Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview with David Johnson: Songwriter & Musician

I met David on the tennis courts. He was teaching a beginners tennis group and I joined. 

Over the course of a few months, I got to know him as not only a funny, forgiving tennis coach, but a talented songwriter, and musician. 

I knew David was working on his website, and his next album. So I asked him for an interview. He obliged.

I believe in David's talent...and I think you will too. You can check out his website to listen to a selection of his songs @

Below are the questions I asked him: 

1. How many songs have you created? Favorite one?
I have created lots of songs (probably in the upper hundreds). I’m particular about what I share now. Some are  completed, some are in the works.
 I would like to cut another album. I have the material and I’m ready to record but I wouldn’t do it like the last one. The last one was an amazing experience and taught me so much. 
I will do the next one with a band that I have played with extensively. The last one was made with an amazing producer that could have produced an album by The Who in the 70’s. That’s not my style though, and I think I could be better represented with a more homemade approach. 
I really like “High Tide in the Streets”, as well as some of the others that need to be recorded.

2.     Why the title Eights and Aces? What does it mean to you?
That is the poker hand Wild Bill Hickock drew when he was shot and killed by Jack McCall in the Black Hills of the Dakota region. 
It's now known as the "Dead Man's Hand". It’s the title track on the album. The song speaks of fall and redemption. It’s an outlaw theme. It’s about living life to its fullest, not trying to make mistakes but not being afraid to make mistakes. 
In the end it all gets sorted out as long as you do your best and try to do what’s right. 

My favorite definition of the word outlaw came from Tom Robbins book “Still Life with Woodpecker”. The protagonist was a modern day hero who said that an outlaw is someone who has the courage to act as if the world was a better place. 
Essentially meaning that if you think the world should be better, your actions should reflect those beliefs. If you don’t believe people should sleep on the street when it’s really cold out, invite them in your home. 
There is a lot of freedom if you are able to do that. It’s also a good way to scare the shit out people who you live with. As I get older and have more responsibility, it’s also harder to do. 
Romantic ideals are lovely but the innate parental tendencies of protecting property and safety are very strong. It’s not as easy to just say “fuck it” anymore. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

3.     When you think of Ry Cooder and John Prine, what one word comes to mind?

4.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
It depends on the day and if it’s raining or not. I’m not a fan of waking up. I usually have a juice that my lovely lady makes with spinach, kale, beets, carrots and pretty much any organic produce that she wishes to transform into liquid form. Liquid comprises most of my diet. Hahaha. It takes a different form at night.

5.     Where's your favorite country bar, and why should we visit?
My favorite country bar in in Austin. It’s called Momo’s. Besides being in a great city with great people, it has great musicians that you’ve probably never heard of. 
Second place goes to the Continental Club in Austin. Third goes to Cinema Bar in Los Angeles, where I found most of the musicians for my album. If anyone wants to show me a good venue in the area, I would be much obliged.

6.     What age did you first start singing? Writing music?

 I sang along with songs in the car by myself when I was young, I couldn’t help but let my soul sing along with the great music I heard. I never thought I had a great voice. I still don’t. I’m working on it though. 

I only started singing as a way to have the songs that I wrote shared with other people and performed for an audience. I think that is very common with songwriters. My singing, especially at the start didn’t do the writing justice. I’m getting better though thankfully. 
Mostly I am trying to let my soul come through what I’m trying to express. I started writing songs after being exposed to a wonderful musical congregation called Pickathon, which is the greatest music festival I have ever been to. I started going there in my early twenties and was smitten by all the talent. It was then that I thought “I can do this”. That and really listening to Johnny Cash made me start writing music.

7.     Who is your biggest cheerleader?
Myself. I have a lot of support from everyone around me (my family especially) but if it weren’t for the deep burning desire within me, I would have stopped trying to do anything with music a long time ago. 
Sheri Gallo might be my biggest fan outside of my family. She’s an amazing friend from Austin.

8.     Did you ever want to give up? What kept you going?
 I never wanted to give up. I’ve been discouraged a lot, and have had a lot of other things take time away from what I really want to do which is perform and record, but that desire will always be there. I just keep adapting to situations. It would be very easy to give up. It’s so hard, and to have any sort of success requires a gigantic amount of effort and patience and luck. It’s really an inconvenient passion.

9.     It's pretty amazing when the stars line up – you had this happen when you me Duane Jarvis. How did you meet him?
I met him in the studio when we were recording part of the album. We cut a few tracks and he came up to me and told me he really liked my songs and the cover song that I picked which was John Prine’s “Everything is Cool”. 
He told me he recorded that song with John and played live with him regularly in Nashville. There were some very magical experiences I had recording that album and that was one of them. 
I found out that he passed a short time after we recorded together. I didn’t spend a lot of time with him but I felt really comfortable around him. He was one of those warm, welcoming people that make you feel close to them immediately. I wish I could have developed more of a relationship with him.

10. Have you found that when you tell people what you do, people offer up help to get you closer to your dream?
I do, I have met so many great people who are giving and really want to help. Even when my music is something foreign to them or they wouldn’t ordinarily listen to it, they are very generous and willing to help.

11. Describe your debut album in 5 words.
Premature, honest, great musicianship, fun!!!

12. Where does your song inspiration come from?
Observing life. 
More and more, I am inspired by people’s situations and inequality. I believe that with all the resources available, the planet should live in a near utopia. The fact that we don’t weighs heavy on me, and inspires me to write. Good music and lyrics always give me ideas as well.

13. Are there any voice exercises you do?
I do, but not as much as I should. I sing scales up and down and when I sing along with songs I am attentive to tone and pitch.

14. Have you played in front of a live audience? If so, how do you keep your nerves in check? 
I have played live a lot. I have played in front of hundreds of people at a time, and opened for one of the biggest country festivals in the country. 
I am always nervous before a show. The more intimate the setting, the more nervous I am. I grew up as an athlete and tried to battle nerves. It comes down to preparation. The more you prepare, the more confident you are, but the nerves are always there. 
My first performance in the San Francisco area will be soon.  I am currently booking dates so check the website.

15. If your dreams came true and you could choose where you would perform, what venue or stage would it be?
Since I was a kid, I have always dreamt of putting together a playlist of all the songs I'd love at my funeral. It would be a big party where everyone was dancing and singing and drinking. Then people might understand where I am coming from. It would include some of my best songs too. Then, I would rise out of the ashes and play one final song. LOL. I haven’t written it yet but it would be a grand send off. Hopefully it would be in Colorado in the fall.

16. What one word best describes you?

17. What types of music do you listen to? Who is your favorite artist?
Everything. Artist: John Prine or Paul Simon. Band: Led Zeppelin

18. Singers and artists use past experiences to create passion in their work. What one past experience do you use to push you deeper into your lyrics?
Anything where the proletariat is abused. The collapse of the economy, Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, pretty much inequality and abuse in general all inspire and create passion. The seemingly easiest sources like loving relationships don’t really do it for me. I wrote some really bad songs about break up and broken hearts. Haha. But like Frank Zappa said, “broken hearts are for assholes”

19. What do you think about musicians selling their songs to commercial makers?
It can be done in a positive way, I think Randy Newman has done a good job. It’s hard to say though. I think marketing and advertising in general as far as TV and mainstream media is concerned as a whole doesn’t have humanity’s interests at heart.

20. What's your style? Are you a blue jeans guy? Suit?
My style is laid back and contemplative. I wear what’s comfortable. I could be very comfortable in a suit with a tight Jazz quartet.

21. What hobbies do you have outside of music?
My Wife (although we are not married), my son, tennis, basketball, alien presence on Earth, Flying, philosophy, cognitive psychology, beer, good literature, human interaction.

22. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Listen, if you like the music, come to my shows, buy album, tell your friends, requests shows.

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