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. BELOW IS THE FIRST HALF OF THAT INTERVIEW. (SECOND HALF, NEXT WEEK.)
1) I think The Latest Scam is exceptional! Are you satisfied with it?
Thanks for the kind words, DC. It means a lot to me that you like the record. I purposely set out to write a record that was radically different from the historical folk fiction on Poor Man’s Poem. A lot of people responded favorably to that record and making a pop/rock record was a little bit of a gamble. But I didn’t want to repeat myself (at least not right away…ha) musically or lyrically. I do think the two records have something in common…They are both the best versions of the records I wanted to make at the time. I don’t think we could’ve made a better The Latest Scam, so, I’m very satisfied with it.
2) You wrote all of these tracks yourself. Do you prefer writing alone?
The Latest Scam is my fifth record; combined, I think they total about 70 songs. None of them are co-writes. I do have a co-write on a Ted Russell Kamp record, and one on a Rich McCulley record, but mostly, I write by myself. I usually enjoy co-writing but it’s not something I usually think to do. Authors don’t usually co-write books; and painters don’t usually co-paint their paintings. To me, a solo artist co-writing songs feels equally strange. But that’s just me.
I guess maybe I’m a little selfish and I want to own that part of it. I use songwriting and songs as an excuse to get to play music with musicians I love. The songs are kind of the discussion top and once I hand it over to other musicians I usually don’t give them a lot of direction or input on what to play. To me, that would be like inviting someone to have a conversation with me, but only letting them tell me exactly what I already know, or could’ve said myself.
That said, I did recently start a side-project with some great friends who also happen to be songwriters I admire and I’ve enjoyed writing with them for that project a lot…So, maybe I’m evolving on this one.
3) Which do you come up with first: music or lyrics?
I used to find that if I came up with the melody first then I had a more difficult time coming up with a decent lyric. So, I’d say a lot of the songs on my first couple of records started with song titles, or snippets of lyrics. I try to give the songs some story or arc and to do that I used to want to have a vague beginning, middle, and end before I started. That’s probably a holdover from writing screenplays.
On The Latest Scam, I’d say the songs evolved a little less thoughtfully…which probably doesn’t great. I had song topics before I started writing a lot of them, but usually no real melody or lyric. I just started putting chords together and singing random words, making up melodies. When I found some words that sounded like they went with the melody I’d rework the words a little so that they at least made sense, then I’d just start putting it together one line of lyric and melody at a time. A lot of the songs on the record came together very quickly. That’s probably why I wrote about 50 songs for the record (of which w recorded 20).
4) On what instrument do you write?
I always write on guitar – mostly acoustic, but some of the songs on The Latest Scam were written on an electric guitar. I have a couple of great Gibson acoustic guitars (an Advanced Jumbo, and a Hummingbird) and they both have a lot of songs in them.
I really want to write some songs on piano but can’t really play one. I’m actually thinking of taking a year off from writing, practicing piano all day, and then writing a piano record. But for now, it’s all guitar.