Hi Dick, and welcome back to VENTS! How have you been?
Hi, Vents Magazine! I’ve been doing well, thanks. Lately I’ve been taking a little break from touring and from recording. I still spend most nights in the studio. I’ve been singing and playing a lot of piano lately. It’s fun to play through and rearrange the new songs for just vocals and piano. It gives me a way to perform them live. I would love to put a band together for this stuff and just sing and play saxophone.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Fly Into The Fire”?
“Fly Into The Fire” was written and recorded this last summer. As far as subject matter goes it is about being in a relationship. “What did I say now? Did I make the face? Why are you crying?” are the first verse lyrics to the song. I wrote all the lyrics from beginning to end in the order that you hear them. I think the first lines establish a sensitive and complicated relationship between the couple pretty well. Here’s a couple who have been together long enough to be familiar with each other’s BS but without it being a deal breaker. They also have fun together. I imagined Bonnie and Clyde when I was writing it.
The verses of the song are in a minor key but the chorus goes to a major key when the lyrics are “ I want you to be happy, healthy, hazy with me….). It’s a happy love song.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video? I remember your previous video was shot by your wife. Was she behind the camera for this new video as well?
My friend, Brian Hardin, who also mixed and mastered the album was behind the camera for the video. He and my wife did the editing. I helped a little bit. The young couple in the video are Babe Curry and Rachel Clement. I have known Babe Curry now for about nine years. He is a young singer songwriter with a lot of talent. Rachel, who is spinning fire in the video is also a talented musician. I was looking for a young couple to represent me and my wife in the video and they were perfect.
The single comes off your new album Spin So Long – what’s the story behind the title?
When I wrote the song “Spin So Long”, I decided the title would be perfect for the album name as well. It is of course a play on the words “It’s been so long” but it’s also sort of the music album poetic equivalent of “love you long time”. Meaning that you could spin this album over and over. At least I’d like you to enjoy it that much.
Was the recording and writing process for Spin So Long similar to that of It All Started in the Garden?
There are a lot of similarities between this album and the previous album, “It All Started In The Garden.” I did not take a break between recording the two. I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had gained. I would even go as far as to say that the “Spin So Long” album is an extension of the “It All Started In The Garden” album.
But there are conceptual differences. I bought a vintage Selmer tenor saxophone like the one I grew up playing (and lost in a fire) to feature on the new album. It’s a main soloing instrument on most every song. There are only two tracks I didn’t put it on; “Aging In Place” and “Spinning Outro”.
It’s an Alt-pop-soul record with influences like Steely Dan, Al Green, Prince, The Bee Gees and others.
The previous album had influences like ELO, Paul McCartney, John Barry (James Bond Theme), and exotica music productions from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.
During the 2020 lockdown I was letting myself feel and write from melancholy and angst vibes. So I followed up in 2021 with a more bluesy soul-music record to even things out, lighten up, and maybe bring more listeners to the previous album.
How has life been out on the road for you recently? Have you been able to perform live these past few months?
It was a relief being out on the road again after taking a year off in 2020. Although it did come with some hassles like closed camps, occasional cancellations and smaller crowds in 2021. Overall, we were all glad to be back doing our thing.
Jamey Johnson is one of the all-time great singers and performs some of the classics that he wrote as well as any classics that he likes to sing. It’s always the greatest songs in the old-school country style. I’m a fan. So, it’s like the best of both worlds; Playing in a cover band AND with an iconic original singer-writer as well. For me, it’s all about songs and musicianship.
I perform with the Tuscaloosa Horns in a variety of other situations, too. Last weekend we backed The Temptations and The Four Tops at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. (We first played with them in 1984!)
Talk about songs, songs, songs!
Your music sounds like it has a very wide range of influences, with a sort of kinship to songs from the 70’s. Would you say music from that period impacts the music you make today?
I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of great artists in my life. It’s a fulfilling sideline for the other things I do, which are; create, write, record and play lots of instruments for my own music. On these last two albums I played all of the instruments except for Trumpet (Tyler Jaeger) on the song “Spin So Long”.
I guess I am a still rooted in and feeling the 1970’s music in a variety of different genres. That’s when it was all about songs. I love Jazz, Rock, Reggae, Pop, Soul, Prog’ Rock, Country, Latin and most other styles of music. My real passion is the fusion of genres. I like solid chord progressions and good lyrics that strengthen a melody and productions that sound like a live band of individuals. These are all qualities that were very much part of the 70s sound. I try to use those qualities as building blocks to create something fresh. Retro and progressive.
Where else do you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics? Another track which really jumped out to me was “It’s Something.” Can you tell us about how that song came together?
My approach to the lyrics on the last two albums was a little different than in the past. I started the songs with rhythm and chords to create a form. Usually I started with the baritone ukulele or the piano. Eventually, when a melody started to emerge I would develop it with my voice and then with tenor saxophone and go back-and-forth until I had something concise. Then I would try to figure out what the melody might be already trying to say and have the words match that in someway. For instance on the song called “It’s Something” I didn’t have any lyrics until the whole track was finished. I had been going for something on the saxophone that was a little bit edgy for a pop song. I was thinking about saxophonists like Youssef Latif or John Klemmer. I still wanted it to be pretty easy though. I really liked what I ended up with in the rhythm track and sax solo but I still had no lyrics. While I was recording sax I had asked myself, “How will I know when it’s right?” I was still working at 5 o’clock in the morning when the whole chorus jumped into my head. “When it feels just right, know it’s something, know it’s something just right. Like you and me.” I felt that the saxophone was just right. And now the lyrics were, too. The overall message for the listener would be that when you find that rare something that’s just right you should recognize it, appreciate it and nurture it.
What else is happening next in Dick Aven’s world?
I really enjoy the balance I have being a “sax-worker” and a solitary original music creator. I plan to continue putting out music as long as I live. I also hope to continue playing with other musicians in all kinds of situations. Maybe I’ll even put that full band together again someday.