Studio Visit: David Howie
Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with singer-songwriter David Howie.
Q: I didn't know you made children's recordings.
A: That's just one of the things I do. I've had three records out in the last 12 months; two of them are kids' records. One, "Mission Songs," is a Catholic Bible vacation school CD put out by the Kids 4 Jesus organization.
Q: How have they been received?
A: They've been received pretty well. Since I began doing the Kids 4 Jesus records — I've done one a year for 20 years — they've been increasing the number of schools in the program that receive the CD.
Q: Do you do other kids' music? What's that like?
A: Yes. Those are more in the world of what I call toddler rock. I made two kids' records exclusively for the Champaign Public Library.
The first one, "Baby Boogie," has been given away to newborns at both hospitals in town for several years. When I play clubs and bars everyone always comes up to me and says, "You're the 'Boogie Baby' guy.' I'm very well known in the infant to 4 years old world. That recording won a Parents' Choice Award.
The second, "What I Like! A Kids' Collection of Songs and Smiles," just received a recommended designation from Parents' Choice. For that one, I wrote seven songs that were in my head because I have a 6-year-old girl at home. It was great that the Champaign Public Library gave me the freedom to do that.
There are more songs than just my original seven; there also are familiar rhymes and songs, recommended by the people at the library. We recorded it at Pogo Studio in Champaign. Lynn O'Brien and Kathy Harden are on it. Both of the kids' records are really collaborations in that volunteers from the library wanted to be involved in choosing and performing the songs and we wanted them to be, too.
Q: What kind of music do you make for adults?
A: I have a new singer-songwriter record out called "The Rearview Mirror of the Soul." That's a pop record — 13 songs. I believe it's available on iTunes and Napster and Amazon. I'm already giving it away on Facebook as a free download. I also do the Live Jukebox Show.
Q: Tell me about that.
A: I started to do a covers show in 2007, and I would sprinkle in my original material. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if even before I played a note of a song I knew there was somebody out there who really wanted to hear it?"
I learned 300 songs, and the number is growing. I assembled them into a three-ring binder, like a jukebox list. Every song is indexed. I allow people in the audience to choose what songs they want to hear. Every show takes on the character of the people who are there. For me — I do 100 performances a year — it keeps it fresh.
Q: What kind of songs do you have in your Live Jukebox Show?
A: Things from the last 60 years in pop music, from the last Wilco record to late '50s and everything between.
Q: What are the songs requested most often?
A: It depends on the venue. A fair amount of people love the '70s to '90s world of what I do. It really depends on the venue and the mood of the night. One of the things that's fun is twisting the arrangement of the song, reinventing it.
Q: How do you perform the Live Jukebox Show?
A: Me and my guitar and harmonicas and a drum machine that I use sparingly.
Q: That's a well-worn guitar you have there.
A: It's 61 years old. A 1949 J45 Gibson.
Q: Do you play in any bands?
A: I sit in once in a while with the Delta Kings. I'm blessed to have so much work. It's really keeping me busy, and it flexes so many muscles.
Editor's note: Howie plays regularly at several venues in town. For dates, check out http://www.davidhowiemusic.com