This past Saturday I had the pleasure of seeing a set performed by David Ivan Neil at Carport Manor. This one-man show got laughs by revealing that one of his songs is about a “Roll Up the Rim” Tim Hortons cup he threw in the garbage at the Edmonton airport, and engaged the crowd by getting them to sing along to his song about fake Tinder accounts. David is a strong showman, songwriter, and vocalist and I got to talk to him after the show about the meaning behind his songs and why he pursues his passion of making music.
You have such a unique sense of humour when writing songs. When I’m listening to a song and think it’s about something deep, you reveal it’s actually about a Tim Hortons cup you threw in the garbage. Are any of the songs you write serious?
They’re all just stories. Humour is a big part, but humour is the cover fee to get into something more serious. Humour just knocks down some walls, and then maybe it will hit them in the gut.
You have released EPs on Apple Music and Spotify — is that how most people discover you?
The internet is a funny thing. Anyone in the world can find you, but you actually have to play shows and you gotta do something to get their attention. There are a lot of bands.
Everytime I write I go: “Oh, I’m another band. Oh joy, everyone needs another song.”
But there are not a lot of other musicians like you where it’s just you, your voice, and a guitar.
I’m kind of lucky because I can only do it one way. I am not a musician per se; I don’t know how to really play guitar or know the notes or anything.
So what made you decide to pursue this if you don’t see yourself as a musician?
Daniel Johnston, that’s about it. Daniel Johnston and Half Japanese. Those are the two guys that after I listen to them I think “So anybody can do this.” I love just looking at people and wondering “What would your songs sound like?” Like just walking down the street, what would you sound like? Because I don’t think people would see me normally and think “Oh, he’s writing Terminator 2 songs or he’s writing songs about coffee cups.” The actual writing process is either just misheard lyrics from the radio… or just singing in the shower.
So of all of the songs you write, how do you decide which ones are worthy enough to be recorded?
It’s mostly an emotional feel for me. Anybody can write a song that sounds real and can sound like it’s going to resonate with people. But it has to resonate with me, and I have to feel something when I sing it. I will either write jokey songs or songs that I don’t know what the hell they mean. Either way, something has to feel right.
What is the best song you’ve ever written and why?
The song that I love the most is the one I haven’t released yet. On the record it’s going to be called “Free” but I used to call it “It’s Fucking Free” and it’s basically just about me talking about making music, getting my CD to bands, buying cool merch from bands, talking to bands… That’s my favourite one and going to be the last song on the new album.
So do you have any advice for any aspiring musicians?
Do whatever feels right to you. I used to really hate playing shows, and now I kind of like it. I think on Lululemon bags it says: “Do something that scares you everyday.” That’s kind of true, I like that. I am scared of everything. The main guy from Western Jaguar, he used to do open mics at one of the places around the corner from here, and I would show up and I would suck, and just do it.
If you want to play music, go to open mics — go every week. Just find another open mic and just do it. And you’ll just get better. All you can do is just keep doing it. No one is born ready so you just have to keep practicing.
Watch out for David Ivan Neil’s new album releasing this summer and check out his work already released on Apple Music, Spotify, and Bandcamp.
Image: David Myles/The Cascade