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INTERVIEW: RACHEL JAMES & DAVE PRESTON of DEARLING – February 2019

| 13 February 2019 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “Denver-based quartet Dearling is set to release its new EP, Silver and Gold, on February 22, 2019.  Following the success of its debut album, Inheritance, the band knew that its second offering would have to be different and that it would need to challenge what they had already created. Silver and Gold is the result, and it hails back to band vocalist Rachel James’s modern country start in her musical career. Preston and Dearling bandmate (and lifemate) Rachel James met in the middle of Preston’s whirlwind career at a songwriter event in Denver. “I’ll never forget his extraordinary and unique guitar playing and songwriting,” James says.” We get Rachel and Dave to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Photo Credit – Kit Chalberg

ToddStar: Dave and Rachel – thank you so much for taking time out for me today, I appreciate it.

Rachel: Absolutely thank you.

Dave: Of course. Thank you Todd.

ToddStar: I had a press release come across my mail and a download and I took a quick listen to it and didn’t think much about it, I’ll be honest. And then I went back to it a second time – the EP Silver and Gold from Dearling – and it’s taken me by storm. What can you tell us this EP that a fan of the band might not get the first or second time they listen through this?

Rachel: That’s a good question actually. Let me think for just a second. I think for our fans it is a little bit of a departure from our previous record. Our previous record was a lot more folk and rock than this. This EP is pretty straight, straight forward country in a lot of ways, I mean it definitely has our flare. I think for our fans probably that probably might be a little bit of a surprise, we also have Dave singing the majority of the tunes on this one which is also a departure from our previous record. This particular group of songs is really about the type of love that doesn’t often get talked about in a lot of music. It’s not necessarily about new love, it’s not about the falling in love process, it’s about like, deep rooted love. And the type of behavior that it takes to support that sort of love and so, it’s kind of unique in that regard. I don’t know Dave what do you think?

Dave: I do think it’s unique in that regard. I don’t anyone to get any music fully in one listen, anymore. But I think our greatest hope is that people experience what you did, like they go back and listen to It and then it kind of becomes a soundtrack for that moment of their life for a moment. We just hope that the music can fit people’s lives in the way that it needs to.

ToddStar: Well this is being labeled country and Americana and I like that labeling, but I like a rock labeling as well. You talk about your last album where it’s kind of got that rock, but this one has that riff that opens up “What I Don’t Need.” It’s in direct contrast to one of my favorite songs which is the title track “Silver and Gold.” I love the play on the duet vocals in that song. When it came to putting this together – you wrote three tracks yourself Rachel and then ‘What I don’t need’ was joint with a third co-writer – how do you guys approach it? Like you said, you have Dave doing some vocals and stuff, but they’re your songs. Rachel, how do you work out the kinks of something that was written from your perspective, your internal voice, and convert that to something that Dave can pick up and run with?

Dave: That’s a great question too. You know like in this regard we’re really lucky to have… you know the incredible songwriter that Rachel is, but she also lends such a big hand in the producing world too. And when you have the song writer also as the producer you really do get the raw, intense of the original piece and so Rachel was patient enough with me, when I was doing the vocals to say, “No you can do better.” Or, “This needs to be done this way.” And obviously when that’s done the guitars can just stack themselves very nicely once the intent is understood on my end.

Rachel: I will say too I feel like we have a great team of creatives and I really trust these people but you know, in my experience I got into music as a song writer not as an artist. And so, my original mental perspective of songs is that you write them but then you hand them off and you let other people, hopefully interpret them in a way that’s personal for them that they can make useful and that they fall in love with. So you know, for me as the song writer I also understand the process that you have to let go of a little bit of it so that somebody else can make it their own. So I hope I’m not like extraordinarily intrusive in that process with Dave singing on a lot of songs that I’ve written.

ToddStar: You guys have the dynamic of being a couple on stage and off. How do you guys balance that control – you’ve got the singer/song writer on one side and the guy laying down licks on the other side – not only in the studio and in the mixing room, when you put it all behind you and you close that door, when you’re on your way home?

Dave: I think the fact that you think that we control it and balance is wonderful.

Rachel: I was going to say, “How do we answer this?” There’s a premise here that might be wrong. We have tense moments we definitely do, cause we’re both so creative-

Dave: And we’re both passionate about it.

Rachel: …and we’re passionate and so we have those moments where we’ll looking each other in the eye in the studio like, “I do not get where you are.” And we have to come back to it, leave it and come back and we both make massive compromises often.

Dave: But I will say, I think at the heart of it we’ve always been hands on with our music that we’ve released, before the marriage and then when we made Dearling. We really like to label ourselves as a DIY band, in some regards, we do like to have our hands on with everything and especially in the merch department as well, like being able to make our own homemade candles and sell those at shows and those are just fun little items and yeah, I mean we like people to experience the band with every sense that they can. That was an idea that our bass player Noah came up with and yeah it was just took that idea and ran with it.

Rachel: We just know that since we’re doing it, we have to work it out so we figure it out. There’s no one else who’s going to step in and fix it for us so we just catch air somehow.

ToddStar: So what you’re saying is through all of this Dave has figured out which look tells him that he’s spending the night at the studio?

Dave: I think all of us have been there once or twice and all know the look.

ToddStar: Yes we do – that’s why I can ask a question like that, because I know that look all too well. It’s funny listening through this and I’ve dug back and listened to some of the tracks from your previous release Inheritance, going back and listening it’s hard to pinpoint because of the change in musical direction. Who are some of the bands or song writers that have influenced you guys and kind of put you on the path that you’re on now?

Rachel: I would say we did make a strategic change from our previous record. We wanted something that was more focused. And in the last few years we’ve really fallen in love with particular songwriters that are more at kind of in country or Americana. Like Chris Stapleton, and Travis Meadows and like we’ve gone and listened to the songwriters that we really loved in this process, and I think probably the most important piece for these songs to me was really starting to tell more stories with the music and that dictated so much of what would happen with the melody or the chords or what we would decide to do with the production, because that’s something that I admire… I write a lot of pop, I’ve done a lot, a lot of pop in my past and then country is kind of in the roots of my songwriting and I just kind of wanted to go back and get to what I loved about country. And one of the things I love about country is the story telling aspect so that was really important to me with the songs on this particular EP. I don’t know Dave, what is stylistically for you? What do you think?

Dave: With Inheritance we had so many fun songs to play and we recorded them the best that we could and tried to be unique but also keep them authentic and what they were. But with this, like Rachel said, we were very intentional about what we wanted it to sound like. But it also at the same time was more freeing to be like that. It just felt like we finally were able to relax and to the voice that we could be.

Rachel: And I know for Dave – you talk about influences – that Dave in the last year has had much more opportunity to be in Nashville and to be kind of around a lot of what’s going on in country music right now and what those people really love and who they listen to. And I think that actually played a huge part in the making of this record and how it ended up sounding is just even that exposure for Dave with the guitar parts and the types of artist that he’s been around in the last year.

ToddStar: Nashville’s one of those cities that you fall in love with. I always thought I was just a hard rock and metal guy forever and ever and its one of my favorite cities to go back to time and time again. You speak to the area and the genre and just the whole vibe of Nashville and I mean, you know you got rockers and performers from other genres down there… Detroit’s own Kid Rock has his place down there, Brad Whitford from Aerosmith is down there. What’s it about that area in your guys’ opinion that makes it less of just a country mecca any more and more of a music mecca?

Dave: That’s a great question. You mentioned two genres of music that should not belong in Nashville so to speak, but I think what’s really happening is with all of this streaming and all of the music sharing and everything. Music is just becoming so fun to listen to and so many different ways and regards, and moods and genres but at the same time it’s becoming just so fun to play all these multiple different genres and recording is becoming so easy and so fun where you can take a country lick or like something on a banjo and you can put it with a metal guitar and something brand new and unique and it’s fun and fresh. And so I think Nashville there’s that great classic, the book old phrase, ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’, there’s just something about the musicianship there.

Rachel: That’s what I was going to say because I think for songwriters that’s where you want to be. It’s a town where, and I think that the older I get the more realize it, we’re in Denver, there’s not a whole lot of actual just songwriters located in Denver because there’s no business located here. So if you want to get around like people who have made creating their lives work, you got to go to places like Nashville and LA to have all of those sorts of people around you a lot. Like Dave was saying kind of the ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’. I think especially with stream services and that sort of thing all these genres are really opening up and getting kind of mixed together and so it’s more about just creating something and I think that’s even true in the songwriter realm, like you see on so many songs, there’s five and six songwriters and they probably all contributed something that made that song a little bit more of mashup stylistically then it would have been previously and so that’s happening in places like Nashville and LA and it is, it’s kind of a fascinating time.

ToddStar: When you speak to being around those types of people especially singer/songwriters – again I’m in Detroit area and if you go back to the days of Motown, the marquee names were the front people, but the real stars were guys in the studio cranking the songs out either in the songwriting or the recording process…

Dave: Amen man. And most people don’t know this but Marvin Gaye was a session drummer and then finally got his turn and there you go. Yeah Motown is one of my favorites. When we first got married we bought a CD and drove around listening to it and I just kept diving into Motown and trying to understand how the label was made and what their intentions were. It’s just one of my favorite, favorite moments in music history, recorded music history I should say but man, yeah.

ToddStar: Well and I’ll come back to that near the end. As far as what you guys have done – again Rachel you’re a singer songwriter – who’s out there that you would like to collaborate with from a songwriting standpoint?

Rachel: Oh man. Okay so, I mentioned them earlier-

Dave: How much time do you have man?

Rachel: I know there’s so many people. One thing about me I will say, I love co-writing with great writers. But I also love working directly with artists and producers. I always have a good repertoire with those folks because I am an artist and producer as well and so those sessions I love just touching the heart of an artist. But on the songwriting realm again, I love Travis Meadows, I think he’s a brilliant song writer right now that also just has a brilliant story. But like, you know dream collaboration I would love to do something with Max Martin cause I think he’s a genius producer. You almost can’t beat what that guy has accomplished. I love folks like Ryan Tedder. I think that he’s made an amazing career for himself. He’s a great writer, a great producer. And then there’re artists out there that I think are just incredible. Like I said Chris Stapleton just as a vocalist and a communicator is unbelievable. I think on the female side, Carrie Underwood is one of those people too. I mean I just have a huge, huge list of people I think are genius.

ToddStar: Fair enough. Well lets flip the coin. Dave for you – again you’ve got the riff that kicks open “What I Don’t Need” and I’ve got the CD running while we’re talking here so I just listened to this solo that’s on the bridge in “Silver and Gold” and to me it’s got almost like a very Journey feel-

Dave: Totally man.

ToddStar: Who’s out there that you thought your guitar playing would mash with so well?

Dave: Oh my god. Wow. Funny you mentioned that riff on “Silver and Gold.” I remember playing it thinking, “Does this work? Because I love it.” And to answer that question I feel like my guitar playing has become so… I almost can’t even recognize it sometimes just because the nature of the types of gigs that I have to do. Rachel and I have been doing these Fleetwood Mac tributes with Dearling and it’s been fun to dive into the works of Lindsey Buckingham and Peter Green. That’s been really fun. I would love to play with Fleetwood. I would love to play with Paul McCartney because he’s Paul McCartney. But I mean there’re certain gigs where you just want to turn on your Marshall and crank it and play through no peddles.

Rachel: Can I throw one out there? Cause Dave is such an incredible ambient artist and he’s so good with different sound, I thought Dave would be a great addition to Muse. He’s so good at Rock and he’s so good at making sounds, I mean people will hear somethings and they’ll go, “Is that a guitar?” And it always is, so yeah.

ToddStar: That’s very cool. Again you guys have thrown a lot of names out there. And this isn’t your first rodeo so-to-speak, but can you tell us, each of you when was the last time you were actually starstruck and who was it?

Dave: I know mine. We took the kids to Christmas Carol downtown just to play a little musical. And we went to dinner right before and as we’re walking to the playhouse we walk by Conan O’Brien. I mean that’s tiny. In the music realm I can’t remember the last time I was starstruck. Peter Frampton last year was a good one.

Rachel: I was going to say he called me last year after Frampton. I’ve only been starstruck once. And I consider starstruck being like, you don’t even know what words are coming out of your mouth sort of moment. And Dave knows this, I met Steven Tyler about six years ago and he was about to play at the Pepsi Center, and we’re downstairs at the Pepsi Center and he walks in with his whole entourage and he’s small, he’s like this little man, but his presence was so massive, like you felt the whole room change before you even saw him, and then I turn around and it’s Steven Tyler and he’s talking to me about me doing his makeup for his show that night, and he’s like, “Hey, your makeup is great you want to do my makeup for the show?” I think that there are people outside of the music realm that maybe I would be starstruck by, he threw me off and he’s asking me to do his makeup that night. And I literally, instead of saying yes, which is what I should have done, I said, “I think I have band practice tonight.” Like an idiot. Like an idiot. And then I just stared at him. And everyone stared at me like, “Have you lost your mind?” And I’m like, “I’ve lost my mind.”

Photo Credit – Rachel Amidei

ToddStar: I’m sorry man. I got somewhere to be.

Rachel: Band practice. What am I thinking?

ToddStar: Even your band thought you were crazy.

Rachel: They sure did. They were like, “What is going on?” That was the one star… he has a big presence. That guys definitely a rock star.

ToddStar: Awesome. Now you talk about rock stars and you talk about everything else and you, at some point we’re all fans. And tonight you’re doing something, you’re doing the EP release tonight. Taking that out there to your fans. What are you hoping to see in the reactions? Are you looking for poignant thought provoking looks? Are you looking for people to just get into it?

Rachel: I’ve done so much live music long enough. I know it’s sometimes hard to tell the reaction just from how people look. People will just stare at you on stage and you’re like, “What are they thinking? Then they’ll come tell you afterwards and it’ll be something completely different then what you were guessing. I think for me, what I want is I decided a long time ago that the music I created, I wanted it to be good for people. And I wanted it to be something that was good for me to sing every single night. Something that I could fit myself into. Something that I wouldn’t be scared of becoming. Because I think you become what you sing a lot. And so I wanted to make music that inspired people and lifted them into something different and something better and something else. And that’s really all I want. That’s my hope is that we make it encouraging for people and give a little bit of light to people. And that it’s something that they can take with them into their daily lives and it’s not a flash in the pan. It’s not just about one moment that you have in life. It’s about what could be brought into every moment if you needed it.

ToddStar: Well I’ve mentioned tonight’s date. And the sad part is you go to your website and there’s no other shows listed, especially in the Detroit area.

Rachel: Well there are other shows, but we end up doing a lot of private shows around town. We don’t tour a lot. But we do have some other shows coming up. We have a big one we haven’t announced it yet. But we have a big one coming up in May and so we’re waiting for that announcement. Yeah, we’ve got some other stuff.

Dave: We’ll actually tell you, but Monday, we’re going to do a Facebook live concert, just Rachel and I. But yeah, this year we’re going to really focus a lot on doing the Facebook live concert experience with Rachel and me. It’s just a platform that is really wonderful and especially when you can’t get out and tour as much as you’d like. And reach all the fans that you have. But yeah. I think we’re going to have a fun year doing that. And we already did one and got a lot of really good response with that so. Yeah, Monday we’re going to do that.

ToddStar: Oh cool. This is where I wanted to tell related to the Motown thing – when the time comes and you guys are able to string together the tour, I’d love to be your escort and take you guys into the museum here and help you experience a little bit of Detroit from a rock and roll guy who loves what you do but also loves the Motown stuff so.

Dave: Done.

Rachel: That’d be great.

Dave: What are some of your favorite rock bands?

ToddStar: Ultimate favorite is Kiss. I’ve been a Kiss fan since I was a kid. So then I started going into different styles. My number one and number two all through the 70’s and 80’s were Kiss and Cheap Trick. I grew up in the 80’s so that whole 80’s rock. But I’ve been getting into everything. It’s just fun for me. But that’s why I like something like Dearling because I wasn’t familiar with your debut release. I listened to the EP, at first I was like, “Okay.” But then when I went back, like I said, the lyrics are poignant. That riff on that opening track grabbed me. But then like I said, you get into “Silver and Gold.” I like the play with the vocals. I like the riff in the bridge. The meaning behind “Real Love” is amazing. What’s next for you guys? Other than the Facebook live and hoping to string some tour dates together, what do you guys see as the next progression or next step for Dearling professionally?

Rachel: I think actually for us, getting outside of Denver is a big step. We’re all, all of us are family people. We all have spouses and kids. And we value that above all else so we’ve put that on the back burner while our kids have been really young. But I think we’re at a good place to try to expand that. Which is, the online, more of the online shows but also actually physically getting out of the Denver metro area and doing more shows outside of Denver I think is one of, probably one of our big goals in the next year. And we just really are looking to expand the reach. Find our fans in a lot of different places. Denver doesn’t have a huge country scene. So we want to get into those places and to those people who will really love what we’re creating.

Dave: We have works to do an acoustic record, Rachel and I. And that’s just going to be a bunch of cover songs. And we have a really good time doing that. We’re going to do a Fleetwood Mac song on there. I think Rachel’s going to do a Roberta Flack song on there. I think we’ll throw a Beatles song on there. Couple of songs that I’ve thought about that she doesn’t know about so I’m not going to mention them. And then we were really fortunate enough last year to play Red Rocks opening for a friend of ours. And we filmed the whole performance so we’re going to release those on YouTube and the rest of the performance on YouTube. Yeah, I think to go along with that expanding out. But like I said earlier, music is just so fun and I predict a lot more collaborations. Really unique collaborations with Rachel singing and me playing guitar.

Rachel: We’ll definitely record more. It’s been three years since our last release. We took a long time. I think actually we’ll probably have another release ready by the end of this year. So we’re not going to have as much space between what we’re releasing, so we’ll definitely have some more music out pretty soon.

ToddStar: Well I for one can’t wait for the follow up to Silver and Gold. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you guys and I know you guys got a lot going on. You got your EP release tonight, so I got one more for you before we cut you guys loose. If you could go back through the history of music and pinpoint one album or one song that just turned you. Whether it made you decide, “Yep this is what I want to do.” Or it was just a monumental moment in your life. What song or album influenced or hit you that hard?

Rachel: Oh man. Do you have an answer? You can go because I have to pick here.

Dave: Well I have the first time I was ever touched by music I think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did a tour it was called Secret of Ooze. My mom took me and my buddy Brian to see them at the amphitheater out here. And I really like that. I think the first time I actually really wanted to play the guitar was when I heard “If You Could Only See” by Tonic.

Rachel: I was just reminded yesterday actually, so I was, I grew up a classically trained pianist. I started when I was five. And I remember being about ten years old and I think I was playing Tchaikovsky at the piano and I remember crying. And not knowing why I was so moved really. But I was just so moved by it. And I think actually it was in my classical piano training growing up that I realized that I had a passion for music. And then it wasn’t until, it was in the 90’s, I was a 90’s teenager, the first time I heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the radio. I was in my little red hand me down car called Big Red. And I remember going, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” And I want to create something that makes people feel like that.

Photo Credit – Tage Plantell

ToddStar: Those answers couldn’t be more different. I instantly identified with yours Dave, only because there’s a singer that I love. I absolutely love everything that Jeff Scott Soto. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jeff Scott Soto…

Dave: Oh yeah man.

ToddStar: He actually voiced all the songs for the cartoon back in the day, Biker Mice From Mars, so when you’re talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the song influencing you I automatically went to, “Hey Jeff Scott Soto did Biker Mice From Mars.

Dave: That’s so funny. I was just recently at a show that I was playing and started thinking about how long I’ve been playing guitar and then more questions came from that. It’s kind of a hard realization – I was like, “Man 20 years.” And then you’re like, “Oh my God I should be so much better.” You start thinking about all that. And they were like, “Why did you start?” And the answer was easy. Girls like guitar players and that was the reason why. And later it turns into a life. Music can teach you so many lessons. And because this whole philosophical thing. But it’s funny when you ultimately look back at the core of things, like, “Yeah, I was moved by a cartoon voice over.” Or, “I was moved most by the one string bass that Donatello played.” And I thought, “What happens if he breaks that string?”

ToddStar: Right. Again, I know you guys are busy so I want to let you run. And I really appreciate you guys taking time out. Not only has this been fun, it really helped me understand a little bit more behind the EP Silver and Gold. And I can’t wait for a follow up and I’ll be in touch when that time comes so we can continue this conversation.

Rachel: Thank you so much.

Dave: Hey man, thank you Todd.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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