Dave Gleason is based in California and with his band Wasted Days has released the fine albums Turn and Fade (2010), Just Fall To Pieces (2007), Midnight, California (2004) and Wasted Days (2002).
He is a singer/songwriter, a producer and an admired guitarist. Dave Alvin siad of him “Dave Gleason is one of my favorite guitarists. His playing is wise and lyrical but he’s also a serious gunslinger. If Dave Gleason walks into the room, I set my guitar down.” He is a player who is continuing the great tradition of California country. Lonesome Highway has taken the opportunity to ask him a few questions:
At what point growing up did you connect with classic country and decide that this was the music for you and who were you’re primary influences then?
When I was a young boy (6-7 years old), my Father played lead guitar in honky-tonk country bands in Northen California. At that time (the mid 1970’s), there was still a thriving country & western live music scene in California-though by the late 1980’s this was pretty much entirely gone. Anyway, the record collection around the house consisted of Buck Owens/ Merle Haggard/ Rodney Crowell/ Emmylou Harris ... basically albums with James Burton, Albert Lee, Don Rich and Roy Nichols playing their Telecaster guitars - which is the true California Country sound in my opinion. The sound of that music immediately resonated with me, and it always has. I also heard alot of Roy Orbison/ Elvis Presley/ Creedence Clearwater ... things like that. Though I did not start pursueing a career in this style of music until I was in my 20’s.
You have been writing the bulk of the songs, mostly about relationships that have failed, are you unlucky in love or does the inspiration come from observation?
Inspiration for my songs do not (entirely) come from personal experience-luckily! I have always enjoyed writing from the perspective of heartache and bar-room situations- and I certainly have had enough experience with both to feel qualified to write about it.
Do you think traditional country/honky tonk is going to survive when the genre is being pushed between outlaw country/punk, southern style rockism and outright pop country for radio?
I think there will always be people playing traditional country music, and I think there will always be an audience for it, but it really has gone underground. You have to really look for it - or really want to look for it. Texas seems to be the only place - at least in the U.S., that traditional country music was and still is very much alive and well and mainly supported.
How difficult is it to survive as a working musician in today’s environment?
Today’s environment for a musician is very difficult. There are so many people out playing/singing and putting out records, and fewer and fewer venues to play. I have had to be very aggresive and very creative to be able to consistantly find venues and towns to stay active in - as I have no help in booking or management. It is very difficult to keep up with this, as well as the creative process. What I have done for years is play lead guitar for other artists as well as keep my solo career going.
You have played guitar with Johnny Dilks, how does your role there differ from playing under your own name?
Johnny Dilks is a great friend of mine. We have played alot of music together. I really enjoy being the frontman/singer-songwriter alot and I love to do solo/acoustic shows - the whole thing. But I also love to play lead guitar, so I really enjoy letting someone else run the show and just get to stand off to the side and PLAY and maybe sing some harmonies. Also, I can reach an entirely different audience-who may not ever come to see me play or have maybe never heard of me. I played lead guitar with Mike Stinson for quite a while as well-after Tony Gilkyson left the fold.
You play, produce, sing and write. Do you have a preference for any of these roles?
I enjoy all aspects very much - I would love to get into producing a little more. It would be alot of fun to work with other artists, see what I can add or bring out of other artists. I really enjoy the songwriting too, though I am sitting on at least 200 plus songs that are ready to go, which I really want to get out there - so I have slowed down on the writing lately! I’ve got bags of lyrics, tapes and tapes laying around.
On your covers, especially on Just Fall To Pieces you are all wearing Manuel jackets. How important is the look to you?
Dressing the part, or just dressing up to go entertain and play is something I take very seriously and just plain enjoy. I think an audience likes to see it, they like to see an artist put some effort into it (look at The Fabulous Superlatives!). That is a good point and something I really see a lack of these days - cool western wear is not that hard to find.
Who of your contemporaries to you admire?
Well let’s see, off the top of My head - Marty Stuart & Kenny Vaughn, I always like to hear what The Derailers are up to. I can’t leave out Jim Lauderdale, who I think is the best we’ve got these days and he is one heck of a cool guy. Mike Stinson is a great friend, and I love his albums. I have always dug Lucinda Williams too - since the mid 1980’s I have been paying close attention to her. I think Dave Alvin just gets better and better - I love his work.
Has technology affect you in any way and are your audience download savvy or do they want the physical product?
I don’t really know ... I have always done well selling the CD’s at live shows and through distribution - though I have done well with downloads too. Seems like people still like to buy something they hold in their hand. I can understand that and I have never downloaded any music in my life. I also have thousands of LP’s/ 45’s/ 78’s and some, but not many CD’s. I am very glad to see the re-emergence in the LP format over the last few years - as you can probably imagine!
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
In 10 years? Well I sure hope that I am around doing what I do. Putting out records, have some cool people to play with, have some cool people to play to.
Interview by Steve Rapid.