Thursday, October 29, 2015

Former Chester French Frontman D.A. Wallach Discusses Partying with Jermaine Dupri, Inter-planetary Space Travel, Recording with James Fauntleroy & "Debut" Solo Album, Time Machine (The Witzard Interview)


"Once in a while, a pop songwriter is not a songwriter, but a discoverer – some kind of celestial [archaeologist], uncovering the bones of songs that already exist somewhere, perfectly. D.A. exhibits such exploration here, his discoveries beautifully intact in their sparest, most potent forms. Some daringly plain wizardry," Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes frontman Alex Ebert said in high praise of close friend D.A. Wallach's long-awaited Harvest Records debut, Time Machine. Along with former Chester French partner-in-crime Max Drummey, Wallach was initially discovered by Hip-Hop heavyweights Kanye West and Pharrell, while he was studying as an undergrad at Harvard. Chester French released three full-length albums during their brief tenure together and somehow, managed to ignite a three-way bidding war between Kanye, Pharrell, and Jermaine Dupri with their infectious debut single, "She Loves Everybody." On the heels of Chester French's final album, Music 4 TNGRS, D.A. Wallach has worked alongside everyone from Janelle Monáe to Rick Ross and even attempted a short and sweet stint as a pop songwriter-for-hire. Wallach achieved what he self-describes as "medium success" with a number of "solo" projects including his anonymous artist-released "Glowing" and short-lived Reggae-indebted D.A. & The Supa Dups endeavor, prior to unveiling Time Machine; a phenomenal "debut" record delivered in the vein of a modern day Hip-Hop-influenced James Taylor or Bill Withers, which has already garnered words of praise from the likes of Linkin Park emcee Mike Shinoda, Prince-approved songstress Janelle Monáe, and actor-musician Jared Leto.


(1) First off, kudos for penning such a beautifully well-written song like "Glowing," which has nearly brought me to tears on a number of occasions. I've thoroughly enjoyed Tyler, The Creator aka Wolf Haley's striking, color-saturated video treatment, which seems to perfectly fit your lyrics. I was wondering, did you two converse before the "anonymous artist"-accredited clip was unleashed... or was it just a mere coincidence "Glowing"'s companion visuals matched your lyrics so well?

The "Glowing" video was the official video for the song, despite my not being in it. Tyler directed it after he and I had several conversations about the best direction for it to go. He did an awesome job!


(2) I'm curious to learn: How many different variations, permutations, recorded and scrapped tracks, etc. did you go through over the last 2.5 years since "Glowing" before settling on the final released version of Time Machine?

Thankfully, not too many. I spent the majority of my time on two phases: 1) writing the songs on piano [and] 2) recording them in the studio. I try to finish all of my vocals when I write the actual song, so what I end up with is a vocal and basic piano skeleton. The rest of the time, I spend hanging clothes on top of that skeleton and figuring out the most attractive outfit for it!


(3) Time Machine was recorded along with a wide array of talented musicians, producers, and composers including the likes of Pharrell, Diane Warren, James Fauntleroy, Dan Wilson, David Campbell, Nathan East, Randy Kerber, and former Chester French band mate Max Drummey. I'm curious to earn a little bit more about your typical song-writing and recording processes during the making of the album, if you would be so kind as to share?

I mainly wrote each song by myself on the piano in my house. James [Fauntleroy] helped me finish lyrics on two of the tunes. Dan Wilson and I wrote "Feel" together in his living room, which was a wonderful experience. Diane Warren kindly gave me two songs, and signing them for this record was a great honor! The recording of the music happened piece by piece over the course of about 10 recording sessions.


(4) Your break-out twosome with Max Drummey, Chester French, seemed to for lack of a better term, "fizzle out" after the release of Music 4 TNGRS. What do you think ultimately contributed to your disbandment and could you ever see yourself reuniting with Drummey as Chester French once again?

Max and I are great friends and he actually played some guitar live with me recently. We spent seven or eight years working on music together, and I think just exhausted the fruitful, productive phase of the collaboration and found ourselves into different music, ultimately. Max is a genuinely brilliant musician and a great guy.


(5) What sort of insider details are you able to divulge concerning the fabled behind-the-scenes dealings that contributed to the notorious 3-way bidding war between Kanye, Pharrell, and Jermaine Dupri after Chester French unleashed their infectious debut single, "She Loves Everybody?"

Well, we had the song already in college. Going to visit all those guys while we were [undegrads] was pretty incredible, though. I think a night out with J.D. in Atlanta was the highlight for me.


(6) What's the current status of your Reggae-tinged pre-Time Machine side project, D.A. & The Supa Dups? It seems as though Mad Decent released a "double A-side single" a few years back, and we haven’t heard anything since!

Well, we have almost an entire record done. We just need to finish and release it finally one of these days!


(7) I've noticed that you recently posted a few unfinished demos to a "Demos"-centric playlist on Soundcloud, one seemingly intended for rising super-star Nick Jonas. What might you classify as some of your best as-yet-unreleased material that you would personally love to have see the light of day?

Well, I spent about a year trying to become a pop songwriter for other artists. I didn't do very well at it, since literally ZERO of my songs have been cut by others. But I really love some of the R&B songs I wrote in that period, especially one on which I collaborated with James Fauntleroy.


(8) How do you manage to seamlessly transition between working with sharp-tongued emcees like Rick Ross, Asher Roth, and Macklemore to composing your own piano-accented solo work? I must say, your range of collaborators is pretty mind-boggling, D.A.!

I like all kinds of music, and have a lot of fun exploring different genres. My perspective is anti-categorical. I hate categories. They limit our human range of emotion!


(9) When listening to Time Machine, I pick up on musical allusions to timeless chart-topping singer-songwriters like Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, etc. but who would you likely attribute as some of your biggest sources of influences throughout your career?

The Beatles, The Beach Boys, John Coltrane, OutKast, maybe Carole King on this album.


(10) Although it’s one of my current favorite tracks on the album, I'm a little bit perplexed by the meaning behind Time Machine opener "Long Way Down;" would you be so kind as to give my readers and I some insight into the line, "girl, if we run outta kerosene, don't say I never told ya... might be embarrassing, but I'm still here to hold ya?"


That image just came to me as a bit of a non [sequitur]. I was imagining being camping with a girl who had underestimated the amount of kerosene to bring. Just a sliver of the sort of forgiveness and empathy one must have in a relationship.


(11) While you recently posted a stripped down Max Drummey-assisted performance video of "Feel" recorded Live from Capitol Studio B, what else do you have in store for your unsuspecting fan-base, when it comes to forthcoming music video releases?

A bunch more live performances! And a couple proper music videos!


(12) It's now a few days out from October 21st, 2015, also known as the date Marty McFly & Doc Brown were ultimately traveling back to in Back to The Future II; what historical or personal events do you think you might attempt to alter or correct, if you had your own personal time-traveling DeLorean?

Well, I'd certainly try to prevent any mass genocides from occurring; those really suck.


(13) It's nearing that time of year when most news publications and blogs, including myself, start assembling their year-end lists; with that in mind, who would you likely rank on your Best-of 2015 year-end list?

Oh man, I listen to so little new music that I'm a bad guy to judge!


(14) What exactly does your "Artist-In-Residence" position at Spotify entail and how would you say that it has affected your musical career as a rising artist?

I'm actually now focusing entirely on my music and investing, but while at Spotify, I was focused on helping artists understand the company's business model. This work really helped me understand what artists look like from "the other side of the desk" and I think it’s probably made me much easier to work with for my label and manager. I don’t really think of myself as a rising artist at this point. I've been making music – with medium success – since I became a proper adult.


(15) I've previously read that you're the co-founder of Inevitable Ventures and an investor in a number of fledgling start-up companies including Space Exploration Technologies, Doctor On Demand, and Vital Matters. How did you initially become involved with these companies and what do they each represent?

Each of the companies in which I've invested is attempting to solve an important problem for humans. SpaceX is helping humans become inter-planetary. DoD is extending access to physicians to everyone right from their phones. Vital [Matters] is now called Blink Healthcare, and is delivering pharmaceuticals at the lowest available prices to consumers!

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