Name: David Allred
Occupation: Composer, producer, songwriter
Nationality: American
Recent event: David Allred's Driving Through the Aftermath of a Storm on a Clear Day, mastered by Ian Hawgood, is out via Dauw.
Book: ALL books by Ocean Vuong
Movie: Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman

[Read our Ian Hawgood interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with David Allred and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram, and Soundcloud. He also has a personal website.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started writing and producing music when I was in my late teens and early twenties alongside various high school and college friends who were amazing musicians / some of my biggest sources of inspiration at the time.

I wasn’t immediately drawn to music as a kid but my curiosity grew over time as I initially taught myself piano while taking trumpet lessons and participating in various music ensembles throughout my youth. I started listening to a lot of weird cool experimental music like Ween, Estradasphere, Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle, etc. before gradually expanding to more contemporary classical composers and ambient folk singer songwriters like Peter Broderick, Erik Satie, Judee Sill, Leonard Cohen, etc.

I have a deep appreciation for a wide range of genres because every style of music informs another style of music in some way, and I think that’s endlessly fascinating and beautiful.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

For a long time I studied traditional jazz and classical music which will always exist in my subconscious. But I find with time that I drift away from proper music training because I’m more drawn to experimenting in new styles of composition and sound production.

I also found myself learning how to play many songs over the years by artists I love which has directly and indirectly inspired a lot of the music I make today.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

I feel like my sense of identity is always shifting with time. I used to feel like people were paying really close attention to what I’m doing and that my decisions mattered a lot to them but I’m realizing that nobody really cares or even thinks the things we think they’re thinking about us when we feel judged.

This realization has helped me grow up in many ways. When the expectations I thought I felt from people around me evaporated, it allowed me to feel more comfortable expressing myself.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I think the main challenge in learning and making music is the amount of patience required to maintain and grow our understanding of it.

We can facilitate a practice routine or time we spend working on it but it’s not something we can learn in a linear way. Learning music requires a profound sense of time, nurturing and patience.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

My first instrument was piano which I had in my childhood home and my first piece of studio equipment was a super cheap early 2000s computer microphone which I used to make a bunch of recordings that were made entirely for enjoyment purposes only. I slowly upgraded my sound equipment over time and learned mixing and mastering tricks on my own and from my dear friend Peter Broderick who is an outstanding musician and sound engineer.

I’m always learning new things as I produce music and I love that feeling like there’s always something to discover no matter how many times I’ve done it.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

When I got my first iPhone which has a voice memos app, I started recording a lot of random ideas on there and it quickly became like a music journal.

I have many thousands of ideas and I really enjoy collecting them over time and listening back to them, especially old ones because I almost never really remember where the ideas came from.

I feel like this really influenced my songwriting ideas as there’s so many I can choose from at any point in time if I’m looking to write new music.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

The majority of my most fond music-related memories almost always involve the social experiences that came from it. Simply talking and sharing ideas, input, and sharing songs is what it’s all about for me.

While I also greatly enjoy making music by myself, I also really enjoy bonding over it and just collaboration in general is a thing I value so much more than I can say. I highly value both in person and long distance collaboration.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

My routine is pretty action packed with a lot of computer work. I love spending time away from screens when I can but these days I’m pretty preoccupied with it and that’s okay because I enjoy what I do.

I sometimes go through periods where I’m not interested in listening to any music for a while so instead I’ll listen to podcasts and there are other times when I’m not in the mood for any podcasts for a while and I only want to listen to a bunch of music. My interests shift a lot and maybe it depends on my mood or what work I have going on since I’m not always interested in listening to music when I’m busy working on my own music.

I like to incorporate exercise / being outdoors when I can amidst my busy work schedule. But additionally, I really enjoy hanging out with my cat.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you?

Meeting Peter Broderick was a wild breakthrough in my life. He has been sort of a mentor figure to me for a long time and now we’re just really good friends.

Meeting Peter led to an infinite range of recording and performing situations that dramatically altered the course of my life and I’m infinitely grateful for it. He helped me build my audio engineering skills and also brought me over to tour in Europe a few times.

And if you haven’t heard his music before, I cannot recommend it enough. His music is so powerful, so healing, so necessary.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I used to be able to create music regardless if I had inspiration for it. But these days, I usually give myself time to do other things and experience life more often than routinely rigorously working on music which I find actually helps fuel a deeper connection to my creativity.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

There’s a time and place for all music. It’s a way for everyone to connect and relate to each other. I like to think that music is essential for our emotional well-being and it helps us feel less alone.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I think if we allow ourselves to dig deeply into our innermost honest feelings, we will make the most meaningful art. I think it’s important to understand the root of our inspirations and motivations too, but to also allow space for others to speak their truth and for us to listen with an open mind.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Sometimes I hear an old song I haven’t heard in ages and I’m immediately taken back to the exact time and place where I first heard it which often stimulates my senses in a powerful nostalgic way.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

My approach is fueled entirely by my lived experiences and the people in my life. I may never understand my impulse to create music but I’m so happy I have it and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Music is a universal language that can transcend the barriers of speech and culture. It can unify, divide and inspire all things.