Interview With: David Ford

Thursday night I was afforded the opportunity to chat with the wonderful David Ford, UK import who’s spending quite a bit of his time over in the States these days. Tuesday he hits the road in support his new album Songs for the Road, released in the US on April 1st of this year. We chatted about David’s personal totalitarian dictatorship, in music industry in the UK versus in the US, and The Felice Brothers. Read our entire conversation below:

David Ford: Hello?
Jessica, PopWreckoning: Hi David, this is Jessica from PopWreck(oning). How are you doing?
DF: Hi, Jessica. Well, thanks. How are you?
PW: I’m well, thanks.
DF: I’m currently in a car, so there’s a good chance you might dip in and out of radio contact. But for now, I can hear you loud and clear.
PW: OK, great! You’ve been a professional musician for quite some time, but at what age did you begin playing music?
DF: I didn’t really start playing music, or I didn’t pick up an instrument until I was 16 and it’s debateable at which point I deemed myself good enough to actually be a musician. It’s been 10 years or so that I’ve had any ability at it. I guess I’ve been doing it for a job for the last 7 or 8 years.
PW: Prior to your current solo career, you played with a band called Easyworld. Do you miss being part of a unit in a band or do you prefer tackling the music world on your own?
DF: Since I’ve been playin solo, I find the concept of making music with a band pretty much ridiculous. I think it’s deeply wrong. I’m very happy to not be part of any kind of democratic unit. I run my career as a totalitarian dictatorship with only me as the supreme commander. That’s the way I like it. Actually not because I’m a control freak, but more because I’m actually a bit of a pushover. As soon as there are people to argue and debate with, I’m always the first to back down. It’s not putting myself in a position to back down is how I see it.
PW: The solo career has been working out well and your sophomore album Songs For The Road is fantastic. What did you learn from the first record that came out a couple years ago, that you applied when working on Songs For The Road?
DF: The main thing I guess I learned it to try not to listen to anyone else, because mostly, their opinions are worth no more than mine. That said, there’s an amount of comprise on this record, which I don’t necessisarily find to be a negative thing. The first record I made was made entirely in a vacuum and there was no other human involvement in it. It was just entirely created by me with no one else knowing it was happening or caring what was going onWith the second record, there was some people who had a vested interest in it and a concern in how it came out. There was an amount of apeasing other parties and that in itself was an interesting challenge in diplomacy.
As far as what I learned, I suppose I learned some technical things as far as being a producer. I toured the first about a lot and you just kind of learn things that work and things that don’t work. You come to understand your strengths and weaknesses and what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and hoping to lean more toward the things you are good at. And the things you’re not good at, you get someone to help out.
PW: Song For The Road released in the UK about 8 months ago, but just this month in the US. In your opinion, what’s the difference between the music industry and the music scene in the UK as opposed to in the United States?
DF: The music business in the UK, to my eye, is possibly broken beyond repair. It’s a very strange situtation whereby it’s very difficult to carve out a career; it’s quite a small place in comparasion to the US. It’s a tiny market and it’s monopolized by a distinct few people who get to decide what flies and what stinks. Unless you’re in with the right people, you don’t really stand a chance.
Where as what I’ve found in America, I think there’s a lot more space for different things to survive. The fact that there’s a huge country music scene and there’s a huge hip hop scene and there’s all these different styles of music that exist side-by-side, but not at each other’s expense. I feel like in America, there is some work for me to be done. Putting the record out in Britain, we very quickly found that without playing the game and having the right people on your side, you just kind of lose before you begin.
I think in America there’s a lot more of a sense that things can live or die by their own merit, which was a surprise to me. There’s a view in Britain that America is very corporate-ified, but I actually think it’s less so than Britain.
PW: Really?
DF: Yeah, when it comes to music. I think there’s a greater ability to survive independently and to make music and to tour and be able to survive as a musician. There’s a lot more potential for that on this side of the water, which is great, because I really like working here.
PW: Good! We’re glad to have you here.
DF: It’s a pleasure!
PW: Though a lot of the album seems very personal, I know you say that your songs tend to focus on characters rather than yourself. How do you come up with those characters? Are they based on people you know or experiences you’ve had?
DF: Yeah, I think that’s it. Although I don’t write specifically about myself or things that are happening to me at the time, I would never want to write songs about subjects or experiences of which I have no understanding. So even though the strange, dysfunctional characters that litter the songs I write about aren’t specifically me, obviously there is going to be a nugget of understanding or experience there. Otherwise I wouldn’t feel like I have the necessary frame of reference to write about it with any clarity.
So rather than writing directly about things, I like to consider and draw an experience rather than necessarily regurgitate it.
PW: So the current US single and first track on the new album “Go To Hell,” I saw the video for that. It was beautifully shot in black and white. It feels like it was set years ago. Where did the concept for the video come from and what was it like having dirt thrown in your face? [laughs]
DF: We kind of have this thing…It’s about self-sufficiency thing. It’s about making videos homemade. I have this friend who’s pretty handy with a camera and whenever there’s a song we want to film for, we just go to the pub and chat for a while and come up with ideas that support the music.
Generally, it always comes down to what’s the most horrible thing we can do to me.
PW: Oh no! [laughs]
DF: We’ve had film where I get slapped in the face a hundred times by a long queue of people. And then this one, we just thought, “Why not just bury me alive?” It’s kind of a theatre of cruelty with myself bearing the brunt of the cruelty. That’s the way that we like to face video making.
It kind of fits with the theme of the song. It’s a song about apology and forgiveness and lack of forgiveness. It’s like an understated girl power anthem, as well. About not forgiving guys for some of the awful things that they do; instead of accepting lame apologies, just saying “Go to Hell.” Taking that to its logical conclusion is burying some guy alive in the countryside. Seems kind of logical in a strange sort of way.
PW: It was very well done, I enjoyed it. Starting next week, you’ll be joining Sara Bareilles and Rachel Yamagata on tour. What are your expectations for this mostly sold out tour?
DF: I don’t really know what my expectations are. Whenever you start a new tour and you’re opening for someone, it takes a couple of shows to really gage what kind of an audience it is and what they’re going to respond well to.
Not that I’d ever suggest that I would tailor make what I do to suit the audience. I think that you ought to present what it is that you want to present. But at the same time, there are sort of elements that maybe you could lean more heavily towards.
Given that I think this may be a bit more of a pop show than I’m used to playing, I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge of reaching an audience who maybe aren’t necessarily that down with the kind of music that I write. I like to think there’s something in there for everyone and drawing people’s attention to that. It’s great playing shows to big rooms of people.
Again, it’s a challenge and it’s an opportunity and it’s a priviledge.
PW: Absolutely. I’ll be at the show in Philadelphia next week, so I’m excited for that.
DF: Oh, fantastic!
PW: What do you typically do to get ready before you head out on tour? What are you doing until Tuesday when you head out on the road?
DF: Well, at the moment I’m in California. We’re doing some bits and pieces here, playing a few shows and generally pimping my act in California in support of the record. Then pretty much I fly back to New York and I’ve got one day to put things into boxes and head out on the road. In terms of any sort of spiritual preparation, I don’t really have time to do that.
The only preparation I have to do is very tedious, technical preparation of getting stuff off an airplane and making sure it hasn’t been smashed to pieces.
PW: Or making sure they don’t declare bankruptcy before you make it to your final destination.
DF: Yeah.
PW: What is it that you’re listening to these days? New artists or just anything you’ve been listening to?
DF: I don’t really listen to a lot of music. I’m a little strange like that. Although music is my consuming passion and my life, I find myself not listening to a lot of music, particularly not a lot of new music. All my favorite music was either made 30 or 40 years ago or it’s made by people now who were making music 30 or 40 years ago. Tom Waits is my favorite writer and performer. I’m a big fan of his 30 year career. Pretty much all my favorite records are something he made last year or in the 70s. So I listen to his stuff a lot. I like people that make records now…there’s a few things that I like. I quite like those Bright Eyes records that [Conor Oberst] makes. I think they’re kind of interesting. He’s got some great songs. There’s this band called The Felice Brothers, I like their first album. It’s particularly good.
PW: Absolutely. I saw them play last week, they were great!
DF: Oh, really? Where did you see them?
PW: I saw them in Philadelphia. They played in a tiny church chapel. It was crazy. They’re insane…in a good way! They’re so much fun. You should definitely see them if you get the chance.
DF: I’ve not seen them live before, but their record Tonight at the Arizona is always one of my favorites. It’s got a really fantastic vibe and atmosphere to it. Which a lot of records don’t have these days because a lot of people tend to process the life and charm out of it.
PW: Well thank you very much for taking the time to talk. I look forward to seeing you next week.
DF: My pleasure. I will see you there!
PW: Have a good night.
DF: Thanks very much.

Tour Dates:
Apr 22 – Paradise/Boston, Ma. (SOLD OUT!)*
Apr 23 – Irving Plaza/New York, Ny. (SOLD OUT!)*
Apr 24 – The TLA/Philadelphia, Pa. (SOLD OUT!)*
Apr 28 – 9:30 Club/Washington Dc. (SOLD OUT!)*
Apr 29 – Neighborhood/Charlotte, Nc. *
Apr 30 – Variety/Atlanta, Ga. (SOLD OUT!)*
May 06 – Wonder/Portland, Or. #
May 07 – Showbox/Seattle, Wa. #
May 08 – Big Easy/Boise, Id. #
May 09 – Aavalon/Salt Lake City, Ut. #
May 10 – Gothic/Denver, Colorado #
May 12 – Fine Line/Minneapolis, Mn. #
May 13 – Metro/Chicago, Il. #
May 14 – St. Andrew’s Hall/Detroit, Mi. #
May 15 – House of Blues/Cleveland, Oh. #
May 16 – The Mod Club Theatre/Toronta, On. #
May 17 – Les Saints/Montreal, Qc. #
May 19 – Paradise Rock Club/Boston, Ma. #
May 20 – Maxwell’s/Hoboken, Nj. #
May 21 – Bowery Ballroom/New York, Ny. #
May 22 – 9:30 Club/Washington, Dc. #
May 23 – The TLA/Philadelphia, Pa. #

* with Sara Bareilles and Rachel Yamagata
# with Augustana

David Ford: website | myspace


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