Dave Tieff is a musician and songwriter. He has had success with the band Laughing Colors, but now he is working on a solo album called The Art of Peace. Dave has experienced the highs and lows of drug and alcohol addiction, and uses his music to center himself, provide a creative outlet, and help others. Dave was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him. Check out his answers, below, and his website.
Tell me about your songwriting process.
The songwriting process for me has come full circle. When I was in my teens and early twenties, the writing process consisted of me picking up a guitar and letting whatever words, melodies, and chords that were inside of me pour out. As I got more experienced and there were higher expectations on the band, I fell into a rut of writing what I thought people wanted to hear, especially record companies. As an artist you can try and deny that, but subconsciously it’s a difficult thing to avoid. I’ve gotten back to writing from pure inspiration. I no longer believe that I need a record company to get my music heard, and that’s what The Art of Peace is all about. It’s an experiment to show how the landscape of the music business has changed, and that artists already possess all the power that they need to get their music to the masses. This album also differs in that each song has a story behind it, and most of the songs were written specifically for causes I believe in. When I committed to that premise, the music seemed to write itself.
When did you write your first song? What was it?
I was 17 years old, and I wrote a sad song called “The One Alone” while in Hawaii in the summer of 1987. I was a fat kid at that time, and not very popular with the ladies. I think the impetus for the song was that my hormones were exploding and I wanted a girlfriend!
Do you prefer to collaborate on songwriting or go solo?
I have always preferred to write my own lyrics. Something about the words and meaning are so personal to me. I do like to collaborate with the music though, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some world class musicians. The new album is no different. Matt Ascione, who is producing and engineering it, is also playing guitar and singing on the album, and has been an integral part of bringing the song to life. Ironically, I went to high school with Matt, but hadn’t seen him for 15 years when we started this project last May. We both recalled jumping onstage at our senior prom, stealing the instruments from the band and playing “Wild Thing.”
You are very open about your difficult life experiences—dysfunctional childhood, obesity, drug and alcohol addiction. Is that hard? Why are you so candid? Has it been therapeutic for you? Has it helped others?
Being open about my faults, obstacles, and addictions has been the biggest blessing of my life. It’s always been something that came very easy to me. I just could never find a good reason to hide it—especially when most people are effected my addiction in some way. It has been extremely therapeutic for me as well. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to cover up, lie about, or deny your own shortcomings, and that energy is much better spent in a positive direction. Since I first got sober in 1994, I’ve had hundreds of people approach me about their own addictions, or those of a loved one. I’m not sure how to measure the benefit of me being so open about it, but I’ve never questioned that it was the right thing to do. When it feels right, you know it!
Is there any topic off limits?
When it comes to me personally, I can’t think of one. It’s very liberating to open up the windows, it lets the breeze roll through.
Who are some of your favorite songwriters?
My son is named Dylan, so you can gather that Bob is at the top of the list. I’d have to mention Lennon and McCartney as well, and I’ve always been a huge fan of British bands like Oasis, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, etc.
Jerry Garcia was smart enough to use the words and poetry of Robert Hunter as the lyrics for most of the Grateful Dead songs, thought Hunter didn’t actually play with the band. His writing is poetic genius.
hat are some of the themes on your new cd?
The underlying theme of The Art of Peace is that the world is in the midst of a shift in consciousness. The old ways of buying, eating, drinking, smoking, and consuming as much as possible have proven not to bring long term happiness–or inner peace. This is more of an American conundrum than a global one, but the rest of the planet could also stand to practice peace, whether that’s inner peace, peace of mind, or alternatives to war. The new paradigm will be sweeping technological advances in all areas of peace.
When will it be released and where can we buy it?
The most significant thing about this album is that I’m offering it in MP3 form completely free. I’ve written songs specifically for Human Rights, Education, the Environment and Battered Women, and when you download the album you will be able to donate to these causes as well. If you decide not to, that’s okay. You’re not obligated to do anything but listen to the music.
As I mentioned, I’m conducting a bit of an experiment, and I’m trying to raise $1,000,000 for these causes by giving my music away. My goal is to raise this money by 12.31.09.
I will also have packaged CDs at all of my live shows.
The target date for release is April 1st, 2009. You can get all of the details and show listings at http://www.davetieff.com/