Hi David, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Thank you, thank you! You know, I’ve been hanging in there through all the craziness. Definitely feeling fortunate given everything that’s going on.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Do I Seem Okay?”?
Absolutely! “Do I Seem Okay?” was really the song that helped me to find the sound of this record – and really my sound as an artist. I come from a singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar kind of background – my dad was always listening to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, James Taylor – but this was a song that started with just the groove, the kick, the snare, the bass. It had all this open space to it, and that space felt really important, like the space was the vibe, the atmosphere, the feeling of it all. The song’s about being stuck in your head, worrying about what other people think about what you’re doing – and so having all that space that we could fill with synths and lap steels and strange sounds and voices shaped my understanding that I could write a song in that storyteller, guy-and-a-guitar sort of way, but also have a classic rock n’ roll vibe to it – and also craft this soundscape that was really modern. Because I think what I’m singing about in the song is a really contemporary thing. We’ve always been self-conscious, but I don’t think people have ever been so messed up by anxiety and self-doubt as we are right now.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
There wasn’t like a single moment in time, but, like I said, it’s about worrying about what other people think of you, and, when I wrote the song, I’d just moved to LA, I’d done that thing that so many people do – move to LA, go try to “make it” or whatever – and while I knew that wasn’t what I was doing, I wasn’t just some lost kid with a dream, that I was a professional making a sound decision for my development as a person and an artist, all I could think about was “are my friends sitting around talking about how David’s off the deep end now?” So there was this sort of reckoning with what people from my past would think of where I was. And at the end of the day, writing this song really helped me to realize that…uhh…I was doing totally fine. Stop worrying.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Filming the video was amazing. I’m a very type-a, do it myself, in-charge kind of guy – like I was that annoying kid who did all the work for the group projects in high school – and this was such an incredible experience to feel so hands off and trusting of my director Zach Bandler and the production team. Zach’s a friend, and from the outset he just like heard the song and spoke my language, got what I was going for, and all the ideas he was expressing from his end were right in line with what I wanted. So I just let him run with it. The planning and execution was, like, totally taken care of without me doing anything (which is RAD), and even the concept and story of the video was Zach’s – and it’s amazing how much it just nails all these deep-seated anxieties and fears and parts of myself that I wasn’t even fully conscious of until after the video was done. I come from a “nice suburban background” that, as an adult, I felt very boxed in by – which I think this video captures amazingly – but also the dancing, the ballerinas, the pursuit of form and perfection mixed with the neat-ness, the tidiness…these are basically all the themes of my therapy sessions and fights with my girlfriend. It was a big, “oh snap, he nailed this even more than I thought.”
The single comes off your new album Somewhere Else – what’s the story behind the title?
The oldest song on the record is the title track, which was a song I wrote just before leaving New York, where I’m from, and moving to LA. The whole album is about this process in your mid/late twenties of coming into your identity as an adult – and I think a huge part of that process is about a leap of faith. So the tag of “Somewhere Else” is “it’s not the running part that’s all that hard, it’s finding somewhere else to stay.” That’s what I mean by “leap of faith,” you sorta have to go do something, make some change, take some risk – knowing that it’s the right decision, but without knowing exactly what you’re doing. I think that’s the thing about that stage in your development as a person, you just have to learn how to trust yourself, all that you’ve learned and been through, trusting they’ll all get you to the other side. So the album – and that time in my life – was about finding that somewhere else: it’s not very well defined, it’s out there, I’ll find it. I just have to go through that process of groping blindly in the dark for a minute, you know? “Do I Seem Okay?” is really the beginning of that process, and that’s why it’s the first song on the record, the first single, the first one I brought to the band to learn – and the hope is that, when you get through the whole album, you can feel that transformation.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was sloooow and steady for sure. Most of the songs accumulated over a few years, but at a certain point I just knew I was ready to make a record, so the first step was putting together the band. I was really lucky to have my friend Zachary Ross, who plays guitar, as a close partner in the early phases, and he gave me the idea to just start by finding players and getting them in a room for rehearsals: no dates in mind, just take your time to flesh out the songs – so I tried out a couple of different lineups of guys, and when we found the group that was “the band,” we just knew. It was insane. Everything clicked. And then the best part was we got to take our time, spending 3 hours every couple of weeks just going over 2-3 songs. Usually, these days, you’re lucky if you get 2 rehearsals before recording – and the guys in the band are such pros, they don’t need the rehearsals to get something down – but we took months to really gel, and it let everyone be more creative, have more fun in a way that I think is pretty rare these days.
Then, when I felt ready, I was lucky enough to meet Clay Blair who runs Boulevard Recording. It’s this beautiful studio in Hollywood where The War on Drugs did most of A Deeper Understanding – a huge reference for me when making the album – but the studio’s even more classic than that: it used to be called The Producer’s Workshop. Steely Dan did Aja and Gaucho there, two of my favorite records. Pink Floyd tracked The Wall there. That kind of special. But Clay stumbled on this place about 10 years ago that had fallen into disrepair and turned it into a remarkable studio that is truly a classic Hollywood room, but with the feel of an indie studio, nothing pretentious. Just amazing sounds and gear and wizardry.
So we spent 4 days there laying down the foundation of all the songs live as a band, but then I wanted to find a producer to help me really take my time to flesh out the soundscape, mess with my vocals, play with stuff, you know? I knew I had these really good sounding rough cuts from the sessions, but I searched and searched for the right producer and was feeling all depressed cuz I knew I hadn’t found the right guy, when, in the middle of a long walk ruminating on what the eff I was going to do – I got a text out of the blue from my friend Ryan who was to mix the record being like, “hey, you should meet my friend Justin. He’s a great producer who just got back to LA after touring with The Lone Bellow, do you know them?” And I was like, “uhh…I have a signed Lone Bellow poster on the wall in my living room.” I don’t want to name drop, but it was just crazy to feel like I was among the people who literally made the records I loved, and the timing of it all was insane. It was a gift from the heavens. And Justin became a close friend and really took this record across the finish line with me. He was the exact person I needed.
What role does living in LA play in your music?
I mean, see above. It’s been huge, if that story above didn’t let on. I’m a New Yorker, and a proud one at that (as if there are quiet, passive New Yorkers!), so I never thought I’d need to live anywhere else. When I got to LA, though, it was game-changing. The level of talent there is just higher than anywhere else I’ve been – and it’s not just the fellow artists you meet, but the session guys, the producers, all the way down to the dudes running the sound board. Because “The Industry” is in LA, there’s a level of professionalism that I think permeates throughout the city in a way that can be annoying…but that can also be amazing. So, when I got there and started making friends and going to their shows I was, like, “Oh sh*t, I gotta go home and practice.” It was the most genuine inspiration I’ve ever felt. Nothing competitive, nothing dog-eat-dog – just a feeling of ‘my friends are super good and I want to be as good as them, and after seeing them play all I want to do is play guitar until 4 in the morning’. And then, from there, getting to meet the guys that I made the record with – guys, I’m convinced, I only could have met out here – it was the best feeling in the world. And, not to mention, just the vibe of the city, the weather, the sunsets, the rolling hills, the waves – they have an impact on you as a person and artist. Driving down the PCH at sunset makes Fleetwood Mac make even more sense. You get it in a different way because of the setting – and I think there’s something of that LA vibe that seeped into the songs and the recording process.
Who are you biggest influences and how have they shaped your writing?
Like I said, I grew up on the great singer-songwriters, but my biggest hero has always been Springsteen – and up until this point in my life, I was terrified to try to emulate that style of music. It felt untouchable to me. But then, after spending years trying to play, like, roots music or country or americana, I realised – wait a second, that’s not me. I’m a fast-talking kid from New York who grew up on rock n’ roll and played the saxophone in high school because I wanted to learn the Jungleland solo. Maybe I should start being myself.
So I definitely got a lot of the story telling from Springsteen. I also listen to a ton of Paul Simon, and I think the way those two guys write lyrics – with tons of internal rhyme but also lots of very conversational lyrics and strong characters – that shows up a lot in my music. But I’m also a huge fan of more contemporary indie music. Bon Iver is another hero. Phoebe Bridgers first record destroyed me. Ryan Adams (before we learned how big of an asshole he was) was a huge inspiration, especially his late career stuff. So I wanted to merge those classic examples with something more modern.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Life. My internal monologue, lol. I moved to LA 2 days before Trump got elected. The world literally went upside down in every possible way. I just channeled it into the songs and wrote what I was feeling.
What else is happening next in David Redd’s world?
Well, the music video for “Do I Seem Okay?” is out January 13th, and then I’m putting out one last single called on January 29th before releasing the full album in March. The release schedule has been a bit, let’s say non-traditional because of the pandemic and the world going to shit, but it feels great to have 5, soon to be 6 singles out in the world…and then, I’m just stoked to make the next thing. I’ve been sitting on this music for a while and can’t wait to share it…but I also just can’t wait to move on and make something new.
Watch the cinematic and compelling video is here on adv YouTube