Here's an interview with David Dewese. David’s a Nashville based singer-songwriter who I met about seven years ago through our mutual friend, Jerry James (his bandmate in the Foxymorons). David recently released his first solo record, Make the Best Of It and it’s available via iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers. You can stream some tracks at his Myspace page. Even if you’re not familiar with David’s music, there’s some great info on Nashville in the interview, so hopefully we hold your interest…..
You Set the Scene: How are things in Nashville?
David Dewese: Cold. I’m not cut out for the cold.
YSTS: Me neither. What’s the temperature?
DD: 46 degrees.
YSTS: Ouch. Yeah, it’s warm here, but the air quality is terrible. The fires have been burning on all sides. We stayed in as much as possible this weekend.
DD: One of the sad annual events out there.
YSTS: Definitely. So two bands just wasn’t enough for you…what made you decide to release a solo record?
DD: It's definitely not one of those situations where I write too many songs. It was really based on the fact that I've been playing more and more solo acoustic shows. It was always awkward at the merch table explaining how all those rock band CDs spread across the table were actually me. I wanted to make an acoustic album that I could tour alone if I needed to and if someone bought an album at a show I wanted it to sound close to what they just listened to. It also just seemed like a good time. This is my ninth release and I needed to get one with my name on it.
YSTS: I know you and Jerry [the other half of the Foxymorons] live in different cities, but what’s the deal with the Luxury Liners? Is it just tougher to get them together for shows as you’ve gotten older?
DD: Yeah, that's another reason. Our bass player moved to Michigan last year so we've just been getting friends to sub when we play. At this age no one really wants to "be" in our band I guess. Ha.
YSTS: When you write a song, is it pretty obvious right away what the best outlet for the song will be? I mean the Luxury Liners and the Foxymorons are clearly very different bands.
DD: Sometimes it works that way, but one will often get the other's rejects. This new album is about half new and half older songs that were never recorded by the bands for various reasons. I definitely wouldn't call them rejects in this case.
YSTS: You’re billing this as a “solo acoustic guy” record, but there are strings, pedal steel, banjo and piano as well. Did you play a lot of the instruments? Or get help from friends?
DD: The initial plan was for this to be more of a guitar/vocal album. My co-producer, Chris Brush, is also a drummer and I was having him put some light percussion on the record while I was out of the country. When I got back he'd recorded full drum kit on all of the songs. Being a band guy at heart, I was thrilled, however that meant I needed to add a few more instruments to fill out the sound. So yeah, I played a lot of stuff on it but I ended up having a long list of talented Nashville friends add parts to each song.
YSTS: It turned out really well. I like all those embellishments.
DD: Thanks. I'm a big fan of just letting records turned out how they turn out. Not trying to force it into a pre-planned box.
YSTS: How long have you been playing music and what inspired you to pick up a guitar?
DD: My Dad got me started playing guitar when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. He'd have me play blues chords while he'd rip extended solos. In middle school I had to practice guitar to earn lunch money so I could buy lunch with the cool kids. Naturally I hated guitar. I got interested on my own terms while in college and quickly started playing out.
YSTS: That’s funny. Like the opposite of the Dad who forces sports on his kid. Usually I talk about LA in these interviews, but since you’re from Nashville, let’s get an insiders view of Nashville. What’s it like to be a non-country guy in Nashville?
DD: I moved here in 1997 and quickly found a thriving community of non-country musicians and bands. The best part is that it really IS a music city so I'm surrounded by musicians and bands of all kinds. Great friends with one thing in common - music. It doesn't matter if we specialize in Rock, Country, Christian, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Folk, etc... Surrounded by amazing folks.
YSTS: Is the commercial, country Nashville scene an entirely separate entity? Or is there some interaction?
DD: It really is a totally different world. A tribe of it's own that I'm not really a part of. I tried writing a country song with a songwriter once. It was a real disaster.
YSTS: Who are some of the Nashville bands you’re into?
DD: I've been really caught up in all this buzz about How I Became The Bomb for the last couple weeks. There’s a wew free EP on their site, cool website, but I think it's mostly due to this totally rad video they made. I'm hooked on a video?? Here are some Nashville artists that I really like and hope people can check out: Brooke Waggoner, The Nobility, Judd & Maggie, Glossary, Vovo, Eureka Gold, Magic Wands, Robby Hecht, Mondo Primo, Katie Herzig, The Features, Butterfly Boucher, and Derek Webb.
YSTS: What part of town do you live in? And can you give LA readers an idea of what the cost of living is like in Nashville?
DD: When I moved here in 1997 I randomly landed in an area in West Nashville called Sylvan Park. I've lived in this neighborhood ever since. As far as cost of living, I understand that it's cheap and I assume that's one of the reasons so many people keep moving out here. I've been "moving to LA" off and on for five years, ha ha. I think the doubled price of rent out there is one of the things that holds me back though.
YSTS: Yeah, if you’re willing to have a roommate and be in a slightly more dangerous neighborhood, LA is pretty affordable as far as big cities go. But if you want to be a grown up and buy a house, even with the real estate market, it’s still pretty out of control. What are the best venues in town for indie bands to play?
DD: I'll gear this response toward touring acts wondering where to play. Contact The Basement first; it’s above a great record store called Grimey’s. Next try The Rutledge or The 5 Spot, then The End. Springwater as a last resort. Don't bother with French Quarter, Exit/In, Mercy Lounge / Cannery Ballroom unless you’ve got a booking agent; they’re too big for out-of-towners. I did my CD release a few weeks ago at the 90-capacity Bongo Java upstairs theater and loved it.
YSTS: Are there any good Nashville-centric blogs?
DD: Nashville Cream, Out the Other, We Own This Town, Yewknee, Nashvillest, The Coolfer guy lives here now too, although he's not Nashville-centric.
YSTS: What’s your favorite breakfast spot? If you have any LA choices feel free to add those too….
DD: In Nashville: Pancake Pantry, Noshville, Loveless, Pfunky Griddle and in LA, The Griddle.
YSTS: I haven’t been to the Griddle in a long time. It was a lot easier when Jerry lived around the corner and would walk down and put our name on the list. How’s the Mexican food there? Would fried chicken or barbeque be a better question? Favorite spots?
DD: For Mexican, Yo La Tengo has thanked La Hacienda in their liner notes many times. I would have to thank La Hacienda too. We have a lot of "hot chicken" places in Nashville. Tennessee is also a pork barbeque place. I've learned to really appreciate it after resisting for years. Growing up in Texas, I'm a beef brisket fan.
YSTS: I’m definitely more of a pork BBQ guy. It took some adjusting when I moved to Texas.
DD: Speaking of Yo La Tengo, they actually have several songs with "Hot Chicken" in the title. I believe they are in reference to Nashville's Prince's Hot Chicken Shack.
YSTS: Yeah, great songs (and a fun play on the Burritos). Does the restaurant live up to the hype?
DD: It's a real dump. Very strange but I can see how you could get hooked. The only form of drink they used to have was a coin operated soda machine. If you didn't have change you were screwed. You basically couldn't eat. They fry the chicken in old time-y cast iron skillets too - not a big vat. It's just like grandma's except molten hot.
YSTS: Best burger?
YSTS: Favorite bar?
DD: 12 South Tap Room.
YSTS: Your drink of choice?
DD: Maggie Moo's Udderly Cream Milkshake
YSTS: Your favorite thing about living in Nashville?
DD: All the music going on.
YSTS: Least favorite thing about living in Nashville?
DD: The coldness of my house.
YSTS: Your favorite book?
DD: The 4-Hour Work Week.
YSTS: Favorite film about LA or set in LA?
DD: Lords of Dogtown
YSTS: We just watched that documentary on Christian Hosoi….Rising Son.
DD: Ah cool, I want to see that.
YSTS: It’s pretty fascinating.
DD: He was in prison, right?
YSTS: Yeah, it goes from his charismatic skateboarding days, to his drug problems, to finding Christianity. I think you’d dig it.
DD: Gosh, I wanted a Hosoi board in middle school.
YSTS: Any must see TV?
DD: I'm freaking out over It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia right now. I’m watching it on hulu.com
YSTS: That show is so wrong. So un-PC.
DD: Don't ya just love it?!
YSTS: Yeah, very uncomfortable humor. I guess Dee and Mac are married in real life, and stop in at Spaceland from time to time.
DD: Oh man, that's what I want to hear. Sweet D!
YSTS: Danny Devito was a great addition to that show. It seems to be one of those shows that people are discovering on DVD.
DD: It wasn't on my radar until a month ago. I’d never even heard of it somehow. My other Hulu shows are The Office and 30 Rock.
YSTS: 30 Rock's disappointing me a little this year. I think all the stunt casting is detracting from the show a little.
DD: As long as audible laughs are leaving my body I'm happy.
YSTS: That’s a very good point. Your five desert island records?
DD: Neil Young – Decade, The Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray,Beatles - Rubber Soul, Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Wilco – Summerteeth
YSTS: I’m right there with you on four out of five, but the Lemonheads -not that it’s a bad record or anything, just not desert island material?
DD: The Lemonheads is important to me. That's the record that made me realize music wasn't hard and singing could be easy. Before that, I was struggling to pull off Pearl Jam riffs and wondering why I didn't sound like Kurt Cobain when I sang.
YSTS: One last question – I’m curious about western suits there in Nashville. I know Manuel still has a shop. Is it pretty easy to find used Nudie suits and used Manuel suits? Or are they just as expensive as LA….
DD: Just as expensive. The bigger problem is lack of selection. LA has a better selection of used western clothes in my opinion. We only have a handful of vintage stores. Katy K's is a great western/rockabilly store though.
YSTS: What’s Manuel’s store like?
DD: No price tags. It's more like a museum although I haven't been in years. It's not an inviting entrance. I doubt more than five people walk in there all day, if any at all. The people they do get are probably for fittings or measuring for custom clothes. In 1997 you could walk in and hold Gram Parsons’ famous pants.
YSTS: I think that’s it for me. Any parting words?
DD: Thanks for the interview and I'm really happy to see your blog grow over the years.
YSTS: Thank you. Yeah, it’s been fun.
Just for fun, here's an MP3 of The Foxymorons (with David singing) doing a cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Older Guys" [The Henry Clay People made me think of it when they did the same cover last night at the Echoplex.]
And an MP3 of an original Foxymorons song (with David singing) "Hesitation Eyes"