15 November 2017 (released)
15 November 2017
Arkansas Dave is the stage name of Dave Pennington, a skilled musician who first starting getting attention in the UK with a low-key tour during the summer. While he is yet to officially unveil his original material, although we got a sneaky peak of a track on a retrospective live tour video, he has revealed one of this year's most intriguing covers. Having caught our attention, we decided to find out more about this upcoming talent.
Hi Arkansas Dave, for those not in the know, tell us a little about yourself...
Well, I’m not sure where to begin… I, obviously, grew up in Arkansas and moved to Austin, TX in 2007 to attend Media Tech (then located at the legendary Arlyn Studios). I’ve been playing music my whole life, starting with the drums at around age 4 or 5. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was performing every Sunday in church…about the same time I started playing guitar. While all my peers were shedding guitar in their bedrooms, I was practicing my drums and learning how to write songs. Lots of teenage angst and sappy lyrics, but you have to go through all of that in order to learn how to write a song.
I’ve been in and out of so many bands – both as a sideman and member, and as a drummer, I’ve been in a supporting role my whole career. No matter how much work I put into a band, if it broke up, then I’d have to start over at square one again. After many failed attempts to keep a band together, I decided to step out from behind the drums and start fronting a band with all the songs that were rejected from my previous bands – hence the Arkansas Dave album.
It has to be asked, is your name a nod to the George Strait classic?
Funny enough, no. I know that when you Google “Arkansas Dave” that’s all you really find on the first page – hopefully, we’ll be changing that soon…haha. When I enrolled in Media Tech, there happened to be another Dave Pennington (also called DJ), so everyone just referred to me as “Arkansas Dave”. That was really the first place I was referred to as Arkansas Dave, but it really wasn’t my nickname until my one of my best friend’s cousins started calling me Arkansas Dave – after the outlaw character in the movie Young Guns 2, Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh. There’s a lot of dispute over the origin of the nickname, but apparently Dave Rudabaugh was also referred to as Dirty Dave and ran with Billy the Kid’s gang. It was rumoured that he was the only outlaw that Billy the Kid feared.
You have just revealed a cover of Tom Waits' Chocolate Jesus. What drew you towards the song?
Tom Waits has always been a favourite artist of mine. I really admire how Tom can make something truly beautiful out of things that would otherwise be grotesque and ugly to most. His simple, broke down approach to songwriting is something I’m drawn to, and really aspire to be more like. The song “Chocolate Jesus” is one of my favourite Tom Waits songs, and the lyrical content is very fitting for my debut album. Growing up in a Southern, conservative Christian church culture, the lyrics really hit home for me. I remember going to Sunday school as a kid and the only thing that kept my interest in church, really, was the fact they let me play drums during the worship service. So, at a very early age, I learned how to perform in front of an audience of a few hundred people every week; while simultaneously learning about the reality of what it meant to yearn for a greater knowledge than what was being preached.
A cover is an interesting route to introduce yourself to an audience, what made you head up your debut album with the track?
When we were working on the logistics and concept of the album, the idea of having a cover on the record was to essentially to have a yardstick to measure me beside a successful artist. While my sound isn’t even close to the style of Tom Waits, it gave me enough room to really take that track and make it my own while staying true to the original. The album is 13 tracks, so I have plenty of songs to choose from as far as singles go, but by leading with a cover gives me the ability to get some traction with a familiar song considering I’m basically starting from the bottom.
How does Chocolate Jesus relate to your upcoming debut album?
The album is just a self-titled album, Arkansas Dave. I wanted to introduce myself to the world with an album that is synonymous with whom I am as a person. I feel that if you don’t personally know me, then by the time you finish my album you will have a good understanding of who “Arkansas Dave” is. Chocolate Jesus fits into my story because it echoes my sentiment of what it’s like growing up in church culture but not even really feeling like you ever fit into that mold.
What can you tell us about the album itself?
Well, this ties into the previous question…. Really this is me saying to the world, “hey, y’all. I’m here and this is what I’m all about.” It is an emotional journey of songs that are as recent as last year back ten years ago. After really bouncing around band to band as a drummer, I wanted a place for my songs to live. The projects I was involved in never really allowed me to play my songs, maybe because I’m the drummer and it’s hard to communicate to other songwriters that play lead instruments how to play your songs correctly from behind the drums without their egos being damaged. It’s really just a collection of songs that tell my story.
When can we expect it to drop?
The album is set to drop in the Spring 2018. I won’t say a specific date yet, cause I’m sure there’s a plan to announce it at a later date…
If you had to file the release between two other artists, who would they be?
Hmmmm…. that’s a good question. If I dare say, I would say it’s somewhere between John Lennon and Joe Bonamassa meets Blackberry Smoke.
If you could work with just one of those two, which would you choose?
John Lennon, obviously.
You have started your career with a cover, if one of your songs was to be covered, which would it be? And by whom?
Wow... really interesting questions here, I like it. Man, I’m a humble person. That’s really a hard thing for me to say, but I’ll give it a try. It would probably have to be my song Bad Water. I feel it speaks to most people on a more visceral level, which makes it a good song to cover. I’d actually LOVE to hear Rival Sons play it; really any, my songs. I love everything about that band.
Lastly, we know you were touring earlier this year, can you expect to see you over in the UK again soon?
I know for sure that there are summer festivals being booked right now, so definitely in June. But I have a guitar, will travel…. just point me in the right direction.