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David Berkeley is an Americanmarker singer and songwriter born on September 22nd, 1976 in New Jerseymarker. He accompanies himself, sometimes with no other support, with an acoustic guitar.

His three studio albums and his live album are all self-produced.

His music can be inscribed in the acoustic, indie and Americana genres.

Biography

David Berkeley started showing a passion for singing while still in nursery school. The woman taking care of him when he was four was an Avon saleswoman. She would bring him with her while going door to door, and he would sing to her potential customers. In an interview he credits receiving cookies and applause for singing "that song about the Titanicmarker sinking" as an early experience of positive feedback. He graduated from Harvardmarker with degrees in literature and philosophy and lived in Alaskamarker, Idahomarker, Santa Cruz, Brooklynmarker (New Yorkmarker) and Traloncamarker, a small village in Corsicamarker. He presently lives in Atlantamarker with his wife Sarah and son Jackson. He released all his albums to date through his own label, Straw Man.

Recording career

The Confluence

His debut came in 2002 with the mostly acoustic The Confluence, in which David Berkeley already displayed the characteristic traits that still identify his style: elaborated lyrics about personal topics, complex song construction, varying chord patterns.

After the Wrecking Ships

In 2004 Berkeley released his second album, After the Wrecking Ships, in which he made use of more electric instruments but still without abandoning the genre that he defines "acoustic/indie/alt/folk/whatever-you-want-to-add-here". It sold over 10,000 copies. This album includes "Fire Sign", used in an episode (Wannabe) of the second season of CBS-TV's Without a Trace; although there are sources saying that the same song has also been used in the CSI episode A Thousand Days on Earth, this appears not to be true.

Live from Fez

In 2005 David Berkeley released Live from Fez, the testimony of a live event held on the 22nd of February of the same year, one of the last concerts held at the popular Lower Manhattan club. Along with the CD is a DVD including four songs recorded in the same occasion. This live release displays not only David Berkeley's heartfelt musical style, but also his sense of humor in the intermissions between songs.David Berkeley claims that this is the only live album ever released to be recorded at the now-closed New York club. However, in 2004, Bree Sharp also released an album recorded at the same club, entitled Live at Fez.

Strange Light

David Berkeley, "Strange Light" (2009)


2006 saw David Berkeley recording his third studio album, Strange Light, that would not be released until 2009. This delay allowed his fans and some reviewers to compare it - tongue-in-cheek - with Guns n' Roses's Chinese Democracy. When released, the album was enriched by the production of Brian Deck (Counting Crows, Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter).

Other recordings

David Berkeley also recorded a song (Love's the Only Thing That Shuts Me Up) for Ciao My Shining Star, a tribute album to Mark Mulcahy (the former vocalist of Miracle Legion) that features contributions from Mark Mulcahy's favourite musicians. Besides David, other artists featured are Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The album has been released on the 29th of September 2009 and Davd Berkeley's contribution has been widely appreciated.

During his stay in Corsica, David Berkeley took part to the recording of a cover version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" with local artists which has not been released yet.

Inspiration

In an interview, David Berkeley mentioned as his influences Paul Simon for the lyrics, Nick Drake for the mood, and then Neil Young, The Band, Elliot Smith and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. He insists, though, that most of his inspiration derives from poetry (he is especially fond of Yeats and Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn is heavily quoted in "The Moon Song"), passages of prose, people (his parents and his wife and son especially), the outdoors, art and most form of visual images.

David Berkeley has a penchant for using geography-related references as song titles. Amongst them "Leaving Idahomarker" from The Confluence; "Jefferson", "Times Square", "Chicagomarker" and "Bushwickmarker" from After the Wrecking Ships; "Willis Avenue Bridgemarker", "Sweet Auburn" and "Milwaukee Road" from Strange Light. In live concerts he has been playing a song called "George Squaremarker", that according to his own introduction to the same song during those concerts will probably feature in his next album.

Live career

In 2003 David Berkeley showcased at the popular South by Southwest festival in Austinmarker, Texasmarker, where he returned in 2004. He also toured the USA and supported such artists as Ben Folds, Rhett Miller and Ed Harcourt.

In 2006 he participated in the Jeep Compass Summer Music Tour.

In early 2007 David Berkeley toured the United Kingdommarker for the first time, alongside Ben Parker. He returned to the UK at the end of the year with Common Rotation.

David Berkeley and Jordan Katz (of Common Rotation) live at The Drawing Room, Glasgow (June 2009)


After having spent most of 2008 in Corsica with his family keeping his musical profile low, in 2009 after the release of Strange Light David Berkeley toured with Katie Melua accompanied by Jordan Katz of Common Rotation. With Katz he also toured once more the United Kingdom. He also appeared on Ira Glass's This American Life.

Besides the artists already mentioned, David Berkeley has toured with Billy Bragg, Don McLean, Nickel Creek, Rufus Wainwright, Ray Lamontagne, Howie Day, Gary Jules, Dido, Vienna Teng, Joseph Arthur, Hem, Mason Jennings and Ben Lee.

The ATL Collective

In July 2009 David Berkeley announced the formation of the "ATL Collective" (not to be confused with the "Atlanta Collective", a similar project focused on blues music) featuring himself, Micah Dalton and Samantha Murphy. Their intention is to gather as many musicians from Atlantamarker as possible once a month, on a Wednesday, in a cafe in the Old Fourth Ward area to cover whole classic albums. On their debut the three artists, accompanied by other local musicians, covered the whole Bob Dylan album Blood on the Tracks. Another of the albums covered has been Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

Critical appreciation

His debut album, The Confluence, received very positive reviews that compared him to such great artists in his field such as Donovan and Nick Drake. His tenor voice has been defined by some reviewer so hypnotizing that he "could easily spin tales of cleaning his bathroom, cleaning his catbox, or participating in any number of equally mundane or horrifying events", and this paired with honest, warm lyrics. Also appreciated were the orchestral arrangements backing up his music. His delivery has been defined delicate and tasteful, sober but not cheap, sweet and sour, while his songs are considered rich in texture and poetic.

After the Wrecking Ships also gathered enthusiastic reviews and more comparisons to established artists, such as Wilco and Ryan Adams, and was chosen as the best album of 2004 by established Rolling Stone critic Rob O'Connor. Even the renowned and influential New York Times critic Jon Pareles showed his high appreciation for this album. The Pittsburgh Pulp defined David Berkeley one of the best examples in the resurgence of folk rock, praising the American taste of his songs along with his melodic and melancholy voice. The already mentioned Rob O'Connor, on Harp Magazine, noticed a superficial resemblance to the quieter side of Eddie Vedder paired with wanderlust and bravado, in the finest troubadour tradition.In the same year he was also officially recognized by ASCAP as one of the most important emerging songwriters in the USA. To highlight David Berkeley's perception by the general public, it is interesting to notice that once he has been hired (and flown cross-country) to help a fan serenading his ex-girlfriend. The song Red, included in this album, has been criticized by the people of Clevelandmarker for depicting their town in a negative way; the only time he sung the song in Ohiomarker, David Berkeley changed the reference in the lyrics to Pittsburghmarker.

Live from Fez was appreciated in its maturity and was reviewed as a good ensemble work, although some reviewers took exception at David Berkeley's on-stage use, reflected in this album, to intersperse his setlist of quiet, warm songs with light-hearted banter.

Strange Light was also welcomed warmly by the critics adding to the list of artists David Berkeley has been compared to such influential names as James Taylor, Damien Rice, David Gray, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens and Five for Fighting. This is the album, in some critics' opinion, that could give "the big break" to David Berkeley. According to another critic, David Berkeley now is above comparisons and could be mentioned in the company (and could fit in the same period, the 1970s) of most of the artists he has been compared to. The passion and diversity of his lyrics and the poignancy of his music has also been widely praised, as hasthe emotional depth of his works.

Discography



References

  1. Sing Out Review (volume 47 #1, spring 2003)
  2. Demorama, December 22, 2002
  3. Le Cri du Coyote, Issue 71, Sept/Oct 2002 [in French]
  4. New York Times, 11th Jan 2004, Arts section
  5. Natalie Sweet on "Pittsburgh Pulp", May 13-20 2004
  6. Rob O'Connor on "Harp Magazine", March 2004
  7. Relix Magazine, Dec/Jan 2006



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