‘Detonation’ of the Blues:an Interview with Dave Fields Part 1

Dave Fields’ new album ‘Detonation’ is available on Fields of Roses Records. A brilliant, guitar-driven blues-rock album that builds upon his two earlier albums (2007’s ‘Time’s a ‘Wastin’ and 2008’s ‘All Wound Up’) it’s available at Amazon.com and CD Baby.
Album cover courtesy of Fields of Roses Records.

“I know that’s why I’m here: to bring happiness to people. There’s nothing more amazing in this world than to see another human being smile, and if it’s because of something I’ve played or sang or performed then that makes it even more special to me.”-Dave Fields

Some artists are said to have music in their blood, while others are said to have music in their genes.  In the case of guitarist/composer/arranger/producer  Dave Fields he can honestly be said to possess both.

Fascinated with music from an early age,  Dave Fields as a small child studied piano, then later began the serious study of composition, arrangement and production from his father: the legendary Sammy Fields. World-famous as a composer/arranger/producer of great American standards (as well as for his collaboration with fabled lyricist Sammy Cahn) Sammy Fields taught his baby boy well. Dave Fields absorbed all his father taught him like a sponge.

Discovering a love for the guitar in his early teens, Dave was soon playing on sessions with his father, and wrote his very first score for Big Band music at only 16. Through his father, Dave was exposed to many of America’s top composers, arrangers and session musicians, all of which contributed to Dave’s ever-increasing prowess in those musical disciplines.

After graduating from high school, Dave attended the world famous Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he studied arrangement, composition and performance. After completing college, Dave found himself back in New York working at these crafts  for Independent record labels as well as playing on studio recordings as a ‘first-call’ guitarist/instrumentalist with the likes of GRP productions and the late, great Ahmet Ertegen.

Today, Dave enjoys world renown for his important body of work in radio, television, films and Broadway. He was the writer/director for the New Voices of Freedom, seen performing with U2 in the film ‘Rattle and Hum’ and his film credits in music include the film ‘Secretary’ and the cast album of the Broadway hit ‘Bright Lights, Big City.’  His television music credits include work for The Learning Channel, Comedy Central and the nationally syndicated radio program ‘Fun Factory.’ Here’s a look at some of Dave’s working CREDITS.

Dave Fields also enjoys a high reputation among his peers, having worked with many legends including Tommy James, The Drifters and Aretha Franklin. In 1996, Dave founded  FIELDS MUSIC which focuses on film, television, industrial and interactive, along with recording and production of the FIELDS MUSIC LIBRARYhis extensive, ever-expanding library of ‘original’ stock music.

The Los Angeles Beat sat down with Dave Fields, taking a break from his successful East Coast tour, to discuss his family’s musical legacy and how Dave has taken that legacy to new heights with his own impressive work:

I knew your father…although not personally…Sammy Fields! Your dad was a legend; he worked with the best in Pop music! Right off the top of my head I remember that one of the artists he worked with was the great Sammy Cahn. He worked with the best!

He worked with so many people! Can I tell you a story about Sammy Cahn? It’s a great story! I was a young man, and my dad was working with Sammy Cahn; this was right before he (Cahn) died. I did a session where dad had called me in to play guitar on it. I walked into the studio and said to myself: “Oh my God, it’s Sammy Cahn!” It was a song dad had co-written with Sammy and they were working, and Sammy doesn’t say a word to me the whole time.

So finally, at the end of the session, my dad introduces me to Sammy Cahn. I say: “Oh! Mr. Cahn, it’s just an honor to meet you!” He says to me: “Do you know who my son is? (said in a loud, gruff voice) and I say: “Of course, Steve Cahn! One of the greatest! He’s just amazing!” at which point Sammy Cahn replies (REALLY loud, gruff voice) “THAT”S RIGHT! He’s THE GREATEST guitar player in the world!” (we both start laughing) I was like okay, so what? (laughs)

That’s what he wanted you to carry away from it, lol!

He’s was pulling the ‘old Jewish man’ on me! It was so funny! But I was like okay, you can say whatever you want to me, you’re SAMMY CAHN! I’ll be like a sponge because you’re GOD! It was pretty funny! You know, I’m Jewish, so it was like I get gloisted by my Jewish dad and then this is like the ‘temple of Jewish Grandfathers.’ He was doing it to touch me up or whatever, I don’t know, lol!

One of the things I love to do is interview artists who are ‘carrying the torch’ so to speak to the next generation; bringing a level of artistic brilliance from one generation to the next one.  God, I love that!

That’s so funny you put it that way, because I always describe it as that: a ‘torch.’ Both my grandfathers were musicians too. My mom’s father was a reed player who had a music store in Staten Island and that’s how my dad met my mom. My dad came to New York and he taught in a music school and he fell in love with my mom and they got married. My mom’s mother was a professional dancer and had a dance school. My grandfather was a music teacher and my grandmother was a dance teacher, so it was like a ‘curse’: I had to be in the entertainment business! It’s what my genes are!

You know my dad changed his name: Sammy ‘Forever’ Fields. He joined a cult in Yelm, Washington (state); moved away from the East Coast and moved to Washington following J. D. Knight. It’s a long story, we’ll leave it at that, lol. It’s cool, whatever makes him happy.

You know, that’s the lesson we learn with our folks: whatever makes ’em happy. I used to know Hamilton Camp, and he went through much the same thing. One of the very last conversations I had with him-about a month before he died from a sudden heart attack-he was telling me: ” I’ve gone through my life and I keep changing myself and my name, but I feel like I’m a work in progress and my name reflects who I am!”

It’s so funny you say that, because one of my favorite quotes-and I was looking for this because I need some inspiration-is from Winston Churchill: “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” It just seems to resonate as an artist. As an artist you’re like that surfer looking for that perfect wave. It’s so true! You constantly want to change and get better.

Dave, let’s jump right into talking about your new album ‘Detonation.’  You have been quoted as saying: “The first two albums are contemporary blues rock. This one is definitely more rock than blues.”

This latest CD showcases more than just the ‘blues’ side of Dave Fields. Growing up in New York City I was exposed to so many different kinds of music, with the blues being everything I loved. But you know, it’s like I’ve always been steering my career. From the first CD I released (‘Time’s a Wastin’) to ‘All Wound Up’ it got a little more rock.

This CD is a lot more rock! It’s always been going in that rock/jam band/blues kind of vein…with a little jazz in there too. I can’t see myself getting tied down to just one style of music because it’s all who I am; I’m more than just the blues! I’ve always wanted to do a CD like this, and I was really excited to be able to work with David Z, and my manager gave me the opportunity to do this. It’s so exciting!

Your new album has been described as a “definite nod towards Fields’ two major influences: Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix.” Would you say that is an accurate assessment?

Of course! I admit it. This CD is kind of…I reveal my ‘inner Hendrix’ for lack of a better term. Jimi Hendrix was my…one of my biggest guitar influences from the moment I heard him play. Still today, when I listen to Jimi’s music I discover little things about it, especially in the heart; the way I hear it.   Jimi Hendrix is so dear to me.

Jimi Hendrix is probably one of the earliest bridges between the blues and rock worlds. The rock world and the blues world both embraced Jimi. His work is timeless, and his contribution in music-in guitar-in my life are incredible.

Here’s something and we didn’t even plan this: the CD came out on the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death! I didn’t know this until the day it (the CD) came out. The CD came out September 18, which was the 42 anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. It chilled me when I realized it. Heavy, huh?

Jimi was such a spiritual person. This may sound nuts, but at times when I play, I feel like he is talking to me! He tells me: “Don’t emulate me. Be yourself!” I don’t wanna play like Jimi Hendrix, but he just inspires me and so many people. I have friends who knew him, and they say he was just the most gentle, loving soul!

Jeff Beck to me: WOW! He just gets better; as he gets older he gets better. One day I gotta meet him! I’ve seen him on the street in New York, just walking down the street. I just wanna walk up to him and say “Excuse me Mr. Beck…”

You should!

(Laughs) I should, the next time I see him! I hear that he’s a really shy guy, but I’d just like…the guy is a GENIUS! There’s so many great guitar players who are geniuses, but I feel  like in some ways our careers have traveled in parallel paths. It’s weird. I heard an interview with him, and he listened to a lot of the same things I’ve listened to and I can hear it. He experiments with guitar the same way I do. So there is something in his soul that’s similar to mine…or mine like his, as I should say. We’re kindred spirits, and we don’t even know each other!

(Part 2 on September 29)


Photo courtesy of Judy Tucker Fields. Copyright 2012.


Shirley Pena

About Shirley Pena

A native of Southern California, Shirley Peña began her career as a music journalist almost twenty years ago, writing for her websites "Stars In My Eyes: the Girlhowdy Website" and "La Raza Rock!" and progressed to creating various fan sites on Yahoo, including the first for New Zealand singer/songwriter Tim Finn. From there, she became a free agent, arranging online interviews for Yahoo fan clubs with various music artists (Andy White, John Crawford, Debora Iyall, John Easdale, etc.). She also lent her support in creating and moderating a number of Yahoo fan clubs for various music artists from the 1990s-today. As a music journalist, Shirley Peña has contributed to a number of magazines (both hard copy and online), among them: Goldmine, American Songwriter, Classic Drummer Magazine and UK-based Keyboard Player (where she was a principal journalist). A self-confessed "fanatic" of 1960s "British Invasion" bands, Classic Rock and nostalgic "Old Hollywood ", she also keeps her finger on the pulse of current trends in music, with a keen eye for up and coming artists of special merit. Shirley Peña loves Los Angeles, and is thrilled to join the writing staff of The Los Angeles Beat!
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