Day 75 - David (1st person I approached)
March 16, 2014 - I met David on the Cambie Street bridge. He was walking along and strumming his guitar as he walked. I knew there would be a story there, and was happy when he readily agreed to talk with me.
David is a true Vancouverite. He was born at Vancouver General Hospital, and grew up in East Vancouver. He attended Tillicum Elementary School and then went to Templeton Secondary School.
“I grew up in East Vancouver,” David told me, “In the area they now call Hastings Sunrise. Back in the day when we just called it Nanaimo and Hastings.”
David focussed on the arts in high school and was very involved in theatre and acting. He also played the drums, and guitar.
“After I graduated from school, I spent some time messing around with a few other musicians and put together a few different bands. We played a variety of music, and I spent a few years travelling around playing gigs and being a musician,” David said.
He also managed to pick up some work acting as well, but for the most part after finishing school, focussed on his music career.
When David had spent about three years playing in various bands, he decided to go back to school and enrolled in Vancouver Community College’s music program. David told me
“I wanted to learn the ABC’s of music. I knew enough to play the drums, and the guitar, but I wanted to really learn the craft of music. To read it and to write it. It’s one thing to be able play, but another all together to understand the essence and structure behind music.”
While in school, David made an important and unexpected connection with a musician from Peru who played a variety of music ranging from flamenco, latin, peruvian and world beat. David also discovered the Cajon, or beat box/drum as it is sometimes called. The Cajon either has no strings and is just a plain box, called a Peruvian Cajon, or it has guitar strings running up the back of the front panel that one hits, called a Flamenco Cajon and makes more of a snare drum-like sound.
“At the time when I first was learning how to play the cajon, it wasn’t an instrument that was often seen here in Vancouver on the local music scene. Now, NASA are making replicas out of all kinds of different materials. It really shaped and impacted the change I was experiencing in my own music,” David tells me.
One thing that David shared with me that he learned in this particular stage of his journey was about more than the ‘playing’ of music. It was about the sense and sensuality of the music. He told me,
”In order to know how to play well, and that’s not the ABC’s or the reading of sheet music, but about how you respond to your audience, or the crowd. To do that, you must watch the dancers. And sure, they might be pretty girls, or a cool guy with a cigarette behind his ear. But it’s more than that; it’s watching the grandparents dance, watching a newlywed couple dance, the first date, the young people at a club letting go, the children dancing around. That is how you learn to really play. If a drummer says he doesn’t watch the dancers, then he might as well give up music and sell insurance. It’s about more than this,” as he gestures toward his face and shoulders, “It’s about more than all that.”
David spent time playing with different groups and when the other musicians he regularly performed with starting having kids, David changed his approach yet again.
“I shut myself away and started to write jingles. I had learned how to play instruments and in school I learned the by-the-book rules and ABC’s of music, and now I wanted to try my hand at something different. I knew what was catchy and what would appeal to a larger audience. I found a certain level of success at it as well. Not necessarily financial success, but the time I spent in a studio, with a producer, a good microphone and some instruments, really helped to build on my musicianship. It felt good,” David said, adding that he thinks every musician should spend time trying the art of writing jingles.
While David was working at his music, he also landed a great daytime job.
“I had been walking past the Larrivée Guitar Company on East Cordova Street, and thought I’d drop off a resume. I knocked and John Larrivée opened the door. He was known for a rather direct approach and when I asked if there was a Human Resources office that I could leave my resume with, he replied ‘Yeah’ and held out his hand. I walked away thinking that was that. Two days later, I got a call and the day after that, I started working there. I spent three years working at building and finishing guitars for a company that is arguably one of the finest guitar makers going.” (*FACT CHECK - see below)
Sadly, Larrivée closed their Vancouver operations and moved all the business to their California location. Once again, David took initiative and knocked on a door of a local manufacture that specializes in construction and manufacturing of various times in plastics and wood. Once again, based on his timing and past experience, David was offered a job within a few days.
I asked David if he ever busked, or played on the street for money. He told me,
“I like to think of what I do as an artist who is painting a mural. While the artist is painting, people might walk by and stop to look, they might notice him out of the corner of their eye, or might not ever notice the artist painting at all. There is no hat in front of me, I have a regular job that provides what I need. Let them save the money for the person that needs to put out their hat.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://bit.ly/1nwBm8x