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Dave Hause: The conversation continues

Dave Hause
Dave Hause
Jen Maler

With one chat, it’s clear that the honesty of Dave Hause doesn’t just extend to his records and live performances, but to the musician’s life as well. For proof, just ask him about his biggest show to date, a gig in Cologne, Germany before close to a thousand people.

“I was worried,” he said. “You’ve got 900 people there and I’m just one guy with a guitar. How do you hold their attention without drums, fireworks or whatever the hell other people bring along to tickle the fancy of all those people? (Laughs) It is scary but it’s an investment idea – people say the more you risk, the more your reward, and there’s nothing like going out, playing a show, and having people latch on. It’s a way bigger rush than doing it with a band. So it can be lonesome, it can be scary, but what I’m trying to set up is a scenario where I can play shows any way that I want, and that ultimately people are latching on to the songs.”

Hause is bringing his band with him to Brooklyn for Friday night’s show at the Knitting Factory, but whether he’s got backup or riding solo, one thing is evident, and that’s as time goes by, he’s going to eventually look back at that Cologne show as one of the smaller ones he’s played.

His latest release, Devour, is proof positive that as a songwriter, he is starting to reach that point where you don’t just marvel at his evolution, but wonder what he’s going to do next. And while the touring behind his second full-length album shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, work on his next album is already underway, so no, it’s not too early to ask for new material.

“No, it’s not,” he laughs. “In fact, I kind of appreciate that. It’s indicative that people got something out of this one, and I think we’re living in a time where records probably should be coming more often. I’ve been thinking about the next record the minute we locked the masters up on Devour, and I think I need to have the next one recorded before the end of the year, in my opinion. I don’t know if I’ll get to that, but it’s definitely a goal. I’ve got two records’ worth of ideas and I’m thinking through how to present those. We’ll get something on tape before the end of 2014.”

Before then, it’s more and more roadwork, which is a life Hause embraces, especially these days, as the crowds get bigger and more diverse, another sign that things are about to change substantially for the Philadelphia native.

“I haven’t really been able to quite hone in on what exactly a Dave Hause fan looks like or what their age is,” he said. “There are definitely young kids whose favorite song is “C’mon Kid,” which is a trip, and then there’s guys in their fifties who have Springsteen shirts on and love Devour and may have discovered what I’m doing through The Revival Tour, Gaslight Anthem or something like that. It’s all over the map.”

The reason is simple – Hause is a storyteller at heart with the chops to rock or take it down a notch, all the while throwing out the hooks that won’t leave your head. That’s something any demographic can appreciate, and for the 36-year-old, the hooks are the most important thing.

“I always want a song to be catchy,” he said. “For me to put a lyric to a song, it’s already gotta have a little bit of a hook melodically. I think that’s a strength.”

Don’t expect any auto-tune or cheesy choruses just to get a crowd bump though.

“You want a big audience, or as big as you can possibly have,” said Hause. “You want people coming out and singing along and having fun, but I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the lyric or the aesthetic in order to be more popular. Long-term, if you look at the guys who were my heroes - Tom Petty, Patty Griffin, Springsteen, and Neil Young – they didn’t sacrifice quality. And that’s what I’m trying to commit to, a long conversation with an audience that’s developing and not trying to tap into something that’s a trend or a cheap sing-a-long. I think I’ll live to regret that if I were to go that route.”

That doesn’t appear to be an issue he’ll be dealing with, and with critical and popular acclaim for Devour, both for its music and lyrics, Hause is in that spot all singer-songwriters hope to find themselves in, where people aren’t just listening, but they’re paying attention. Why? He’s telling stories about everyday folks that everyone can relate to.

“People who are music fans and lyric fans definitely have responded in that way,” he said. “Sort of by design, the record is recorded in a way that some of those early songs on the record, like “The Great Depression” and “We Could Be Kings,” I wanted them to sound like they would have come on the radio when I was a kid. So there’s not a nostalgia necessarily, but at least a nod to 80s rock. That’s what I was raised on, that was what on the stereo when I was a kid, and that’s when all these things were sort of promised or set up in my mind. We could be anything. The war on drugs was going on and we were little Protestant kids. Here’s what the world could be if you just do this. People who get it, they really get it, which is exciting. And so far it’s been an overwhelmingly positive response. And oftentimes, people that I respect and love that write lyrics and write music have been super excited about the lyrics, which is cool because I put my feet to the fire and beat the s**t out of myself when it comes to lyrics.”

Making them as personal as he can, whether through his own experience or someone else’s, isn’t as easy as he makes it look either, but as he points out, some of the greatest art comes from the bleakest times.

“The most success that I’ve had reaching people with music is when you dig in and really pull that scab off and let it bleed,” he said. “And a lot of my favorite music is the same kind of thing. That said, you’re always kind of doing a dance because you’re living a public lifestyle, and not everything on that record is true to my life. Some of it is other people’s story, so there’s always a bit of a dance that you do with the audience where you’re like ‘this isn’t totally autobiographical.’ I’m trying to relate to people and some of it is just dead-on part of my life that I’m putting out on paper, which is scary. And some of it is made up. It can be tough, but typically, the tougher it is, the better the result.”

And with Devour, Hause captures a time in everyone’s adult life where you look around, re-evaluate, and see where you’re at. Sometimes it’s not a pretty picture. From there, you either continue down the path you’re on or you change it. In that sense, Hause is no different from any of us, and it’s that ‘everyman’ reality that strengthens his appeal in a big way.

“I think what happened for me was, 30, I kind of shrugged off - ‘Aw, 30’s fine, I still feel young,’” he said. “But I think some of the things that happened in the subsequent years are what started to twist my head back. You have giant, major drawbacks. I had a construction business I was running, I had a band that was successful and touring, and both of those things went to hell pretty quick. I was in an extremely long relationship that started to really cave in, so that’s where you realize ‘oh s**t, I might be in the middle of an adult crash here.’ And I thought I had it all set up and dialed in. That’s just the way life sometimes goes. You lay your plans and you made your commitments and for me, I realized that with a lot of them, I was in over my head, and what I really want to just do is strap on a guitar, have a couple beers, and tour the world. That’s what I really always wanted to do. All the other stuff was a distraction in a way.”

Today, Dave Hause has his guitar, he grabs a couple beers after the show, and he tours the world. Not bad at all.

Dave Hause plays the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Friday, April 4. For tickets, click here

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