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The Pencilstorm Interview: Jerry David DeCicca - by Colin Gawel

Now residing in Texas, Jerry David DeCicca returns to his old haunt of Columbus for a show Sunday, November 11th at Ace of Cups. (2619 N High St.), 6pm showtime. (Click here for more info ). Jerry is spending the rest of 2018 touring to support his latest record, Burning Daylight, released on Super Secret Records. He was nice enough to tap out some answers to my questions on his phone while traveling. - Colin Gawel

C.G. - You released two very different sounding full length records in 2018. Was that always the plan? What got into you?

J.D.D. - I wrote the songs on Time the Teacher awhile ago, thinking I’d be recording them in Texas with an acoustic guitar - lots of fingerpicking - and some friends. But then the chance to work with some UK producers came up. They wanted to take my songs out of that dude-with-acoustic guitar world (which has always been a bit cliche, but more artistically conservative than ever lately) and create a new world for my songs with piano, horns, and backing vocalists. They removed my guitar. It took a while to make that album. Lots of bouncing files & mixes, that sort of stuff. Then there were big labels interested, because they loved the album, then not interested because I’m, uh, old-ish and lacking metadata and management. (I think that’s a nice way to put it...) So then the producers released it on their own label. Well, that took up a ton of calendar pages. In the meantime, Super Secret Records in Austin asked me to make record for them, so I did that, too. It just piled up. I thought releasing two records - and my best two, I think - in the same year might be cool, especially because of how different the records are from one another. I may have been wrong. The verdict is still out.

C.G. - You recently wrote an excellent essay about your affection for 90's-era Springsteen and fighting your own depression demons in your youth. Did you subconsciously create your own Human Touch and Lucky Town? (Click here to read the essay at Talkhouse.com)

J.D.D. - Well, Human Touch was an exercise. Lucky Town is high art. Darkness & The River are probably better analogies, though I’m comparing them in terms of ideology, sound, and politics more than similar levels of quality. And I appreciate you reading that essay - it was easy to write, tough to live.

C.G. - In related news, you have the drummer who played on Lucky Town playing on Burning Daylight. You always seem to work with an eclectic range of musicians on your projects, what is your process for deciding who plays on what?

J.D.D. - In music, as an artistic pursuit and a marginal career, geography is destiny. I use what’s accessible to me and what feels right. I try not to reach too far away from a home base for collaborators - I’m still more comfortable having looked into the whites of the eyes of players to give life to my songs. Making records with people is still intimate to me. Time the Teacher was full of brilliant strangers, but one of the producers I deeply trust, so that’s what helped me let go of control. The drummer in Burning Daylight, Gary Mallaber, has long been a favorite. He took a bigger leap of faith than me, flying into nowhere west Texas based on a random phone call. I am working with more strangers these days, but that’s because I moved somewhere not knowing many people. But, I’ve got good instincts and music is still my vehicle to make new friends.

C.G. - You seem to spend as much time producing records for other folks as you do recording your own songs. What’s happening on that side of the glass?

J.D.D. - I just wrapped up final mixes & approving masters for two records I produced due out next year. One is a new Chris Gantry record. It’s gonna blow minds, best thing he’s ever done. He had one huge hit, “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” that Glen Campbell cut. He was a favorite writer of Johnny Cash and Kristofferson, had lots of other cuts. It’s an incredible album. He’s in his 70’s and one of the best acoustic guitar players I’ve ever heard. The other artist is a guy named Will Beeley. He had two records in the 70’s reissued by Tompkins Square recently. This is his first in almost 40 years. We made it in San Antonio. He’s an over-the-road trucker now. You’ve heard of Americana Fest? All those people are bullshit, playing & writing fan fiction, fashionable garbage cans in the shape of an acoustic guitar. Beeley is the real deal. As soon as you hear his voice you’re reminded that authenticity can’t be defined, but you know it when you hear it.

C.G. - Very cool. I’m excited to check both of those out. Switching gears, as a young man, you worked at Used Kids records during the height of the Columbus Indie music scene, alongside such notables as the late Jerry Wick, Bela K. and Ron House. How did a Springsteen-loving newbee such as yourself land such a prestigious gig anyway?

J.D.D. - They were all music freaks. So am I. Freaks attract freaks. I was friends with you back then, too, so connect the dots…..

C.G. - What are some of the bars & bands you remember from your days on High Street?

J.D.D. - Bars: Stache’s, Bernie’s, Larry’s. Everyone at those places were kinder to me than they should have been. Bands: too many to name, but so many Big Brothers & Big Sisters let me tag along. You were a big part of my development. I was 20 years old when you & Joe began tolerating me. You took me inside your house one night and listened to my songs. After 4 or 5 tunes, you told me none of my songs had a bridge, we talked about Dwight Yoakam, and then you taught me how and why to write a bridge, it’s purpose & content, musically & lyrically. I remember every word, still. You were so right!! I was so excited you told me you liked this new record, because I applied what you taught me over 20 years ago to many of these songs. I owe you a beer.

C.G. - Wow! I do remember that night, though the details escape me now. I don’t know how we wound up at the Watershed house on 65 E Patterson, but I suspect it was late and beers were involved. Ok, final question. If I would have told the 20-year old Jerry that in 2018 he would release two full length records and travel from Texas to play a show in Columbus at a club owned by Marci Mays, what would he have thought?

J.D.D. - I would have said: of course! I knew I was going to make records that were art > commerce, that was the plan. I thought it was going to look different than this - more sustainable, more listeners, more opportunity to explore. But that was the 90’s then, the heyday of music, financially, where money trickled down to weirdos like me. I knew I was going to live somewhere else. I love Columbus, but also obsessed with the adventure of the Next. I mean, when I was 20, I was still a kid. But I knew I valued music as art, that I wanted it to be heavy and deep and be taken seriously. I really do appreciate how sweet you were to me back then. It meant a ton, then & now.

C.G - Always a pleasure, my friend. Safe travels and hope to take you up on that beer soon.