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David Mead (foto by Kristian Monsen)

A Conversation with David Mead (continued)

DM: So it's all about creating a niche. I mean, from a purely business perspective, you have to try to get the highest market share that you can. So for what I do, I feel like my whole approach at this point is trying to create my own. If I may be so bold, I don't think there is anybody else in the David Mead business. But there's not enough awareness around that name at the moment. This is probably getting really creepy, I'm talking about myself in third person!

PM: No, no, not to me. To me, in the modern sense of doing business as an artist in this really volatile music business, the most enlightened approach is one that includes art and commerce. I mean, you really have to truly embrace both or you're not going to make it--especially if you are your own business.

DM: You're exactly right.

PM: And so to me it doesn't sound creepy at all. To me it sounds like a person heading toward a very enlightened perspective about how to make their art work.

DM: At the end of the day, it's not nearly as scary or weird or--at one point I even thought it would be humiliating. But it's really, like you said, enlightening. It's invigorating. I feel like I'm living at a much higher octane now, so to speak, than I ever was when I was just kind of sitting around all day drinking a glass of wine waiting for the muse to hit.

PM: Right.

DM: That's the thing that everybody reads about when they're working really hard and they may think that's the life. But it's kind of tough to stay that self-motivated if your only absolute deadline is just the singer songwriter side of things.

PM: Right. It's better to be industrious and busy.

DM: Yeah.

PM: Now, you've been with your manager, Kip Krones, a long time. I don't usually ask people about their managers. But in your case, I think there's something really chemically important in that relationship. So let's talk about that a little.

DM: I think we're probably just kind of like an old married couple at this point.

PM: [laughs]

DM: I don't think either one of us would say we're like the perfect client or manager to each other. But when you have a relationship that's lasted that long, for whatever reasons--which luckily in my case the vast majority of them are good ones--there's a familiarity that comes with that. There are a lot of questions you don't have to answer anymore. There's a lot of unspoken communication that can go on, and there's a level of trust that's getter more and more rare. I think artists have to take more responsibility for the way their career is going. It is kind of your job in some senses to just communicate what you want. And Kip is--what's the word--

PM: He's a facilitator.

DM: He's an incredibly proactive person. And when we collaborate on what needs to happen, it happens. He gets results. That's the thing.

PM: And that's the job description, right?

DM: I think so. I mean, honestly, I think a lot of people want a cheerleader. They want some emotional support. They want probably more than what the job description is.

PM: They want a babysitter, half the time.

DM: Well, yeah. And if you're one of these nineteen-year-olds who are just starting out, you need a certain amount of that. And I needed a certain amount of that when I started out as well. But I'm 32 years old. I'm a full-grown man. I need people around me who want to work as hard as I do, and Kip is definitely one of those people.

PM: Absolutely. Listening to Tangerine again this morning--and I've been listening to it a lot this last week--it's amazing how different it is than anybody else you hear. It's really original. In fact, your whole approach to music is different--like there's a different set of values operating. You know what I mean?

DM: Yeah, I hope so. That's really good to hear, first off. But it's kind of weird to like see the whippersnappers coming up. And you can just really tell, man, their reference points--probably a lot of the reference points that you and I share just don't exist. I mean, I'm not knocking what's being created, necessarily, but--I guess it happens to everybody the older you get, but I'm shocked that this thing that we all come back to is basically emotion and melody, and a couple of turns of phrase that happen to catch somebody at the right moment.

PM: Yeah.

DM: And I miss it a lot. And so I don't know, I guess I do have an older standard, in a sense--how am I trying to say this--a more classic standard.

PM: And you're drawing from a deeper well.

DM: Well, let's hope so. I mean, the great thing about still being around is that gets more and more unique. I mean, a lot of my peers from the Class of '98, or whenever it was I got signed, have gone different ways, or whatever. I can't even really think of any offhand. But I'm only good at so many things. I don't really have a choice. So I've got to continue to figure out ways to make this work.

PM: But you're damn good at what you're doing, I'll say that. And with somebody as original as I've always considered you to be, it's interesting to know who you may be drawing any inspiration from. What you're listening to?

DM: I have been listening to a lot of--let's see--let me look at the old iTunes--a lot of Brazilian music, a lot of gospel. I'm still sort of mining the Harry Nilsson catalog a little bit. Because I really--

PM: I really resonate with a lot of that, the Nilsson and the Brazilian stuff, especially, yeah.

DM: Sure, sure. My wife likes a lot of indie rock, and I still hear things every once in a while that really catch my attention. I loved that last Spoon record, I just thought that was a masterpiece. What else? I think the Dresden Dolls are actually pretty cool. They sort of wear me out a little bit.

PM: I don't know them. The Dresden Dolls?

DM: Yeah, the Dresden Dolls. It's this guy and this girl. It's essentially just a drum and piano combo. I don't know--her perspective is unique--she's actually really a songwriter. Like you may or may not like the aesthetic of it, because it's got sort of like a little bit teenage angst darkness to it. But she's a really talented songwriter, and she's definitely got her on take on it. So that's been kind of inspiring. I actually really like that new Paul Simon.

PM: Ah, yeah. I hear it's really good. [see the review in this issue]

DM: Yeah, it's very interesting. Give it three to four listens. I'm sure you would if you were ever a Paul Simon fan.   continue

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