The band that Sequim built

— image credit:
Sequim Gazette

Through their rising fame on the television show “X-Factor,” the members of Emblem3 — Drew Chadwick and Keaton and Wesley Stromberg — give Sequim its due.


“We want to inspire other kids, especially in Sequim, to find their passion and go for it 100 percent,” Wesley Stromberg writes via e-mail.


“We left our home up there, and it was hard, but now the hard work is paying off. One of my favorite quotes is: ‘If you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’”


Their hard work is coming to fruition on the show as they perform at 8 p.m. today, Dec. 12, on Q13 FOX for a chance to go to the finals on Dec. 19 and 20, competing for a $5 million first prize. Viewers can vote on their cell phones by calling or texting and online as well.


If the band makes it into the top three, “X-Factor” may broadcast live to Sequim from the finals.


Already the talk of the town, their notoriety is carrying over to family in Sequim.


The Strombergs’ grandparents, Bob and Deonne Hanson, said people talk to them daily about their grandsons.


Recently, a family friend recognized Deonne in a store, and when she began asking about Emblem3, other people’s interest was piqued and they began to gather.


“You’re the grandma of Emblem3!” Deonne said one woman told her.


Deonne enjoys people’s excitement and she and other family members are just as eager to watch the singing competition every Wednesday and Thursday night. They don’t vote, but their granddaughter Brooke, the Strombergs’ sister, votes on her phone next to them.


“Most people here watch but they don’t vote,” she said of Sequim. “Older people just aren’t going to do that.”


The Hansons are diehard jazz fans and find themselves drawn to Emblem3 on “X-Factor.”


“The amazing thing is that their music is young, energetic and their music is appealing even for me,” Bob Hanson said.


“I try to watch them objectively and they just seem to be happier than the others.”


Deonne said the band is “gnashing their teeth to play their own songs on stage.”

Sequim serenade

The Hansons moved to Sequim 15 years ago after retiring from Southern California; their daughter Laraine Larson and her children moved shortly after them. At the time Wesley was 3 and Keaton celebrated his first birthday soon after moving. They lived at their grandparents’ home for six years.


Bob said they took their grandchildren on trips all over the area and their house was full of activity and lively racket.


On drives to school, they’d play jazz music, which Deonne and Bob believe helped the boys learn harmony.


They were in choir in Sequim High School and performed in Sequim Community Church programs.


What Deonne is most proud of is that Wesley and Chadwick’s former band, American Scholars, played a benefit  in an effort to create a Washington license plate that benefits local schools.


“Five years later I have it on my car,” she said.


The happy grandparents find it humorous that the boys say they want to buy their house at some point to keep it as a retreat and recording studio.


“When (Keaton) stops dreaming he’ll realize he won’t want to come back to Sequim,” Bob said.


Both the Strombergs are appreciative of their grandparents’ efforts for them.


“They mean everything to me and have been the biggest supporters for our music,” Keaton said. “We miss you and look forward to seeing you at Christmas.”


“I love Grandma and Grandpa,” Wesley said. “We lived with them when we were little and they were the best, always coming to our concerts and sitting out in the cold for our soccer and football games. They taught me how to be generous.”


Bob said his grandsons are staying grounded through their young music career.


“It hasn’t gone to their heads at all,” he said.

Mom’s perspectives

The Strombergs’ mom, Laraine Larson, said she speaks with them often about keeping their heads right.

“Since they were young, I told them they have a gift that’s beyond them,” Larson said. “God gave them this gift and to share it with the world.”


She said they receive hundreds and sometimes thousands of fan mail postings a day from people from all walks of life, such as children in the hospital and couples going through a divorce.


“(Their) music has been given to other people to heal broken hearts,” Larson said. “It’s not about being pop stars.”


Chadwick’s mom Kristy Sallee believes her son always has been down-to-earth.


He was born in Port Angeles and moved to Sequim when he was 2 after living in a cabin in the Joyce area. Sallee and Mike Chadwick divorced when their son was 2½. She said made ends meet working a $6-an-hour job, washing cloth diapers in the bathtub and driving a car she had to push to start.


“He’s grown to enjoy the simple things out of life,” Sallee said. “That comes through in his music. It’s not about money but who you are.”


Chadwick learned guitar from his mom, who bought him a guitar at age 10. Sallee said he carried it everywhere until an emotional moment when he smashed it during an American Scholars’ set in Seattle.

Music is in his blood and consumed most of his high school time, she said.


Chadwick and Wesley Stromberg bonded over skateboarding and music early on and eventually started a band together.


“When he wasn’t with me, he was hanging out with Wes and Keaton or they came over here,” Sallee said.

Sallee eventually went back to school to become radiology technologist and during that time Chadwick lived with his dad. When she completed her education, Sallee moved back from Wenatchee and Chadwick had a choice between going to Arizona with his dad, staying in Sequim or going to California to pursue music.


After the Strombergs moved to California, Chadwick followed suit. Thus Emblem3 was born.


Sallee says on Wednesdays and Thursdays she is constantly thinking about the band going on “X-Factor” but still believes the whole idea of her son on television is a lot to take in.


“I’m still not really believing it,” she said.


But she does know her son will be able to stand tall.


“He’s really into a clean mind, clean spirit. He sees depth in people,” Sallee said.


“I don’t believe he would be a snobby Hollywood person.”


Along with Emblem3, Chadwick is working on Twitter to trend a movement called #TeamInspire.


“We’re going to change the world one mind at a time,” he writes.

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