Interview With Composer, Violinist & World Traveller Davey Copeland
We were really pleased to have the opportunity to catch up with Davey Copeland, who is a really talented composer and violinist, and a very interesting guy. Davey is one of the growing number of trailblazers and “digital gypsies” using technology to create a new kind of life on their own terms. He travels the world playing his own music and doing online recording sessions. He has some fantastic reviews here on AirGigs and all you have to do is listen to a song or two from his Soundcloud reel to get excited about the prospects of collaborating with him.
You can find his services here: ttp://www.airgigs.com/user/daveycopeland
Who or what are your biggest inspirations, musical or otherwise?
Musically, I’m most inspired by baroque composers like Corelli, Bach, and Vivaldi; the ease with which their melodies flow is a source of unending inspiration. Also, baroque music in general is rigorously formulaic. Although my compositions are more free flowing, I nevertheless hold form and conventionality in high regard, since rules can only be broken after they’ve been understood- to a certain degree at least… It terms of other forms of inspiration, many things come to mind. I love the world of ideas, and, although thankfully no longer a student, I continue to read widely and deeply. And of course, perhaps more than anything else, everyday experience brings with it new sources of inspiration all the time. It’s just a matter of letting things in.
What are your most formative musical experiences?
I’ve been playing violin since I was five, so in response to your question, I’d have to start by crediting the endless hours of juvenile practicing which my parents helped (forced) me to do. It was always a difficult process, and I always thought it was more like punishment- but it’s funny how things change. Now I like to practice, and appreciate that my parents adopted a long term perspective that was beyond my capacity to fathom at the time! So those early years of practicing were definitely formative. Before leaving Canada to finish my studies in Switzerland, I studied music at an arts high-school where we practiced every day, studied music theory, and performed as an orchestra. This too was undoubtedly formative. At a certain point towards the end of high-school, I realized that my future in music was not as a performer, but rather as a composer. This realization might also be considered as formative, since it has influenced every aspect of my musical trajectory since…
You have really a fascinating story. You left college in Canada to travel Europe, and made your way traveling around playing the violin. It doesn’t get much more real than that. Can you share any experiences and insights gained along the way?
Of course! To begin with, long term travel is difficult, grueling, and frequently painful. That said, it seems that once the traveler’s voyage has begun, the universe conspires to make the trip a success. Take my experience by way of example: I left Canada in a semi-desperate state, having come to realize that studying history and philosophy at college was getting me nowhere fast. On my very first stop (at an olive farm on the Greek island of Lesvos), I met the girl of my dreams, and we’ve been travelling together since!
You have some great client reviews here on AirGigs. Are you still traveling full time, and if so how do you manage to keep up with clients and sessions?
It’s been a bit of a balancing act I suppose, but so far so good! I have a very portable recording set up, and the violin is a portable instrument. When a gig comes in, I steal away to a quiet spot, and do what needs to be done.
Tell us a bit about your recording setup and how you approach tracking violin?
Because of the nature of my lifestyle at the moment, I employ a highly portable setup. Indeed, it’s so portable that it might not even be a setup. I simply use a Samson Go microphone, hooked into my laptop running Cakewalk. I know, I know, it’s probably not a setup, but then again, all of my own material has been recorded through it. I also offer my clients a money back guarantee, but so far I’ve only received positive feedback as regards sound quality. Lots of people get really anxious about the mechanics of recording, as if a particular microphone of preamp will compensate for the ability to play the right notes at the right time. As for my approach to tracking violin, in the Airgigs context it’s entirely dependent on the nature of each different project. If for instance a client asks me to replicate a string section, I do that through the judicious use of reverb, panning, and equalization on each component violin track, until at last the finish product sounds pleasantly orchestral! Creating complex harmonies by ear is my specialty, if I do say so myself…
Your original compositions have a really rich quality and texture. It gives one the feeling of a great soundtrack with elements of folk, jazz and classical music. Tell us a bit about what inspires you as a composer?
More that anything else, nature inspires my music. Having grown up in the wilds of rural Canada where nature’s beauty abounds, I suppose it’s only natural that I’d later find inspiration in the earth more broadly. In fact, much of what I compose is the direct product of a particular place in space and time. Of course, music can’t capture a images like a photograph, but it can hint at the spirit of a place. If I’ve accomplished this in any of my compositions, my goal as a composer has been reached: that is, to express the invisible, frequently emotional, essence of a placed movement through time.
What inspired you to go from being a performing musician to learning about audio production?
I never really liked performing, at least in the classical context. As beautiful as the music we reproduced was, reading sheet music always seemed to me like such a dry and uninspiring activity. Much more exciting, I thought, to make music by playing it, rather than by writing and reading it. And, as so often happens, one thing led to another, and here I am today!
What makes a good session musician in your opinion?
Simply this: the ability to deeply feel the music to which you are adding a part, combined with the ability to express that feeling musically. It can be a bit tricky- after all, you’re adding onto someone else’s work. But it can be a really rewarding experience, and although I’m new to the field, I’ve enjoyed every Airgig to date, and have even made a few friends!
What are some musical goals and aspirations?
I’d just like to keep getting better and better. One of the beautiful things about music is that musical perfection is impossible, so there’s always room for improvement. I’d like to keep developing as a composer, and also as a session musician. It’ll be pretty hard to go wrong, seeing as music is what I love!
What’s an average day in the life of Davey Copeland like these days?
Busy! Wake up. Assess surroundings. Explore. Practice. Work. And any number of any other things, depending on where and with whom I happen to be. Lately I’ve developed an interest in small scale agriculture, so this summer I plan to spend lots of time growing things, when I’m not working on an Airgig of course!