David Blair: Singer and Songwriter
Whether it’s on guitar or piano, David Blair shows up in the same way: with exuberant enthusiasm, cheerfulness and charisma. As in his appearance in “The Voice of Germany 2017,” where he won Yvonne Catterfeld over with his performance of the Backstreet Boys, “As Long As You Love Me.” She couldn’t help but rave, “You have different nuances in your voice, singing so freely and emotionally – really great.” The Canadian story-teller is a first-degree entertainer and sings from the heart!
Whether it’s “What Am I Worried About,” “Magic,” “This Is The Soundtrack,” or his current single “Quietly Loving” – David Blair’s sensational albums offers a ton of hits. As the American Performing Songwriter Magazine enthuses, “His eclectic collection of acoustic-pop songs provide an unforgettable soundtrack for any occasion.” “Absolutely contagious,” says the Canadian opera singer and juror on “Canada’s Got Talent” – Measha Brueggergosman.
The Berliner, who sold his house and most of his belongings in Canada five years ago, is touring across Europe to present his fifth album “As You Let Go: Songwriting Sundays,” which was officially released on February 22, 2019. It’s David Blair’s first purely acoustic album, presenting only one vocal and instrument track per song about freedom, peace, love, friendship and loss in life. The songs are from David Blair’s songwriting Sundays series, when the singer/songwriter wrote a new song every Sunday in 2015/2016 for eight months. The album brings together the most beautiful songs from this collection.
(Courtesy of David Blair)
TSM: Thank you so much for doing another interview for Talent Spotlight Magazine. It’s so great to have you part of it for the the third time now.
DB: It’s fantastic to be back, thanks. It’s a good magazine.
TSM: Your first break came after you were chosen as a finalist for a Demo Listen Contest by Vancouver radio station 99.3 The Fox. As a result of this, three of your songs were placed on a compilation album and you got local radio airplay. You also opened for Nickelback and The Barstool Prophets . Wow, what an amazing achievement! What three songs of yours were placed on the compilation album and is this album still available for purchase? And what was it like opening up for Nickelback and The Barstool Prophets? Describe your experiences.
DB: You’ve done your research!! haha That was a long time ago but there are some real fond memories of that time! I can’t remember all the three songs that were placed on the album, but one of them for sure was “Not Alone” which was our most popular song from our album Satisfaction Guaranteed of my first band 69KM! Back in the nineties I was into rock and roll – Nirvana style – but because of some pop influence on my end we had some Blink 182 style to our sound as well when I listen to the album now! At that time we opened for Nickelback several times because we had the same management and they weren’t huge then!! haha Barstool Prophets were actually bigger at that time – so when we opened for them we were so excited!!
TSM: I know you’ve had classical training in piano and you also play various other instruments. At what age did you start playing the piano? And what other instruments do you play and how long have you been playing them?
DB: I started playing piano at around three years old – my mom always wanted to play piano and so she put me in lessons at a young age! I hated it forever but I eventually came back to it later in my life! I took lessons for long enough that I never really forgot everything I learned so I was able to practice and keep a fair amount of my skill! I was self taught in guitar and bass for the most part with the odd lesson in each here and there and as well with vocals!
TSM: What’s your process for writing lyrics?
DB: I often dwell on certain situations going on in my life and while doing so I’m provided with lyrics to describe them! When I’m really emotional is when I can really write well! I also rewrite lines and constantly come back to what I’ve written before, and tweak them to get them right but I like to capture as much raw emotion as possible, and then edit later.
TSM: What has your experience been like as a singer-songwriter in Germany?
DB: There is definitely a difference between Germany and Canada (or North America), but I have to preface it a little bit because I’m not the same artist I was when I came over. I have grown a lot as an artist since I’ve come to Europe. So, that also makes a huge difference in my experience, especially with touring. The touring in Germany is just logistically, and as well I would say even from pretty much almost every standpoint of touring, much easier in Germany than it is in the United States and Canada. Yes, you can book shows in the USA and Canada, you can tour and find venues. However, the driving distances in North America are absolutely astronomical in comparison to Germany. So, to drive two hours in Germany, you can literally play really tens of shows within a two-hour radius of a city. When you have 80 million within an area that is smaller than the province of British Columbia (about half), you have just under a third of the U.S. population roughly, So, that right there is a huge logistical advantage. Traveling in Germany is also very, very easy, and very affordable to get around. Trains are the most expensive ironically, and the cheapest ones are having your car, or just carpooling.
From a touring logistic standpoint, Germany is really the top place in the world, not even like England or France, or any other country really has towns that are so open to international acts, and people that speak English than Germany. There are other countries that speak English better, such as Sweden and Norway, but are they as supportive when it comes to buying CD’s/merchandise, coming out to shows and paying for tickets? No, not even close.The Germans totally support buying CD’s, merchandise, coming to shows, and they will come even if they have never heard of you before and check it out. That would be the number one thing being in Germany for that. The rest is pretty much similar, I would say and not too different. I picked Germany because I knew it was a strong market, so I knew it was going to be a good one to come to. I did not know it would be so good for touring and that has been the real blessing.
TSM: You’ve toured all across Europe and the world since 2013. What has your experience been like performing in different countries?
DB: You know it’s fairly similar…each country has their own kind of unique thing and venues. I think it really depends on the venue more than the country in some ways, Eg. This summer I toured through Poland, Latvia and Estonia. I have also played in Norway, Sweden and Finland. I have to say overall, the main support depends on the venue most of the time, but the success rate of people coming out to a show they never heard before or never really knew about is still Germany. Then from there, we had success in Latvia.
TSM: Do you have a memorable venue that you particularly enjoyed performing at the most and why?
DB: Yes, there’s always certain venues that pop up in my mind, and I think it’s because there’s love from the host and community, that is the perfect connection. One of the places that I love is a venue in Southern Germany. It’s a little cellar, and it’s sold out every single time. It’s by donation, but they give tremendously and generously. It’s always amazing, everybody averages about 10-15 Euros per person. They just love the host and the host has so much love in his heart. He talks about art on the wall, the next show coming up, the community, about introducing me and what it means to him to have me there. It makes such a huge difference to the people that show up for the show; they really feel totally loved and cared for, and so I really love his community that he built up there. He’s picky with who he has in there, so I feel very lucky that he has me in there, and he really tries to take care of his audience. You can really feel that when you perform there.
There is one in Kiel called Prinz Willy, and he’s a similar kind of guy, although doesn’t say anything, he’s different. He doesn’t make an introduction or anything, but it’s always packed in there. He always gets people out and they always enjoy it. It’s just a really good crowd there. They put on a big show on the beach last summer, which had 800 people there, unbelievable. It’s a special atmosphere that he created there. So, it’s always neat when you can play at a venue, and the owner is really present there, and they really care about connecting the audience with the artist.
One more venue that I love is called Fiddler’s Green in Pfaffehoffen, and that guy is so pro. He’s so amazing, and again it’s always pretty much sold out there. He’s got cameras, an amazing stage and all this lighting. It’s so amazing when you go to a venue, and people are there for music, and the love of the host. All I have to do is my job and take care of that audience, and prove the host right for having me there.
TSM: In 2017, you were a contestant on The Voice of Germany. Tell us about your experience on the show.
DB: It was life-changing, I learned a lot about myself. I had to learn first to calm down. I had a lot of pressure on myself when I moved here to Germany for music, and I didn’t even really spend any time going out, meeting any new friends, or doing anything in the city at all. I just thought about music 24hrs a day. It got to be so much so, that I started losing my passion for music, and started succumbing to more fear and anxiousness and dieting.
When I joined The Voice of Germany, I had to really calm down and look at myself, and say, “hey listen, this is not the end of your career if you don’t win this, you still haven’t made it. It’s not the end of your career and even if you win this, you still have to continue to come up with music and do your thing. So, it’s not going to be the end of your career either, either way.” So, the number one lesson I learned was to calm down and put perspective in my career and life, and I was super, super thankful to be on the show. I gave it my all, and even through my nerves, I fought through them. I really found the priorities in life, and on stage during the show. It was a really, really amazing experience for me. I’m still friends with everybody on the show that I talked to. I just co-wrote a song with the semi-finalist, B.B. Thomas, just a couple weeks ago. We’re just finishing up now. I still talk to a lot of the semi-finalists, and who I just love, they are fantastic. I had a really, really great time. I cried when I watched myself on TV; I was in Belgium at the time, and it came on TV, it was just so amazing.
The outpouring of support and love was just unbelievable. Then Yvonne Catterfeld, my coach, who’s a famous actress and singer in Germany, called me up and we had a nice chat for about twenty to thirty minutes. It was truly a really special time. The experience on the show was just absolutely fantastic, and they really try and look for the best talent, and then they try and support you along the way. There are some parts of the show where you have to sometimes film your interview over and over again because you can’t answer questions without repeating the question within your answer. Sometimes you might have a heartful answer in German, and for me German is my second language. They’ll ask you to say something again that feels a little more fake because you’re trying to say it again in a real, authentic tone. So, you can lose a little bit of authenticity on the show that way. For the most part, the show is totally authentic, and you’re just trying to be yourself, and go through emotions.
TSM: You mentioned that meeting Yvonne Catterfeld was a highlight for you. So, what was it like meeting her in person? Is there anything that surprised you about her?
DB: When I first met her, I was kind of a little star struck. I discovered her in 2004 when I first came to Germany actually. I heard her music on the radio, and I was like, “Oh cool!” So, I bought her CD, it was the first CD I bought in Germany. So, it was weird to have her turn for me ten years later. I was just impressed that she was still going in music, and still current. When I met her, I just felt she was really down-to-earth and not at all full of herself, almost the opposite. She is super humble and sweet. I really enjoyed my time meeting and talking with Yvonne. She was really wonderful and we are still in touch every once in awhile. I don’t know if I was surprised, I was just delighted that she was so friendly and down-to-earth.
TSM: Tell us about your album, What Are You Trying to Say.
DB: That was released in 2016 and was a tough album to do. I was lucky I found a producer in France, actually in Paris. I went to a festival in Cannes, and there was a producer there who wanted to work with me on my latest album. He got me out there, and I got to record in a really beautiful studio. Kanye West and a whole bunch of other major famous people have recorded there in Paris. So, I got to record there and use their instruments, but they were overdone and not done to what I needed them for the album. His vision was not my vision, so I had to take everything back to Germany with me, buy a system called Protool, and open up all the sessions and edit them all myself. I had to go through the whole thing, and re-record vocals at home, and add harmonies all myself. So, that was a really scary album for me to create, but I’m so very proud and happy that it all turned out. I think “Magic” might be one of my favourite recordings of all time, and it’s actually Yvonne Catterfeld’s favourite song. I gave her an album, so it worked out really great. I sang that for her birthday that year in 2017. I was invited to her birthday party and sang that for her. She loved it so much that she shed a little tear. So, it was a really special moment.
TSM: Your most recent album, As You Let Go: Songwriting Sundays has such a beautiful collection of songs. You mentioned that it’s different to your other albums because every song was recorded with just one track, meaning there is only one vocal track and one instrumental track (guitar or piano). I do love the simplicity of it and probably my favourite album to date of yours. What about bringing back Songwriting Sundays, and perhaps releasing a volume two?
DB: Wow, I love it. Jessica, I really appreciate that question. That’s so fantastic. First of all, thank you so much, that means a lot to me. It was a very, extremely difficult album to make. It was the hardest album to make of all the albums that I’ve done. Partly because I think at the time I was going through a bit of a burn-out, and it was hard for me to get my passion back into recording again. Second of all, it’s hard to record a song with just one track, it was a real challenge. I really kicked myself saying why did I agree to do this for myself? I wanted a challenge though and specifically done that way to showcase the song. I was inspired partly by Adele when she had the first number one hit of all time with “Someone Like You” with just one piano track and one vocal track. There’s no harmonies, there’s nothing on there. That’s just a showcase of how beautiful her voice is and her performance, and also how amazing the song is. I thought, you know, i consider myself a songwriter, and being a songwriter I wanted to showcase what I had done on Songwriting Sundays in one nice, acoustic album. I also thought it would satisfy those people who ask me, when I perform live if I have exactly like I performed live? Now I do. This album is very intimate.
Is there going to be a volume two? There might very well be, and actually there are quite a few singles I’ve recorded at home that are not released yet. So, I think I will put a collection together, and may release more possibly later this year. There will definitely be some acoustic singles coming out this year that are just acoustic, and very, very simple. I’m not sure if I will do a volume two, but that’s very possible.
TSM: I’m really impressed with your German. You speak and sing well in German. Would you like to release an album of songs in German?
DB: I don’t know if I will. I think if I do, you know it would have to be maybe just a single at a time and/or for just my fans in Germany. It’s a much smaller market in German, but also that being said, of course, it would be special for the German fans. I have an amazing German fan base. I think it’s scary to write in German a little bit too, but I do believe that I could write a couple songs in German. I’m not sure I’d do a whole album, but I would be interested in doing it. I already have, as you know, a love song for Germany that I wrote. It’s just a fun, little German song, which I wouldn’t mind releasing as a little single.
TSM: You’ve released five full original albums, plus a five-song EP and “Best of” album collection called, “Stronger, Higher, Faster.” Do you have a favourite album and why?
DB: I can’t say I have a favourite album because each album is like a diary to me, it’s like a child to me and I really can’t say. You know my first album, I’ve gone almost full circle on it. I think when I first released it, I was just loving it and thought it was the best thing ever. Then I was kind of like, Oh God, it’s a little bit old, it’s a little bit top, and then I was kind of harsh on it. Then I’ve kind of come full circle to really appreciating what I did at the time, even with all the mistakes in it. So, think I really just appreciate the growth process in all my albums. I think there is something special that was captured in each one, like a picture.
I do have some favourite recordings: “I Never Wanna Live Without,” “Something That You Said to Me,” “All I want,” “I Think I Want to Fall,” “This is the Soundtrack,” “Stronger, Higher, Faster,” “No Off Switch,” “When I Think of You,” “Alone Together,” “Magic,” “Say No,” “As You Let Go,” “It Just Kills Me” and “Back to My Place.” My Favourite music video I ever did was “Perfect Set of Troubles.” It was the cheapest and easiest video to make too. We shot it in about two hours, and the editing may have taken a little longer.
TSM: What have you learned as a songwriter over the years?
DB: As a songwriter, I’ve just learned so much, it’s so hard to really pick. I think what I’ve learned about songwriting is that the best way to write a song is that it’s a gift, and songs come to me. I can actively look for them, but their gifts.I have to find them, I don’t create them. I find the ideas. I think the best way to continue to be creative is to allow myself to be surprised by the ideas that come my way, not label them, and to really let the song write itself.
TSM: Who are some musicians you admire and look up to?
DB: I’ve always admired the songwriters more than performers, but sometimes they are both. Here are the ones that stand out the most to me: Brian Wilson, George Michael, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Darin, Paul McCartney, Diane Warren, Babyface, ABBA and the Beegees were amazing too!
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
DB: That’s a big question – is that a human power thing like if I was King or President, or super power thing like superman or magneto? haha If it was a superpower thing – I wish people couldn’t steal anymore. That would be awesome if nothing was ever stolen again – almost can’t imagine living in that world…if it was a human power thing – then whatever country I was President or Prime Minister of, I would do whatever I could to make the simple things in life available to everyone again – starting with school, teaching a balance of art, athletics and academics – freedom and independence being earned by a less taxed and more educated public – and hopefully making the pursuit of happiness easier for people!
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
DB: “Whatever thy hand chooses to do – do with all thy might”- the bible and “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” – Churchill
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share?
DB: Yes, every Saturday night now since the Corona Virus at 7pm CIST time, I do a live stream show. Every show has a theme to it, on YouTube and Facebook. All the shows, information for everything that you can find i on my website: https://davidblairsongs.com.
I’d also like to let your fans know that I do birthday video dedications, if you sign up to the email list and put in your birthday. You can also order a birthday dedication to any one of your friends on the birthday page on my website.
Please also check out my fan club. The link below will bring you to a video that explains what it is and what you get for joining. www.davidblairsongs.com/become-a-patron
TSM: Thank you so much again for the interview.
DB: Thank you Jessica, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me, it was just wonderful. Thank you, as always, for your wonderful questions, and I wish you great success with Talent Spotlight Magazine going forward.