastes filled their home, Mom spotted the joy that the singing brought her children and put them on a stage every chance she could, for no other reason than the fact that it brought them joy, and by the age of 8 the brothers were acting in the play "Honk Jr." at a local theater. At the news that his character, Drake the Duck, performed the opening number of the play, John said, "Someone take a star and put it on my forehead." It was the more laid-back Matthew who scored the Eleven O'Clock number and when the experience of "Honk Jr." was over, the writing was on the wall: both Drinkwater boys had been captivated by the theater. Two young boys standing out as such strong individuals rather than lemmings didn't always go over well with school kids, and the Drinkwaters found themselves ostracized, sometimes by students, sometimes by teachers. At one point the harassment was so bad that children aware of Matt and John's severe nut allergy would chase them on the playground with peanut butter cups. Mom and Dad Drinkwater pulled the boys immediately and they were homeschooled for two years, traveling to other cities to visit museums and learn about life, art, and culture, returning to school for the 8th grade because they wanted to play football and act in school plays, by which time the school kids had grown up, had missed them, and really wanted their sports skills. The wacky Drinkwater boys were back and they were welcome, especially by English Teacher Luke Conti, who acted as a driving force for the boys by continually inspiring them to reach further for their dreams.BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire

Growing up the only performers in a family full of music aficionados, the brothers tended toward cast albums like Oliver!, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera, preferring to sing only the show music they heard at their Grandfather's house. After a few years of this exclusivity, their ears and attention were caught by Dad's car mix CD and the sounds of Janis Joplin and Maroon Five. Their tastes broadening, John and Matthew found that they had an uncanny ability to replicate various sounds and styles with their voices, and the two prodigies, without benefit of a single voice lesson, found themselves singing anything that struck their fancy, a gift that would travel with them all the way through High School and into college, where a voice teacher derided their talent at mimicry, until the day he decided that it was a benefit to the brothers and changed his tune. It was, in fact, in college that Matthew and John took all the energy they had spent performing while growing up and, with laser focus, applied it to their study of the arts, learning tried-and-true singing techniques, and how to play the myriad of instruments that they now use in their acts. Each brother threw himself into different roles in school plays, sometimes working together on projects and other times splitting up: "We've always been open to doing different things. We've done different shows, especially at school. We've gone to different places on different trips and things like that." While at Wagner College the Drinkwaters encountered many notable artists along the way who had encouragement and advice for them. A visiting Maury Yeston told Matthew, after his performance as Guido Contini in NINE, that the key to the character is his charm, which Drinkwater had in the extreme (a compliment paid to both brothers on a regular basis). Their teachers Amy Beth Williams, Theresa McCarthy, and Michelle Pawk encouraged them to take the originality that flowed from them in their work and venture into the world of cabaret, a world previously unknown to the men, and John Capo, a booking manager from The Duplex, picking them out of a cast of thousands in TITANIC, offered them a time slot in his club if they had a show. IF they had a show? If they didn't have a show, the Drinkwaters put one together quick as a wink and, before they knew it, they had played The Duplex, Don't Tell Mama, and The Green Room 42, but their big break came at Birdland, by way of a casual, urgent email from Jim Caruso.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireAfter appearing at Jim Caruso's Cast Party some six or seven times, Matthew and John had developed a professional friendship with Birdland's Host with the Most, who, when not onstage, books acts into the club. A last-minute cancellation left Caruso with no act in The Birdland Theater, and the days counting down to the show nine days away. An offer on the table and The Drinkwater Brothers always at the ready, their names and photos went onto the Birdland calendar and John and Matthew spent the week fine-tuning what would be their most ambitious cabaret act, to be ready for their Birdland debut, a magnificent one that caught the attention of many within the cabaret community. That was August 21st and, since then, The Drinkwater Brothers have played their show in other clubs, appeared in group shows for Scott Siegel and other impresarios, done The Lineup With Susie Mosher, taken roles in the Grand Hotel Anniversary Concert, and been flown out of town to perform, as well as mounting their own sold-out Christmas show, being nominated for Broadway World and Bistro Awards, and they have just been nominated for a MAC Award.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireAugust 21st was 188 days ago. The day of that Birdland concert is the day that the brothers say their career in cabaret really started, even though they had been seen around town before that. Six months is all it took for The Drinkwater Brothers to be a known commodity around town, and they are adored by all, and not just for the charm for which Maury Yeston praised Matthew, that both brothers have. The secret to their success lies in a perfect combination of exemplary talent and humility. The Drinkwaters are both polite, honorable gentlemen who sing like rock stars and act like the boy next door. Attributing their growing vocal skills to their voice teacher, Alan Dornak, Matt and John acknowledge him as the professional who also told them that their ability with many different styles was not only ok, it was a benefit to their work. Taking that advice in hand, the brothers have tested different formats with their act, going for a more traditional structure but finding it to go play against their strengths, finally lighting on a more casual, laid-back style that, they have been told, "I love your shows because it's just like I'm hanging out with you guys and then you're playing music while we're all hanging out," - and that format has been a leading component in the success of each of their shows this year, indeed it seems to be their trademark, with John and Matt playfully egging one another on, both with tongue planted, firmly, in cheek, as they serenade audiences with music created in manners that best suit their voices and personalities as different as football and musical theater.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireNow retired from sports, Matthew and John Drinkwater are working, solely, at their careers as performers, though they express gratitude over the duality of growing up with time divided between their two loves of sports and the arts. "I always said that the theater was a great break from the sport and the sport was a great break from the theater," offers John, who insists that the brothers both "always learned lessons in playing different sports that we take into the theater and we always learned lessons in the theater that we take into the sport." Owning that basketball was their worst sport because it was just something they did to stay in shape during the off-season, the twins are firm with the idea that they were never umbilically attached. "We're not that kind of way, especially as twins, you know, some twins are the kind of way that they're always doing the same thing," says Matthew, while John contributes, "We don't seek out doing the same things, our lives have just always led us to doing similar," adding that, after getting to know them a little, Jim Caruso pulled the brothers aside one day to praise them for not letting the "twin thing" be their gimmick, that some twins do and that they don't need it. Yes, they are twins, no they do not have twin telepathy, and they don't lead with their status as twins: they are Matthew and John, The Drinkwater Brothers. The times when being twins has been beneficial have been work-related (child labor laws, don't you know) or sports-related (once, when Matthew had the lead in a play, John took his place on the football field) - the rest of the time they are content for their twin-ship to be something that informs their friendship and their work on stage, while they pursue their individual interests.

No strangers to hard work, the Drinkwaters continue to live with their parents so that they can put all of the money they make singing back into their careers, and there is hardly a day that passes when they are not in active pursuit of their dream, be it rehearsing, auditioning, or writing songs, a talent that came to them as an afterthought when a famous producer saw them perform at Cast Party and suggested that, if they had any original songs, he would like to record them. On the spot and simultaneously, the brothers (who really don't have twin telepathy) replied "Yes, we have original songs!" and during the next five days, they wrote one song each every day, a collection they presented to Glen Roven, who continued to insist that they record together. After a lunch-hour recording session during which Roven and The Drinkwaters recorded some demos, things looked promising, but weeks later, on his Facebook page, they saw an announcement that their new friend and potential mentor had expired suddenly. Filled with sadness for the death of their friend but inspired by his belief in them, Matthew and John took their ten new songs into the recording studio and recorded their first album "Do Not Feed The Birds" and, with that, The Drinkwater Brothers became singer-songwriters.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireJohn and Matthew Drinkwater are always up for a challenge, always ready to try something new, always excited for the next leg of their journey, though, whatever comes next, they are focused on making their art authentic to who they are, as men and as artists; and the snowball effect that is currently informing their career features many people like Glen Roven, Amy Beth Williams, Jim Caruso, Michael Portantiere, and that first booking agent from The Duplex who saw something in them and thought there was something there in which to believe, something to nurture. The hardworking pair of brothers isn't slowing down any time soon, but they certainly do appreciate the generosity of the mentors who want to help them succeed, and they will succeed, on their own or with a little help from their friends. At the end of the day, The Drinkwater Brothers will, indeed, have it all.

And they will deserve it because they will have earned it.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire
John: It's weird to say but we've always been underdogs...and I like that and I never don't want to be the underdog, you know what I mean? Even some of the success that we've had so far feels weird."

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FireMatthew: It always feels like you're waiting for the next drop, which I guess is life - that's how life goes. But we've gotten to learn that lesson a lot, so far in our early years -- it's been a rollercoaster for sure.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire

John: I think we both have good sense for what makes something good. We know right away if we're, singing a song, writing music, playing a set. We have an unspoken connection on if it's working or not. We've always been on the same wavelength in that way. We can just kind of feel the same way about things even if we can't express in words exactly what it is.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By Fire

Matthew: I think that the biggest difference between me and my brother is that I am much more programmed to think things out, take a second and kind of think it through with myself and then act, and John is a little bit more ready to just throw it out there. There's less of a filter on him.

BWW Feature: The Drinkwater Brothers - Baptized By FirePhotos by Stephen Mosher


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