David Garza

Interview: David Garza “A 3Sirens Session” Is An Audio-Visual Confessional


David Garza desert photo by Caddis Readers

David Garza


David Garza’s A 3Sirens Session Is An Audio-Visual Confessional

David Garza’s three-song A 3Sirens Session EP stems from an artist collective, label, and studio known as 3Sirens Music Group, part of the East Nashville community. It was at the official studio and was produced by the collective’s co-founders Doug and Alyssa Graham as well as long-time 3Sirens collaborator, Dex Green. The idea behind the sessions is to selectively invite musicians to capture things live, sonically and on video, to celebrate their work.

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and producer David Garza (Rhett Miller, Hanson, Fiona Apple) delivered three previously unreleased songs for the session, and having known the Grahams for some time, was very moved by their request that he take part, since he particularly values their care and commitment to artists as well as their own musical chops as musicians themselves. The songs that he chose for his session were particularly confessional and came at a time when Garza had been doing less of his own solo work, pushing him to engage again with very personal storytelling and the musical forms that might demand. I spoke with Garza about the inception and outcome of the audio-visual EP.

Americana Highways: Does 3Sirens approach releases on a case-by-case basis, or are there certain programs underway? I noticed that alongside these “Sessions” releases, they also have a kind of anthology or mixtape release.

David Garza: That’s correct. Alyssa and Doug are musicians themselves, and that’s how I met them, as musicians. They’ve taken up this incredible idea, of giving a platform to showcase music in a different way under their umbrella. It’s kind of like what Chess Records used to do, and Atlantic Records used to do in the 50s and 60s. They are the studio, and they are the label, and they are the PR team. They are a truly independent record label. They work with who they want to work with on the artist’s terms and no one has to be exclusive. Because they are artists themselves, they have a predilection towards autonomy and freedom. However you can get the music out there in a timely fashion is an option. I don’t think I’ve ever come across people who have such a compassion for making things right.

AH: I’m aware that being independent comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of weight to carry. That side of things makes me think that they must work incredibly hard to do those things.

DG: They really, really care. It’s unfortunate that so many bands, even young bands, are already so close-minded about their content. If I were a young guy, and I had a good thing going, I’d want to do this. It’s almost like a Tiny Desk thing, but even better. I Produce records, do soundtracks, and all that stuff, and I know what it takes. But I’m ignorant of the witchcraft of 21st century music industry, and they are not. It’s a joyful thing to watch this team create. It reminds me of when I was on Atlantic Records, who I was with for a few years. 30 years later I’m still close with the guys I used to work with there, because it was a genuine exchange of appreciation.

AH: There are a few smaller labels who I follow and see some of that same attention being given, or at least it’s their goal to do that. I hope they stay around. Like Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records, and Kill Rock Stars.

DG: A label has to have some discernment and act as a curator, too. AntiFragile is an example of a label who has played their cards in a cool way. They don’t have a lot of stuff, but it’s cool, like Tom Waits. It may sound elitist, but I don’t have time to read through the millions of releases, and that can be exhausting, so a label can help with that. The 3Sirens thing is so fun because it’s on camera. You can see it going down live. Literally what you see is what you get. I thought that was kinda cool.

AH: Obviously, since you already knew these folks, when they asked you to do these sessions, it was probably an easy “Yes” for you, but was it a surprise? Did it require any thought for you about what songs you’d choose?

DG: Yes, it was. What I do, more often than not in my life right now, is Produce other artists, and do soundtracks, and do collaborations with other people. I’m more like the tailor making the clothes for someone versus someone baking in their own kitchen. I’ve written hundreds of songs and put out thirty-something records, of course, but as far as being a part of this thing, I was in Nashville for Americana Fest, and I had a backlog of songs, but you don’t play songs in a vacuum. When you’re not playing shows live, those songs become like wax museum figures, and they have to have life breathed into them to become real.

So I kind of panicked, to be honest, because I know how advanced Alyssa and Doug’s taste is. They are curators of great stuff, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. So the day beforehand, I thought, “I’ll just do three that are good enough.” Then I played through them, and all three of them were not! I dug through my notebook. Sometimes you can overcook a song or overpaint a painting. All three of the songs that are in the sessions were last-minuters, in a great way, so they were fresh.

Also, I usually sing with my eyes open, and when I saw the tape, I saw that my eyes were closed! And I hate that. I thought, “Oh, no, I’m one of those guys who sings with my eyes closed.” [Laughs] But it was because I was truly afraid and nervous. But you know what? That’s what makes a great record great, apprehension. You can’t plan your first kiss. I think most of the great records out there probably were apprehensive, we just couldn’t see it the way that we can see with the 3Sirens Sessions.

David Garza
photo by Rush Varela Photography

AH: Is there a usefulness in having an on-the-spot time limit, too? This isn’t stuff that you can clean up or do new tracks for.

DG: That’s something we always do now and can do on any other day. I feel like everyone is always filtering everything, like their photos, until they are nothing. We are in a filter culture. Having said that, there were no referee whistles on me, and they weren’t clamping down on my process for the sessions. There wasn’t any austerity here.

AH: Are there specific things, qualities, about these songs that made them the last-minute choice for the sessions? Or that make them fit together, in your mind?

DC: Definitely, they are all confessional. I didn’t have the tough-guy armor on. Musicians always want to put their best foot forward, but we puff ourselves out because the competition is so stiff. We unwittingly put that energy into our songs. I thought I was going to choose songs that were definitely “singles,” but there’s nothing single-like about a five-minute rambling waltz about my life. Alyssa and Doug were in the room cheering me on. They are really listening and bring out the best. To listen is a talent and gift in itself.

AH: I totally agree on that. The song “Rock & Roll Heart” made me think even more about oppositions in the world that we’ve been so aware of lately. I appreciate that you don’t shy away from that bringing together of differences into one field of vision. It’s also a very detailed song.


DC: Thank you. I was playing it and writing it, and I thought, “This kind of has a Van Morrison thing to it.” That was right when the Van Morrison Covid stuff was happening, so that kind of led the way, the idea of cancelling Van Morrison. The first verse leads you down the path of dichotomy. Yo-Yo Ma sitting down with Los Lobos is something that should happen, and in my world, it could happen. Then I’m telling my story of working in clubs, which is something that kids don’t get an experience of these days. Music is a cultural imperative, but live music isn’t, and there are fewer clubs and a lot of bands. Though I like the fact that some older bands are still making new music rather than just touring old music.

AH: “Jamboree” is in some ways quite a classic song, because talking about one’s muse goes back to the earliest storytelling.

DC: Yes, like Dante writing to his muse! That one I was really happy with because I wasn’t expecting that one, it’s so naked. Every singer/songwriter who’s not a huge star knows what it’s like to play to twelve people, and those are sometimes the best gigs. The idea of being cool with that until you break through is there. It may just be an off night, but you’ve gotta play for the muse. Or when you’re the opening band. So life’s a jamboree.


AH: I try not to ask people, “Why do you do this?” since it’s the biggest question there is, but that song is kind of a way of drilling down into that question. It answers what could possibly motivate the kind of exhaustion and commitment that it takes.

DC: Right, you’re not doing it for the “likes.” Think about how social media has commandeered those words, “like,” “love,” and you can “un-love” a post! It’s crazy. But I definitely sing for the muse. That’s something that’s hard to do when you’re alone, alone, like in a hotel room, but sometimes you still do it. It’s called practicing. A lot of people don’t do that anymore. [Laughs]

AH: With “Born For Now,” I feel like there are some different avenues of thought there. I kind of assumed that it’s about the idea of the cresting wave, like whatever generation you’re in, it has a moment of gaining energy. And you can see the generations around you in their own similar moment.

DC: That song was kind of written thinking about young people. I often think about 16 or 17-year-olds and I don’t know how they get out and play these days. It was easy for me in my day. I just played everywhere that I could, whether restaurants or bars, streetcorners. I played outside a lot. But this song is definitely made up of complete sentences about that. I love playing complete sentences. “We see the truth behind the lies,” is definitely like a young person’s perspective. They’ve figured things out.


AH: Did you have to think back to your own mindset then, or is it more drawn from observation?

DC: It’s more about observing. The young generation is very sure of themselves and so equipped with so many tools. We were just a bunch of dorks. We’d go to a bar and be that geek in the corner buying a pack of cigarettes and pretending we were cool. Now somebody just goes to a bar and is on their phone. Maybe they are texting someone else in the bar, who knows? This generation never has to be uncool, which is kind of sad. [Laughs]

With the phones, computers, and avatars, they can be as cool as they want to be, in their own world. I was never cool. Neither was Michael Stipe! Neither was Patti Smith! She was a total dweeb. They got cool because they told the world how uncool they were. [Laughs] But there are trends, like Lorde and Billie Eilish, who were the geeky kids, and they have tapped into that beautifully. Those artists are not going away.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, David Garza. Find more information here: 

3Sirens: https://www.3sirens.com/

David Garza: https://www.davidgarza.com/

EP link: https://orcd.co/3sgarza


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