David Rosales was waiting for me on a street corner in Austin when I meandered up to him for the second time that day. In fact, he had been waiting patiently as some of my other interviews ran late, his back certainly weighing heavy with his luggage and guitar strapped on him and sitting next to him. Despite the 88 degree weather – and what should have been the most aggravating conditions – he brought with him a sense of ease and a feeling of calm that I hadn’t felt yet on 6th Street during SXSW 2018. He was kind, and ready to chat freely about his SX experience, his musical journey, and everything in between.
Let’s do this. I know – get your stuff situated, or hold it on your back the whole time, that’s fine too.
David: I’m sweating. I’m not used to this. I’m used to California.
Right? OK, so speaking of, how long have you been out here for South By? When did you get in town?
David: A couple days ago I got in on a Greyhound from Dallas. I flew to Dallas and then took a Greyhound down here with like my guitar on my lap, you know, because I didn’t want it to sit underneath with luggage and didn’t want it to sit in the overhead. Cause it’s not like a plane, you know, it’s a bus…
David: So I’m sitting there with like a book in one hand and a guitar in the other, cramped up, you know, I’m six foot one so it’s uncomfortable. Those Greyhounds are kind of small. But, yeah, I know, it sounds like the beginning of a song. I think it’s got a song in there somewhere. I got into Austin on a Greyhound. And it was late, it was like three hours late, so…
Meredith: So everything was going correctly?
David: You just need to be mellow when you’re touring. You’ve just to realize that, you know, you just got to flex and flow. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
Did you come into the industry with that thought process or did it take a while for you?
David: I don’t know, I guess I’ve been in the “industry” for a long time. I was in a hard rock band for like ten years. I was in garage bands before that through high school, junior high and stuff. Just growing up in L.A., it’s a big market. So I did the whole Sunset thing and touring around the country on an indie label. Then at about thirty, my band kind of dissolved at that time and I had written this EP that was just because I had a baby coming and I went from writing songs about death, and just rock themes, dark and stuff like that. I went in the studio and started writing some about love and stuff I wasn’t really comfortable with before. And when my band dissolved, I was like “well might as well follow this because it is the only thing I have”.
It wasn’t meant for anybody and it was this first EP that I released called Smile. I just went with it because it was the only thing I had. I didn’t have my band anymore and I just had these songs and I just started playing them, people were digging them, buying them. I sing with a girl named Olivia and we kind of did our thing and then we came out with an EP, the duet EP. We were Dave and Olivia for a bit. I did another solo EP called Along the Way that came out in ’14. I’ve just kind of been playing a ton of gigs and stuff since then, writing this new material, recording it, and getting the cash flow up to come out and do something proper with it.
This album we have coming up called Brave Ones is the culmination of all that. It’s eleven songs of love, loss, despair, triumph, you know, everything that’s kind of like the human experience. It’s a lot of relatable stuff. It’s crazy looking at myself as this thirteen year old skateboarder that would jump off rooftops into pools and stuff like that with my garage band and go to like, where I am now. Music’s always been there for me, but it’s changed and it’s grown as humans do. We’re not the same people we were when we were thirteen…
David: Or even eighteen…
Yeah we are!! (laughs)
David: (laughs) So it’s like, that’s the beauty of life, is kind of accepting those changes and stuff, and just kind of walking kind of gracefully. Fortunately for me, this kind of step that happened six years ago just kind of came at the right time and you just kind of flex and flow with it.
So with your new work, how can you imagine someone listening to it in its’ entirety? With a glass of Scotch sitting by a fire Anchorman style, out with their friends, is there an atmosphere you want to create with this?
David: It’s crazy to picture anybody listening to a complete album anymore…
I know, but I do it. I still do it!
David: That’s why we write these albums and that’s why I am, like, going over and over and over sequencing the songs, because I believe in it. I believe in the story that I’m telling. I believe in a whole vibe of an album. My album’s very round. It has a beginning and it has an end. It has arcs and stuff of a story and it kind of follows this path. I’m a student of songwriting completely so I love the whole story telling. I read Stephen King “On Writing”. I read great writers, I’m a student of it so what do I picture?
I picture somebody driving. It’s kind of like driving music. I think it’s somebody who could be cruising. Maybe like on the 101 in California, or just a long distance where they have…they can just kind of…Did you ever start a drive and you, “OK, I got to my location but I don’t really remember too much of the in between. I was vibing on it, but I just got here.” I want to take people away. I want to have them kind of look at – and relate to – what I’m writing. I think that I’m writing about relatable human experiences.
That’s the great thing about songwriters. Songwriters are, we’re just like you or somebody else that maybe doesn’t play music or something like that, but we just kind of recognize these mundane human experiences. These day to day things and we kind of put them in a song so that you go “Oh I had that same experience” or “I can relate to that” or “I can vibe on that”.
Absolutely. Here’s a quick, off the cuff, question: What’s been your favorite food at South By?
David: I’m staying with my cousins, so my cousin’s chorizo. She makes it like my mom where it’s not too greasy.
Dammit. Makes us all jealous. I’m going to tell people his favorite thing in Austin is this, but you can’t have it, sorry.
David: I really haven’t eaten too much food – I’ve been drinking a ton here. I’ve been kind of hydrating, that’s what I’m doing. Hydrating. So I haven’t been eating a ton of food when I’m playing gigs. It’s tough to eat and play and talk to people, so it kind of gets lost. I’m one of those people where I forget to eat, just in general. I run a lot and I’m almost forced to eat, so that kind of keeps me eating. I forget because I’m just so busy. It’s tough. So being a dad, running, my wife, just everything, I think about myself last in a way because everybody else comes before me.
Meredith: You’ve performed already at South By clearly, you’ve been here a little bit…
David: I’ve done three shows and done some interviews and press and stuff like that and I have two more shows tomorrow. We’re playing at the Westin Rooftop on the 20th floor for Chive TV at 1pm, and then an hour later at 87 Rainey Street.
Meredith: That’s a quick turnaround! You sound fancy!
David: I don’t know if I’m fancy. But I love it!
Keep up with the wonderful David Rosales and his intricate and beautiful musical path here.