INTERVIEW: David Arn

How would you classify your music?

 There are so many classifications anymore. I seem to be put into the “Adult Contemporary” classification but I see my music as a combination of Folk Rock,Americana and Soft Rock. No matter the designation, the greater classification is that it is music with a lyrical quality.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

I have an anxiety about influence and as a result do not listen to a lot of music. Subconsciously I may copy something I’ve heard.  I am not an expert on music. Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty,Dylan of course, because of the way in which they remove all the verbal nonsense and create an emotional response. I am probably more influenced by Cohen’s poetry and certain confessional poets like Anne Sexton because when I write music I always start with the lyric.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

I want to touch them. I recall several years ago a woman posting on my Facebook page that she was listening to a song (I can’t remember which one)  and she said it was exactly what she needed at that moment. That’s a validation that can sustain a writer for quite some time. I think of others listening to the music, perhaps during a personal rough spot in the middle of the night, and having a song speak to them.

How’s the music scene in your locale?

In this upside-down year, the music scene is locked down But many great artists have come from the Hampton Roads area: Timbaland, Missy Elliott ,Pharrell Williams, Juice Newton, Clarence Clemons, Charlie Byrd. I think Wayne Newton grew up here. Because these artists were native to this area you get permeated with a certain confidence that all things are possible. This area has a diverse population. You are walking on ground that generates rich creative energy.

Tell us about “Traveler Tales”.

The latest album is a collection of fourteen songs, fourteen travelers on a common journey, each relating their situation through song. It’s an idea very loosely taken from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” . It’s a mechanism that allows me to do fourteen first-person narratives in various styles. Just as each of us are unique, we each have a different story to tell. Two of the songs are performed by Ava Hart. I wrote those specifically with her in mind to bring in the feminine point of  view. It is by far my best production. There are a lot of talented people involved with this project.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

Much of what I create now is accomplished by sharing digital files. Guitarist Tobias Wilson is in the UK,  Tyra Juliette is on the West Coast. A song evolves with each person emailing their artistry digitally. A whole industry is being built around that concept. What is missing is the spontaneity of a live performance and the mutual adrenaline rush with the audience. When you play live great things can happen. When Ava Hart came in to record “Mother’s Day-The Mother’s Tale” I thought the arrangement was set. She blew me away with her vocal and as a result I went back and built a better arrangement around her track. The emotion of her live performance taught me what the song was really about.

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why? 

It would have to be “Not Amused-The Wanderer’s Tale”. I recorded three different versions. It may be hard to believe but it began as a waltz. I was never happy with it and was frustrated with the cost of studio time. Then one morning I sat down at the piano and started channelling a Dylan rock version. Everything fell into place. It is the one song people seem to like immediately. I reached out to William Murray, a filmmaker in Brooklyn, with an idea for a video. He came up with a small masterpiece that ended up winning awards at several Film Festivals. When you write you seldom hit the mark. I felt this one came close.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

As an independent artist, over the past nine years I now have written over thirty songs, produced a dozen music videos. I have experienced ecstatic moments of having songs played on radio. I’ve come to a place where I am more relaxed ,confident and  more authentic in my songwriting. When I do a session I bring my convictions with me. My idea is clear on what I would like to achieve. If  anything has evolved, it is the self-deception that all of this is true (laughs). What does not evolve is the constant panic that you must make it better.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be? 

I was older than most when I came to writing music. I was fortunate to have shared some time at the Dakota with John Lennon, one-on-one for about an hour. As you might expect,It was a nervous experience for me but it was transformative. He was very kind to me.

If I could have raised a glass with anyone it would have been Cohen.I have a lot of questions for  him about how he digs down through the layers and manipulates the evidence.

What’s next for you? 

I am working on a new album of acoustic songs with a simpler production. The working title is “Alone in Seven Pieces”. These are songs written this year in isolation during the pandemic and the style is much more intimate.

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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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