Interview: David Ramirez Lets Go of His Fear, But Remains Honest on ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’
Americana singer-songwriter David Ramirez played his first gig at a neighborhood pool. He was 17 years old, it was less than a year after he'd first picked up a guitar, and he and his bandmates played "nothing cool."
"That's the answer. We played nothing cool, at all," Ramirez tells The Boot, "but we had a lot of fun."
On Sept. 8, Ramirez released his third full-length album, We're Not Going Anywhere. After previously making records "with a lot of fear and anxiety," and spending a lot (too much) time worrying how his music would be accepted, Ramirez let it all go this time around.
"I kind of relinquished that. I wasn't afraid of how it'd be received; I just wanted to have fun with it," he says. "It reminded me of ... yeah, playing the neighborhood pool, just with my friends."
It's interesting that this is the album on which Ramirez had that mindset, because We're Not Going Anywhere is different in so many ways from his previous work. Even from the get-go, Ramirez was trying new things -- such as writing while on the road with, for the first time, a full band.
"I think playing with people onstage every night, that was a great launch for this record, as far as inspiration goes," Ramirez explains. After spending almost a decade playing solo, and feeling rather done with it, "I saw the potential of what music could be ... We could do anything; we could go in any direction."
When it came time to record We're Not Going Anywhere, Ramirez and crew decamped from Texas to Maine for a "destination record." There, they worked with producer Sam Kassirer, at his Great Northern Sound Society, located in an 18th-century farmhouse; Kassirer encouraged Ramirez to say more by saying less.
"Singer-songwriters have a tendency to fill all of the space with words and melody," Ramirez recalls Kassirer telling him, adding that Ramirez shouldn't "be afraid of space," because Kassirer would find ways to fill it.
"I loved it because I could sit down and start writing these songs and not have to fill everything ... and that's what he did," Ramirez says. "There's a lot of space, and there's a lot of music, on this record. Silence can play just as large a part as noise ... and he was a really cool writing challenge."
Music-wise, Ramirez admits that he "got bored" with using the same instruments -- so, he crafted a set of songs that he describes as "'80s synth pop."
"Americana is great because it's about the people and the stories, and I love that, but I think musically, we can just fall into the same things," he admits. "I want to take risks, and I want to be weird sometimes, and I understand that my record's not the weirdest record that's ever been made, but for me, it was a departure."
Ramirez adds that he's been surprised to find fans and even new listeners describing We're Not Going Anywhere as Americana -- "People are like, 'This is a really cool Americana album,'" he says, "and now I'm like, 'Okay, now I don't understand anything'" -- but in a way, he gets it.
"The stories are the same, [the] conviction's still the same," he says. "Yeah, my record is still Americana, turns out."
Ramirez has always been honest in his music, discussing life, faith, heartbreak and the like, but We're Not Going Anywhere is the first time he makes a political statement. Half Mexican and half white, Ramirez is in a position to speak about current hot-button issues as a minority; he admits, however, that he's always felt a responsibility to be real in his music.
"I made a decision to be a career musician, and so I made a decision to be public with my work," he says. "I've always wanted to be part of the conversation of what's going on ... I've always felt responsible to be honest, but, yeah, it was very intentional [this time around]."
Top 5 Americana, Alt-Country, Bluegrass and Folk Albums of 2017 (So Far)