I first heard of David Childers seven years ago. A disc by the Overmountain Men, a side project involving Avett Brothers bassist Bob Crawford, ended up in my mailbox. Childers was featured prominently on the record and, considering that Crawford was a fan, I figured I should be paying attention, too.
Childers, a former attorney prone to painting, poetry, and songwriting, proved worthy of my notice. 2014’s Serpents of Reformation is an incredible experimental take on gospel music, and it includes two of my favorite renditions of “Gospel Plow” and “Woman At The Well.” I am also a big fan of Room #23, recorded with his band, The Modern Don Juans.
This month, Childers returns with Run Skeleton Run, released last week on the Ramseur label. This collection of tunes is typical Childers, with forays into vintage country, bluegrassy folk, and even some crunchy guitar rock. Throughout, each track is punctuated by Childers’ raspy growl. His eclecticism is something I appreciate about Childers’ approach to music and songwriting. With his music career picking up speed later in life, Childers isn’t afraid to cover all the bases, and he covers them all pretty darned well.
Childers was kind enough to take some time recently to chat about the new record, growing older, and his interest in painting.
BRO – Scott Avett is a big fan of your music and is featured on your new album, and Bob Crawford is a producer and your colleague in Overmountain Men. Does that make you an Avett cousin? Perhaps a favorite uncle?
DC – I am a proud member of the Avett’s extended family, much like the old Scottish clans, where the families draw in other other families against the tides of adversity and challenge they faced. Of course, I can also be regarded as a “Dutch uncle,” but they’ve done a lot for me, especially Bob Crawford. More than I could ever do for them, and I pledged my fealty to them long ago. Their friendship and support have been gifts from God.
BRO – Tell me about the last painting you finished?
DC – I paint multiple pieces at one time. It started with just not wanting to waste paint, but I tend to be frugal and use every drop of paint I can. So I just finished an album cover for a piano pumping honky tonk lady in Ohio named Rachel Brown, a picture of a man and two ladies lying on the beach and relaxing in the sun, a picture of a formal party on a coastline with a violent red sky off in the distance, and a picture of Jesus and two of His disciples on the road after the crucifixion. I’ve got five more waiting on me to finish them.
BRO – We are featuring “Run Skeleton Run” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
DC – I was painting a picture of a skeleton on a big piece of plywood and I just thought it would look cool to have some script on it, much like Robert Childers does in a lot of his pieces. The phrase “run skeleton run” popped in my head because the skeleton looked like it was running. I remembered hearing a great aunt tell the bloody bones story when I was a kid, and my imagination took off. Next thing I know, I’m sitting in front of the four track cassette records I use to write, laying the song down as it is now. It’s really fun to play, and little kids go crazy when they hear it. I like that. There’s a cool video out there done by Robert Childers and Corey Zeigler.
BRO – I am intrigued about the fear you once felt of growing older. What kind of reassurances would the you of today offer the younger you in order to assuage those fears?
DC – I went to Catholic school as a kid and learning about hell and eternity and it scared me. I never was very religious, though, until I hit my early 50s and got really exhausted and sick. I felt mortality closing in and it made me take stock of a lot of things, including my spiritual state, which translates into one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. I really can’t advise anyone else on how to live or how to feel. People have to learn their own lessons in life and grow wiser. Or not. I don’t know if I am wiser than I was, although I’m certainly older, but I have tried to take care of my body by eating right, getting sleep, and loving all I can and being as positive as much as I can. I’ve tried to take care of my spirit and emotional health by living as honestly as I can, although that’s hard sometimes, but it’s always worth it in the end. Body, mind, and spirit all work together. Cultivate evil and you will receive evil. Good generates good.
BRO – Bigger challenge . . . writing a compelling legal brief or composing a song that moves you?
DC – I have written a lot of briefs in the last fifteen years, but since things have developed in a more positive way with my music, I have turned in my law license and I will never write another one. It’s serious business and hard work. There is no room for slack or imprecise language. It required much more than writing. like a thorough knowledge of what you were writing about, and facts, evidence, law, and precedent at law. Overlying that is the knowledge that someone else is going to receive help – or not – depending on how well you do your job. Writing songs is nothing like that. Nobody gets screwed if don’t write a good, persuasive song. There’s just no comparison. I work my songs for a long time before I trot them out to people’s ears, but that is nothing like the pressure involved in preparing a good legal brief!
This month, we offer you a David Childers double whammy. Featured on Trail Mix is the title track of David Childers’ new record, “Run Skeleton Run.” And, this week, Trail Mix offers up the world premiere of the new video for “Belmont Ford.
Check it out now!
You can catch David Childers this weekend in Lexington, North Carolina, at High Rock Outfitters. For more information on Childers, his tour schedule, or how you can get a copy of Run Skeleton Run, be sure to visit his website.
And make sure to check out the title track from Childers’ new record, along with new tunes from Pokey Lafarge, Yonder Mountain String Band, Charlie Worsham, and more on this month’s Trail Mix.