As the annual South By Southwest festival continues, Americana duo David & Olivia will be making their 2nd debut at the esteemed weeklong gathering of tech, music, and film. The duo released their first record, On the Sea, on May 14, 2013 on
Rosales, who lives in Orange Country, CA, is a former rock musician who, comes from what he calls “hand-me-down” music. Learning to play guitar as a kid, Rosales moved from punk to hard rock bands before beginning to write music with a heavier folk and blue influence. When he saw Olivia May perform at a night club, he realized that she was the partner he was looking for. The two have been writing and performing together ever since.
Blast’s Ellie Williams caught up with Rosales before the duo flew out to Austin to learn just what makes this musician tick.
What’ve you guys been up to lately?
Well in the last three weeks we went out to the East Coast, playing through the east coast. And we’ve just been playing a bunch of shows here and there, about 160 plus dates last year and we’re off to a good running start this year and are excited to go to South by south West again this year.
Blast: This is your 2nd year at SXSW so what’re you guys feeling?
David Rosales: We’re feeling great! We’re excited to go back, we have more showcases this year. Everything is just growing and growing, and we’re excited for the opportunity. Austin’s a great place; I have a lot of family there so it’s nice to see all of them. And a lot of my friends are there cause a lot of my friends are in bands, along with Olivia’s friends. So it’s nice to kind of hang out with everybody who’s there while enjoying music. You just get to see so many different bands.
Blast: So how did you get to go to SXSW in the first place?
Rosales: Well, we bought plane tickets. [Laughs] Yeah no, we hooked up with our publicist there at Big Picture Media and were talking about the best way to introduce us and get some buzz going for the album—this was last year. And they suggested, ‘hey why don’t we reach out to South By?’ and I’d been out there previously with the band I was in years ago. It’s always just a lot of fun to be there, you get to meet and network. It just seemed like a good way to kick it off and so they set it up for us last year. And this year we got asked to do more showcases…it’s just kind of growing and more people are hearing about us and want to be involved. And we’re happy to oblige.
Blast: After SXSW, do you have any plans for the summer? Should fans expect new material?
Rosales: We’re constantly writing. We have plans to do a vinyl release later on this year, probably an A-side and a B-side, just a couple singles. We’re planning on hitting the College Music Journal Festival this fall and we both have some different musical projects going on. And Olivia is really busy with her acting, so we’re just playing it by ear. But this summer, I will be going out to the East Coast and doing a quick run through there.
Blast: You mentioned you have some side projects. Can you tell me a bit about those?
Rosales: Olivia’s an actress so she gets commercial work and she goes into a lot of auditions. She was on Two Broke Girls. And she’s also got a rock band that she’s involved in, and I write so many songs that I’ll be releasing some material later on this year. David & Olivia is our focus and it’s something to keep up artistically creative.
Blast: So Olivia is also in a rock band and you were previously in a heavy rock band.
Rosales: Yeah, I was in a hard rock band for about 10 years and toured around the country a bunch on a little indie label. So those are what my roots are.
Blast: Then how did you make the jump from hard rock to Americana, which has more bluesy and folksy roots to it?
Rosales: It seems like a weird jump but it’s almost like a natural progression. Rock ‘n Roll comes from the blues. Everything comes from the blues.
But me personally going from a hard rock band that I was in, in my 20s and such, and then my wife said to me, “hey, we’re gonna have a baby.” So my thought process kind of changed a little bit. The rock band had kind of run its course and I was at the time writing songs I wasn’t really comfortable with before. I started writing songs about love and before I’d been writing about death and partying, whatever rock stuff. And that was true to what I was doing at the time. And then this baby girl came into my life and you know what? I feel like love is one of the hardest topics to write about because if you don’t completely feel it, it feels corny and cheesy and contrived. I honestly felt those emotions, and just the fact of becoming a father; it was almost more of a punk-rock mentality more so than I ever felt, it was like I just don’t care. I don’t care what people think of me and I’m going to write what I’m going to write.
I started writing this material at the tail end of that band, and I recorded a solo album. I was kind of at a crossroads, because I still wanted to play music. I had this song called “Key to My Heart” and I didn’t know quite whom I wanted to sing it with me. My wife and I went to a club in LA and Olivia was there and she sand “Mercedes Benz”, the Janis Joplin song. And I was like, “Oh that’s the voice, that’s the voice I need.” And we didn’t actually meet that night, but we met in a Hollywood studio and recorded that song. So I guess in a roundabout way to answer your question, it just kind of happened organically. It wasn’t something I planned on, it just came out so I decided to go with it. I just kind of took a step back and stopped caring about what I was writing and it came so naturally that I was just following it.
Blast: As an artist, who are some of your influences?
Rosales: My influences and Olivia’s are pretty similar. We were both kind of classic rock kids. Whatever my older brothers were listening to, or whatever her mom was listening to, that’s what we were listening to. So it was a lot of Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones. So that’s where we connect, on that classic rock sort of stuff.
Where I personally was influenced by stuff when I was 13 or 14 when I started playing guitar, I was influenced by Nirvana. It was brash and pretty simple to play. I was influenced by Metallica and Guns ‘n Roses. That kind of stuff that spoke to me at 13 still plays heavy in my life. My mom was from North Dakota so she grew up listening to a lot of country and my dad’s from Texas, so a lot of texas blues. I come from a real mix and match of hand-me-down music.
Now I really dig Ray LaMontagne, Bryan Adams. I just really good song writers and really good voices, people who have something to say.
Blast: You started out in music relatively young, no?
Rosales: Yeah I sang in elementary school, I was second soprano if you can believe that. I got my first guitar from my grandfather, he found it at a barn in North Dakota. He sent it out to me because I’d mentioned to him, “hey I really think I want to play guitar.” I was probably 12. When I first received it in the mail, I immediately began writing songs and I couldn’t stop. The songwriter in me has always been there. The first song I ever learned to sing and play, I was 13 maybe. I sang “When I come Around” by Green Day. And that’s how I knew, this is what I want to do. From there on it was Junior High punk bands and high school rock bands. Music has always kind of been there for me.
Blast: You have a very long history of being involved in music. Do you have any advice for musicians starting out?
Rosales: Well I know it’s worked for me, so I know that being true to whatever it is that makes you tick. Whatever makes you pick up a guitar or write a song, if you’re true to whatever that is, you can’t go wrong. I don’t know if I’m going to be rich, I don’t know if I’m going to be poor. But I know I’m going to continue to make music. I know that if I just follow whatever that initial inspiration was, it’s just going to be right.
David & Olivia will be playing two shows at SXSW on March 15. The first show is at The Alex + Ani Stage @ Bourbon Girl, Austin, TX and the second will be at the Keller Williams Stage @ 360 Condominiums, Austin, TX.