David Arn has been called “reclusive” by the music media. That could be due to his desire to continually create great music and to craft well-written songs on a daily basis. Arn seems to always be working on his next song, album or working with other musicians on projects.
The prolific singer/songwriter released his debut album, “Postmodern Days” in 2011 to rave reviews. Arn’s follow-up album, “Walking to Dreamland” was released in 2015, taking the singer/songwriter’s reputation for writing introspective tracks to a new level.
Arn’s music continues to find new outlets and ears. He has been featured on BBC Radio and NPR stations across the United States, and more music fans wanting meaningful songs are finding out about him. Arn’s songs are a throwback to the greats that influenced him such as Bob Dylan. One listen to Arn’s albums and fans will be able to hear those influences. But the Virginia-based musician has created a sound and style all his own.
Currently working on his new album and other musical projects, Arn sat down to speak to Totalprestige Magazine recently. The musician explained his life, music and what he has his eyes on next.
David, can you please tell us about yourself and why you decided to enter the music world?
The official bio reads something like this: “Singer, songwriter best known for his lyrical style. He currently has two albums entitled, ‘Postmodern Days’ and ‘Walking in Dreamland’. In 2015, “Walking to Dreamland” was featured on over 85 US and Canadian FM stations. Among a myriad outlets, Arn’s music has been featured on NPR stations, BBC Radio, and heard on Delta Airlines commercial flights”.
I’ve doing music full time for the past four years. I’ve done other things—an investment professional, teacher, freelance writer. I have two grown daughters. I live in Virginia Beach with my wife. I’ve been writing in one way or another my entire life. In high school, I was the guy who was an editor for the newspaper and at Fairfield University I was an editor of the newspaper and the literary magazine. Also, at the University of Virginia I was a reader and contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review. I added singer/songwriter to my resume, because of my passion for music. It brings together other skills into a way that gives meaning to my life.
Please tell us about your albums and which one is your favorite and why?
That is a tough question. It’s like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. Each album has their own unique qualities. “Postmodern Days” was my first. The songs are unique. Very little technology was used. I played nearly all the instruments, created nearly all special effects. A seasoned engineer, Rob Ulsh at Master Sound Studios, worked for days pulling it together. My second CD, “Walking to Dreamland”, was much more polished. I reached out to other musicians and had it mastered by Yoad Nevo. It was more polished and commercially acceptable and was played on NPR stations, and a lot of college stations. Since then, I’ve released singles and music videos. I am playing with some of the best musicians on the planet right now. Last September, I was at Abbey Road Studio where they now master all of my music. Neither album is my favorite. I am never completely satisfied with my work. That is what drives me to keep trying to create something better. I am constantly driven to move the line forward to be better than myself.
How do you find inspiration?
In my style, each song is a story. I do not listen to much music. I need a muse. Most often it’s a unique person, someone I become infatuated with and want to explore an imagined facet of his or her life. When I follow that path original ideas flow. The details in the mental picture are genuine and the music then becomes uniquely mine.
David, what are you working on right now?
I am putting the finishing touches on a new CD, “Recalculating, Recalculating”. I am also writing and producing a CD for a new artist, Ava Hart, who has a soulfulness that makes everyone stop what they are doing and listen to the music. I feel honored that she is performing my songs. I also have several music videos in the works.
What has been your most rewarding professional experience?
Two things come to mind. When I first started, I received an email from a well-known disc jockey in Richmond, Virginia who told me he was “putting me in the mix”. I am not embarrassed to say the first time I heard one of my songs on commercial radio, I got a little misty-eyed. The second experience was when I first performed live with a full band. When the first song ended, there was silence. It probably did not last even a half-second, but in my mind it was much longer. It was nerve wracking, Your mind races. You’re waiting for the judgement call, for the jury to reconvene and hand you your fate. Then suddenly the audience exploded. A wave of cheers and applause reached the stage. In an instant you get a validating rush.
David, what is the most challenging part of your work?
If I had my way, I would live in a bubble with a piano and guitar and play music all day. The challenging part is doing the tasks that are not as enjoyable. Revisions, arrangements, communicating your vision to others, self-promotion, dealing with technology upgrades. That being said, the greater challenge is working, not with the music, but with the silence. Sending songs to radio stations and bloggers and not getting a response, doing a press release to 350 newspapers and then discovering the needle sometimes moves very little, completing a video and knowing you are going to wait two months before it is released. At those moments, your self-talk and the whiskey need to be strong.
Were you ever influenced by other musicians?
I am influenced by songwriters whose work has a strong lyrical quality. People like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan.
What is a day in your life like?
It’s a little boring, really. I have a consistent and idiosyncratic routine. Up early, out for coffee, at around nine you will find me doing the secretarial work. I try to practice singing every day. I write slowly and work and rework songs. I knock off at around 4:00 p.m., leave the office, so to speak, and spend the evening with my family. Not very exciting, but to stay on task I have to show up every day.
What makes you smile?
Professionally, I smile when someone contacts me and tells me how they were impacted by a song. I received an email from a woman —“I listened to your music tonight. It was exactly what I needed”. There is nothing better than that.
What scares you?
The decreasing outrage over the proliferation of automatic weapons in the U.S. Less than five miles from my house a bank was robbed by a teen with an AK-47. It was mentioned in perhaps a 45-second spot on our nightly news. Everyone is glazing over, accepting this as the norm.
What is your secret talent?
Knowing what to keep secret.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Franklin D. Roosevelt
David, do you have any hobbies?
I have a passion for rare books. I’ve spent years developing advanced collections of first editions by some of my favorite authors like Mark Twain.
What are you never without?
A notebook or notepad of some kind.
Can you tell us two of your favorite quotes?
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”— Teilhard de Chardin
“Sometimes, paranoia’s just having all the facts.”—William S. Burroughs
How do you define success?
Success is having people in your life who love and care for you unconditionally.
What advice would you give to anyone starting in the music world?
Most people do not understand the amount of work it takes to produce three-minutes of music. You have to first decide if you have talent. If you don’t have talent, all the schooling, equipment, and practicing in the world will not help you. If you have talent, these would be the rules to live by: 1) Show up to work every single day. Be obsessed with what you do. 2) Do what you you say you are going to do. 3) Define who you are and don’t waiver from it. Have a clear definition of where you are heading and know what people expect from you.
For more information on the music of David Arn, please visit www.DavidArn.com.