Dave Hause — Interview
Co-written with his younger brother Tim, Dave Hause brought family and melody together to create his latest solo album, the aptly titled Blood Harmony, which drops October 22. A deep dive into the relationships that keep us afloat in a world that seems insistent on sinking us, the album is a delicious slice of “apple pie” life from beginning to end.
I recently sat down with Hause to discuss his punk rock past, crooked lines, and the ties that bind us all together.
Americana Highways: Anyone who hangs around the music industry long enough has to be willing to be flexible and adapt to change, but no one could have anticipated what the pandemic was going to do to the music industry. You and your brother had been writing remotely already for years, so I’m curious, do you feel like you were more prepared than most for keeping things rolling during all of the closures?
Dave Hause: Maybe. I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I think it’s a great question, because it kind of occurred to me late in the process that, “Oh, wait a second, this is easier for us because we’ve tried this before.” We made two covers EPs last year, remotely. It was a little bit difficult and slow moving just because instead of all being in the same room and being able to record and bounce ideas back and forth quickly, it was like emails and the bouncing of files and so on. That cumbersomeness, I think we were just used to it. I think a lot of the comfort is more in the relationship with my brother though. We’re texting back and forth all day long. There’s a shorthand with siblings and with close friends that I think aids it even more. But yeah, we were more prepared than some, I suppose.
AH: For those musicians who have been around like yourself, you have experienced so many firsts already and then here’s this thing that everybody is experiencing for the first time and at the same time.
DH: That was just true for life. I think that further into this whole situation we’ve gotten, the more it just became clear that we’ll live pre and post-COVID 19 in terms of a species. Everyone that’s alive now will likely mark things this way. I thought that was 9/11’s job. I’m sure you, or I, or people who have been around a little longer see it that way. And then as time’s gone on that becomes less and less of a fulcrum, I think. But this is so monumental, the whole world’s impacted.
AH: I have young kids, and for them, wearing a mask is just a part of life as it would be for wearing a coat when it’s cold. They don’t know any different. It just goes to show you what an adaptive species we are.
DH: We are, and thank God because this has been so hard for so many. It’s that resilience that is always… it’s something to marvel about. It’s something to be proud of.
AH: You guys started writing Blood Harmony in January and here it is October and the album is ready to drop. Was there a purposeful sense of urgency or did it just flow out that way?
DH: I think there’s always urgency for me as an independent artist. You’re trying to maintain a conversation with the audience. And there’s a lot of noise out there. There’s a lot of great art out there and a lot of great songs that get a lot more support. I think by virtue of how we do things, getting things out in a timely fashion seems like a better way than the alternative for us. I think once we got that excitement and that rush of the songs being finished and being excited about it – and knowing just with that May session where we were able to go to Nashville and record everything – it just seemed like the timeline made sense to get it out faster than not. I’m sure the team, the people with the label and my manager and all that, I’m sure they would’ve preferred a few more months to rollout. (Laughter)
I like a lesser distance between the germ of an idea and then the audience hearing it. I feel like I’ve been trying to shrink that chasm for as long as I’ve been making music. “Here’s my idea. I want to sing it for people.” I think having more control over the whole process has led to that and I love that. I love that people are going to hear the fruits of our work under six months after a lot of it was even written. That’s so cool to me.
AH: And from a business standpoint there was a time when tours supported albums, but now albums support tours. So in order to get out on the road, you sort of have to have that new material, correct?
DH: You do and you don’t. I think there’s a slightly adaptive way of doing things. Again, as I delve further into this other world, this Americana world… I’m from more of the punk rock world originally and my manager’s really on top of all this stuff. He’s sort of shown me that we always have to stay busy. We always have to play. And if you look at the people who lead the Americana world, or even country music, they’re constantly working. They’re constantly playing shows. Then they’re adding music, records, singles, whatever, as they go. That slightly alters where they’ll play and how they’ll play when the record comes out. But generally speaking, we’re working people. We go out and we work. All that’s kind of changed a little bit. It used to be that you’d put out an album, do your touring and then that was that. And then sort of rinse and repeat. I think these days, there’s a different working class way of doing it that’s really more appealing to me because it keeps all your muscles strong – your songwriting muscles and your touring muscles.
AH: It’s more appealing for the fans as well because now we don’t have to wait four, five, or six years for a new album from our favorite artists.
DH: Yeah, I like it too. I’ve heard complaints from artists who come from the older paradigm where it’s like, “Oh, there’s not enough rest built in” and all that. I don’t know, man. I was a contractor and there’s no rest built into that work. My dad went to work every single day.
AH: That’s right. As a contractor, you don’t get paid until you finish the work.
DH: Right. Exactly. Or just the idea that every day we go to work in some capacity… that brings a certain sense of purpose and duty and dignity to it all. I think hanging this whole enterprise on “Our record comes out on the Friday and then we’re going out touring for four or five months and then that’s it”… it just seems like you’re hanging everything on that one thing. And we still do that to a degree. We’ll tour extensively on Blood Harmony in the coming year. We’ll do a full European run and we’ll do a full American run with our band. But knowing that we’re going to have work after that is comforting and you’re able to just sort of see it more like, “Look, this is my job and I work at it each day.”
AH: What happens with the creative side of things if the writing is not there. Like you said, you have to maintain a conversation with the audience, but what if you have nothing to say at a particular time?
DH: I think that’s a luxury I don’t know that we can indulge in. I think when you look at all of the ink that’s spilled about writing anything – doing journalism or writing novels or writing songs – inspiration shows up when you’re at work. I think that’s the discipline of it. There are certainly days where I make bad lyrics and there are certainly days where there isn’t much to say, but the idea is the next day you get back to it and spend a little time and something blossoms. Not every plant that you put into the ground sprouts fruit. So thinking about it more like that is comforting to me. Again, it’s where I’m from. People work. If I’ve been given the great fortune of having this as my job, well, I should work at it. So, I think I’ll come up with something to say sooner or later if I keep my nose to the grindstone.
AH: Going back to that idea of experiencing firsts, you’ve been in the industry a long time, but it sounds like the recording process for Blood Harmony, having all those great Americana and country musicians involved, was a first for you?
DH: It was. I had one similar experience when I made a record called Devour, my second solo record. We recorded that in Los Angeles, at a famous studio that’s actually no longer there, Grand Master Recorders. The Black Crows recorded there and Tool and No Doubt. Stevie Wonder wrote Songs in the Key of Life in that building. We recorded there with a host of incredible players. Members from My Morning Jacket and Social Distortion and all that stuff, so I did have some idea of how to lead or record with an incredible band. I had done that before. In this instance, the interesting thing was the frames of references were a bit different. For instance, Chris Powell is pretty country. He is from the south and he’s played mostly with country artists. That was pretty interesting. That created a really good push and pull because there’s only so far I can go down that road without it feeling like I’m a carpetbagger. I’m from Philadelphia and I live in California and the south is something that is so much part of American life, but it’s also foreign to me. It’s not where I come from. However, the roots of rock and roll are intertwined with country and R&B and all that stuff. I do feel like it’s in my DNA, musically. It’s in all of our DNA. It’s as American as apple pie, so to speak. That was really cool to be among them and have that amount of proficiency and incredible ideas and just a different frame of reference than I’m used to.
AH: You mentioned Social Distortion and that got me to thinking. Did what Mike Ness did in the late 90s with his great country albums inspire you in anyway that taking this path was possible?
DH: Well, to some degree, yeah. They’ve had a lasting influence on me just as a great rock and roll band. I do think that, looking back, he was pioneering that even in those couple of Social Distortion records in the 90s that had “Ring of Fire” and all that jazz.
Really, my interest has always been in songs. I think the biggest problem that I was facing in the punk world when I was in The Loved Ones and so on – and I have still been attached to that throughout a lot of my solo career – the only problem that I really felt I couldn’t quite figure out was just that songs are the currency for all music, I think. I think the best and biggest punk bands have great songs, but it’s still so much about either aesthetics or lifestyle. I find, for me, as I chase the song, that a lot of that stuff kind of got in the way. I would do press or interviews or whatever when I was in The Loved Ones and people would ask about the owner of the label because he was a famous punk rocker, and they would ask about our lifestyle and our look and all this other stuff. It just became clear to me that I had spent all this time on lyrics and melody, and those were not the initial interest points. And that was frustrating. Now, as an older guy, I’m kind of like, “Ah, whatever you want to ask is fine.” (Laughter) It was frustrating at the time though and I’ve been chasing the song ever since. Even maybe to my commercial detriment. (Laughter)
AH: If someone sat down and listened to Blood Harmony front to back as a complete album, what would that journey tell them about where you are with your songwriter’s POV today?
DH: Oh, that’s a great question. I would hope that people would come away with the idea that song craft is important. And melody and lyrics. That an interesting perspective was part of it, but ultimately the emotional weight of it is someone who’s lived a lot of life and has come to the conclusion that you keep family as your main guiding light, whether that’s your nuclear family or your family of origin. The ties that bind us as people is of the utmost importance and adds a richness to my life that I can’t even quantify. It’s my sisters and my brother, and those relationships are so valuable to me. Then my life with my wife and my kids has been so enriching. Hopefully people walk away understanding that that’s a redemptive quality, despite all the difficulties and the melting ice caps and the harshness of the world that we live in, there are ties that bind that make it all worth it.
AH: If you could sit down with younger Dave, who first picked up a guitar, what would he think of what you’re doing today with music? Would it blow his mind?
DH: Sort of. I think the interesting thing is I’ve kind of come back around on most of my earliest influences. When I was a little kid, it was all Tom Petty and Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen and all that kind of stuff. It was Bryan Adams. They were all big, big pillars for me. Bonnie Raitt. Everything that was happening in the 80s and early 90s was super influential to me. I think that it would probably be a comfort to that young guy to see, “Oh, you can kind of land there.” Despite all the zigging and zagging that has happened between that young boy and this older man, it’s kind of like, “All right, you can draw a line. It’s just kind of a crooked one.”