David Gergen is a pretty normal guy by a majority of standards. He exercises a decent amount of the time. He has a garden, which he tends to regularly. He goes on cool vacations to places like Italy to check out the sights. And he really digs being out among the natural world. Basically, David Gergen is my dad; the only difference is he’s putting out music that derives solely from his brain while engaging in these day-to-day activities. After all, centering yourself is the key to creating consistent art.
The thing, though, that does separate Gergen and the rest of the world is himself. As stated before, he’s a nature guy, which he cites as one of his prime musical influences. “Nature influences me a lot,” he tells me over the phone. “It allows me to be in my own head, and I love my solitude.” This explains why Gergen is totally doing his own thing in every possible sense. Gergen is not a dude with a backing band: He’s the only dude.
I can honestly say not many people have cited nature as their prime influence when I ask them what drives their music. Politics, yes. Culture, yes. Society, emotion, yes. But never Big Sur redwoods and Santa Cruz beaches. When I ask Gergen what music influences him, he gives me by far the vaguest answer I have ever gotten in an interview like this, but I couldn’t help but totally agree with him. “Live shows influence me the most,” he explains. “A good show will be in my head for weeks, and if it captured a certain mood, it inspires me to put that into a song.” Basically, Gergen channels an experience and a fleeting feeling, and turns it into a song somebody can put on repeat on their iPod shuffle.
That’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate good records. Names like Nine Inch Nails and Beck come up, because like him, they are constantly trying to do their own thing, and that’s why they essentially remain a singular entity. “It’s hard to do something original these days,” Gergen tells me. “It’s better to retreat without being influenced, but a lot of people don’t like being alone”. Gergen’s solitude has paid off, though, as he has made four records as a solo artist. I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years, and the only “album” I have ever recorded was with my cousin singing in front of my old Dell with the sound recorder running.
David Gergen’s newest effort, The Nearer it Was…the Farther it Became, sounds like Gergen did whatever he wanted considering he didn’t have four other people in a room bitching at each other about what they were trying to do and whether or not to wear their Loveburger shirts on stage. His album goes through a number of sounds. One track, “Thru a Fairy’s White Cloud”, sounds like Nick Drake if the guy ever went electric (and remarkably creepier). Piercing electric guitar notes rip through a beautiful acoustic chord progression on top of gruff vocals. “Seven Miles to Sunset” has a wonderful guitar hook played over a computerized beat. The only thing that comes to mind in comparing it to anything is Polaris, Mark Mulcahy’s band for The Adventures of Pete and Pete, but with deeper, darker, almost luring vocals.
“The Streets I’m Walking” is an upbeat number that sounds like the desert. I can imagine cowboys, Marlboro cigarette ads, canyons, red sand, heat and a saloon somewhere along the way as the song plays. “Ore de Electro” is a little industrial number where Gergen channels his inner Trent Reznor, all while trying to remain slightly cool-headed, as his vocals never quite get above a scream.
I tell him that I think a number of his vocals remind me of none other than the Lizard King himself, Mr. Jim Morrison (especially on “Love Blues #11). He chuckles a bit. “Always loved Jim,” he tells me, just before reminiscing on his days of being a Santa Cruz hippie. He talks of playing in a jam band (Seahorse Farm) and of his love for NorCal. “I never would have left Northern California if I could do it all over again,” he admits. “The problem with being in LA is that the media usually catches on when you’re big somewhere else, but you can’t generate a buzz here.”
What Gergen wants is nothing more than to create enough of a buzz to turn people onto his music. “I just want to get my songs out to as many people as possible. I want to have true fans who like what I’m doing. Just to be able to support myself without having to duck behind a cubicle. If by the time I’m done, and I have a life long body of work to show what my life was, and a decent fan base….I don’t think I could ask for much more.” In the music game, you have to come as you are, and David Gergen does just that by projecting himself onto these records. If he keeps to himself just a little longer, he might suddenly be thrust out into the public eye. And you know what the public are, don’t you? Vultures.
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