Singer-Songwriter / Producer & Raith fan
Not only a superb songwriter, vocalist and musician, but David also produces demos/tracks for other songwriters in his home studio, some of which have been pitched to Nashville Publishers and Major Labels.
Hot on the heels of his EP "Show Me How To Feel", which was released in October last year, David has gigged constantly to get his music out there to new fans.
We delve into the mind and soul of the Kirkcaldy born Songwriter/Musician and find out more about his songwriting and the creative processes he employs to bring about meaning into his and our collective world, through his music.
Q: How did you first become involved in music ?
“I discovered my Dad’s collection of LP’s when I was really young and was blown away by the music, of course I couldn’t understand the songs intellectually but it didn’t matter because they moved me in a way that nothing else in my life did. It took a few more years for me to start making music, I had some keyboard lessons when I was 9-10 years old and, although I didn’t practice much, I took to it quickly. I loved rock music and in high school I decided I wanted to play the electric guitar. I wasn’t allowed one until I’d spent a year or so practising on this old nylon string acoustic that my dad bought from Wooly’s in the 70’s. The action was so high, but I was obsessed with getting better. When I eventually got an electric guitar (A reissue Danelectro U2) I started a band with my friend Grant on Bass and Andy on cement buckets and Quality Street tins for drums. No one else wanted to sing so I sang. We played everywhere, all over Scotland from a really young age and ended up playing T in The Park.”
Q: Would you say you're a musician first or a creative/songwriter ?
“That’s difficult, I studied music at university and I’m a pretty capable musician, but for me music is predominantly a vehicle for expression and so, if pushed, I would probably come down on the side of creative/songwriter.”
Q: What music inspired you as you progressed and developed early on and also now, who are you inspired by ?
“The first band that really blew my mind was probably Nirvana at age 12 and from there I explored a lot of rock and punk rock. Through my late teens I was really into the Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Husker DU, The Smiths, The Hold Steady. I started to get into alt country through bands like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo and this led me to writing in a more Americana style, I guess. As I’ve aged, I gravitate towards artists that aren’t afraid to be complex or mysterious and also show vulnerability. I try and avoid listening to a lot of artists who are doing a similar style of music to me. I’ve learned that it’s rarely useful for me to be too influenced. I want to inhabit my own style instead of borrowing from others too heavily. It’s inevitable to some degree but I do my best.”
Editors Note: Some songwriters, during their writing/recording process, don’t listen to other music, for fear it may impact on their own at that time, detracting from their train of thought or travel. And it is like a journey, beginning of the song to the end….there’s a destination. A place to be. So David’s thoughts on this and processes are his own, but he’s not alone. Some writers do indeed reference others all the way through writing their own songs, which is fine, if it works for them.
Q: Are there any genres you are drawn to, or do you listen to/appreciate across the board ?
“Yeah, I’ve become more relaxed in my appreciation of music. I like a bit of pop music, I still listen to quite a bit of folk, indie and punk rock. I’m learning the piano so I’m enjoying exploring more piano music and piano songwriters and trying to figure out what they’re doing.”
Q: What's your primary instrument and what others do you play ?
“Voice and Guitar are my primary instruments but I also play some piano, I can play Scruggs style banjo. I can pick up most guitar-like instruments.”
Q: Do you self record/produce (with a DAW/Home Studio) ?
“I record demos at home on Pro-Tools, but for my releases I prefer to work in a studio setting, with a producer who can help me be more objective.”
Q: How did you prepare for recording the new album ? ie (did you draft up the arrangement etc in a DAW/demo the songs first) ?
“The songs on the EP I released in October had been written and re-written a few times at home and they developed as I played them live. I demoed all of them at home, some were just scratch recordings and some were more fleshed out arrangements.”
Q: What was the motivation for the album and the songs content/meaning - are the songs based upon your own experiences, or your interpretation of the topics therein ?
“My songs are predominantly based on my experiences. I’m quite inward focused in that way. It’s something I tried to change, but I figured that if I feel it strongly enough to write a song about it, someone else probably does too. These songs tend to deal with reconnecting whether it’s to yourself or another person.”
Q: You took time out from music in 2016. Why did you feel the need to step back from what you were doing musically at that time - what for you wasn’t working with the songs previously, or was it your direction which wasn’t right at that time ?
“It’s hard to boil down to one factor. The narrative version I usually tell is that I became disillusioned with what I was doing and an opportunity to shift career coincidentally appeared, but I think it was a variety of things. What I was doing musically definitely wasn’t resonating with me and I felt like I was heading down a road that, artistically, I wasn’t particularly comfortable with. I had lost touch with the joy of making music and self expression and I figured that if I wasn’t enjoying it then it was worth taking some time to examine what was going on in me- I was quite lost. By the time I figured out that living life without doing music in some capacity would increasingly make me miserable, I had done two years of an IT apprenticeship and I had a pretty comfortable life. The scariest thing I’ve ever done was to leave that really good job and re-embark on a life of precarious music making, but I’m still very grateful for the job opportunity and grateful that I was able to make the jump back to music.
Q: Did that time away give you a different perspective on your work. Music/writing never leaves, we always come back to it.... would you say it's your calling ?
“It really reinforced some things that I was learning about myself. Up until that point I had a habit of trying to bend myself into shapes that suit other people, so this was the beginning of pushing back against that and trying to reclaim my own sense of self and who I am as a person. I think that’s reflected in my writing and as I become more comfortable in my own skin, I feel that I don’t need permission to be a songwriter/musician or experiment etc. It doesn’t make it easier to create but it does answer the question of ‘should I be doing this?’. The answer is usually yes now.”
Q: Do you have your own band or did you work with session musicians to record the album ?
“For the recording I had Lewis Gordon from Deacon Blue play bass and Phil Wilkinson (who’s a highly renowned session drummer) come in to track the rhythm section. I wanted to make sure that it was really solid and I was looking for the opportunity to collaborate with different musicians. I’m always keen to get new perspectives on my work and getting the guys in really helped open up some new arrangement ideas that I certainly wouldn’t have been able to come up with on my own. I was also joined by my long-term collaborator John Mather, who provided all of the electric guitar parts and I was lucky enough to have Mally Smith from Boston (by way of Edinburgh) come in and track some beautiful harmonies.
Q: Did you encounter/face any issues whilst recording and how was it working with a Producer ?
“There weren’t really any issues faced during the recording- aside from tuning a pedal steel! I did have some difficulty with singing on one of the days, but I think it was more down to fatigue and I suffer a little with asthma, so that can sometimes affect my voice. Working with Iain Hutchison, who produced the EP at GloWorm, was great. I felt like, from the very first conversation we were on the same page and we also seem to have a shared sensibility and taste in music, which I think help makes communicating ideas a lot smoother. Iain works so hard on getting the right sounds and isn’t afraid to try different sonic approaches to different songs, which is something that I really enjoyed seeing. I also learned loads from working in that environment and picked up lots of little techniques which I’m still incorporating into my own recordings.”
Q: Which songs have inspired you as a writer, what do you think you took from them, which you can hear in your own work ?
“It’s hard to narrow it down to a few songs, but there are always elements in songs that resonate with me and that I may try to use in my own work. I like poetry and metaphor and saying something without saying it, so I’m more inclined now to write like that than perhaps I once was. I used to worry too much about being clever in songs, or making narrative sense and that kind of cut me off from my feelings and the words that those feelings create. Again, I try not to be too inspired by other songwriters, because I end up copying them or getting super envious.”
David performs Raith Rovers' Geordie Munro on BBC Scotland's "A View From The Terrace"
Q: You've written songs with others & for others. One of your songs was recorded by Tanya Tucker - how did that come about ?
“That came about after a trip to Nashville in 2016. I was travelling with a friend of mine who was managing David Allen Coe and we had worked on this song which we wanted to pitch to Tanya and David ( they had recorded a duet together in the 70’s) so we managed to get a meeting with Kent Wells, who is Dolly Parton’s producer, and everyone got on board with the track. The track has been recorded, but I’m not sure if/when it will be released. Tanya’s been really successful with her latest album so hopefully it’ll appear at some point.”
Q: Any works published or used in Sync (TV-Film) ?
“Not as David Latto but I do have one song appearing in a film this year- it’s one of those things... I’ll believe it when I see it”
Q: How do you first start to write, to bring the song into being. Lyrics first, music first, a riff, a chord progression or does it depend on circumstances, mood etc different for each song ?
“It really does depend. Most of my songs are instigated by a strong feeling or a curiosity about something that could be musical or a fragment of a lyric or just something I think would make a good line/chorus etc.. Usually there’s a jumping off point and sometimes it turns into something good and sometimes it runs out of steam before the second verse and remains unfinished. It’s a really strange vocation. Trying to harness my creativity is always an interesting experience and not something which I have a huge amount of control over.”
Q: What are your plans with the EP (or album later), you seem to be a very busy chap, so any tours/gigs planned and would that be with a band ?
“The rest of this year is really just about getting out and playing to as many new people as possible. At some point though, I will be thinking about recording, and most likely doing an album. That will rely on a few factors that are only partially in my control so it’s quite wide open at the moment with regards to plans, but foremost, it’s trying to build an audience and be heard above the noise. I’m learning to get comfortable doing social media.
I’d love to tour with a band, but economically it’s not really possible. Most of my shows are solo or duo although we do have a band show penciled in for Edinburgh in July.”
Q: What's been the highlight of your music career thus far ?
“I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve done, but there are some things I really enjoyed. Early on in my adventures I got to play in France with the band and that was an amazing experience. Making the new EP. was an exciting time and over all I’m just happy to be doing this in some form.”
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self and others out there, trying to develop their craft and their careers ?
“It’s difficult to say what advice I would have for my younger self. All the struggles you go through as a singer/songwriter/performer are formative, so I probably wouldn’t change much. My advice to my younger self would probably be the same as my usual advice to myself, which is just keep going. I think it’s important to take risks with your art and that there’s no one way of making a career in music. There is no ladder and a lot of the good opportunities come from your relationships with people, so treat people well and just keep trying to improve. To me songs are still the most important thing and I try not to lose sight of that.”
Wishing David every success in 2020 and beyond
Click the EP cover "Show Me How To Feel" to visit David's Spotify and listen
By Pete Carroll (March 2020)