David Leinweber has played in a wide variety of venues and musical styles, ranging from rock, to blues, to folk, to gospel. He has been featured as the “Flatpicking Professor” Dr. Leinweber at the Scottish Bluegrass Association Festival in Perth, Scotland and has also performed widely at regional acoustic music festivals in the South. This Sunday, he brings his many talents to Eddie’s Attic, where Andrew Chatwood spoke with him about his diverse musical career.
What’s the first gig you ever attended?
I played guitar for a party for a Synagogue. The party was at at the Macchus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan — the same place where Jimmy Hoffa was kidnapped. I was still in high-school. I was asked to back one of the party organizers as he sang fifties rock and roll standards. I knew nothing, lol. I guess I followed along OK, but it’s embarssing to look back at that night now. However, it taught me to apreciate the fifties standards. I remember doing “Party Doll,” “It’s My Party,” and many other familiar fifties and early sixties hits.
What is the best gig that you ever performed?
I’ve had a number of very special gigs. Among the best were probably the shows I did for the Scottish Bluegrass Association in Guildtown, Scotland. In both 2006 and 2009 I was one of the headliners for their three-day music festival, which features nightly concerts. There was an article about me in the paper and I also performed an afternoon show at the nearby mall in Perth. The whole experience really gave me a taste of the international acoustic music scene. The Scots were totally appreciative and really wanted to listen to my songs — both the playing and the words. I still sell quite a few tunes from iTunes UK and I always assume it’s probably some of the folks that were at these shows. I also made halfway decent money and enjoyed staying at the Guildtown Hotel as a special guest of honor. It was pretty great.
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
I assume by “gigs,” you don’t just mean “concerts.” I saw a lot of great bands back in the day. While it doesn’t always show-up in my acoustic playing these days, I truly still love the rowdy old rock and roll of my youth in Detroit. I saw many great bands, especially Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon, The Rockets, and Brownsville Station. A lot of those bands came right out of the bars and could really put together raw but somehow well-honed performances. I also, of course, love acoustic music. My wife Mary and I enjoyed our first date at a John Denver concert where he played all his fine songs, without any band or backing. I regret that I’ve never seen some of my acoustic favorites, including especially Cat Stevens and Gordon Lightfoot. I’d love to go back in time and see Jim Croce. There are very few live recordings or videos of him, but the ones I’ve seen show that he basically had a nice little duo for live music — his voice and guitar, and the very tasteful lead details played by Maury Muehleisen. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really come to appreciate the little duos and trios that play very tasteful and polished arrangements.
What is a gig you would most like to play?
I’ve never been to New York or Boston, but I always imagine that there are some really special acoustic music venues there, with really well-educated audiences and cool atmospheres.
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
The folksy, barroom-seasoned Gordon Lightfoot backup band, and his full-orchestra plus arranger.
What is the strangest thing a fan has done for you or at your show?
I’ve seen a few dancers go beyond the PG-13 threshold.
What is the funniest moment you have had as an artist?
I had a duo called The Silverbird Duo and we were playing in Eatonton. There was a lady there who was eighty, at least. She was wearing a mini-skirt, dancing like crazy and seemed amorously inclinced towards many of the males in the room. Hey, more power to her!!!
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Pray that people show.
If you could describe your music in one word, what would it be?
How do you connect with a crowd?
You never know how a crowd will respond. When they really listen and respond, it’s a two-way communication. The vibe when that happens is one of the greatest feelings I have known.
What is the best way to write music?
I’ve written a lot of songs. LIke any other songwriter, I’ve written many stinkers and, I hope, a few good ones along the way. You have to write a lot of bad songs to get a few good songs. A lot of times I start with chord progressions or melody-lines that come into my head. But I’ve learned to wait on the lyrics. In the past, I’d really push myself to come up with lyrics and that’s never really as good. I’ve learned to let the songs kind of gel. Sometimes I’ll make up lyrics, or even compose lyrics I think are OK — but they eventually get replaced by better lyrics. A good song has to be ‘about’ something. Until you have a clear idea or what the song is about, the lyrics can’t really emerge like they should. Even if the lyrics end-up being evocative or ambiguous, you know when they truly fit the music, or not. Lately I’ve written some songs based on history — especially British history — that I’m quite proud of. The story-song is one of the oldest forms of music and, for that matter, literature. I’ve been a history professor for over twenty years, so it should probably have been an obvious choice for me to write history-based songs. But for a long time I tried hard to separate my interests in music and history. Lately I’ve found some really neat possibilities when combining the two (history and music) however.
Check out David Leinweber at Eddie’s Attic, this Sunday!