Dave Insley writes and performs some of the best twang-driven country music around (If not the best). He will shake the legs of anyone who appreciates great tunes -- with the vocal charisma of Willie Nelson and George Jones, and a timeless sense of production and arrangement, in the style of Patsy Cline and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Dave Insley is a mammoth talent.
WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES AT THE MOMENT?
I like that the question includes the phrase “at the moment,” because like many artists, my influences change frequently, even daily. Sometimes it’s the rhythm of the washing machine or the clank of the garbage truck, sometimes it’s Buck Owens or George Gershwin on the turntable, or it might even be the theme from whatever cartoon my kids are watching on the television.
I listen to, enjoy, and draw from all styles of music, and I particularly admire the writing of Harlan Howard, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Merle Haggard. One of my all-time biggest musical and lyrical influences was my father, who was not a songwriter, but who was very clever with words. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Buddy Rich and Tennessee Ernie Ford records, but if you ask me again in a few days, it will be something else.
WHAT IS YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LIKE?
My writing process is hardly unique, but (I hope) the results sometimes are. The words and music come in periodic cycles, sometimes with broad gaps of time between. My best ideas don’t really feel like they originate in me at all, but rather flow through me from somewhere else.
My job is to be paying attention when this happens and dutifully record the proceedings; sometimes the ideas come crowding their way through my head so quickly that I have to hustle to keep up, and don’t have time to reflect on them until much later. The key which unlocks all of this might be some topic I’ve had on my mind for a while, or issue I’m struggling with, or it might simply be a chance encounter with a particular combination of words, or an unusual turn of a phrase.
Part two of the process comes later and is more deliberate and craftsman-like; parsing through the flow of words and melodic ideas to gather and organize those which fit together, in support of the idea, while maintaining a good deal of objectivity, and being a brutally honest editor. I can be very tough on myself during this phase, in the interest of avoiding self-indulgence; I will happily throw out more than I keep, or even the whole shooting match, as necessary.
The whole process is a little bit like someone dropped off a pile of lumber in my yard, and my job is to build a solid house out of it, one that is functional and will keep the rain out, and one whose overall style was suggested by the building material itself. I find the entire process immensely satisfying, regardless of what I do with the resulting composition. Oddly, the more personal the content and results, the more universally the ideas seem to be understood by others. This might be the key to turning “art into commerce.”
IF YOU HAD A CHANCE TO SEE ANY PERFORMER AT THEIR PRIME, WHO WOULD IT BE?
I would have liked to have seen Elvis at about the time of the ’68 Comeback Special.