I first heard about David Cevoli on twitter when Robert Dillon (@rdlln ) introduced us and told me about his new indie album. Curious and tired of what passes as “good music” these days I offered to listen and review the album if I liked it.
As it turned out, I loved it. I went through the mp3 files consecutively with great relish. The songs were like a balm to my poor ears and music starved soul. They are extremely original, but there was also something decidedly old fashioned about them; in the best sense of the term. Of the names which immediately crossed my mind as I was listening was Billie Holiday. So it came as no surprise, when I asked David about his inspirations, he mentioned her name as being one of them.
That is not to say that the tunes of “All Grown up” are jazz. The band’s music is so creative that it cannot be pigeon-holed to any particular style. But that is part of its charm and what makes the music so enjoyable. No longer content to simply review the album, I wanted to know more about the man behind the music; the librarian who lives in Spain, sings in English, and is a huge Giants fan. Luckily, David was a great sport and happily answered all my questions.
Q1. You live in Barcelona, is that where you’re from?
I’m from the suburbs of New York City. I’ve been living in Europe for a long time, though; seven of the last ten years. I was always kind of obsessed with Italy and Spain, and I just ended up settling in Barcelona after years of traveling and working in different cities and towns throughout Spain and Italy.
Q2. You have quite an eclectic mix in this album; very different songs in nature both in style and themes. The ghost track for example, which I enjoyed very much, sounds almost country. How would you classify your music?
That’s a tough one, because I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect tagline for years. I think of it as Americana, but not the whiskey-soaked country rock kind that The Band epitomizes… so using Americana as the main genre tag doesn’t really work, because you say that and people automatically think of something it’s not. It’s just based on all the truly American genres of music… jazz, blues, country, soul, folk, so I can’t help but include the word Americana, because to me it really is. I’ve been using this lately: Poetic Americana Folk-Rock. I don’t like saying folk, because it implies musical simplicity, and my tunes tend to use interesting and unique harmonic progressions. Folk-rock seems to work, though, because that’s what a lot of my big influences might be classified as on a given day.
Q3. When writing your songs do you have a special meaning or theme you’d like to express?
Depends on my mood, essentially. Generally I try to be as timeless as possible, make very few references to tangible things associated with geographic or cultural-specific daily life. I try to write songs that function as little universal mythological folktales. It’s not that I’m necessarily aiming to make high art or be deep or anything; it’s just what I like. My academic background is poetry and classical literature. I appreciate other kinds of art, too, though, like I think the “auto-tune the news” guys are brilliant… I’ve listened to the Bed Intruder song at least ten times.
Q4. Speaking of academic background how does your job as a librarian play into your songwriting?
I work with students of all ages, three to eighteen year olds. With the youngest ones, I do lots of storytelling, folktales from around the world mostly, which is kind of an interesting angle, because I studied literature in school, not music, and I approach songwriting more as a poet than anything else. I’m kind of surrounded by stories all day at my job, new ones and ancient ones and I feel like my songs and the stories I choose to read with the students all come from the same source.
Q5. So when did you take an interest in songwriting? And how?
I grew up singing, never really thought of it as something I’d end up becoming obsessed with. I just sang all the time when I was young, walking to school, hiking, driving in the car, fishing with my dad and brother (they’d get annoyed because they didn’t want me to spook the fish), in the lifeguard chair (I lifeguarded in the summers all throughout my young life). At the same time, throughout my whole youth, I mean, I also wrote poetry and fiction, kind of thought of myself as a writer and imagined myself publishing lots of stuff one day. I always kept a journal with me and jotted down every lousy idea I had for a new piece. In my early twenties the two just kind of blended together. The songwriting started as soon as I started playing guitar seriously, I guess. It was kind of an inevitable and natural progression. Now I haven’t written anything other than songs in ages, but if I ever have enough free time, I’ll probably try my hand at some fiction again.
Q6. About the lyrics, when you use “you” are you referring to the listener or are you talking about yourself in second person? In some songs, like “You’re All Grown up Now” it’s obvious that you are addressing someone else. But in some of the others, “Hold the Line”, for example, it sounds like the “you” could be referring to the listener, or yourself, or both.
It jumps around a lot. I try write songs as unconsciously as possible, so if a line comes out that I like, I tend to keep it regardless of whether it fits with the rest of the lyrics… so the “you” can sometimes refer to different people within the same song. I don’t do that intentionally, it just happens.
Q7. In a few of the tunes, for example “Siren’s Song”, the lyrics almost seem like an accompaniment; like the melody is what’s really important and the lyrics are just there as a final touch; the icing on the cake, if you will. Is that impression accurate at all?
I try to write the music and lyrics simultaneously. Those are the songs I feel are most authentic and true. But often I have a melody and chord progression first, and spend ages trying to find just the right lyrics. Sometimes I land it, but sometimes I never quite feel like the lyrics I’ve added are just right, but as long as they’re not cheap-sounding or clunky or facile, I’ll usually just leave them and move on to something else.
Authentic and true are certainly adjectives I would use to describe Cevoli’s music. Others include natural, understated, and effortless. Effortless, mind you, in that the tunes are so easy to listen to; the process to bring them to life is very meticulous. The band uses a range of instruments including rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and Cajon. These were recorded live in the studio while the vocals, harmonica, banjo, keyboard and conga were added later. But how the music is created is perhaps the last thing that crosses the listener’s mind. Personally, I was busy enjoying the seamless combination of these instruments into beautifully unfettered and unique song. Each takes the audience on a separate journey and tells a different story. The title track, ‘All Grown up Now’, hints at the librarian, the teacher in David, imparting pearls of wisdom. The impishly titled “Evil in Your Eye” has a completely different theme and depicts a long suffering lover’s patience running out. My personal favorite, ‘Ring on Her Finger’ has a jaunty beat and ironic lyrics. I absolutely loved the harmonica and ended up replaying it several times in one sitting. The best melody and chord progression belongs to “Siren’s Song”, title of which perhaps refers more to David’s muse more than to any particular woman. “Candlelight Parade” is sweetly romantic with dreamy imagery and a highly melodic lullaby quality. Finally, the ghost track is just plain fun.
“All Grown Up” will be released on October 31 on Halloween at the Harlem Jazz Club in Barcelona. For more information, visit the band’s comprehensive website http://davidcevoli.com where you can sample/purchase music, watch videos, read the lyrics and check out the band’s performance schedule. You can also follow David at @DavidCevoli on twitter.
*All material posted in this blog is the intellectual property of reviewbrain (unless otherwise stated). Readers are free to make use of the information provided they cite the source (this blog) either by name (reviewbrain’s blog) or by linking to it. Please extend the same courtesy to the authors of the comments as well (by mentioning their names) to ensure that credit is given where credit is due.