PORTLAND, OREGON | SATURDAY 12:31 PM
It’s a calm Saturday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. Commuters drone down sullen streets still wet from a morning rain-shower. I walk gingerly across a busy intersection to avoid soaking my Nikes in the puddle-ridden potholes. Soon I’ll arrive to meet David Barber, an independent hip-hop artist and jazz musician, to talk about his new music. He’s fresh off the release of his new single titled Meditation that dropped on November 22, 2019. The song features Barber on vocals, but is comprised of Charlie Brown III, Cary Miga, Chang Park, Cory Limuaco, and Jeff Chilton as well, on various instruments. After a short walk and a few knocks on the door, I am greeted by David and invited in to detail his new song over a cup of coffee – or as David and I like to call it, a cup of Joe.
What surprised you most about the recording process of Meditation?
DAVID: Well, that was the first song that we had recorded that day. And that was the first session that I had done with musicians that were outside of my immediate camp – Cary Miga on bass, Cory Limuaco on drums, and Charlie Brown III on keys for instance. But then I had some familiar folks recording as well, such as Jeff Chilton on the trombone and Chang Park on the trumpet. So, I was surprised at how efficient everybody was in the studio. It was really like, we’re here to get this shit done and make art together.
So you were impressed at everybody’s professionalism in a sense?
DAVID: Yeah, but like loose, musical professionalism. It was also surprising how difficult it was to be the leader of a full day session like that. [I would say things like] here’s five of my tunes, [I have to] hire these people, let’s make this happen. I was surprised at how – well maybe not surprised, maybe it was just as stressful as I thought it would be. [I realized] how stressful it is to put together your own session, bring your tunes, hire the people, schedule everything, and pay for it.
I feel like there’s always a sense of compromise when you are working with people who are not in your immediate camp and who you find very talented. Their creativity may drift from the song structure you originally had in your mind, but that’s why you love them and their creativity. So, how did Meditation transform from the seed in your mind to when it was laid down as a record?
DAVID: I feel like what [Meditation] originally was in my brain compared to what the single is when it released changed a lot because I performed the song a lot. I actually recorded the song with the guys from Dusty The Gorilla – a free jazz, hip-hop, and ambient dirt music quintet consisting of PDX musicians David Barber, Miguel Hernandez, Patrick Golichnik, Chang Park, and Lee Hauser – we recorded Meditation six or seven months ago, then we performed it more, and then I recorded it with the current group [mentioned earlier]. So it evolved a lot overall and naturally grew into what it was [upon its completion].
Jeff [Chilton] and I always talk about drones and how so many people are like drones. And I am like that too sometimes, we all slump into that stage. But sometimes you are walking down the sidewalk and if you see a pretty rose you should just go smell it.DAVID BARBER
One of my favorite lines from Meditation is: “Praise due to the rock that I stand on.” Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
DAVID: It is rooted in Christian imagery, you know, religious, biblical, the rock that I stand on. There’s this old church song, something about “build your house upon the sand and it will wash away. But build your house upon the rock and it will stand firm.” This was a religious metaphor though – the sand being a life void of the pursuit of God and spirituality. And then building your life upon the rock would mean, in Christianity, following Christ or following God. But in the other direction, following any spiritual endeavor or seeding your life on anything spiritual or meaningful to you.
In Meditation, you speak of a love that is used for various purposes. What is that love, or what is that one emotion that can be used so applicably and in so many different senses?
DAVID: I think it’s the simplest love you can show for anybody. At the end of [Meditation] I say ‘all you gotta do is show love,’ and that’s pertaining to anything – any situation, any person, any object, any context. If you just keep that as ground zero, like okay, nothing else matters except all I have to do is show love. I think it’s that love, just simple love.
Sometimes the simplest love is the most important, right?
DAVID: Yeah, there’s something in The Book of Tao that I read, something about being like water and naturally flowing straight to the bottom. I can’t quite connect why this metaphor makes sense in my head, but I keep talking about it with people. It’s like, “all you gotta do is show love” is the basis; once you get there, then you can go to other places. And it’s kind of like water. Water is going to go straight to the bottom and how ever it naturally flows within its environment.
Are you talking about a foundation, in a sense?
DAVID: Yeah, it could be – that love is the foundation for being whole and sound within people and within yourself.
In Meditation you say “you can’t walk though life without having smelled the roses.” What are these roses you speak of? Are they metaphorical?
DAVID: Well I do like flowers (laughs), yeah it’s metaphorical too though. Jeff [Chilton] and I always talk about drones and how so many people are like drones. And I am like that too sometimes, we all slump into that stage. But sometimes you are walking down the sidewalk and if you see a pretty rose you should just go smell it. And it’s just that metaphor pertaining to any avenue that your life brings you.
Can I tell you what my interpretation of that line was?
DAVID: Sure, please do.
I just felt that when you said “you can’t walk through life without having smelled the roses” to me, it felt like man, you can’t truly walk though life without seeing the beauty of it. There is such beauty in life that we all tend to ignore; that we like to kind of put on the back end and highlight our grievances instead. Things like “oh this sucks and my day was shitty,” without saying “you know, today was a beautiful day. I saw some beautiful roses – nature is really amazing. I’m so humbled to be able to live my life in Oregon, in wherever you are from.” So, to me, I thought that was incredibly powerful. You can’t go through life without seeing the beauty in it.
DAVID: As if it’s inevitable, you will see it eventually.
Yeah, unless you are actively seeking to not see it. Like you are trying to blind yourself purposely, but other than that, I truly believe it is inevitable.
Unless stated otherwise, all media is courtesy of Derick G Visuals.