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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
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Musician Dad Interviews with:
Aaron Snow
Nyles Lannon
Philippe Petit
Ryan Sollee
Jim Baptizer
Jamie Barnes
Daniel Prendiville
Doug Burr
Alex Boniwell
Andrew Ratfink Wilson 
Charles Hoffman
Dave Sims
Dan Beckman
Scott Berrier
James Zahn
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Musician Dad Interview with Dave Sims of The Lonelies
June 2012

Name: Dave Sims
Bands: Doug Burr, The Lonelies, The Flowers of God
Websites: dougburr.comtwitter.com/davsims

QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?

Dave – 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.
Steven 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?

Dave – 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 itself.

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.

QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?

Dave – 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?

Dave – Not mutually exclusive really. I want them to become what they were meant to be & to pursue their passions with integrity.

QRD – 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 your time?

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 time.
QRD – What do your kids think of your music?

Dave – 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?

Dave – 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.