Michigan native David Vandervelde, perhaps best known for his debut album, the sonically-lush Moonstation House Band, is all over the musical map these days. Earlier this year, Vandervelde produced Bobby Bare Jr.’s album American Bread, a collection of covers by ‘70s bands America and Bread. This fall, WOXY.com caught up with Vandervelde on the Gibson bus after his set at Next Big Nashville. He spoke about his memories of the late Jay Bennett, and what’s in the offing for 2010.
You’re somewhat of a newcomer to Nashville, aren’t you?
Yeah, I’ve been here about a year and a half. I guess it was in the [Nashville] Scene; any time I read something, if I’m in a show, it always calls me a transplant. I’m wondering when they’re just not gonna call me a transplant cause I live here now. Is everybody a transplant?
Apparently there’s a secret threshold of time you have to cross before you get that removed.
I love Nashville though.
I was going to ask you about that, because from what I’ve read it feels like you’re really comfortable here.
Yeah, I feel like I finally have space to do what I love to do, which is record, write music and play my own songs. Kind of like the realm of The Moonstation House Band record that was done in my room at Jay [Bennett's] studio, where I’m surrounded by instruments and always having the production and songwriting and mixing, and, in some cases, the mastering be totally song by song, all part of the same process.
When I lived in New York my wife moved out to Brooklyn, and we both lived in Chicago for a long time. I was living in my parents house and ended up moving out to Brooklyn, and in the nine months in the time at Brooklyn, I didn’t have any of my music gear or stuff or practice space or a band or anyone to play music with that was in the realm of what I was into musically.
So it’s like get an idea, go immediately take care of it.
Yeah, and then finish it. Follow it through, finish it, move on to another song, finish it, move on to another song, finish it.
So that’s the record that I’m working on now, and that record’s going to have like “Wave Country” and “Learn How to Hang.” It’s all about the signature sounds. I’m working on that record and then at the same time I’m working on another record with mister Jimmy here and a couple other dudes. That’s more of the “Nashville record.” That’s kind of more of a country thing, kind of more of a “as slick as what we can do,” basically.
You mentioned doing the country thing. Is that a direct result of the influence from being here in Nashville? Is that a record you could’ve made in Brooklyn?
It’s not a record I could’ve made in Brooklyn, because Brooklyn to my knowledge does not have the caliber of players, at all, compared to what I’ve found here. For that kind of thing anyway. If I was gonna do an art-rock tight band, with a bunch of guitar pedals and that kind of thing…Personally, I didn’t connect with anything as much in New York as I do here. I like all of the Broadway bands. There’s a guy named Josh Hedley that I’m into. There’s this band named Slick that lives here now, and I’m mixing their record. And Chris Scruggs, who’s a great steel player, and Bobby Bare Jr…. There’s all these great people and, Mr. Jimmy being one of them, I feel like I’m part of this musical community that’s going on and everybody’s busy and I’m always busy with music all of the time and it feels really good.
There seems to be a lot of folks that thought your second record was a lot different from your Moonstation House Band album, and there’s probably some validity to that. This record that you’re working on, is it going to be more like the second record, or more of the first, or maybe both?
I think that the third record in a strange way is closer to what people would think my second record would be like, whatever that anticipation, because of songs like “Jacket” and “Nothin’ No.” And my, I love pop music, I love all types of pop music, and I like production and that’s what I do, and now that I’m doing that again I’m just on that same kind of trip.
You were very close with Jay Bennett, and some of your earliest work was alongside him. What’s your best memories of him? Something that you think about and will always bring a smile to your face?
There’s a couple that I probably shouldn’t share and there’s a couple that…there’s so many that I could share.
The best one that frequently comes up in conversation with other people that also knew Jay and his nonstop ability to work on music and be locked into the studio and everything… he would stay up like weeks at a time and be workin’ on the same batch of songs, and he’d come down and get Thai food and come back up and eat it and then drink a bunch of beer and listen to the same shit over and over again. And we’d just get really philosophical and all that kind of stuff.
But one time I was out of the studio, and Jay had to hang like that by himself, and I came back home and it was probably 4 in the morning. And I heard music coming from his control room and I walked in. Jay was in a wheelie chair wearing boxer shorts a flannel shirt, like mostly open, Doc Martens with the laces out, with a beanie hat on, like totally passed out with a beer spilled on the floor and with Pad Thai all over him, all over his body, and I was scared. I walked in and was like “Jay, are you okay man, what happened?” I kind of woke him up a little bit and he was like, “Oh dude I just fell asleep. I was eating my Pad Thai.”
I really dug the new stuff that you played. Tell us more about the time line for getting that all recorded and going forward.
Well, right now I’m working on singles. “Learn How to Hang” and “Wave Country” are finished and mastered, but they’re not out yet. They’re gonna be free downloads possibly, and then they’ll probably end up being a couple batches of singles and kind of intertwined with some short touring and stuff. I think that Secretly Canadian [label] is gonna be a part of that whole process as well, but I guess the idea is to have almost like a box-set of 45s, which I think is really cool but first they’re gonna be out as like a free digital thing. So yeah, that’s kind of the thing, to lead up to a record and put a record out and do it.