with Dave Sims of The Lonelies
Name: Dave Sims
Bands: Doug Burr, The Lonelies, The Flowers of God
Websites: dougburr.com, twitter.com/davsims
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
– I don’t know that “professional” was ever a part of it. Most folks I
know who do music for a living are just passionate & do it no
matter what. They don’t really have a choice in the matter, it’s a
compulsion. Then there’s this slow realization that at some point
you’re going to have to translate thousands of hours of practice &
obsessing over music into some kind of income. Some people do that
better than others. Some have good fortune, others don’t, & in
general it’s not a matter of talent.
But to answer your question, in
the fourth grade I got a used snare, picked up the sticks & found
out I had kind of a knack for it, even without lessons. Ever since then
if I’m in the room with a guitar or any kind of percussion or stringed
instrument, I have a hard time not picking it up. It became a
compulsion that I never lost.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Dave – That’s a short reel. :) Recording The Shawl
with Doug Burr live in one night was truly amazing. The environment,
the players on that record, the fact that we had never really rehearsed
anything together, & yet there was this chemistry in the room that
everyone immediately was a little in awe of. All of them very seasoned
players, too, from really great bands & other acts. We stayed up
all night running through tunes, making up parts as we went, & for
about 10 hours we could do no wrong. Tons of first takes ? no
rehearsal mind you ? made it to the record. & you can really hear
it on the record, the ambient noise, crickets coming in through the
windows, the subtle touches everyone put in on every take, we were
getting chills all night, just shaking our heads. Something else was
going on that we really didn’t understand. When I see any of those guys
years later we still talk about it. It was really a transcendent
moment. As a musician you live for that kind of thing. If you can get
one of those experiences under your belt it’s all worth it.
Collins arranged & overdubbed the choir part on “The Righteous Will
Rejoice” the next day & it was unreal. My friend Josh Pearson from
Lift to Experience was getting married that day, in the same building
we recorded in, this old 150 year old granite building out in Central
Texas, & so there were a number of good singers there just for the
wedding. We recruited them into the choir & again it was magic. We
couldn’t believe how good it sounded, how quickly Steven came up with
the arrangement. & again you can really hear it on that track.
Britton Beisenherz did such a good job recording & mixing. So many
strange & amazing things happened in such a short time.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
– Ha, that’s another non-decision. I always knew I wanted a family. I
had a pretty good childhood growing up & a lot of good examples of
family around me, so I always knew I’d be a dad.
QRD – What are
some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your
career? What are some positive & negative impacts your career
has had on your family?
Dave – Well, I don’t really think about
it in those terms, in either direction. Once you become a father
everything orbits around that fact. When my second son was about six
months old it became apparent that I couldn’t keep playing 4 nights a
week till 3 in the morning, so I left the band I was in & focused
on my day job. Touring is not conducive to family life in general.
Although I will say I had a long conversation with Sam Beam (Iron &
Wine) about this years ago & he seems to have found a really good
balance. He’s very family-oriented & seems to have made all of his
decisions around family. After that conversation I at least had an idea
of what full time touring & commitment to family would look like in
an ideal world. But not all of us can have Iron & Wine’s career,
& even with him I’m sure he’d tell you it’s a struggle to
maintain. Both sides of it are compulsions. Family comes first
though. You just keep doing both & hopefully you’ll have some good
fortune that allows for a few really satisfying musical moments that
makes the struggle worth it.
Both of my boys & my oldest girl
nearly always pick up an instrument when I’m playing & play around
with me. So hopefully that will rub off on them & at some point, if
it’s meant to be, one or more of them will get the music bug & we
can enjoy that together. That would be one thing that might just trump
playing on The Shawl, if my
whole family became really musical, Carter Family style. But just
playing with them & watching them slowly learn is a real joy in
QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Dave – My oldest son loves Radiohead. Once I played The Bends
for him, he always wanted to hear more. So then I started listening to
Radiohead more, after being away from them for a while & I’m really
amazed at how well those records hold up. So now I’ve got Thom Yorke
& Jonny Greenwood in my musical brain again. When we’re driving
with the kids they love listening to the O Brother
soundtrack. Seeing them react to music for the first time is like
hearing it myself for the first time again & also makes me really
think about what is timeless in music, why do certain things work over
& over? They can say the most surprising & insightful things
about the music they hear. It definitely makes me pay attention &
listen in new ways.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of
steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel
necessary in your household?
Dave – Well, like Doug, I’ve had a
day job for a long time. When I first got married music was a huge part
of my income & it was very inconsistent & unstable.
– Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring
musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
– Yeah, definitely. If I had known more I probably would have gotten
deeper into a music community like Denton’s much earlier. There seems
to be no end of opportunities to couch-surf your way through at least a
couple of tours a year in this town. That would have been fun had I
known to get my butt up here sooner.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Dave – Well, no question that for me being a father will have a greater long-term impact.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become a musician or parent?
– Not mutually exclusive really. I want them to become what they were
meant to be & to pursue their passions with integrity.
Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of
your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing
Dave – I try to involve them as much as I can in what
I’m doing, whether I’m practicing at home or listening to something or
if I have a gig that’s during the day that they can come to. The older
they get the more they can do that sort of thing, so that’s been fun.
But again, family comes first, & you have to make sure that end of
things is taken care of. But if you’re careful there will be enough
time for both, but you have to be deliberate about how you spend your
time. But that’s like anything right? Pay attention to what you’re
doing & ask yourself whether this is the best way to spend your
QRD – What do your kids think of your music?
– They like it well enough I think. They can’t come to too many gigs
yet & when we listen together, it’s usually something else, like
Stevie Wonder or old bluegrass or something. My oldest daughter loves
Journey, of all things, so, hey, we listen to Journey. Or Pink Floyd.
Whatever is around & interesting at the time. But I think right now
they just know that I play & sometimes I’m out really late.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your child?
Dave – Absolutely. That would be great.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
– About family & music? Every family & every career is
different, so everyone has to find a balance that fits them. But in
general, the Industry is not family-friendly. I’ve seen a number of
good families of musicians torn up because there was no balance. For
myself I’ve never assumed that the old “hard work will pay off” idea
applies to the music industry. Hard work in music makes you a better
musician & lets you enjoy music more, but guarantees nothing in
terms of monetary success. So much of that is a crapshoot. That
said, these days the old album-tour-album cycle may not really apply
anymore & there are more opportunities than ever to create activity
& momentum around your music that takes a lot less time away from
home. So, be innovative with the way you release your material, don’t
get locked into the old industry model, which is dying & probably
closed off to 90% of the musicians out there anyway. Have integrity
with what you do & whatever success comes to you will be
satisfying. You don’t want the other kind.