Analogue Music | David Ramirez

David Ramirez

By Matt Conner

"I started to wonder if I had what it took to be a lover."

The lyric above is from David Ramirez's single "Hallelujah, Love is Real!", but it's also the banner over his brand new turn as a musician. An acclaimed singer-songwriter with a haunting, introspective catalog of piercing songs on society, religion, and the darker shades of the heart, Ramirez's newest set of songs, My Love Is A Hurricane, is a shocking turn. It's a heartening, gospel-tinged record rooted in the joys of romantic love.

At one point, Ramirez questioned his ability to make a record like this, but those concerns have been answered—and the results are striking. In retrospect, the doubt seems silly given the poignancy of Ramirez's other songs. Whether about love found or love lost, Ramirez's gift transcends any subject. He's an expert craftsman who has earned a loyal fan base on the strength of his vulnerable approach.

We recently spoke with Ramirez about his new album while he was hanging out at home waiting, just like all of us, for the social lid to be lifted during this pandemic. We found a man who is happy in love, ready to reveal the musical results for the sake of bringing some joy and positivity into the world.

Analogue: You've been through this cycle a few times but never during a worldwide pandemic, I'm assuming. [Laughs] How is promoting an album these days?

David Ramirez: Especially during this time, it's reevaluating what's really important and what matters. With all of the news going on, the idea of promoting a record seems very, very simple and small. I'm just trying to keep my head on straight and know that it's still something I love to do. I love to write and perform and make records. If people like it and it helps them in any way, shape or form, then I have to look at it from that way. But yeah, it's been interesting.

'My Love is a Hurricane' cover art
'My Love is a Hurricane' cover art

Analogue: I get what you're saying about what matters, but I also felt a response when you said that of, 'If not now, then when?' when it comes to art. Does that make sense?

David: Sure. It makes sense. I don't have an answer for that yet, because I think all of this is so fresh. My last record, I wouldnt call it a political album at all, but there were a couple tunes in which I discuss what's happening at the time with the election and where the country was headed. The magnifying glass came on America pretty hard, so that opened my eyes to a lot of different things and I wanted to write about it.

Then I was pursuing this album and I said to myself, 'I don't want to contribute to the negativity that's already been talked about for three years, y'know?' I think it's really easy to write a song about Trump right now and how much I disrespect him as a leader and just where we are as a society. That's too easy. So instead of writing a political record or any of those songs, I wanted to put out a record that was 100 percent solely based in love. I'd never done that before.

So the entire album is love songs for my partner. I thought it was very important to put something positive and loving into the world. Now we're in this thing, which is not even about general politics right now. We're all in fear for our safety. So in a way, I think this might be very appropriate for this time. Maybe people will listen to these songs and be reminded how much they love the person they're with or their family or just good music. But there's not a moment on the album that's like, 'Fuck that guy!' It's just sweet and tender and beautiful. Hopefully that will shine through in the midst of these moments.

"Instead of writing a political record or any of those songs, I wanted to put out a record that was 100 percent solely based in love. I'd never done that before. "

The response on the live streams... I figured people would tune in because I do have a very loyal fan base. People have voiced their loyalty or love for the music and that's great, but the comments I'm getting are less about the songs and requests and more like, 'Thank you. Thank you for opening your home during this time. Thank you for allowing us to do have something to do that's very nice and sweet.' That's very reassuring.

Analogue: You've been putting out a single with a part of a larger narrative written by Brittney McKenna leading up to the album. Will that continue and what's behind this approach?

David: Yeah this will continue. Brittney has written a semi-fictitious short story to go along with all of the singles, so there won't be a write-up for every song on the album, but for all the singles, she's done a piece on them. On every album cycle, you typically hire someone to write your bio. I wanted to take this one further because I don't know if this is a concept album but it's the closest thing to a concept record I've ever done. I wanted something based in story—not just audio and lyrics but to have a written piece that goes along with it. She came highly recommended and she's done a bang-up job.

Analogue: What informed this direction in the first place? Was it playing out the political songs every night that swung the pendulum this way?

David: Well, I'd just recently fallen in love. I'd been in love before, but I'm older now. Everything I think seems to be a little richer and carries a bit more weight as you get older, and that was the case with this relationship. I just found myself wanting to write about it. I think in my catalog in the past, I might have two or maybe three love songs. Most are about heartbreak or running from the church or some talk about society. I just didn't want to do that.

I was sitting down to write a couple songs about where we were politically; they were good, they were fun to sing live. But they just didn't feel right. It just felt too easy to offer commentary that every news station or every article was steeped in all these themes and words saying, 'This is where we are. Isn't this shitty?' I wanted to do something for me personally that was a little harder and a little more intentional with the end goal being positivity and love.

Analogue: How much harder was it when you got into it?

David: It's pretty hard. Writing a love song in general is difficult because people have been writing them since the dawn of time. How d you say something about the heart that hasn't already been said? That's why in the past I've steered away from them. It's easier to talk about my personal heartbreak because it's mine. It's easy to write a song about that because no one else has experienced my heart breaking. But how do you write a love song that can be universal and sweet that can also be specific to my time? It was a difficult journey but once I got in the groove of sitting down with a pen and paper with a smile on my face, it got easier. [Laughs]

Analogue: Does this feel vulnerable in a different way?

David: Yeah, it is. I have to consider someone else's thoughts and feelings. As specific as it is to my relationship, I still think it's very universal. I'm not saying her name in the songs, but I had to navigate the universal idea of love and loving someone romantically. That's where I landed.

"As specific as it is to my relationship, I still think it's very universal."

Analogue: Worry is likely the wrong word to use here, but was there any worry or concern about releasing a song like this. If you're the "Rock and a Hard Place" guy, then singing about the beauty of love is a new turn.

David: I think it will be interesting to be looking out into the crowd. Lord willing we'll get back to live shows sooner than later, but I think it will be interesting to look out and see people holding hands or maybe kissing during a song or just having a smile on their face during the songs.

Musically, I wouldn't say it's upbeat, but this record has a groove. It's uplifting. That came from having a side project with Matthew Vasquez from Delta Spirit called Glorietta. We went on tour for a couple weeks and that band was solely comprised of friends. We put on a rock show. For me to be on stage and look out on the crowd and see people moving and people with smiles on their faces instead of being introspective was really inspiring. So I made a decision that I didn't want to write another record that was filled with all of these slow ballads. I wanted something people could get into. Sonically that was a nice shift. People can go to a Ramirez show and move a bit. It's not just me in a chair thinking all of these feelings, y'know?

Analogue: Did you change up your personnel in the studio then?

David: I did, yeah. The producer Jason Burt out of Dallas just said, 'Tell your boys they're taking a break.' He brought in all these players who primarily come from a gospel background. Most of them play in gospel churches for the most part, so there's something I've never experienced before. I came in with songs I wrote on guitar or piano and I sang them a certain way when I was alone. Then we started tracking live and what the musicians were doing to the groove and progression, just the feel was so different than it unlocked this soulful thing in me I didn't know was there. So my performance was really different and I sing differently than I have before. It's pretty magical.

VISIT: David Ramirez