THE LUXURY OF TIME the debut album on Elektra by David Mead has to be one of the highlights of the year so far. A majestic multi-layered gem of an album, busting with melodies, masterful playing and arrangements and topped off with a great set of songs any one of which could storm the charts given the right exposure. David is a master craftsman easily in the league of the very best of them, Jason Falkner, Gus Black, Michael Penn and Jeremy Toback. From the almost baroque opener of Robert Bradley's Postcard, with it's arching melody and climbing guitar patterns, to the heart stopping beauty of the perfect love song Breathe You In, Mead delivers the goods. The Luxury Of Time is a complex and compelling uplifting treat that once found will never leave your heart.The question is where has he been hiding all these years? We caught up with Mr Mead during a few well earned days off from a promotional tour to promote his fine album and asked him just that.
How did you first get into music and what were your influences and listening habits?
My mom was extremely musical, everything from Dixie Gospel to Broadway musicals to Olivia Newton-John. Singing was just natural, and she taught me some stuff on the guitar. I got into Simon and Garfunkel, U2, A lot of the NME and Melody maker scene circa 1986 (Smiths, Mighty Lemon Drops, Housemartins, etc.) I think anything that had strong melody; a lot of drama and something exotic about it always appealed to me.
What bands were you in prior to this and were you writing songs yet?
There was Painted Train, then The Verdant Green, and after Blue Million. Nothing very notable, I'm afraid. I started writing songs when I was twelve and was the "front man" for all of these outfits.
I noticed just recently that you were the guitarist in the excellent Nashville band Joe, Marc's Brother, whose album is a favourite round here. How did you get to be in the band?
I got in the band because I was at a temporary dead end with my music and I loved theirs. It was a rare opportunity to play pop music with amazing musicians who unabashedly loved it despite the remains of grunge and Michael Bolton that were prevalent at the time. I auditioned very loudly and they liked it. I only recorded about six tracks with the band, none of which were on The Debut Of (They were gracious enough to put me in the album packaging anyway.) They actually had to kick me out of the band. I needed a little convincing that it was time to do my own thing. I started from scratch, playing acoustic gigs every week at a Pizza parlour in Nashville until the right people showed up to form a band for the demos that got the record deal.
I heard that you travelled around Europe a bit and then did some sort of song writing course? Not a course, exactly. Miles Copeland has a song writing retreat he runs at his castle in France. I went to it and co wrote with a lot of people, some of the Go-Go's, Jai,Tim Schmidt from the Eagles and Dominic Miller from Sting's band.
So tell us about the recording of your album and the songs.
All of the songs on the record came about before we went into the studio. I always seem to start with the melody and music, I only get a line or something outside of that. I think the music should be emotionally strong enough to dictate the lyrics, then the lyrics should try to stay out of the way of the emotion as much as possible. Words are not my favourite thing. I did demos of all of the songs at my house and some of them (Landlocked, She Luisa) made it onto the final recording. I think we ended up leaving off three of the songs we cut. We started out with about fifty, though. I had done a few independent recordings, mostly E.P.s, before the album, none of which received much attention outside of my very immediate surroundings. Recording the record was not too painful. We tracked the songs in Nashville, then Jason and I holed up in a little studio and did various overdubs for a month or so, playing a lot of table tennis in between. We put the finishing touches on and mixed it in two additional weeks.
I am surprised to hear you say that words are not your favourite thing because the lyrics are for me are and important aspect of the album. Where do you get your ideas?
The lyrical ideas are mostly based around a sense of hope that I try to keep in most everything, to an extent. It's mostly about relationships, trying to keep your head above water in them and remembering exactly who you are.There's some kind of introspective 25-year-old stuff, too.
So how do you feel about the finished album?
I'm extremely proud of how the whole thing came out. I think it's a pretty accurate description of where I was at. Records are like conversations you might have with people, I think.The only thing you can do is be yourself, speak directly, don't bullshit someone. I feel like this one stayed pretty true to that philosophy It's received a good deal of positive response, and no one who has reviewed it badly seems to have more than a third grade education, so whatever. Upwards and onwards.
You're in the middle a promo tour to support the album.What's that been like?
A promo tour is decidedly unsexy. It's a lot of short gigs in odd places (offices, student centres, barb-clues) infused with a certain uneasiness as to whether or not anyone really wants to be there. But you press on, try to be thankful for the opportunity to play in front of
whomever that is supposed to do whatever for your fledgling career. It's a lot better than my last job delivering sandwiches. Guerrilla warfare, in a sense.
Which of songs are you playing?
We play pretty much everything from the record.The mainstays seem to be Robert Bradley's Postcard, Touch of Mascara, Breathe You In, Sweet Sunshine and World OfA King. It's mostly myself and my bass player, Robbie. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have a show with the full band.
What music are you into at the moment?
Shelby Lynne's record is wonderful. Macy Gray is a treat.Travis is tops. Stereophonics is great to drink and drive with, (separately, of course.) Those are the first that come to mind, but living in New York is always educational, not to mention going to new places a lot. I am probably aware of too many artists that are terrible, unfortunately. We get a lot of free CD's from people all the time, 98% of which are crap.
And what are your future plans?
Have a large radio hit that will enable us to tour more extensively with the band, get to the U.K. and Europe as soon as possible, record a new record, possibly in the fall. Drink less beer and more wine. We should be in London in May or June. I love being in London but I think the breakfast food is inexcusable. It is the most important meal of the day, you know?
And on that culinary bombshell we'll take our leave of the excellent Mr Mead with the strong suggestion that you check out his magnificent The Luxury Of Time album at your earliest convenience.
David continues to release albums all as wonderful as the first album.
almost and always out nov 2008