RIP David Cassidy November 21, 2017 ~ An Interview with David Cassidy

Jordan Wright
September 25, 2012
Special to The Alexandria Times

David Cassidy, pictured in 2009, rocketed to stardom as Keith Partridge on the ABC series 'The Partridge Family'. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

David Cassidy, pictured in 2009, rocketed to stardom as Keith Partridge on the ABC series 'The Partridge Family'. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

In the six decades David Cassidy has been in the limelight, he has worked in television, theater and live concerts as a musician, actor, songwriter, singer, director and producer.  That’s a lot of crossover.  But when you’re the son of theatrical and TV royalty Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward you could say, “Well, kids, that’s showbiz!”

From the tender age of eight Cassidy started touring and performing in summer stock productions along with his parents, landing his first Broadway role before he was a teenager.  Many of his fans literally grew up with him in the ‘70’s as the adorable heartthrob Keith from the long-running, now syndicated sitcom, The Partridge Family, where he and stepmother Shirley Jones were the only two cast members to actually sing on the show’s ten albums.  With over 30 million records sold worldwide his career has taken him back to Broadway and on to Vegas, transcending his pop star status.  Currently concerts take him on the road nearly 200 days a year, though he admits he’ll be cutting back on lengthy tours in future.

Cassidy and his five-piece band’s October 6th appearance at The Birchmere in Alexandria will be the last stop in the States on his eight-month tour before traveling to England where he will perform for over ten thousand people a night.  I spoke to him by phone this week from his base in upstate New York.

Jordan Wright - How has the U.S. leg of your tour been?

David Cassidy – I’ve had the greatest summer I can remember.  I’m with my band of eight years.  The audiences have been great.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve never enjoyed playing as much and the momentum keeps growing.

JW – Are you looking forward to playing The Birchmere?

DC - The wonderful thing about The Birchmere is it is one of the most legendary places in the U.S. to play.  It’s genuine and earthy.  Some of the greats have played there.  It reminds me of the Bottom Line in New York.  There are virtually no other venues I play that are so intimate.  The management and the backstage crew and the vibe are so great.  It has that true blues, rock and roll sort of authenticity.  My band [including guitarist Dave Robicheau of the The Monkees] said, “Let’s go back there!”

JW - How much of the show is new music?

DC - Virtually none.  But I do songs that are a part of my journey.  My fans come to hear the songs they love.  I don’t do the same show every night.  That’s not me.  I like to interact with the audience and keep it spontaneous.

JW - Who are your musical influences now?

DC – The same that have been my influences before.  I like John Mayer and Sting, as an incredible writer, bass player and singer.  My earlier influences were Rogers and Hammerstein, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Bobby Darin.  But when I became a teenager it was the Beatles.  I remember the night I turned twelve was when I first heard them.  The next day I bought an electric guitar.  I knew from the time I was three I wanted to become an actor.  I was in acting school in New York and my first professional job was on Broadway.  I played blues in garage bands when I was younger and I loved B. B. King and Buffalo Springfield, who played at my high school.  The Beach Boys were another favorite and I became good friends with Carl Wilson.  Later Brian [Wilson] and I wrote a song together.  I got to play with my musical heroes and became good friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  I played with him a few times when he was making the Rock ‘n’ Roll album in the 70’s.  I think John and Paul were the greatest songwriting team ever.  And Yoko has such an amazing soul.

JW – Your son, Beau, and daughter, Katie, are in show business.  Do you support their showbiz careers?

DC - I do now.  I didn’t support them earlier when her mom wanted her to be Brittany Spears.  Now she’s done five TV series, Gossip Girl was one, and some films. I’m very proud of the work she’s done.  My son has been studying at Michigan State, Boston University and NYU.  He’s a very talented musician and songwriter in a band called The Fates.  I heard their first few songs and the stuff is remarkable.

JW - Are you excited about your upcoming Lifetime Achievement Award at the Film, Recording & Entertainment Council’s Star Gala in November?

DC - I say this humorously and somewhat sarcastically.  If you do enough work and stick around long enough and don’t give up, you pick yourself up a few times and then someone says, “What about this guy?”  I’m very flattered by it.  And because I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, I’ve finally backed off from working 52 weeks a year.  I tell my kids and in talks at colleges and schools, it’s never been about the money, and I appreciate working so much more now.  Because if you’re going to write and produce and direct with a lot of people with a lot of talent, it makes a difference if they have a strong investment in it.

JW - What’s next for you?

DC - I plan to do at least one more album.  I have a concept that I have never fully explored that I’d like to work on.  It’s not about the multi-platinum records anymore.  Before I only focused on the end result - now I like to take my time.

This interview was conducted, condensed and edited by Jordan Wright.

David Cassidy performs one night only at The Birchmere on October 6th.  For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.  For venue information visit www.birchmere.com.  The Birchmere is located at 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria VA 22305

Iris DeMent Taps Her Roots in Sing The Delta

Jordan Wright
January 11, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

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Iris Dement’s singing voice can best be described as the mournful sound of a dove, the backwoods twang of Appalachia, and having what is known in the industry as a “cry” in her voice reminiscent of Patsy Cline.  The woman’s got soul – White soul - though she was once classified with a Grammy nomination for the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.

So I was somewhat taken aback when I reached her by phone last week in her Iowa home, where she has lived for the past five years with her singer/songwriter husband, Greg Brown and she spoke with an accent as pure and American as a television anchorwoman.  I asked her where her accent comes from when she sings and she explained, “You know I grew up listening to a lot of country music and that’s the music that rubbed off on me.  That’s where I actually go and always have.  I don’t think it’s like anything in particular.  I don’t know what it is.  It’s my accent.  It’s just me.  I grew up in a house full of Southerners in California and I listened to all kinds of music but I’ve always leaned towards country.”

It’s been 16 years since DeMent last put out an album, if you don’t include Lifeline, released in 2004 in which she covered well-known gospel tunes with the exception of He Reached Down, an original composition.  During a career spanning over a quarter of a century, she has sung with some of the greats like Ralph Stanley, John Prine and Emmy Lou Harris, and made frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.  A role in the 2000 film Songcatcher, in which she played the character Rose Gentry, featured her singing on the movie’s soundtrack and in 2010 one of her songs was used in the closing credits of the Coen Brothers film, True Grit.

Released in October 2012, Sing the Delta is DeMent’s long-awaited, self-composed and much anticipated album.  On January 21st she will perform at the Birchmere along with a band consisting of guitar, mandolin, bass, drums and pedal steel guitar.

You grew up in a fairly strict Pentecostal household.  How much has religion affected your music?

I don’t reject religion.  I think I’ve just decided to take religion and tune it up to suit myself.  I grew up in the church and that environment had a great impact on me musically and every other way, so I couldn’t separate what I do from that world that I was submerged in.   It’s all kind of one and the same.  I’ve allowed my self to grow with it.  I didn’t long ago.  I didn’t buy into the stories and all the answers that were written.  It was my job to just go along.  I took what I learned from church and I kept moving through life with it and adapting it to where I was at any particular time.  I’m willing to move as far away from it as I have to.  The heart of the thing is still in there intensely for me.

Would you say that creating a context for social change within your music is part of your inspiration?

I don’t think of things as issues.  I’m just talking about what’s going on in my world – what I care about.   I am trying to unravel things for myself and put them back together in a way that makes sense, whether that’s music or sitting down having coffee with friends.  I think that’s just human nature to try to make sense of your world.  And I do that to a great extent through music.  I don’t have an agenda.  I just want to see what my heart says about the thing.

What was it like growing up in such a large family in a house with over a dozen siblings? Was it hard to get heard?

It was hard to get heard.  But looking back I think there was a huge advantage to that.  It meant listening a lot especially when you’re the youngest.  I learned to be quiet a lot.  I’m really grateful that I was in that position.  I think it’s a lot of the reason I did end up writing.

Is any one else in your family in music?

Oh yes!  They all play or sing in the churches.  I’m the only one that went out in the world with my music.

You have your own label – Flariella.  Is it more difficult to get airtime with your own label?

For me it’s always been difficult to get airtime.  The music business has changed so much that now everybody is on their own label.  I enjoy the independence of it.  I’m inclined to be by myself.  Thankfully there have been enough journalists like yourself that will write about me.

What was happening in your life when you wrote “Before the Colors Fade”?

I had just lost my mother.  She had been gone only a few weeks. When you lose somebody they’re gone, but their presence, and my sense of them, is intensified.  No matter how close you are, there’s a fading.

Have you played the Birchmere before?

I love the Birchmere. I’ve been playing there just about every year since 1992.  It’s a great environment.  It’s a world made for music. The sound is wonderful.  The audience is always really warm.  It’s a good place to play.

How would you define your audience?

I wouldn’t do that.

Iris DeMent will perform with Jason Wilbur for one night only at The Birchmere on January 21st at 7:30pm.  For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.  For venue information visit www.birchmere.com.  The Birchmere is located at 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria VA 22305