After over a decade of writing and performing, Texan singer-songwriter David Ramirez is an extraordinary artist.
His songs (explorations in Americana) offer the rawness of soul and blues, and the earnest poetics of folk, making him the artist that other artists can’t get enough of.
With Ramirez, there are no theatrics, outside of the theatre of a powerful song. There is no stage spectacle, outside of witnessing a talent that is quite spectacular. It’s just all about the tunes.
He was kind enough to answer some of The Vandals’ questions for The Songwriter Series – here’s what the old world troubadour had to say.
At what point did you know that you wanted to be a songwriter professionally? Was there something that made you realise it was the best thing for you?
“I wasn’t drawn to the Arts till I was 17. Even then, it had only been a hobby. A couple years, a couple cities, and a couple hundred songs later, I knew this is where I wanted to be.
It’s funny how a hobby, once realized and pursued, can quickly become something you cannot live without. I no longer feel that it’s me choosing to write/perform but rather something that I must do.”
Can you think of a gig, or a moment during a performance, when you realised you were doing something bigger than you had been before?
“The last two years have brought many performances and opportunities I never before thought I’d see or experience. It’s forced me to look deeper at my work and take more responsibility for it, when before I was only trying to have fun.
This shift in thought has shown me that things in fact are “bigger”. Listeners are responding in deeper ways than I’ve ever seen. It’s been very rewarding but also very challenging.”
Is there a song on your setlist that you look forward to playing a little bit more than the others?
“Every couple months “that” song changes. Currently though, I love playing ‘Kindness‘ more than most. It’s a song that will be on my upcoming album, ‘Apologies‘.”
What do you hope people take from a David Ramirez record?
“When it comes to a record, I don’t have a list of wishes for the listener. All I can do is write what I feel is honest and true, and then my part is done.
I guess I can say that I hope they don’t hate it, but other than that I’m okay with however they end up feeling.”
Please describe what it is that you experience when you’re on stage.
“I experience a lot of fear and doubt leading up to my first song.
After the first couple songs I’m still a bit timid, like a first date. It takes me a bit to catch a stride, and sometimes I never hit it, but if I do, once it happens, I feel like I’ve been married to the same woman for 50 years. I know how she moves, I know what she likes, and I just feel so perfectly comfortable.
If I’m lucky enough to hit that during a show, then I experience something that I never want to let go of.”
Is there a song that you wish you’d written?
“Goodness. There have been many songs over the years that I wish I had a part of. The first one that comes to mind though is Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’.
I was up till dawn a couple nights ago drinking with a friend who had never heard it, so I pulled it up on my phone and we listened to it around 40 times. It had been awhile since I’d listened to any song that many consecutive times in a row. It was a good moment.”
‘Stick Around’ seems to be about the part of touring which involves leaving things/people behind. What keeps you committed to traveling for your music?
“I mentioned this in one of the earlier questions but to reiterate, Music is something I have to do. I’m not choosing to go out and tour or write or record. I go to bed at night thinking through songs, reviewing the logistics or tours, and I wake up the next day trying to write and consider new ideas and ways to better myself.
I’ve been off the road now for four weeks and I’m beat to hell. I don’t have the energy to wake up or do anything productive. My life comes from my work and when it’s not present, I get weak. I leave Thursday for a new run and I couldn’t be more at ease. I feel for the first time in four weeks there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
‘Stick Around’ addresses the longing for a home and a “normal” life, but I know that’s not in the cards for me. There are many parts of my body that long for these things but my heart is not one of them.”
Is there a songwriter who you love, who you wish more people had heard of?
“One of the most beautiful things about touring is meeting other artists. I’ve met so many over the years that I feel are better writers and performers than I could ever imagine to be. I feel it would be unfair to just list one and unproductive to list many.
All I’ll say is support local music. There are brilliant people in the world, people that will never be famous or have a great radio presence. These folks still deserve to be heard.”
What are David Ramirez fans like?
“They are loyal. They long to be moved. They understand me and allow me to do what I want. They pay attention. They love to drink.”
Check back this Friday for The Songwriter Playlist that David put together for us, featuring his top 5 favourite ballads ever.
David Ramirez’s third album, ‘Apologies’, is out tomorrow, amid a fair flurry of hype. Grab it off iTunes.
Last week on The Songwriter Series: Cary Brothers