Singer-Songwriter, DAVID RYAN HARRIS Discusses His Favorite Tour Experiences, Balancing Fatherhood With a Music Career, Opening For EMILY KING And More!
Posted On 21 Apr 2016
David Ryan Harris is an incredibly talented Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. He has been performing on stage since the 1980s when he served as front-man for the Atlanta rock group Follow for Now.
Since those days, Harris has performed with some of the best and brightest artists out there today. He’s worked with everyone from Santana, to John Mayer to Dave Matthews.
He is currently working on putting out another solo record which he hopes to have out late this summer. Learn more about David in the following All Access interview with him:
Thanks for your time today! So, how’s 2016 been treating you so far? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you?
2016 is off to the great start I’d say! I can’t believe that we’re already three months in, so at this point I’m trying to slow it down a little bit so that I can appreciate it. Last year went by incredibly fast as they all seem to.
I’d have to say one of the highlights of last year was the tour I did in the fall with Melissa Polinar and Tyler Lyle. It had been a while since I’d done such an extensive solo tour and this time I was able to hit a lot of markets that I’d never been to before. For as many times as I’ve driven across the country I don’t think I have ever taken in as much as I did on this run. We live in such an amazing country and it was mind-blowing watching it all fly past my windshield.
You’ve done a lot of different things in your music career; being in rock band, playing guitar for a ton of artists and a thriving solo career. What’s one thing that has remained constant throughout your career? What do you think has been a particularly memorable time for you?
I think the thing that has remained most constant in my career is my connection with soulfulness, be that playing or singing literal soul music or even back in my punk days trying to approach everything with a sense of soulfulness and authenticity. AND I’m always trying to be a better listener. Being a better listener makes you a better player. It makes you a more complementary player or singer.
I’d have to say my early days of touring around the southeast with my band Follow For Now were probably the most memorable if for no other reason because those were my first experiences with touring.
You’ve performed with some of the biggest names in music like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, India Arie, Santana and others. What were some of these experiences like for you?
All of those collaborations have been incredibly enriching and just plain fun. At best, a musical collaboration is like having a really great party or a great conversation. The more you do it with a particular set of people the more comfortable you feel expressing yourself within that context. You develop a new language with those people.
How do you balance 4 sons and a busy music career? How do you think being a father has influenced you as an artist?
Honestly, I was so busy and career focused that I wasn’t is as present as I would have liked to have been early in fatherhood, but now that I am a little older and have a little more perspective on what’s really important, fatherhood is like an anchor for me.
In terms of how it influences me as an artist, I definitely shy away from saying certain things that I wouldn’t want my children to say or necessarily hear me say. When I was younger, All bets were off in terms of my language but at a certain point I realized that it was important to make sure that I was being responsible with my lyrics. Not that everything has to be like Sesame Street, but I save my potty mouth for all the time between songs.
Let’s talk about your recent show at Troubadour opening for the amazing Emily King! I was there and was really blown with not only your awesome voice and beautiful songs but also the way you captured that crowd and had us so engaged throughout your performance. First of all, how did all of that come together? And do you find that’s the case with your shows?
I think someone else was supposed to do support for that show and maybe had a scheduling conflict so someone reached out either to my agent or my manager to see if I would be interested in doing the support slot. I don’t think my manager knew about Emily, so I think he was somewhat hesitant to even ask me about it. I think I said “yes!” before he had even gotten the question all the way out of his mouth.
I love Emily’s music and I knew that her audience would be attentive to my music. And in terms of keeping people engaged, I think my ability to keep people engaged is part gift and part knowing when to be quiet and when to yell at people. I think the thing that throws most solo performers off it is wanting to always have a completely captive audience. I just learned overtime that you don’t need to connect with everybody. You just need to connect with a few somebody’s.
You write incredibly smart and moving songs. Can you talk about your writing process? What are some things that are generally inspiring you to write music?
My writing process normally begins with a phrase or a concept. I’m constantly picking little melodies out of the air and singing them into my iPhone as most musicians do these days. Sometimes the melodies have nonsensical lyrical phrases and sometimes those melodies have fleshed out lyrics to some degree. Then it’s just a matter of completing the puzzle. I’m not an overly political writer necessarily. I tend to write about things that I know or things that I’ve experienced, which more often than not, center around love and relationships.
Is your song “Coldplay” about an actual relationship that you had?
I just knew that most people know what a “Coldplay moment” is. That band appeals to such a large demographic and I knew that people would be able to envision themselves at a Coldplay concert hugged up with a new love and then having Coldplay provide signposts for their relationship. But no, it is not from personal experience. I’ve never even been to a Coldplay show!
When do you hope to release new music? Are you constantly writing new material?
I hope to have an EP done and ready to release mid August of this year. Yes, I am always writing. Probably four days a week I’m writing songs for myself or with other artists and writers.
I may sneak over and do a Hotel Café show at some point in the next couple months, But if not, I will definitely be back at the Troubadour for my EP release mid August.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
At the end of the day I hope that I am able to frame emotions and situations with simple language that people can use to help them tell their own stories. There is nothing more powerful than knowing you aren’t alone. I want to make people feel connected. I love seeing that little light go off in an listeners eye when they say, “Hey!!! That’s exactly how I feel, I just didn’t know how to say it.”