Dave Alvin: "It’s All About Volume"
Dave Alvin’s voice draws you in like a warm blanket on a cold evening under the stars. One of those rare performers whose resume seems disjointed—X, The Blasters, The Knitters, Guilty Women—but comes into focus when you consider the source. Alvin is a true original and his newest album, Eleven Eleven is a stagecoach ride through rugged terrain. As king of Americana Roots, the ride might get bumpy at times, but with Alvin riding shotgun you know your arrival will be imminent. From his home in LA, Alvin get’s downright personal reflecting on friends lost, Nashville and what it means to be an artist.
Before we get to the new CD, one thing that I thought was really cool, is you were the bar band on an episode of Justified.
They surprised me. I was contacted last September and asked if I had anything that was good for the show—I had been working on the song already. The way I recorded this new record was that I would have a week and a half off from being on tour with the Guilty Women and I would run into the studio and record a song. Go on the road, come back and record another. The call came out of the blue.
Are you a fan of the show?
I’m a fan of Timothy Olyphant.
Deadwood was also a great show.
Ian McShane (from Deadwood) is a friend of mine and he’s kind of picky—I don’t know if being his friend impressed the producers of the show or not. But originally it was supposed to be a song that was background music then they wrote me into the script—so they created this bar band song. So, a thing that threw me was I was onstage and across the bar are the two characters played by Timothy and Joelle Carter and I’m standing there doing a playback thing where they have the music down real low so they can record the actors lines, and we’re acting like we’re playing. All of sudden I hear, “Dave Alvin, Dave Alvin, Dave Alvin.” They had changed the script so Timothy says, “C’mon honey we came to see Dave Alvin!” I wasn’t sure if they were making fun of me. It was very cool.
Being a musician you’re probably used to waiting around all day to do something.
Trust me, I’ve worked harder in my life. Things like that don’t happen every day. Every now and then I get offered something on a show I don’t like and I pretend nobody can find me. But with Justified I was like, “Yeah, great!”
Moving on your new CD—_Eleven Eleven_. I particularly love the song called, “What’s up with your Brother?”
Growing up, Phil (from the Blasters) was always the singer in the family and the neighborhood, nobody could sing like Phil. We didn’t sit around and sing together when we were kids, we weren’t the Everly Brothers—it was a very clear delineation of powers—I sat, he sang. Without getting too morose, we’ve all lost so many friends in the last few years, we decided we should do this while we can.
The next song that really struck me is, “Two Lucky Bums.”
Between his voice and his accordion playing, it’s Chris (Gaffney, who died from liver cancer in 2008) 100%. On one hand it’s kind of sad, but on the other hand it’s “Yeah, that’s Gaffney, where’s he been?” It’s bittersweet.