David Ramirez is an Austin-based singer/songwriter who has put out two full-length albums and one EP of achingly introspective Americana, folk, rock and country. He has received accolades from publications such as Paste and most recently, The New York Times, for his newest album, Apologies.
Ramirez will be returning to the Bottletree Cafe on Wednesday, October 24th, along with Noah Gunderson and Birmingham’s Jesse Payne. Tickets for the 18-and-up show are $10 and doors open at 8 p.m.
Chris K. Davidson for Birmingham Weekly: You’re the first artist I’ve ever interviewed from Austin. What is the scene like there and how has it helped you develop as a songwriter?
David Ramirez: What I have found from Austin has been really nurturing and very encouraging. It’s a place where I feel I can be me and really believe that people are willing to come listen if that makes sense. Like come with me on the journey and allow me to lead them places. What I love about it is it’s different than most places.
BW: The title of your newest record, Apologies, kind of lets the listener infer that it’s more of a somber record in a way.
DR: It’s somber. I think it’s more self-reflective than my earlier work. My older stuff, I would just write about things happening in my life. For this album, all of it iswhat I think and feel about life, not just circumstantial. It’s been really introspective. It’s a pretty dark title (laughs). I’m finding that out more and more.
BW: And what was the recording process like? Did you work in a studio?
DR: We did it in two houses in Austin. They’re studios, but not with the glitzy leather couches and mini-bar. They’re just real low key in houses. We recorded over two weeks and recorded live to tape. It was a real short process and quite painless. I recorded with my band and we’re all comfortable and know each other and felt really comfortable about what we were doing. I like to record in as small as a time frame as possible. I think it’s important for me to keep that same mental space and not stretch it out too long. Everything changes so quickly, so keeping it in a short timeframe allows to keep that same head space about it all.
BW: Each of the songs you wrote for this record are close to your heart. Are there any standout tracks for which you have a particular fondness?
DR: “Mighty Fine” and “Dancing and Vodka,” I’m very fond of because we’ve never gone that far country before. It was very fun to kind of step into that territory and they’re two of the more lighthearted songs on the record. They’re not somber at all, so that’s good for me to have those on there. But I do love “An Introduction” a lot. I don’t really talk about my faith all that much. Although the song is not about my faith necessarily, it is a faith-based song. That was a fun one to write to talk about those subjects. I think “Paper Thin” might be a favorite as well. With that one, I’ve never written a more colorful song. They usually stay pretty standard musically. I went outside the lines with that one and really liked it a lot.
BW: How long have you been playing professionally and what made you decide to go for it full-time?
DR: It’s going on five years right now. I was living in Nashville trying to pursue it. I was working another job. It just wasn’t really going well in Nashville. The city wasn’t doing anything wrong; I think I was just doing things wrong and didn’t know how to go about making this thing work. So I lost my job and instead of spending time trying to look for a new job, I decided to just live in my car until I found a place to settle down. I just packed my car with a duffel bag and my guitar and I hit the road. I played street corners, coffee shops, bars, open mics. That was my first time music experience and that was in 2008. Then I landed in Austin and was able to maintain it and it’s still the only thing that I do today.
BW: You’ve a lot of praise from publications such as Paste and The New York Times. That must make you feel well-received and that all of your hard work has paid off.
DR: It’s really nice. It’s cool. You always have a dream that it will be received and in the back of your mind, you never believe it will, but it’s starting to pick up. It’s been very helpful and encouraging for sure. I’m excited. I mean, it could all end tomorrow, so I’m just trying to enjoy what’s been going on. Keep my head on straight.
BW: For the Birmingham show, you’re returning to Bottletree. What made you decide to come back to that particular venue?
DR: Well I had only played it once before with Matthew Mayfield, my buddy from Birmingham, but I had been there a couple of times to see shows as I was passing through Birmingham over the years. I think it’s just a great space. It’s a fun venue and probably one of the most hospitable venues that I’ve ever played. So kind and caring and I will never cross that venue off my list. I will always be a returning customer. I’m excited to get back there.
BW: What would you say have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
DR: I think the biggest one I’ve learned is to not feel entitled. When I was younger, I felt I deserved everyone’s attention because I knew how to write a couple of songs. It took me a while to get out of that mentality and put my ego aside. It took me a long time to realize that it’s a privilege not only to create, but to perform and have people listen to you. I would encourage anyone wanting to pursue the arts to really wrestle with that thought. I say that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned not only because it’s provided the most grace in my life, it’s allowed me to my art in a different light and allowed me to assume more responsibility for it and to appreciate it more and it’s made all the difference in my writing and my performing. It’s the biggest one as of now. Don’t feel entitled and see it as a privilege.
BW: What are five records you can listen to from start to finish at any point?