David Berkeley
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David Berkeley

Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2002 | SELF

Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2002
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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“Berkeley’s wine-dark voice and penchant for dramatically textured minor-key ballads recalls Cat Stevens at his introspective best. - American Songwriter


Berkeley's soft, guitar-tethered tunes have garnered attention from national news outlets and film directors alike, catching comparisons to other folk crooners such as Damien Rice and Ryan Adams. His most recent album, Some Kind of Cure, is easy on the ears but still full of mournful and heart-heaving sentiment. - East Bay Express


There’s a understated quality about Berkeley’s songwriting and music...He has a gift for metaphor and turning a phrase, but ?his songs tend to be fairly relatable. Musically they start as what you’d call folk — though not earnest, wide-eyed hippie folk — with adornment in the form of piano and some horns that give the songs a layered and lightly lush sound that nudges it toward pop. - Houston Chronicle


"As emotionally disarming as Nick Drake, and intellectually fascinating as Andrew Bird, David Berkeley is a standout in the new wave of indie-folk singer-songwriters." - San Jose Metro


Now this is songwriting. David Berkeley's debut album The Confluence has its moments of self-actualization, but his sophmore effort After the Wrecking Ships blows Maslow off the map. From the opening bars 'Jefferson,' Berkeley crams his songs with enticing details, moments of self-doubt and reflection, and tunes that trace his dramatic arcs for maximum impact. You can practically hear the wind blowing as the notes trickle down for 'Chicago,' whereas the album's masterful closer 'Boxes' seems to be methodically putting his cares safely away amidst carefully plucked acoustic guitar. Superficially, this Harvard-educated, now Atlnata-based singer-songwriter vaguely recalls Eddie Vedder in his quietest moments and comparisons to the sashaying dance of David Gray aren't unwaranted, but Berkeley mostly reinvents the troubadour tradition of the 1960s and 70s, matching Tim Buckley's wanderlust with the bravado of David Ackles. Yet does so with an expressive economy. He'll convince you within four and a half minutes, tops. - Rob O'Connor


"Emotional story-telling lyrics, charismatic stage presence, and hilarious anecdotes." - Boston Globe, June Wulff


“He deals with the tales of men struggling to figure out what it all means out there in the cold, cruel world, and where it all fits...
The songs on Strange Light, while mostly downtrodden and beat up, are affirming and full of something much more than just mild intrigue.” - Sean Moeller--Daytrotter


“David Berkeley creates a layered landscape of sounds that envelop the listener.” - John Platt


"He's a musical poet." - San Franicsco Chronicle


The New York Times (Sunday Arts Section, Jan 11)
"DAVID BERKELEYGeographical song titles, from 'Chicago' to 'Shiloh' to
'Times Square,' reveal David Berkeley's wanderlust on his second album, 'After the Wrecking Ships' (Ten Good Records, available from www.cdbaby.com). Wherever he goes, what he sees inspires compassion and misgivings. 'This is the age of thieves, the age of misbelief,' he sings in a lustrous, melancholy voice with shades of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake. As his melodies ascend to become benedictions and consolations, the music shimmers and peals. Download a few songs free from www.davidberkeley.com." - Jon Pareles


Brooklyn singer-songwriter David Berkeley is in love . . . with flowers, with girls, with music, with you; and that's what his album The Confluence sounds like. Berkeley's a Sixties-esque troubadour with songs to swoon by and a voice sweeter than incense and peppermints (or better, the "lavender and wintergreen" of his lushly produced opener, "Straw Man"). He's a double fantasy of Nick Drake and Donovan, the kind of guy who "gives you daisies everyday" ("Breeze") and tells a young love "You are like the moon/I watch you as you glow" ("Moon Song"). But this minstrel has some powerful humdingers, too: In the thrilling swell of "Drowning," Berkeley lets loose and "sings for you though the waters rise" in a metamorphic New York flood. It's a buxom beauty -- he even makes the words "ocean curve" sound lush like a lady. Berkeley's tender creations are executed by his intricate guitar-picking and fleshed out by mandolins, cellos, flutes, trombones and mysterious guest noises. After you look up "confluence," light some candles, wrap yourself in a tapestry and let bard Berkeley woo you. - ROBIN AIGNER


“When it comes to sculpting lyrics, Berkeley's clearly on his own, hand-picking historical figures and scenes and infusing them with an emotional wallop that's every bit in the present tense."
- ROB O'CONNOR



This 11-track first volley from debutant folkster David Berkeley shows a talent in its genesis. The songs are inviting and nicely crafted, the musicianship is proficient, and all the right sensibilities seem to be in place. While rising above that middle tier of folk singer/ songwriters who are difficult to distinguish one from another, Berkeley is still a touch shy of knocking out those quiet and mighty hymns that mark the best of the folk genre. His melodies are fresh and sweet though not quite unforgettable. His lyrics, often captivating (as on "The City of the Second Hand"), are also a tad trite at times ("Waters whisper out my name.") That said, one can't deny the dramatic punch of "Drowning," the fretboard finesse of "Miss Maybe," or the lilting appeal of "A Moon Song." Berkeley could well have what it takes to win a wide audience. But his better moments on The Confluence suggest that first he may need to forget everything he has learned and trust his gut for a while - Adrian Zupp


From the very first second I played this record I was immediately drawn to its magic. Twelve great songs, each one better than the next. ... The everything-but-the-kitchen sink instrumentation on the album is gorgeous and shimmering. With each subsequent listen, Ships reveals new layers of well-crafted songs, and on top of it all is Berkeley's confident, charismatic voice.

Like new artists Josh Ritter, Damien Rice, Mark Geary, Kathleen Edwards, Rufus Wainwright and Ray Lamontagne, Berkeley is a first rate storyteller and songwriter. One listen to the album places you right into the painting. There's mystery, melancholy and compassion, which showcases a very mature songwriting style, and the instrumentation, arrangements and ensemble playing on this album are beautiful.

A seemingly straight-ahead collection of highly literate rock, the songs on After The Wrecking Ships are reflective stories about people ("Jefferson," "Red") and places ("Chicago," "Times Square" and "All The Weight.") Mostly though, Ships is a record about the road-leaving and sometimes returning; sometimes never turning back; sometimes never knowing where to go next.

After The Wrecking Ships is an album you must not miss out on as the plethora of new releases begins to tide you down. This record will lift your listeners up.
- Bruce Warren


David Berkeley is one of those artists who’ deserves the benefits of fame and fortune. A world traveler—he’s lived in such diverse environs as Atlanta, Idaho, Brooklyn, Corsica and his present place of residence, Santa Fe—he’s also amassed quite a career, one that encompasses his extensive musical and literary pursuits. Since starting his artistic career he’s released four essential studio albums and one comprehensive live recording, and, just as impressively, published a pair of books as well. Not a bad track record for a guy who grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Harvard and worked at such varied occupations as tour guide, travel writer and teaching. Berkeley’s Wikipedia bio claims he first started showing an interest in music while still in nursery school, going so far as to sing door to door at the tender age of four.

Berkeley’s come quite a way since then, even penning books that explain the stories behind certain songs (2011’s 140 Goats & a Guitar and the just published The Free Brontosaurus). Yet, even on their own, Berkeley’s dimly lit laments create an oddly affecting set of songs, sparse odes imbued with both despair and desire. Quiet, contemplative, heartfelt and forlorn, his new effort, Cardboard Boat, follows suit, an album built around some of the barest designs imaginable, a sound that requires the listener to lean in and focus lest listening give way to distraction. However, despite its hushed essence, it’s an amazingly beautiful collection of tracks, with songs such as “Setting Sail”, “Cardboard Boat”, and “To the Sea” purveying a nautical theme that’s hopeful and heartfelt, courtesy of melodies that ignite slowly with barely a single spark. Berkeley’s vocals affirm that solitary sound, his fragile singing conveying a feeling of aching remorse and guarded optimism. “There’s a hole in my heart, I don’t know what to do”, he sings on “Hole in My Heart”, summing up the sentiments that pervade the album as a whole. “Colored Birds” provides a slight up tick in the energy, but that pensive sound never dissipates entirely.

As always, Berkeley’s approach is both elusive and affecting. It’s the kind of sound that doesn’t necessarily make an immediate connection, and yet it does boast a soft shimmering aura all its own. There is a touch of irony found in it overall; on the album’s best song, “Brighter Day”, the hope hinted at in the title is muted by the reserve and reflection that underscores its searing lyric.

“There’s a brighter day

Can you see it coming now, my love

Wait, please don’t run away

What is it that we are so scared of?”

That question is never fully answered, and indeed, Berkeley’s torrid despair mostly continues without much hint of redemption. Still, there’s no denying the affecting nature of this superb effort, a hallmark of Berkeley’s career so far. Those that have followed him since the beginning have come to appreciate and anticipate each and every new effort to date. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world follows suit. - Pop Matters


“Berkeley’s songs are supremely melodic, in ways only the most skilled singer/songwriters are able to convey. Hearing a Berkeley song from any of his five studio sets, offers a sense that you’ve heard this music before, and in turn, can allow you to fully embrace it. It’s moving, insightful, poetic and flush with the skill and craft that can turn small observations into a grander view that can affect us all on a common scale.” - No Depression


“Berkeley sings in a lustrous melancholy voice with shades of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake…. As his melodies ascend to become benedictions and consolations, the music shimmers and peals.” - The New York Times


Discography

The Fire in My Head (2013)
Some Kind of Cure (2011)
140 Goats and a Guitar: The Stories Behind Some Kind of Cure (memoir, published 2011)
Strange Light (produced by Brian Deck--2009)
Live from Fez (2005)
After The Wrecking Ships (2004)
The Confluence (2002)

Highlights:
Recently penned "Shelter" for the new Harlan Coben novel (song being used for Penguin's promotional videos and campaign)
Collaborations and co-writes with trance djs including Sean Tyas gaining major traction worldwide
Some Kind of Cure charting strongly at AAA and Folk
Fire Sign from Wrecking Ships was featured in Without a Trace on CBS-TV
Recent guest on Ira Glass' This American Life--telling a story and playing several songs from Strange Light.
Hurricane and Willis Ave Bridge received significant AAA play.
Red from After the Wrecking Ships received considerable airplay on AAA including WXPN, WFUV, KPFA, WXRV, XM Radio
The BBC is playing songs from Strange Light and Wrecking Ships
XM Satelite Radio plays several songs off Some Kind of Cure, Strange Light and Wrecking Ships.
United Airlines radio featured Jefferson.
David has showcased at SXSW, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Folks Festival, 30A Songwriters Festival, London City Music Festival, performed on Daytrotter, the World Cafe, Mountain Stage, Sunday Breakfast on WFUV, the Lodge Sessions on XM, Acoustic Cafe, Art of Song and many other syndicated programs and local radio stations.
He has also become a favorite on the house concert circuit including Blue Rock, Uncle Calvin's, Memphis House Concerts and many many more.

Photos

Bio

Santa Fe-based songwriter and author David Berkeley writes
songs capable of both breaking and mending the
heart. The San Francisco Chronicle
calls him a “musical poet,” and the New
York Times
praises his “lustrous, melancholy voice with shades of Tim
Buckley and Nick Drake.” He’s released five studio albums, one live album and
authored a book. Berkeley’s current project comes out September 25th,
2015. It’s his most exciting and ambitious yet: a novella comprising ten
intertwining stories and an album of ten accompanying songs (one for each
story).


The album Cardboard
Boat
features Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) on background vocals and
Berkeley’s all-star band, Jordan Katz (De La Soul, Sara Bareilles, Dan Bern),
Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor), Lex Price (K.D. Lang, Peter Bradley Adams),
Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins, Eliot Bronson), Kort McCumber (Moors and
McCumber), and Bill Titus (Dan Bern). Recorded by Jono Manson in the wilds of
Chupdero, NM, it features Berkeley’s most compelling writing to date. Each song
is sung loosely from the perspective of the main character in each story of
Berkeley’s book.


That book, entitled The
Free Brontosaurus
(Rare Bird Lit) is a collection of stories all set in the
same fictional city. The characters are all off kilter and struggle to find
connection. Each sees (or creates) beauty in strange places. And ultimately it
is art and, when they meet, each other, that brings redemption. These are
narratives of isolation that, like Berkeley’s songs, manage to uplift in the
end. It’s a bit like Olive Kitteredge
if authored with the whimsy and humor Miranda July.


“I’m fascinated by the relationship between stories and
songs,” Berkeley explains. “What experiences make for a good story? And what is
only expressible in song?” Indeed, this was something Berkeley explored with
his first book/album combination.  140 Goats and a Guitar accompanied Berkeley’s
album Some Kind of Cure (2012). Both were written primarily during the
year Berkeley lived on the island of Corsica. Goats tells thirteen stories, the stories that lay behind the
writing of the album’s thirteen songs. This unique concept allowed Berkeley to
perform in bookstores across the country, as well as his usual clubs and
theaters.


“Dashing singer-songwriter David Berkeley delivers
his warm, thoughtful songs, along with a reliably hilarious line in onstage
banter.” - Time Out New York


Berkeley
tours extensively all over the country and world (he’s touring the UK, Germany, France and NL this month). He’s opened/toured with
Dido, Don McLean, Ben Folds, Billy Bragg, Ray Lamontagne, Nickel Creek and many
more. He was a Kerrville New Folk Finalist this year and was a finalist at the
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. He’s performed on Mountain Stage, The World
Café, the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, XM Loft Sessions,
Acoustic Café...


Berkeley has also been moonlighting of late as a sort of
Cyrano de Bergerac, writing high-ticket personalized love songs, serenades, and
songs to accompany wedding proposals. Perhaps inspired by the hilarious tale
Berkeley told on “This American Life” of one such private serenade, Berkeley is
frequently flown in to perform these songs in the most intimate situations.
“It’s been an honor,” Berkeley explains, “to get to play a role in such
important moments in other’s lives, but it can also be incredibly awkward. Some
of these situations, wedding proposals for example, are really meant to shared
between only two people.”


In addition to this curious arm of his career, Berkeley has
also made a name for himself in the dance clubs of Europe. He is in high demand
by some of the world’s best-known DJs to write and record vocals and lyrics for
trance songs. Beatport named Berkeley one of the world’s top 50 male trance
vocalists. 


“Berkeley crafts his songs like watercolor
paintings. Intimate and introspective, his gentle yet colorful melodies are
graceful and resonate long after the last note fades.”  – Creative
Loafing
, Atlanta


David Berkeley’s gift as a songwriter and storyteller is
that he sees both the tragedy and comedy in life, managing to both reveal the
sorrow at the heart of the human condition and the blazing joy and beauty in
the same. It’s a duality that audiences experience at all of Berkeley’s shows
as he tells uproarious stories between cathartic songs. It’s also why his fans
respond so deeply to his music and why so many look to him to express what they
are often unable to articulate. Berkeley’s songs are at once hard and hopeful. 

Band Members