The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter plays a solo show at Calvin University on Wednesday night. He took time out to chat with Local Spins writer Enrique Olmos.
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I met David Ramirez once briefly. I was in Austin for South by Southwest, feasting on breakfast tacos and taking daily dips in Barton Springs.
One evening, some friends (Mark Lavengood and Seth Bernard) let me hastily hop in their van for a showcase across town featuring Small Houses, fronted by Michigan native, Jeremy Quentin, who now lives in Austin.
We arrived, and to my surprise, joining the band on bass was David. Even when not at the helm of a musical collective, he looks the part of a rock star: sipping bottled beer in a jean jacket and sporting sunglasses well past sunset. All while holding down a distinguished low end.
After the show, Mark introduced me. We bantered for a moment and before departing took a selfie. I confidently stretched out my arm, phone in hand, and instead of a photo, accidentally took a video. The five-second clip features our puzzled faces, frozen momentarily for a still photo before quickly giving way to laughter.
I later caught Ramirez play a set of his own at SXSW, a scorching rock ‘n’ roll spectacle wrought with emotion. He commanded the stage. Ramirez is a true troubadour. For more than 10 years, he’s traversed the country with a guitar, the occasional cowboy boots and carefully crafted songs of love and longing.
Ramirez performs at Calvin University’s Covenant Fine Arts Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 20), with singer-songwriter Matt Costa also on the bill. Tickets are $20 and available online here.
Last weekend, the Texas songwriter took some time during his current tour to speak with Local Spins over the phone about his life during the pandemic, touring and Austin.
Local Spins: How have you passed the time the last couple of years?
Ramirez: Probably mostly like everyone else, you know. I didn’t do a lot of writing, so I just kind of stayed in the house. Worked out a lot. Cooked. Took it easy. I did a lot of live-streams. So I was still active in the music world, but I think a lot of people, you know, hunkered down and wrote records and I didn’t do that.
Local Spins: Do you ever wonder, in a hypothetical, alternate dimension kind of way, what you’d be doing if you hadn’t pursued music?
Ramirez: I mean, I have dreams of things outside of music. But now I dream of things like coming home to a family. And I don’t ever dream about staying home. I’ll always be traveling and playing shows. I think for me, what I dream about is what it looks like when I walk through my front door when I do get home. I’m trying to think about my future for once, instead of just completely living in the present, which I’ve done for so long. As I’m getting older, I’m trying not to control my future, because I don’t believe that’s possible. When I do get off a plane or get out of the van or whatever, I hope home life looks a little different than it has in the past.
Local Spins: National Hispanic Heritage Month was last month. As a Mexican-American, has your relationship to your heritage changed over time?
Ramirez: I’ve taken more trips down to Mexico to get to know it a little better and just have a good time on vacations. My grandmother and I were learning a little bit more about where she came from over the years. It’s been really nice and there’s a lot more Spanish in us than I was aware of. Right now it’s just getting to know my family. I spend time with my grandma. My grandfather passed away when I was 18, and that was a hard loss because we were best friends. Now I’m just keeping in touch with my grandmother as much as I can.
Ramirez: Every few years it changes. When I was younger, it was fame and fortune and that didn’t happen. It changed to the love for the craft, and then, you know, self-love can only last for so long. Now I’m currently living in this headspace of togetherness and community. So last night in St. Louis, when the venue said they wanted to cancel, I knew that there were people who had bought tickets to the show, and I was not going to do that. So we made some phone calls and eventually landed at some wonderful Mexican restaurant called Taco Circus. I’m going to do anything that I can to provide people a place to be together and hang out with music and have a drink. To take a load off and take their minds off of the daily grind. And right now that’s the motivation. I just want to be an ambassador for being together.
Local Spins: Can you describe the perfect day in Austin?
Ramirez: I guess my perfect day is to stay at home, but I’m sure that doesn’t read well. So if there were a friend who was to come into town and we’re about to roll around, I suppose we would start at De Nada Cantina, which is this new Mexican joint on Cesar Chavez, and have breakfast and a couple Margaritas. Then I don’t know, maybe jump into Barton Springs. For a really nice dinner, we’d go to Justine’s for sure. Then either The White Horse or Sagebrush for cocktails, get some country music going, and maybe pass out sometime around 4 a.m.
Local Spins: Are you working on a new record?
Ramirez: Yeah, I have an EP that I finished recording a few months ago called “Rules and Regulations.” I think that’ll come out digitally before the end of the year and then press some vinyl and whatnot.
Local Spins: What’s your favorite song to play live off the record, “My Love is a Hurricane”?
Ramirez: I released the record during the pandemic and so it’s the first time to really be able to play these songs live. Whenever we’re playing off the new record, like “Lover Will you Lead Me,” it’s just been killing every night. “Hell” was really fun, as well as getting to play guitar with a band. It’s just been a blast. We’re having a lot of fun playing all the new stuff for sure. This record was meant to be played with the band. It’s meant to be groovy and sexy and it’s meant to get people in the crowd moving and bobbing their heads. It was really nice to finally see that happen. (Ramirez plays solo at Calvin on Wednesday night.)
VIDEO: David Ramirez (Live at Arlyn Studios via Paste)
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