About David Berkeley
Imagine a road trip in Nick Drake’s old car, give Ryan Adams a seat, Grant Lee Phillips is there, maybe Beck has the wheel and Joni Mitchell is giving directions. The music they’d listen to would be pretty close to the music of this young, charismatic singer based in Georgia. His voice is warm like a tumbler of bourbon. He believes in the lyrics he writes, and he sings them from the marrow of his bones.
Born in the Garden State, David Berkeley’s earliest memory actually is of singing in public. He was three. His babysitter would walk him around the neighborhood (while selling Avon products), and for no apparent reason, he would sing songs to neighbors. They would return with Oreos and Fig Newtons. This had a Pavlovian effect on David, as he realized very quickly the power his voice had to move people. A couple decades later and still singing, Berkeley graduated from Harvard University where he studied literature and philosophy. “I guess some people are surprised that I took my Harvard degree and basically used it to polish my guitar,” Berkeley laughs. “Truth is, with an English and Philosophy degree, I ddin’t really have much choice.” After about 4 years based in Brooklyn; a stint in Santa Fe, NM; and some time in Idaho and Santa Cruz, CA; Berkeley now lives in Atlanta, GA. “The Atlanta scene has been good to me. There’s a real close-knit community of musicians down here. I’ve fallen into a great situation with very talented and supportive players. I like playing the Southern circuit. It’s an easy drive to Athens and Nashville, Birmingham, Savannah, Asheville…even Chapel Hill. And you can actually park at most of these venues.”
Berkeley recently was awarded ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriter Award and is one of WXPN’s Artists to Watch. He showcased at South by Southwest two years in a row (in the ASCAP showcase this past spring), an original song of his was featured prominently in CBS-TV’s Without a Trace, and his latest studio CD (now distributed through RedEye) has sold over 10,000 copies. HIs newest CD, “Live From Fez,” captures a single show with David’s full band–their final show, in fact, before the legendary NY listening room closed. It’s the only album ever released from Fez and captures Berkeley at his emotional and comic best. “We wanted to give something back to the place that basically developed us,” Berkeley explains. “Fez was really our home for a couple pivotal years. And I wanted to capture that a moment in my musical development–let people see and hear a show without any studio magic. I wouldn’t have done it anywhere but Fez.”
Berkeley recently got off the road with NIckel Creek and Howie Day. He toured with Ben Folds earlier this year and is steadily playing clubs up and down the East Coast and across the country (venues like the Bowery Ballroom, the Iron Horse, Joe’s Pub, Fez, the Pearl Street Ballroom, Passim, The Tin Angel, the Knitting Factory). Berkeley’s second record, “After the Wrecking Ships” produced by Alex Weinstein in New Paltz, New York, has received rave reviews from The New York Times, Rollingstone.com, Harp, Creative Loafing and more. His first record, “The Confluence,” also was well received by the likes of Billboard Magazine and Rollingstone.com. The title of Berkeley’s first record refers to the merging of the Snake and Salmon Rivers in northwestern Idaho, where Berkeley worked as a whitewater rafting guide. Most of the songs from this collection were composed along the banks of the Salmon.
The New York Times writes, “Berkeley sings in a lustrous, melancholy voice with shades of Tim Bucklye and Nick Drake. As his melodies ascend to become benedictions and consolations, the music shimmers and peals.” Americana-UK gives Berkeley’s debut album 4 stars, dubbing it a “fantastic record…which I suspect will be remembered for some time to come; it is reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel doing something pretty serious with Natalie Merchant and makes the likes of poor old David Gray seem laughable.” The new record has a bigger sound, reflecting Berkeley’s time in New York playing with a full band (w/ Alex Weinstein on electric guitar, Tyler Gibbons on bass, Dan Vonnegut and Greg Beyer on drums and Adam Buchwald on mandolin). The music is still introspective and thoughtful, but there is new edge and heightened emotion in Berkeley’s sophomore effort. “After the Wrecking Ships” is an exciting and passionate piece of art.
Radio stations across the country (including KCRW in Los Angeles, WFUV in NYC, WXPN in Philadelphia, WICN in central New England, WCFR out of Amherst, KPFA in the Bay Area…) and around the world are spinning tracks from this collection. Berkeley has performed at the United States Supreme Court (he was not on trial). He has shared bills with Dido, Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, Ray Lamontagne, Rhett Miller, Guster, Rachael Yamagata, Gary Jules, John Hiatt, Ed Harcourt, Joseph Arthur, John Doe, Hem, Marah, Mofro, Mason Jennings, Melissa Ferrick, Amy Correia, Ben Lee….
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