David Ford is a singer-songwriter without peer. Having honed his talents in the melody-drenched Alt.-Rock band Easyworld, he’s gone on to carve out a hugely successful solo career. Here, in an exclusive interview with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd, David “talks shop”…
Hi David, how are things, and how has 2016 treated you so far?
2016 has mostly left me alone, and I am quite grateful for that. I have mostly been spending my time making a new record, building things out of wood in my garage, reading books about economics, and obsessively listening to “Hotel California.”
Way back when you fronted Easyworld, did you ever entertain the fantasy of becoming such a highly respected solo singer-songwriter?
I used to entertain the fantasy of being able to fly, or of playing professional football, but I think my musical aims were always very short-term and quite inward-looking. I just wanted to write a better song than the last one. I certainly never gave a thought as to whether I might be respected for that… and I still don’t.
Your live shows are the stuff of legend, not least because you manage to produce a “full band” sound on your own. When did you first start experimenting with loop stations, and was it always your intention to become a one-man band?
I started using a loop machine out of curiosity about 15 years ago. Something about the whole process of building layers of live sound really excited me. It felt very natural right away, and I’ve been trying to push the limits of this particular kind of performance technique ever since. I don’t think of myself as a one-man band, though, and I try to avoid the whole thing turning into a gimmick. The songs are always the most important thing, and the loop machine just gives me an interesting way of presenting some of them.
What aspects of being in Easyworld did you enjoy the most? Given the choice, do you prefer to be out on the road in a band, or out on your lonesome?
Being in a band is great. I’m so glad I did it. The division of labour and responsibility is something I occasionally miss. Being a soloist can be quite intense. Most of the time, there’s nobody else anywhere near the process of making music, and that can have an interesting effect on my mental health. Sometimes I’ll play with other musicians, and it’s something that I really enjoy, but my favourite challenge is the one-man show, because it gives me chance to bring something to the stage that nobody has done before.
Growing up, what interested you the most: singing, guitar-slinging, or piano-pounding?
I think I always wanted to do everything, and I still do. But my greatest fascination has always been songwriting. I would never have tried to learn to play anything had I not become fascinated with songs and how they work. Any thoughts I’ve had related to production, arrangement and musicianship have always been tied to my desire to better understand the anatomy of songs.
Are you classically trained?
No. I have horrible technique on many instruments. I’ve been told this by experts.
So how do you go about writing songs? Are they “creatures” that evolve over a particularly long period?
Yes. I usually write very slowly. I try not to force songs out. I question my decisions many times, and I occasionally edit brutally, or I abandon songs that I don’t feel will be good enough. This means that I don’t write nearly as many songs as other writers do, but I like to think that my harsh “Quality Control” regimen mostly eradicates any stinkers from my catalogue.
Have you ever thought about trying to get Easyworld back together?
No. I don’t think there is any reason to go and do that. Most people don’t remarry those they divorce. I know one couple that did that, and it was a disaster. In truth, ours was a band that was pretty ill-formed. As musicians and as people, we just weren’t a terribly good fit. We learned to play together, but by the end, we all wanted very different things out of the band. Most bands reform because somebody offers them a huge pile of money to headline a festival, or to play some big shows. We were never at that level back in the day, and I can only imagine that a 2016 incarnation of Easyworld would be even further from it.
What do you enjoy the most about being on the road?
My favourite moment comes after the show has finished, when everyone has gone home, and I stand on the stage, packing all my stuff into boxes. It’s a time to reflect upon the day, to think about little changes to make tomorrow. It’s a little moment of order and serenity in an otherwise chaotic day.
You’ve supported the likes of Suzanne Vega, Elvis Costello and Richard Ashcroft over the years. If you could play with anybody, who would it be, and why?
I would like to play tambourine in the E Street Band. Just because.
The music industry has changed considerably since you first blasted onto the scene with Easyworld. Would you say that the advent of the digital age has made it easier or harder to make money from making music?
I would like to think that I’ve never tried to make money from making music. I always thought of “music finance” as a vulgar, unmentionable sort of embarrassment, and that anybody who would claim to be an artist should never discuss such matters in public for fear of being exposed as a soulless mercenary. Still, people seem fascinated by the subject, and now it appears entirely proper for musicians to talk about their recording budgets and gig income, or to just come right out and ask for money. Money, of course, can be made from music, but I can honestly say that I’ve never found it to be an important or interesting subject.
Your most recent album came out in 2014. Do you have any plans to release another new album any time soon?
Yes. I will have a new album out in 2017.
What advice would you give to any aspiring singer-songwriters who are reading this?
Love what you do. Obsess over it. Try to keep learning and improving. If you are to be famous and wealthy, let it be the accidental by-product of your exceptional music, and not the reason you created it.
David Ford will be performing at Pocklington Arts Centre on Thursday 20th October. Visit www.pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk for more information and tickets
For more information about David Ford, visit www.davidfordmusic.com