PART 2: The David Serby Interview, plus
Earlier this year, singer/songwriter/guitarist David Serby released "The Latest Scam." His fifth CD offers a 2-disc, 20-track countrypolitan ride. Vibrant, intriguingly textured and tantalizingly piquant, the venture is packed shoulder-toshoulder with hooks, intoxicating narratives, and an abundance of head-turning instrumental charms.
FROM DAVIDSERBY.COM: "Produced by the musician’s longtime collaborator Ed Tree at his Treehouse Studios in San Gabriel, California, it features Serby’s working band the Latest Scam: lead guitarist Tree, bassist Gregory Boaz, and drummer Dale Daniel. Serby contributes lead and background vocals and, for the first time, electric rhythm guitar."
Recommended cuts: "True Love," "Amnesia," "Waiting Out the Storm," "Pretty Little Kitty," "Gospel Truth," "Like She Was Never Here"
I SPOKE WITH DAVID SERBY RECENTLY. LAST WEEK, I POSTED THAT CONVERSATION'S FIRST HALF. BELOW IS THE SECOND HALF.)
5) Are any of the songs on The Latest Scam derived from your own life?
I’d say they were all derived from my life in some way or another.
One night, I asked a guy who I hadn’t seen in a while where he’d been and he told me he had a new girlfriend and he’d been spending a lot of time with her. I went home that night and thought about what he’d said and realized the same thing had happened to me, in the past. You fall in love and get so wrapped up in that other person you forget everything you’ve been doing and everyone you’ve been seeing. That night, I wrote a song about a guy who falls in love with a girl named Amnesia.
Another time, I was talking to a guy about Bob Dylan. Specifically, about how when Dylan showed up in New York he told stories about himself working in carnivals and riding the rails…all kinds of stuff that wasn’t really true. But he was so amusing, and meaningful, and entertaining that when people found out some of his stories weren’t true they didn’t really care. I thought that was a perfect metaphor for America. This country can spin a good yarn. So I wrote a song about a guy who comes from a questionable background of murder, beauty, religion, and daring (or does he?), he makes up some stories about himself, ingratiates himself into the lives of some famous people, makes up some more stories, and finally becomes so revered that he’s sent on a secret mission by the President of the United States (maybe). That’s the Gospel Truth.
A lot of the songs (When Couples Fall in Love, Those Ain’t My Dreams, and Ain’t No Way to Live to name three) are about my love affair with music. I realized my relationship with music was just like my relationship with women. I need to work at something new instead of continuing to do what is/was comfortable; and sometimes that means giving up what I thought I should be doing (making country or folk records) for a while and trying something different (making a pop/rock record). And sometimes I feel like I work really hard but don’t get a lot out of it…that the music is getting the better end of the deal. My guess is that everyone (no matter what they’re doing) feels this way…probably a lot of the time.
I love the movies, so Pharaohs is about Hollywood and cinema…and like Gospel Truth how we all like to hear a good yarn. And if the yarn is good enough, we’ll be back tomorrow for more.
Pretty Little Kitty is about my cat who I though ran away, but didn’t. I played it for my wife and she said, “Not bad…but I don’t really think it’s about our cat.”
All the songs have those kinds of stories.
6) What’s your main objective in writing – connecting with a certain audience, or allowing your muse free rein?
I always say that being an independent, self-financed artist is both bad and good. The bad, obviously, is that nobody gives me any money and I have to pay for everything myself. The good, obviously, is that nobody gives me any money and I get to do whatever I want to do.
Besides, I don’t really have the time, patience, technique, or soul, to chase what is popular. And even if I did, by the time I caught it something else would surely be popular.
Also, I’ve never made enough money to make doing the same thing over and over again profitable, so, there’s no real temptation to do it.
Finally, I get bored with myself very quickly, and I’m always worried I’m going to bore other people, too. I’d rather do something new and fail than be boring. I’m lucking to be making music in Los Angeles. The people who support independent roots music in this town won’t reject you if you try something different. They’re very inspiring and empowering to local artists.
7) I see Edward Tree produced (he also produced Haymaker’s “Now Now Now,” as well as your earlier “Poor Man’s Poem), and contributes guitar. Did he capture the sound you sought?
I love Ed Tree. He produced and played guitar on all five of my records, and of the hundreds of band gigs I’ve done in the last seven years around town, he played guitar with me on all but three of them. He played guitar with me on a lot of my solo gigs, too. And he lives about three blocks from me, so, whenever I have some songs I just walk over and record demos at his studio.
Ed’s musical vocabulary is immense, and he is an extremely soulful guy (as I’m sure you can tell from his playing). On Poor Man’s Poem, we were shooting for acoustic, folk, and blues and he absolutely nailed it. On The Latest Scam, we were going for a late ‘70s early ‘80s pop rock thing and every note he plays on this record is inspired. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that many of his guitar parts are speaking directly to the song lyric. He the guy couldn’t play a clichéd note if he tried.
Like I said at the start, this is the absolute best version of The Latest Scam we could’ve made and as always, a lot of that is because Edward Tree is producing and playing guitar.
8) Tell us some about the disc’s other players. Are they in your live band?
On my first three records, we always had the players in the live band play on the record, but we had a lot of great side musicians come in and contribute other parts, too (fiddle, piano, pedal steel). On Poor Man’s Poem, the songs were recorded before we put together a live band.
For The Latest Scam, I wanted to put together a new rhythm section, and record the entire record with only the guys in the live band. That’s me on electric rhythm guitar, Ed Tree on electric lead guitar, Gregory Boaz on bass guitar, and Dale Daniel on drums.
Ed Tree has played with a lot of great musicians. He’s been in the Spencer Davis Group for the last 20 years, I think. He was in Rita Coolidge’s band, and Juice Newton’s band, too.
Gregory Boaz is a monster on bass guitar. For years, he was a member of Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men, and before that he was the bass player in Tex & The Horseheads. Greg added the perfect combination of roots, rock, pop, and punk to the record.
Dale Daniel has played with tons of great musicians, including one of my all time favorite bands, The Hacienda Brothers. Dale is a good buddy of mine and I’ve seen him play tons of live shows. He plays a lot of country gigs – In fact, he played drums on my first country record and was in my live band before he got really busy with the Hacienda Brothers. I think when people think about The Hacienda Brothers they think of a country band, but if you ever saw them live you’ll know that they could rock it pretty hard.
I feel pretty lucky to get to make music with Ed, Greg, and Dale. They’re good buddies and great musicians.