Call it the solo plank, if you will. That moment when someone firmly established in a decently known act decides the artistry within is dying to get out, even at the expense of the security of the position within the band around you. That’s what David Thomas Owen IV felt, among other things, leading to his exit as guitarist of Lovedrug.
Now, Solace My King is released and Owen finds himself out on his own – for better or worse. In this Stereo Subversion interview, Owen sat down to tell us about the fears and excitement behind such a move, the drinking problem that complicated everything and how he’s learning the meaning of his album right alongside his fans.
SSv: How long have you been wanting to release your own songs?
David Thomas Owen IV: Well, I realized along the way that I had some songs flowing inside of me and not just for playing guitar behind someone else. I felt it coming about six months before I left the band.
SSv: So when do you begin to have those talks with the band? How does it move to having those feelings and actually exiting Lovedrug?
David: Well, I’m not sure how that works. I’ve been going back and forth about how that’s going to work publicly. [Laughs] What really happens is that I developed a pretty serious drinking problem and it made it difficult for me to be in the band. It was not really a clean break. There was a number of things that happened. Michael [Shepard] was going through a number of things, too. He wasn’t even positive he wanted to keep going, so he laid low for six months.
At first we sat down after Thanksgiving… this was after the Blue October tour. He said he needed a long break. We had a talk and he had made mention that he had liked my solo stuff, and he said he didn’t want to hold me back from that. So that was part of deciding perhaps that was the direction that I needed to go. When the break reconvened, I was now doing my solo stuff and so that just kept going as Lovedrug.
SSv: So there was the opportunity along with some personal reasons as well?
David: Yeah, it was a bit of both really. But I was in bad shape. I’d been touring straight for four years and taking a bit too much liking to the bottle. [Laughs] It’s an easy trap for musicians. But without that, I wouldn’t have had these songs because these songs come from a darker place.
SSv: You mention that your drinking problems weren’t good for the band. But does that become a detriment to making music in general at all?
David: [Laughs] Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It’s interesting really. I don’t condone using alcohol for creativity. I think it can be positive, I guess, but it can also be very negative. For me, what it would do is take down whatever conscious barrier was there and allow the subconscious to flow through. I had a lot of songs for the record just by shaving off some of the conscious and just leaving it with the subconscious.
SSv: That creation of art out of pain or out of tragedy. Can you tell us what you’ve learned about that?
David: It is natural for me. It’s a big question, because it comes down to your philosophy of music and where songs even come from. It’s about “the other side” or what Paul McCartney talks about with the song circle. There’s an energy, there are songs out there that the musician can tap into. It’s pretty cosmic the way that I see it. It’s almost like there’s this song circle of energy floating in space and musicians tend to have orbits. They’ll orbit toward that circle and then move away from it while they’re out in space, if that makes sense.
Some have a very short orbit. They’re in close proximity to it and so they’re always around it. Others are directly connected to it, like say a Sting or McCartney or something. There are various ways to get there. But as far as me being in tune with that, it’s so hard to say. I don’t walk in every day whistling a new tune. I don’t work that way. It’s all about the circumstances of what’s going on with my heart and my spirit. I guess that’s a lot to throw at you. [Laughs]
SSv: What have you learned about your own orbit?
David: Musicians tend to be by personal circumstance or upbringing a little more sensitive to things sometimes. Whether that’s being a little more intuitive or whatever, but there’s a heightened awareness at some points that allow you certain levels of creativity or to reach those points in comparison to the average person who might not have those talents or abilities. A lot of guitar players just end up playing Satriani riffs, which is cool. Others dig and develop their own sound. Why does that happen? That’s what I mean.
SSv: Let’s talk about Solace. Was there a real vision for what you wanted to gather?
David: Yeah, I had about 50 to 70 demos at one point. It was more or less all these songs that came out at once. At one point early on, I had a completely different record that I wanted to record. As newer songs would come, I would automatically steer in that direction with the newer, fresher songs that I thought were completely getting better as far as songwriting. So I didn’t start out with this idea that I would do an epic piano-driven album that would sound like a soundtrack. It just ended up that way.
But essentially what ended up happening was it documented what was going with me in that time, which was pretty cinematic. [Laughs] I guess as opposed to regular life.
SSv: That name - Solace My King. How is that appropriate?
David: I have no idea. My friend picked it. [Laughs] I’ve got a really close friend of mine who’s a musical confidante. When you’re an artist, you always need someone to bounce ideas off of and keep it regulated. I let him choose the name, to be honest with you.
SSv: So it has no personal meaning?
David: No, it doesn’t. But I think that’s cool because the meaning continues to change for me and I get to find out the meaning on my own, just like anyone else does.
SSv: As you leave Lovedrug and step into your own thing, can you talk about the bookends of emotions? What’s the biggest excitement about it and yet the biggest fear?
David: Well, the most exciting part about finally stepping out into my own thing would probably be just having creative control. You can only express yourself so much through guitar playing. While in Lovedrug, Michael had a pretty strong vision. He was the primary songwriter. We would get together and jam and work on songs together, but I finally had a chance to do my own thing. There’s something deeply stirring for the soul to be able to sing out and work on your own music. It’s fulfilling on so many more levels.
I think one of the difficulties about it is that once I stepped out of Lovedrug, I recognized that we actually had a decent number of fans. You start your own thing and realize that you’re not starting from scratch, but you’re a few steps back for sure. Having put all that work into Lovedrug and then pressing reset and starting on my own in my late-20s definitely presents an array of new challenges such as touring and financial responsibilities that weren’t there when I was 23.
SSv: How have Lovedrug fans treated this product?
David: I think I was lucky to strike a real special connection with fans personally. I don’t know whether that happened at shows or what, but I feel very supported by a lot of the Lovedrug fans for sure.