He scarcely could find it on a map, much less ever imagine finding it advancing his career.
But Columbus native and pop-rock-alternative singer David McMillin fell in love with Lithuania and its people after its people fell in love with him and his band, Fort Frances. The trio was invited to perform at that nation’s large Loftas Fest in August after one of its lark-inspired videos garnered more than one million hits — mostly from the Baltic European nation.
“I had no idea what to expect,” the 31-year-old lead singer and guitarist said.
What he, bassist Jeff Piper and drummer Aaron Kaiser found were 3,500 fans waiting for their set. This came after a live appearance on the country’s televised “Good Morning Lithuania.” Another 1,000 attended a hastily scheduled concert days later in a nearby city.
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The Chicago-based band brings that element of global fame to an appearance April 22 at the Hi-Fi in Indianapolis, the closest the group has been to Columbus for a while.
McMillin was certain during a recent phone conversation that the trio would include material from its new disc, “Alio,” meaning “hello” in Luthuanian. But he didn’t mention whether members’ creative, bluesy cover of the 1991 Will Smith tune “Summertime” would be part of the mix.
That song, set to a lighthearted, backyard basketball video with the boys in the band, is what inexplicably generated more than a million YouTube hits, mostly from music fans in Lithuania, which garnered Fort Frances an invitation and all-expenses-paid trip to the Loftas Fest alongside artists nominated for the United Kingdom equivalent of a Grammy.
“We somehow built a fan base there without even realizing it,” said McMillin, a 2002 Columbus North High School graduate.
McMillin’s success includes landing tunes for shows broadcast on PBS, NBC and other networks. His group’s new song, “Days Get Heavy,” recently has been a part of the European Champions Soccer League telecast intro.
On the new release, you play trumpet — the very instrument you grew to dislike in high school?
When we tour, we sometimes hire a horn section. Now I wish I never had quit trumpet. Horns definitely lend kind of a nice surprise.
How do you feel about the online community for emerging musicians and bands?
Well, the Lithuania thing never could have happened 10 years ago. It barely existed then.
What do you make of new artists struggling in a market filled with illegal music downloads these days?
It would be really easy to get all hung up and frustrated by the fact that not everyone is paying their $10 to have our record on their computer or device. But the reality is simply that people just aren’t consuming music quite that way anymore.
You went solo on the road right after college at DePauw University. What’s your advice to young, upstart musicians these days?
Most of my advice is really about consistent patience and persistence. The TV singing shows are such an unreal way of building a career. The music business on that level is like playing the lottery. In order to succeed at all, you’ve got to strike gold.
People have asked me, ‘Haven’t you ever thought about going on ‘The Voice’? And the honest answer is that no, I haven’t at all. No one is built to be an instant success on stage.
Who: Pop-rock-alternative trio Fort Frances, with Columbus native David McMillin as lead singer and guitarist, performing.
When: 8 p.m. April 22.
Where: Hi-Fi, 1043 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis.