“The songs are the most important thing for me. It’s important that people don’t just hear this album as a throwback record. I want them to hear it as new songs in this world.” – David Myles, on his latest album “Real Love”
Nova Scotia-based singer and songwriter David Myles has a hard time sitting still.
The music-obsessed JUNO award-winning father of two admits that if he hadn’t taken time out for this interview with The Maine Edge, he would have been at the piano or on a guitar, relishing in the joy of discovering a new melody or chord sequence.
Myles’ remarkable new album “Real Love” was released last autumn in Canada and is now available in the US and worldwide on vinyl, CD and mp3. According to Myles, the new record is the result of a personal deep dive into the music of country legend Don Gibson, the dark emotion of Roy Orbison and early rock pioneer Buddy Holly.
“I love that era of singer where they kind of still sang country ballads where the vocals were kind of slow, relaxed and they kind of crooned,” Myles said. “They were great singers but they were just taking their time while the band rocked behind them.”
Myles’ love of American roots music shot to the next level following a revelatory visit to Nashville’s historic RCA Studio B, home of The Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World,” Don Gibson’s “Oh, Lonesome Me,” Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister” and dozens more iconic hits.
“They played some of the music that had been recorded in that studio,” said Myles. “I just listened and thought ‘That sound kicks so much ass.’ That music was about energy and song structures. The songs were tight, the singers and players were good and it was also experimental music.”
Uninterested in attempting to merely trying to duplicate what those artists had achieved, Myles and his band set out to capture their spirit and vibe on “Real Love.” That they succeeded is a testament to Myles and company’s modus operandi: Don’t stop learning.
“A big part of what made this whole thing work is that I’m still learning,” he said. “Even though I’ve recorded a lot of music, I learn a little bit more about songs and arrangements with every record I make. The style may change from record to record but I feel like I’m learning and getting better as I go.”
“Real Love” consists of 13 meticulously crafted songs, with no two sounding alike. From the opening barn-burning rockabilly rave-up “Night and Day” to the closing heartstring-tugging “Crazy to Leave,” the album is a contemporary classic.
“I was pretty excited before I started recording this group of songs,” Myles said. “I felt that this batch of songs were really good. Based on everything I kind of know and feel, these songs are tight.”
Myles and his band have recorded an album of contemporary pop songs informed by the music of yesterday but made for today. In truth, he wonders if it’s really “mainstream” music.
“In putting this album out, I realize that my tastes might be a little more eccentric than some people,” he said with a laugh. “Not everybody is as jazzed about Don Gibson as I am. I’m in my mind, I’m like ‘This is mainstream music,’ but then I put it out and realized, ‘Oh wait. This is not mainstream music.’ I’m writing pop songs. But in the end, they came out sounding quite alternative to what a regular pop song sounds like these days.”
If he’s referring to what passes for top-40 music today, he’s right. But if a top-40 station were to add “Night and Day,” “Cry, Cry, Cry” or “If You Want Tonight” to their playlist, listeners would latch onto them – not just because they are great songs, but also because they sound like nothing else on contemporary hit radio.
My initial exposure to Myles’ music came from listening to a Canadian station and hearing part of “Night and Day” fading in and out of the static of a distant signal. It took me a month to figure out who I had heard but you’re reading the result. Since then, I’ve been trying to acquire all of his previous albums. “Real Love” is his 11th record.
When I spoke with Myles about radio, he shared a story about he and his bandmates’ fondness for Willie Nelson’s honky-tonk/country channel 59 on Sirius XM satellite radio.
“We spent two years driving around America and Canada listening to ‘Willie’s Roadhouse,’” he said. We would listen to that channel all the time and say ‘Man that’s a sweet sound.’ It’s a sound we feel at home playing. What you hear on this record is how we sound live.”
Myles’ band includes fellow Fredericton, NB natives Alan Jeffries on guitar and Kyle Cunjak on bass. A drummer joins them on occasion, depending on the show.
“A big part of this new record was being able to make the kind of music that would fit what we have become as a trio,” said Myles. “Alan is a great country guitar player and Kyle is an amazing bass player. They are my brothers on the road. The lineup has remained pretty consistent for about 10 years. We often tour as an acoustic trio but we’re using more drums now because this is such a dancey record.”
Myles and his band spent a good chunk of 2017 traveling around the US and Canada, playing whenever and wherever they could. The band incorporated three Maine stops in their itinerary: Farmington, Rumford and Portland.
“Those shows were amazing,” Myles remembered. “The audiences were great at each show and we can’t wait to come back this summer. Hopefully, we’ll include a Bangor show this time. If we’re doing shows in the northeast, it only makes sense to include Maine. I love it there. When I go to Maine, it feels like I’m coming home because it reminds me of New Brunswick.”
Having grown up in Fredericton – about 75 miles from the borders in Houlton and Calais – Myles made many trips to Maine with his family as a youngster.
“It’s so fun for me to rediscover this beautiful state which is so close,” he said. “I have great memories of being there as a kid. Now as an artist, to be able to share my music with Maine has added a bit of fire to the whole operation. We’re all excited about it.”
2018 marks Myles’s 15th year as a professional musician. His life would probably be much different today had he pursued what he thought would be his destiny: politics.
A political science major, Myles graduated with honors and went to work at the Ontario Provincial Legislature. He spent six months assisting a conservative followed by six months of assisting a liberal. In the process he gained keen insight into policy development, but says he doesn’t miss the partisanship.
“I liked working in politics and I have a lot of respect for people who do, but it can be a brutal job. The partisanship gets in the way of reason sometimes. Reasonable discourse between people was becoming a rare thing and what got me excited about music was exactly the opposite. Music pulls people together. We see it all the time. When you travel around the world you see what music can do. It can unify people who come from totally different places.”
Myles maintains an interest in politics, but has no regrets about stepping away from the fray and running toward music – something he started doing for fun as a very young trumpet player in school.
“I remember writing stuff with my brother who was a guitar player. I would write little melodies and chords. I was at the university when I started writing lyrics and music, usually with a guitar.”
In 2001, Myles was in China as a foreign exchange student. He lived there for a year, studying Chinese while also teaching himself how to play the guitar.
“Once I started learning guitar, I went from writing no songs to literally writing songs all the time,” he said. “I became completely obsessed with songwriting. Once I decided not to pursue jazz trumpet as my main instrument, I almost gave up on music. Then I wrote one song and that’s when I realized ‘This is what it’s going to look like. This is how I’m going to make music my life.’ I didn’t know I could do it. It was a major revelation.”
Two years ago, Myles had another revelation – this one connected to his voice.[READ MORE]