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Arkansas Dave Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

 Arkansas Dave Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Americana music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
 
Answer: Well, it’s really encouraging to see more people interested in Americana/ Roots music around the world. Growing up in Southern Arkansas, I was surrounded by music that was the blueprint for American music. Rock ‘n Roll and all of the precedents- blues, gospel, jazz, country, bluegrass - are products of the American South. So, naturally, I have melded a sound of the South that can best be described as Americana Rock ‘n Roll. 
 
Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
 
Answer: If we’re talking about my music specifically, then I’d have to say I really enjoyed being able to tour Europe for the first time; that was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I had last year. I would be remiss if I did not mention that I am particularly excited about the purchase my wife and I made of a recording studio in downtown Austin. We plan to renovate the building to the original 1948 architectural design, and bring the best qualities of both vintage and modern technology to life by offering world class sound engineering and production in a premiere recording studio in historic downtown Austin, Texas.
 
Lamitschka:  Tell us about your upcoming debut album.
 
Answer: My debut album was recorded “live on the floor” in the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with part of the current Swampers lineup – Will McFarlane, Clayton Ivey, Bob Wray and Justin Holder. After recording a total of 10 tracks at FAME, I came home to Austin and recorded the vocals at the renowned Arlyn Studios. After discussing the record release with my manager, we decided I needed extra songs to be able to have more songs to push out throughout the campaign, so I went back into the studio at the Machine Shop in Austin and recorded 3 more tracks – Think Too Much, Squeaky Clean and Hard Times. I have to say that this is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished. Recording your debut album is definitely an exciting experience, but it absolutely taught me more about my songs, the recording process, music in general and most of all, myself. I feel like I walked away from that experience a better musician, and moreover, a better person. I didn’t want to attach a title to my debut album, because I wanted it to be synonymous with me as a person. I feel that if you have never met me before or don’t know me at all, if you listen to my album then you will have a pretty good idea of whom I am.
 
Lamitschka:  Is there a story behind your name?
 
Answer: Well, one of my good friends convinced me that I needed to move down to Austin, so, I decided to check it out. I moved down to Austin in 2007, and obviously being from Arkansas, everyone started referring to me as “Arkansas Dave”. When I enrolled at Media Tech, then housed in Arlyn Studios, there was another guy that had my same first and surname; so that’s one of the first times I can remember being called Arkansas Dave. Also, my buddy that talked me into moving down to Austin had a cousin that would always call me Arkansas Dave (ever since the first time I was introduced to him…) after the infamous outlaw “Arkansas Dave” in the movie Young Guns 2. It is rumored that the Arkansas Dave ran with the famous outlaw gang ran by Billy the Kid, and he was the only man that Billy feared. Arkansas Dave was part of Billy the Kid’s gang until he got ran out of Texas and eventually was killed in Mexico. I figured it was a good enough nickname to become a stage name so it just kinda stuck.
 
Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
 
Answer: Yes, all of the songs (except the Tom Waits cover, Chocolate Jesus) are written by me. There are a couple of songs that I co-wrote with a few different friends; but I can’t imagine being an artist that depends on other songwriters to support their career. My songs are a reflection of my life experience and me. Like I said earlier, if you have no idea who I am, then listen to my songs and you’ll understand me.
 
Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
 
Answer: There was a lot of time spent curating this album. I started demoing these songs in 2015, and wound up recording about 18 songs. I culled them down to about 12, then wrote a few more between the time I demoed the majority of the songs on the album and when I recorded it in Muscle Shoals. The album takes you on a musical ride of blues-rock to acoustic blues to soul drenched psychedelic blues-rock to closing the record with some soulful acoustic ballads. I tried to include my best songwriting on this album that showcased my eclectic style of Americana Rock ‘n Roll.
 
Lamitschka:  Bad At Being Good is your new single, what makes this song special to you?
 
Answer: This song is just a fun way to say “you’re sorry”. I really try to not get into trouble anymore, but sometimes you just get caught up in the moment and forget what time it is... This was the best attempt to apologize even though I had no regrets because I had a hell of a time…you know, it’s just sometimes I really am bad at being good.
 
 
Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?
 
Answer: Bad Water. Bad Water is a special song to me. I would almost say that it’s one of the best tracks on the record. I wrote this with my old band and we never recorded it, so I felt it had to live on beyond that project.
 
Lamitschka:  What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
 
Answer: Honestly, I really just enjoy writing and recording so much that I really don’t have a preference. I’m just trying to perfect my craft and write the best songs that I can. It’s really hard to write a good song. To be able to intelligently articulate an idea in song requires a lot of diligence, patience and failure to get to the good stuff.
 
Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what's the story behind it?
 
Answer: My favorite song…hmmm. My songs are like my kids; I love them individually. I would have to say that one of my favorite songs to perform has to be either Bad Water or the Wheel. Both are powerful songs that seem to really connect with people. I know you asked about just one song, but it’s hard to choose so I’ll take the liberty at explaining both. Bad Water is inspired by the Southern conservative Christian culture of small town, rural America, and how conflicted I was with the environment where I was raised. Part of you feels a connection with it simply because you grew up there, but the other part wants to just escape before I lose my soul to the vicious cycle of poverty ridden life in the South. The other song, The Wheel, is a very special song to me. I wrote this song shortly after my father-in-law passed away while sitting on the floor in front of the altar that my wife made for him. My wife being a Mexican/Apache American woman, honors her loved ones that have passed with different offerings, including burning a white candle, on the deceased's altar. I remember feeling a warm yet distant energy in the room that just surrounded me as I played my guitar sitting in front of the altar. The candle that was burning started flickering and burning faster than I’ve ever seen a candle burn before; and by the time I finished writing the lyrics and playing it over and over to ensure I knew my new song, the candle burnt out. It was a real heavy moment for me and I was overcome with emotion, and finally felt at ease with my father-in-law’s death. I believe that the lyrics, which I never changed or edited and came to me in less than 10 minutes, was a conversation beyond the grave - an acknowledgement that I had his blessing and to always let my light show; no matter how hard the outside world could be, know that my wife and I still have each other. 
 
Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have over your music?
 
Answer: Complete. I actually own my own record label, publishing company and, now, recording studio. I started the record label in 2015 and will have released 5 records to date after my album drops on April 20, then another record from one of my artists, Yoke Lore, will be released in July. 
 
Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
 
Answer: I’m constantly inspired simply by life. I feel that as a songwriter, I’m merely the vessel that is just lucky enough to capture whatever song I’m writing. I speak through my own life experiences, and try to convey an overall positive message in my songs, even if the subject matter is dealing with darker and more heavy issues. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to pay attention. I’ve been playing music since was a child. I got my first snare drum at the age of 5, first set of drums at age 11, first guitar around 12 or 13 and never looked back. By the time I was 12, I was playing drums weekly in church, so my musical education came from real life experience of performing in front of at least 500 people every Sunday. It taught me what it meant to be a performing musician, especially since I was playing with people, including my father, much older than myself. The lessons I learned definitely shaped the musician I am today, and I’m ever grateful for that opportunity. 
 
Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
 
Answer: The music industry swings like a pendulum. Music is art, and art is a reflection of society and one’s views of how they fit within the “normal” rules of society. Music and art are supposed to challenge the norms, while entertaining and hopefully shed some light on subjects not normally discussed around the dinner table. Everyone fantasizes about the “glory days” of the music industry; but I feel that this generation needs artists like myself to remind them of the authenticity that attracted them to music in the first place. I personally feel, and have been saying this since around 2007, that music with substance and true musicianship will be the mainstream again….and still believe that. Just look around it the new wave of stars in country and Americana music - Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, etc. It’s just going to have to take a catalyst to push it over the edge. I believe that in the next 2 years, you are going to see a new renaissance of art that people around the world really connect with. The socio-economic and political state of the world right now is reflecting the angst and hardships most people have endured the last 20 years. People are searching for something with substance; something that has tangible meaning to them where they can seek refuge from the outside world, and their problems, one album at a time. 
 
Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
 
Answer: I would change the concept of the so-called “gatekeepers”. The ones that control the overall success of an artist. Whether that be the record labels, managers or the streaming services that have taken over the music industry. It’s a tough environment for up and coming artists, like myself, and it’s going to take people going out on a limb and risking their reputations for something they believe in and actually enjoy, rather than take the biggest paycheck and push out the shittest, most plastic cookie-cutter music possible. I’m tired of hearing the same bullshit on the radio. The same melody lines. The same drum beats. No wonder there are so many artists getting sued nowadays, because nothing is original anymore. I believe that the next generation of rock stars aren’t going around doing loads of drugs and fucking loads of groupies...that shit really ain’t cool anymore. The next “real rockstar” will be the outspoken one that says what’s on his/her mind without fear of losing their following on social media. 
 
Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what's your favorite activity?
 
Answer: I honestly enjoy what I do so much that every aspect of being an artist;it  is fun to me. Of course the hardships that come with being a breaking artist and the general competition in the music industry makes it a hard goal to pursue, but I honestly don’t know what else I’d do with my life. I quite enjoy touring because I get to meet new people and see new places I’ve never seen before. My goal in life is to see the world through my music; and I think I’m well on my way to accomplishing that. 
 
Lamitschka:  Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
 
Answer: I always try to push myself beyond my limits. If you never explore the boundaries, how do you know where they are? I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, as well as writing style. I don’t like to “stick with a formula”. I get bored with the same ole song and dance; so I quite enjoy pushing myself to write whatever inspires me and play as often as I can. I am definitely happy with my debut album, but like every artist, I’m ready to take on the next thing. 
 
Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?
 
Answer: I remember when I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Wayne’s World. One of the famous scenes from that movie was set inside a music shop that had a sign that said “No Stairway to Heaven”. Curious what that meant, I asked my dad and he obliged by taking me to the closest CD store to buy the Early Days compilation by Led Zeppelin. As soon as I heard John Bonham play the drums, it was over for me. I knew that I wanted to be a rocknroller for the rest of my life. That was probably still the coolest thing my dad has ever done for me...turn me onto Led Zeppelin. 
 
Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become a songwriter?
 
Answer: Growing up as a drummer, I never got really good at the guitar (outside of having solid rhythm) so I focused on creating songs for me to play rather than get super sweet at playing solos. I guess after figuring out how truly therapeutic songwriting is, as well as the feeling of creating and accomplishment, it came kinda natural to me. Trust me, I probably have a 100 songs that will never see the day of light. But you have to fail in order to succeed...so obviously failure is starting to work in my favor. haha
 
Lamitschka:  What drives you?
 
 
Answer: Really, I still have this burning feeling inside of me that makes my compass point towards chasing this dream that I’ve always had to become a successful musician. I don’t think I’m going to stop until I’m dead. I met Levon Helm, one of my greatest influences, one time; and he told me as he shook my hand that “when the music bug bites you, you can’t shake it. So you’ll never be able to give it up no matter how far away you are from it.” That really sums up what gives me the desire to go halfway around the world to play music for people. It definitely has to be worth it for me to leave my family for weeks at a time; so knowing that music has always been there for me, I can never abandon the friend I have in music. 
 
Lamitschka:  What has been your greatest challenge in music business?
 
Answer: Honestly, starting a record label in the climate of today’s music industry. Seeing the decline of music sales, streaming taking over the marketplace and the ever growing competition, I believe it’s harder than ever to be successful in the music business; you just have to stay on your feet and roll with the punches. Trust me, I have had my share of hard lessons starting this company, but I always find a way to make it work. There’s a graph online that my buddy showed me the other day, and I think it’s super fitting for going to the “School of Hard Knocks” like I did. It’s called the Graph of Mount Stupid. It shows the trajectory of people that have a strong opinion about something versus the actual knowledge of the subject. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about starting a record label, but boy was I wrong. After two hard years pushing this boulder up the mountain, I feel that I’m now on the other side of Mount Stupid and pushing my way towards a sustainable and successful career as a record label owner. My advice to anyone wanting to get into the music business, rethink your decision and ask yourself if you are ok with rejection and failure; because if you are, then you may be crazy enough for this business. I always tell people that are interested in the music industry that this is not a career; it’s a lifestyle. So, I hope that those of you reading this and contemplating making the plunge pay heed to my advice...Godspeed!
 
Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
 
Answer: I can think of really 3 things: 
1.    Paying my dues on the chitlin’ circuit with legendary blues artist, Guitar Shorty. It gave me my education in what it takes to be a professional touring musician touring with Shorty. The amount of dedication it takes to be successful can not be overstated, and I admire anyone willing to go out there and give it a try. 
2.    Recording my debut album at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was a surreal experience that I still look back on today and feel the energy we created in that room. What I learned from that experience will affect my career for the rest of my life. I really appreciate everyone that helped create my album. I can’t be more proud of introducing myself to the world with this piece of art. It’s truly humbling. 
3.    Having the opportunity to tour Europe last year, and now being asked to come back and do a 25+ date tour stretching from Sweden to Switzerland to Germany and the UK. I’m thrilled to be able to play for the wonderful people of Europe again. 
 
Lamitschka:  Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
 
Answer: Definitely myself. I have to be. I think anyone trying to accomplish a goal has to be critical of their work; otherwise they will never push themselves to be the best they can be. I believe that with hard work, dedication and enough positive energy and belief, you can do anything you set out to do. 
 
Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
 
Answer: Man, I really enjoy just being able to be outside and doing anything that interests me. I’m a very curious person, and want to experience many things in life before I die. So, consequently, I just go wherever I feel I’m supposed to go. I don’t really keep a schedule, unless it’s something important/special or a gig. It aggravates my sister and any one of my friends that have a “real job”, but that’s how I roll. I like to keep things interesting. If you are asking specific things like what do I do, I enjoy travelling a whole lot. I love the experiences you get when you travel; everything from the food, drinks, music and culture, I love it. I guess I just really admire how people live their lives and experiencing something that is outside of the norm of my life here in Austin, Texas. I still enjoy going up to my property in North Arkansas and hiding out in the mountains for days at a time, but I don’t get up there as often as I’d like. I quite enjoy golf and snow skiing a lot as well; but Touring, running a record label, publishing company and recording studio really leaves me little time to just “relax”. I have a wonderful and blessed life that I’m ever grateful for, and do things that most dream of doing, so I guess I’m very satisfied with my life, so I don’t have this outside pressure affecting my choices. My choices are what causes my stress, but I have created a life that I wake up to everyday and enjoy, so I’m very humbled and thankful for the gifts that life has given me. 
 
Lamitschka:  Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
 
Answer: Well, I think that if I could change anything, it would be having a closer relationship with my family. I’ve always felt that have been treated like the black sheep of the family, so I don’t quite understand how to communicate with them. They have such different views on life than I do. Not to say that I can’t have a conversation with most of my family; I just feel that I can’t relate to their lives and they don’t understand mine. I want to experience life to the fullest and meet all kinds of people from all over the world, but most folks I grew up with are just comfortable and complacent with their lives, yet wonder why “things don’t go their way”. I believe that you have to create your own path and ultimately, destiny. No one can dictate what you do with your life, nor can they experience your life. One must strive to become the best possible version of oneself in order to achieve true happiness. I believe that happiness is a perspective, and one can choose to be either happy or they can choose to be miserable. I have chosen to walk my own path, and create my own destiny and therefore I am happy with my life. With hard work, diligence and enough belief, anything that I ever want that’s within reach, I will accomplish. I do believe that I will have the relationship with my family someday, but I think it’s going to take them seeing for themselves what is around them and understand my decisions to be who I am. 
 
Lamitschka:  What hopes and desires do you have?
 
 
Answer: I hope to retire early and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’m in my 30’s now, so I feel it’s time to work hard while I have my health and drive, then slow down and enjoy the life my wife and I have created for ourselves. I plan on focusing on producing music and films after I eventually come off of the road. A goal of mine is to create a feature film someday. I have started a treatment for a story that I created based loosely on my life, that I think I’ll start to work on in the not so distant future. Once I have toured this record, and the next one is finished; I plan on beginning the process of shooting my film. 

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