Photo courtesy of Clarence Crowell of Fret 12

Every morning, Daniel Tremonti sees the same three words written in chalk on the wall of his home gym. The words remind him who he is at his core.

Be an artist.

The 51-year-old Evanston resident has always been a creative at heart. Born in Detroit, he excelled in his art classes in high school but was unsure what path to take post-graduation. When his graphic design teacher overheard him telling someone his plans to join the Marines, she pleaded with him to pursue his passion instead.

“There's no way you're going in the Marines,” Tremonti remembers her saying. “You're too talented as a designer.”

Courtesy of Clarence Crowell of Fret 12

Tremonti never joined the Marines. With the help of his teacher, he received a scholarship to attend the Center of Creative Studies in Detroit, and never looked back. Now, his creativity has blossomed into more than just a passion – it has become his livelihood. Since launching his own marketing firm Core Twelve, Tremonti has applied his artistic vision to some of the biggest brands in the world.

Tremonti’s uncle, Tom Stanley, inspired Tremonti to start his own company. Tremonti was working at a small design agency in Florida when Stanley, a Chicago-area banker, asked to see a portfolio of his work. Stanley was impressed, and he asked Tremonti to come to Chicago to found an agency together.

Stanley convinced Tremonti to take the leap of faith, and in 1998, Tremonti packed up his car and ventured to Chicago to embark on a new chapter. He left Florida with no clients, but through a friend, he landed a massive name in the automotive industry – Mercedes Benz.

Now, after 25 years, Core Twelve’s list of clients is impressive. It includes car brands such as Ferrari and Porsche, world-famous shoe and clothing brand Nike, and well-known real estate such as the Willis Tower in Chicago and the World Trade Center in New York City.

“Whatever we're doing, we bring a fresh kind of perspective to the market,” Tremonti said.

Tremonti’s proudest project with Core Twelve has been his marketing work behind rebuilding the business presence at the World Trade Center in New York City. When Tremonti initially received the phone call about ten years ago, he couldn’t believe it. Before he knew it, he and Core Twelve were pitching their vision to renowned business people Larry Silverstein and Mary Ann Tighe.

“We've been very, kind of, humbled and proud to even be part of working on it,” Tremonti said.

Another point of pride for Tremonti has been his creative work in the music industry. He has been immersed in the world of music most of his life through his brother, Mark, who rose to fame during the late 1990s and early 2000s as the lead guitarist of rock bands Creed, Alter Bridge and Tremonti. While his brother shredded guitar solos on stage, Daniel designed album covers, created advertisements and helped promote tours for Mark’s groups.  Through his work in the music industry, Daniel always enjoyed being behind the scenes.

“My favorite thing to do in life was always just hanging out with my brother and listening to him noodle on tunes that one day you heard on the radio,” he said.

Courtesy of Clarence Crowell of Fret 12

Tremonti’s appreciation for music led him to create Fret 12 – his own music brand and a subsidiary of Core Twelve. The idea began with Tremonti asking his guitar-hero brother a question.

“How come a guy like you never takes the time at the height of their career to stop and tell your story, share your techniques and really shed some light for aspiring musicians on really practical knowledge of the industry?” Tremonti asked.

This led the brothers to create a video series focused on telling stories and teaching through music. Called “The Sound in the Story,” the series started with Tremonti’s brother, and went on to include Jim Root from Slipknot, Leslie West from Mountain and Stephen Carpenter from the Deftones.

Through time, Fret 12 has evolved into a small record label, an instructional guitar video service, and most recently, a shop connected to up-and-coming concert venue The Salt Shed Chicago.

“We like, kind of, the intrigue that's created by the brand,” Tremonti said. “It's not too on-the-nose. It might even be confusing to some people – like, ‘what is this?’”

Tremonti secured the shop’s Salt Shed location thanks to his business relationship with a fellow Evanstonian – Craig Golden, the founder and president of Blue Star Properties. The two aligned years ago, with Tremonti doing the branding behind two of Golden’s prominent Evanston properties: Union Pizzeria and concert venue Evanston Space.

As Golden began exploring the unique idea of converting the abandoned Morton Salt factory into a state-of-the-art performance space, Tremonti saw the potential and secured a spot for Fret 12’s first shop.

“It was an awesome project; it was crazy that he was doing it,” Tremonti said. “I have always loved the off-the-beaten path stuff.”

Almost everything in the shop is Tremonti’s creation. He designed all the shop’s merchandise with friend and fellow creative Jeremy Blake, and hand-built many of the store’s fixtures to create a vintage atmosphere, using his old garage doors to create a display case and beat-up guitar cases for the store’s ottoman. Tremonti’s next-door neighbor Noah Goldstein remembers recognizing his neighbor’s repurposed garage door upon visiting Fret 12 at The Salt Shed.

“It was furnished into this beautiful cabinet, there were some LED displays,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Made with Flourish

Jacob Tremonti, Daniel’s son, recent Evanston Township High School graduate and incoming Penn State first-year, works at the Fret 12 shop and has seen his father’s creativity firsthand.

“He's definitely one of the hardest working people I've ever met,” he said “He just gets it done.”

From designing interiors for his music shop to marketing some of the biggest brands in the world, Daniel Tremonti brings an artistic flair to everything he does. Still, his uncle and business partner believes his greatest qualities go beyond creativity.

“Even though he has been in some of the biggest rooms in the country,” Stanley said, “he's the most grounded, empathetic, curious guy you could ever work with.”