David Ford charts living through interesting times of Covid’s rise and Trump’s fall as he sallies north to Pocklington Arts Centre

David Ford: Writing songs in interesting times

DAVID Ford’s sixth studio album, May You Live In Interesting Times, is on its way but when?

“I should probably know the date, shouldn’t I?” says the self-styled international songsmith from the Sussex resort of Eastbourne.

“But for me, making the record is the best thing; promoting it is the worst thing. I just want to move on and do something else.”

Nevertheless, promote it he will at Pocklington Arts Centre on Thursday on the Interesting Times Tour. “It’s likely the album could be available on the night,” he says without total conviction (and still no release date on his website).

His lack of certainty is forgivable in such uncertain times, brought on by the pandemic lockdowns that have elicited his “demonstration of just what happens when you shut a creative force in a room for two years”.

David already has an album sitting restlessly on his studio shelves. “I’d recorded what was supposed to be my new album in 2019, a record that I still find incredibly exciting,” he says.

“I made it with a quartet of jazz musicians, whereas usually I just go into my studio and play all the instruments myself, taking months to finish it, but this one I did in a day and a half, and I was like a child in a sweetshop.”

The poster for David Ford’s Interesting Times Tour

The jazz players threw themselves in at the deep end. “They didn’t rehearse. They’d never heard the songs,” says David. “It was all very strange but exhilarating. I just gave them the chord sheet, with an idea for the tempo, and they’d start playing. Then, depending on the tone, they would adapt their playing.

“I didn’t play a note on it. I just sang. Before that, I’d always considered myself an adept musician, but this was like going back to school.”

David will be taking that album on tour with a jazz band in October, so keep an eye out for further announcements.

Putting that still hibernating album to one side, the one-time Easyworld frontman found the experience of being in lockdown “more productive than I’d been in years”.

Out went his tour with Texan-born singer and storyteller Jarrod Dickenson that would have brought the co-headliners to The Crescent in York. Twice kicked down the road, it is now consigned to the “one day, hopefully” drawer.

In came a burst of songwriting at home. “I recorded songs as I went along, and then I decided there was a record there with connected themes about the last two years, and what we’ve been through in various states of lockdown, starting with that order to stay home,” says David.

“There were two large themes of global significance: the rise of Covid and what I hoped would be the end of Trump and the handing over of the presidential baton.

“One of the things I liked about this record: it’s a time capsule,” says David Ford

“So, there are songs about the specifics of lockdown and the specifics of the American Presidential election and then the more general mood of the world.”

Alas, for David, both Covid and Trump are still stubbornly hanging around, but that thought comes only in hindsight. The songs on May You Live In Interesting Times were written on the spur of the moment.

“They’re my thoughts on that time, and that’s one of the things I liked about this record: it’s a time capsule. Like the song Six Feet Apart; which I wrote in March/April 2020 with the line that ‘maybe September, we’ll all get back together’, and yet here we are, two years down the road.

“That thought now seems charmingly naïve when we’re still trying to find a path out of Covid, while ‘learning to live with it’.”

Ford’s scalding lyrics are noted for their dark irony and whiplash wit, but a different tone emerged in the first lockdown, at least initially. “In the early days, I had a strange amount of optimism about what Covid might teach humanity about its connectedness, when we might otherwise seem poles apart,” says David.

“Here was a chance to think about how we treat others politically, internationally, financially; a chance to re-set ourselves for the future.

“But that optimism lasted only two months, with only the already wealthy doing well out of it. My optimism dissipated very quickly, but there are still reasons for optimism in that the pandemic has affirmed faith in humanity’s ability to deal with a crisis. Especially the speed we came up with the vaccine.

Annie Dressner: Special guest on David Ford’s tour

“The triumph of science, though some people don’t seem to be able to get behind that as a good thing, but I think it’s a modern miracle, where people who are really smart essentially have saved millions of lives.”

He wrote a song in response to that medical breakthrough. “It’s called Two Shots, which already shows its age, because we’ve now got the booster!” says David.

He will be playing solo in Pocklington. “I thought I’d strip it down and play in the traditional way, since it’s been a while since I played live, but then I couldn’t resist myself, building machines again [to build a cathedral of sound with looping and effects pedals]!” says David.

“But it’s still essentially a ‘Get Back Out On The Road’  show with the chance to enjoy being in a  room with people again, playing highlights from over the years, rather than just trying to flog the new album.”

He will not be wholly solo. “I’ll be playing a few songs with my support act, my new good friend Annie Dressner [a New York singer-songwriter, now based over here].

“We got on very well at our shows in Otley and Sheffield in January, and we thought, ‘why not record and mix some songs together?’,” says David.

They duly completed six songs in two days in Eastbourne, resulting in the 48 Hours EP being available exclusively on the Interesting Times Tour.

David Ford plays Pocklington Arts Centre, supported by Annie Dressner, on March 10, 8pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.