David Ford knows a thing or two about life on the road. Since releasing his debut album in 2005, I Sincerely Apologize for All the Trouble I’ve Caused, the Englishman has spent countless months touring America. He has played support for the likes of KT Tunstall, Richard Ashcroft, Elvis Costello, and even stopped by Santa Barbara with Ray LaMontagne. Given the amount of time Ford has spent traveling as of late, it comes as no surprise that his experiences have seeped into his most recent work. Case in point, 2007’s Songs for the Road. Halfway through another American tour, Ford is returning to Santa Barbara. This time, it’s to launch a new season of Sings Like Hell, something he was perhaps always destined to do.
The first single from your new album is titled “Go to Hell.” Was that a shrewd ploy to headline the series? That was an entirely fortunate coincidence.
What is it like to be playing to audiences that are not as familiar with your music? I’m in the fortunate position of not having any fans in this country. So it kind of means that every show I do is like that! Most of the time I travel around and open for more established artists, so, in America anyway, pretty much all I know is playing to rooms full of people who don’t know who the hell I am and probably really don’t care at first. So it’s the challenge to have them know who I am and show some kind of interest in my music in the end. That I enjoy.
How has the response from American audiences been in general? I was very surprised to find that American audiences are a lot more open-minded and welcoming of stuff that they haven’t heard before. The British music business has become arrogant and fashion-based and it’s hard to get on back home unless you have certain distinct things going for you in your checklist. I think there’s more respect in America for the classics, which I think is something that is dwindling in Europe to the detriment of the British scene.
In what way? I think people honor the heroes of yesteryear more over here, which I also think means, as a musical nation, there’s more of a grounding in the classics of songwriting. And that has helped me to become accepted over here. : I think in Britain a lot of people have forgotten that Bob Dylan or Neil Young or even the Beatles were ever around. Everything seems caught up in the here and now and trying to be fashionable.
Is that why you record in such a self-contained manner? The smallest amount of business involved in music is the aim for me. I try to keep it a creative process. : I try for the least amount of involvement that I can possibility get away with from the likes of record labels and publishers, and also producers and studios. I try to take as much out of the equation as I possibly can and just have it be about songs and about music.
You also take a very minimalist approach to your live shows. What are the pluses and minuses of that? The greatest opportunity I have is the opportunity to not have a drummer. My shows can go anyway I want them to, and I can play whatever songs I want to. I don’t have to only play stuff that I rehearsed with the band. I can go at my pace and indulge my whims and fantasies, which is cool. The downside is that if I want to do a big, self-indulgent rock-out, it is pretty much impossible because I don’t have the means to do that.
What are some of your more memorable experiences from touring around America? The pancakes. The amount of batter-based breakfasts will certainly be something that will live long in my memory. But it doesn’t just stop at breakfast. You can have pancakes for any meal of the day-and sometimes for every meal of the day. That’s been illuminating to me. But for me the experience is the road itself. That hobo lifestyle of living out of a bag and stopping wherever you find a motel takes on a sick sort of glamour. But the fact that it is such a non-glamorous existence actually makes it kind of glamorous to me.
And what does the future hold for you? I hope to see my wife again and maybe spend a week with her. But I imagine most of my year will probably be spent in America and on the road. All the same things really, in an attempt to pimp my record to the masses and have them universally acclaim it as the work of genius I believe it is.
And the opportunity to indulge in a few more pancakes? Absolutely-but I’m also thinking of branching out into French toast and waffles.
David Ford opens the 23rd series of Sings Like Hell this Saturday, April 19, at 8 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). Call 963-0761 or visit singslikehell.com for details.