EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: You can’t throw a rock in Nashville with out hitting a songwriter, but there’s only a handful on the level of Dave Berg. The Oregon native has been a consistent hit-maker with cuts like “Somebody”, Reba McEntire, “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” and “These Are My People”, Rodney Atkins, and “Moments”, Emerson Drive. But about a year ago he decided to recharge so to speak, and get back to the things that got him into this business in the first place. The result is his smart, new roots rock album “Not Quite Alone”. Delivered with a Tom Petty meets Al Stewart feel, Berg exposes himself in songs like “Wide Open” and “Believed In” and there’s not a bad song on the album. Nashville.com recently caught up with Berg to find out how that last year has been.
Nash: You’re a very successful songwriter and it would be pretty easy to just kick back and reap the rewards of that and not have to support an album. Why did you decide to do this?
Berg: I don’t know if this is something that I wanted to do more than something I just kind of needed to do. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a little success so it’s nice to be able to crawl off into a place that was driving you to get into this business in the first place.
Nash: You wrote all of the songs on this album by yourself where as a most of your hits were co-written with someone and Nashville is co-writing kind of town. Is there a freedom that you enjoy in writing by yourself?
Berg: Absolutely but it’s interesting because you know, we start out not co-writing and co-writing is a pretty foreign thing until you move to Nashville. And then it’s such and every day part of your existence as a songwriter. So it’s a strange thing to go back to complete freedom, which can also be complete torture because the buck stops with you.
Nash: You’re independent right now to you plan to look for another publishing deal?
Berg: I’m talking to a lot of different people and trying to decide what’s the best course. This is not a country album so I’d like to find an outlet for this as well as writing country.
Nash: Are you going to tour to support this album?
Berg: Well I feel like a songwriter first but I love to play so part of this was getting back to playing music with a band which is why I got into this in the first place. One feeds the other as far as playing and writing and that’s where see country music connects with people. Sometimes we get in those cubicles and write songs and you don’t the thing that you only feel in front of a live audience.
Nash: You started back in Oregon, was it just a garage band type of thing?
Berg: Yeah it was just kind of a see who could play what.
Nash: What was the name of your first band?
Berg: Gosh, it was something God-awful. I think I buried it in my sub-conscience. Oh I remember . . . it was “Threat”. We thought we were tough rockers. You know, we’d make that scowl face when they were taking the picture. (Laughs)
Nash: Oregon is a long way from Nashville. What brought you here?
Berg: It was interesting. Being from Portland, there wasn’t a lot of country music in the crowd that I ran with but I got wind of the songwriting factor and I’ve always just been into great songs. I was playing a “round” the other night with Tony Arata who has become a friend and I use to watch two of his songs on CMT back in Oregon, “The Dance” and “Here I Am”. Just amazing stuff. So I became very curious about this place as a songwriter.
Nash: So if this album just shot through the and was a huge success and your fans demanded you tour and support it as an artist would you do that or would you say “I’m just going to stay here and write songs”?
Berg: I’ve never really given that a lot of thought. I just follow whatever feels really honest and real because it took me too long to learn that, and that’s the most important thing for me to do in anything. If it feels like it’s going to an honest place I’ll follow it. I can’t imagine not writing songs in Nashville.
Nash: Where did you get the title “Not Quite Alone” for the album?
Berg: Well this was quite an isolating experience. I tracked it and then brought it home and basically didn’t leave the house for a year. So I just went through the lyrics and found it and I just liked it.
Nash: What would be your advice to all of the struggling songwriters out there?
Berg: Now more than ever you really have to stand out. And you do that by being true to yourself. And realize that your voice and your perspective is going to be unique. And you can’t do that by just listening to the radio and trying to copy what’s going on. That said, you need to do your work and know the craft and understand that there are certain parameters within our genre that you need to be aware of. It’s kind of like you need to get the college degree to know what you’re doing and then you can break some rules. The essence is you have to love what you’re doing and work your ass off.
Nash: That’s great advice Dave so many people think that all you need is a hook and you write a little ditty and you’re done.
Dave: Yeah, and I fell victim to that too. I didn’t know anything about trucks or boots when I came here but I started trying to write that and it wasn’t working. And it was actually Dave Conrad that said “Hey man, I can’t use this” so I wrote something for myself just out of frustration and turned that in and he said “Thank you, this is what I’m looking for”. So that was a light bulb. People know if it’s honest or not.
To download “Not Quite Alone” click here.