David Starling - 10 Questions Interview
David Starling is an Alternative-Country singer/songwriter from a small rural county just south of Tallahassee, FL. A lifelong musician, he co-founded Slow Low Crow and led the band to become an established act in the local music scene. Eventually, David started writing original music and decided to pursue his own direction. In 2019, after committing to an alcohol free life, he began recording his upcoming album. Offering songs in the traditional country and folk music genre, with lyrics written by and for the modern rural experience, his debut album Mondegreen is scheduled for release in December 2020.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I've actually written music for most of my life, but STOPPED writing lyrics and singing for a long time. At the time I was dating another musician, and she was really blunt about the quality of my songwriting. So I stopped. I kept writing music, but I wasn't comfortable enough to write lyrics or sing. Eventually I had no other option. I slowly started picking the pen back up, and finally had a fit of inspiration after visiting Seattle with a friend.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Probably the night where I thought I was doing the right thing by helping a woman get some creep away from her. It got to the point where he was making a scene, and the drummer thought I was going to get shot (Florida, you know what I mean?). We kept checking the rear-view mirror on our way out of town thinking that he was following us. Luckily after a dozen or so miles, the suspected vehicle turned around.
What has been the high point of your music path? Opening for one of the guys responsible for inspiring me: Justin Townes Earle. Didn't get a chance to meet him, but his backing band was awesome and great to talk with. It was a surreal evening for me at the best venue in town, Fifth & Thomas (they just closed due to COVID-19).
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? I've been sitting on loads of musical ideas that I recorded "sketches" of. Simultaneously I'm constantly filling notebooks and errant papers with small phrases that catch my interest. I'll be having a conversation one day or listening to someone talk when the idea strikes for a hook or a particular line. Nine times out of ten, I'll have other notes that fall in line with the thesis for the song and I'll pair it with one of those musical sketches, or write something new around the words.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think the economics are the hardest part for an Indie Musician these days. Gigs are where you make the money to survive, but obviously we're hit hard right now. It was bad enough in 2008, locally I saw a lot of bands on the cusp of greatness fall apart. The music scene couldn't afford to put on shows, a lot of establishments went the DJ route around that time. Here again we're faced with hard times in the live music/venue industry. Be supportive of the artists and venues you love, especially your hometown acts and spots. We need each other now more than ever.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why? Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. They're amazing writers and performers who truly know how to make you feel the exact emotion targeted. Being able to experience that would be tremendous.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
It's extremely informal, seeing as I'm mostly doing solo shows for this project. I try to keep in mind that the setlist should flow naturally, but not overthink it and pay attention to the audience. When it comes to working with other musicians, it's about keeping it fun but serving the song. The great thing about playing with others is that you encourage each other to bring your true musical self to the table. In that sense, the music takes on another life.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I had a country ballad sitting around since 2015 that didn't get anywhere, I only kept the chorus and the first line of the first verse "The gas gauge reads empty, but the moon's looking full". It sat for three years until one day in a band rehearsal and the drummer started riffing on this unique shuffle. Immediately I knew that this was it, that beat plus the song idea. J.T. Weir and I sat down one night over a bottle of whiskey to hammer out the idea to completion. It's about being a poor musician, but how rich you really are with people you connect with. "Should've known this would happen again, cut from cloth of a dress soaked in gin, you and I were made to play the same part - two wild eyed strangers with crooked hearts". That's how "Gas Gauge" came to be.
What's coming up in the future?
Since last year, I've been recording my first solo album, so we're getting ready to finalize that. "Cowards" is the lead single, we're releasing that on June 20th. The album is going to be called Mondegreen, that's going to be out in December. We'll also release another single or two along the way!
For more information, please visit my website.