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INTERVIEW: Ren Daversa

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Closer”?

“Closer” is and has been one of my favorite songs, both in terms of lyrical and musical content and the actual performance of it live. It is one of those songs that rocks even if it is just my voice and the acoustic guitar. Of all the songs on my album, I think “Closer” is the song with the hardest edge. I come from a rock background, and I think this song really showcases the rock and roll side of my songwriting. It lives on the outskirts in terms of the style of the other songs on the Saltwater album, but I like it that way because I wanted to create an album of songs that didn’t all sound the same.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Oh, yes. At the time I wrote this song, I had a band mate who was cheating on his current girlfriend with another young lady, both of whom we were all acquainted with. They would (both) come to our shows (separately) and hang out with us sometimes which was more than a little awkward… trying to make sure we didn’t mention the other girlfriend to the lady that was present. The whole situation was way too complicated for me and I kept thinking how impossible it would be to start a new, healthy relationship from the cheating platform. How could you ever really trust someone who had cheated on his significant other to be with you? And, if you cheated on your significant other and the cheating relationship did not work out, how could you continue in your old relationship without a cloud of guilt hanging over you? That experience definitely spurred me to write this song about the value and importance of starting a relationship from the right place.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

My good friend, Napoleon Mata, filmed the video in the canyon near my home in San Diego, CA. It was pretty simple and low budget, and my first try at at a video that was not just a lyric video that I created myself on iMovie. I was so nervous, but he is an easygoing guy and really helped me feel comfortable. I really don’t like watching myself perform, but I felt pretty good about that video. We are currently tossing around ideas for an actual music video sometime this year, which should be a lot of fun.

The single comes off your new album Saltwater – what’s the story behind the title?

I was born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island, which Is a little town on the small island of Aquidneck. I grew up surrounded by the saltwater. Since moving to San Diego, I have never lived more than 5 miles from the beach and actually own a beach wedding planning company that allows me to go to the beach almost every day. “Oceans of You” was written underneath Crystal Pier after a harsh life event. I feel like al the songs that I wrote for this album, come from a place that is pure and has been washed clean by the saltwater. The saltwater is my healer and my inspiration, so naming the album “Saltwater” just seemed like the right fit.

How was the recording and writing process?

Saltwater is the first album that I have written, recorded and produced on my own. I was super anxious going into the studio for the first time on my own. My past experiences with recording have typically been in a group setting, with all band members having (sometimes too much) input on the writing and recording. It was a true pleasure to write the songs and record them exactly as I heard them in my head. Especially the layering of background vocals, which I was never able to accomplish with past projects.

Would you call this a departure from your previous work?

Yes, I think these songs are different that what I have done in the past. More accessible, I think.  I am still trying to find my “sound” both vocally and with my guitar, which is a whole separate thing in and of itself, but my current sound is pretty different than what I have done in the past. My previous band, The Good China, was more of an indie alt rock project as were the projects before that. The Saltwater tracks are more straight ahead indie pop. I wanted to write and record songs that are relatable and easy to listen to and maybe even catchy enough to sing along to, and I think I got pretty close with Saltwater.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?

Yes, the approach is quite different when I am writing / recording / producing it myself as opposed to writing with others. In past projects, we would generally create songs as a group. The guitarist might play a cool riff, and the other players would join in. I would start working on a melody and lyrics, and Viola! We would have a song and would start playing it live immediately, and well before we went into the studio to record them. By the time we went to the studio the arrangement and parts were already pretty much set in stone.

With my solo album, the process was quite different. This is the first time I have been at the helm as performer and producer. I will typically write the music on acoustic guitar or piano, and then add the melody and lyrics. I will usually try the songs out a few times at an Open Mic or a jam session, just to get an idea of how folks are receiving it. Then I go into the studio and do some scratch tracks to get a better handle on the direction I want to take. Very different than the group dynamic, and I have to say I am enjoying controlling the arrangement and direction of the songs.

What role does San Diego play in your music?

I have been playing music in San Diego since I started playing music in 1993. Even though I was out of the scene for a while, when I did start playing again, I was welcomed back with open arms. I have met so many cool people over the last couple of years, and have been reunited with some from my past. All have encouraged and inspired me to continue pursuing my music, and the love and support of the musicians and songwriters that I have become acquainted with over the years is a key ingredient in keeping me from getting discouraged and help me keep moving forward.

How has the sea influence your writing?

I grew up surrounded by the ocean and it is my go to anytime I need to work stuff out. Since moving to San Diego, I have never lived more than 5 miles from the beach and actually own a beach wedding planning company that allows me to go to the beach almost every day. “Oceans of You” was written underneath Crystal Pier after a harsh life event. I feel like al the songs that I wrote for this album, come from a place that is pure and has been washed clean by the saltwater. The ocean is my healer and my inspiration and so many songs have been written at the beach.

What aspect of love and self-encouragement did you get to explore on this record?

This record was kind of a rebirth for me as a singer/songwriter and I was able to reconnect with my love of songwriting. I had played in various projects and local bands for over a decade at the end of which around 2007, I made a hard decision to put music on hold and focus on other things for a while. I think I had just burned out and needed a little break, which blew up into a 10-year haitus. I realize now, that even though I was not writing or playing music during those years, I was “studying” music.  I listened to my favorite old songs and new, cutting edge artists and marveled at how simplicity can be so powerful. My tastes are eclectic and I listen to all sorts of music yet found myself drawn to simple pop songs with interesting moments and textures. Those 10 years without my music were tough, but I still loved listening to a special song a hundred times and picking apart each layer of the recording, honing in on what I liked (and didn’t like) about the song.

By 2016, I found myself with a little free time and an empty spot where my music used to be. I hadn’t picked up the guitar or written a song in over a decade, so I was a little scared and not even sure I could create anything musically anymore. So, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017 was to pick up my guitar and try to write a song.

I was so rusty on the guitar and was wracked by anxiety during those few months. But to my surprise, by May, I had written, recorded and released my first single as a solo artist (Just One Word). That was a huge accomplishment for me and made me want to continue moving forward. The goal of creating an album of my own works taught me how to be fearless and to have confidence in my ability.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The great thing about being a songwriter, is that every experience you have in life is a potential song. We are really storytellers, I guess, so the ability to take an experience or event and shape it so that it tells a concise, efficient story in an interesting and entertaining way is what it is all about for me. Really almost anything can inspire me to write a song.

Any plans to hit the road?

Staying super busy locally, but some travel and touring is definitely in the long-term plan.

What else is happening next in Ren Daversa’s world?

Lots of awesome things musical! My album just finished an 8-week college radio program and was added into rotation on some of the stations. I have been working with a great company who has been helping me with some TV / movie music licensing opportunities. That has been one of the goals I have had for my music for a long time, so it is really exciting!

I am back in the studio with Peter Duff of Grey Brick Studios working on 4 new songs for an EP that is set for release this fall. Looking forward to bringing these songs to life. I have become a more competent guitar player over the last year or so, and have been experimenting with some effect pedals which I can’t wait to include on the new songs…. I’ll even be playing some tasty lead guitar parts on this set of tunes.

I am always working on my live show and have been enjoying playing locally at some showcases and special events. There are a lot of nice places to showcase your original music here in San Diego. I have also been playing more with my band, The Wicked Cool which is helping me become a better musician, all around. It is fun to play with others again and I am enjoying hearing my songs performed dynamically with a full band.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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