At a young age, David Boswell saw the potential that the guitar has to act as a tool to channel his thoughts and moods into melodic patterns and sonic forms. Effortlessly, his energy impacted the tides that moved around him, and affected people in ways that other artists music had affected him as a youth. He discloses, "I got into the Beatles and Johnny Cash at the age of 8, and it was at that time that I knew I wanted to be a guitar player. When I was 12 or 13 and started playing with other guys in bands, that was when I realized that I really wanted to play music for a living and that’s when I started making the commitment to practice really hard, learn as much as I could and be the best player I could be."
The dreamer in Boswell was foddered by his surroundings. He was born in San Francisco and his upbringing was spent in both the Bay Area and Saratoga where he breathed in as much of the music culture as was accessible to him. He recounts, "I think growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area was a huge advantage for me as a songwriter and performer. There were some really amazing bands and the competition was fierce. Also, every cool band and jazz player in the world always made a stop in San Francisco on their tours, so I had the opportunity to see anyone and everyone that I was a fan of at the time. I’ve learned so much just from observing and getting involved. Saratoga was the perfect place to grow up for me. The schools had great music departments, and all my friends were musicians because of this. I also had the opportunity to study with some monster guitar players like John Abercrombie and a guy named Mark Stefani."
At 19 years old, Boswell joined a youth group who were tutored by Pat Metheny and others at a music camp in Woodstock, New York. He remembers the experience fondly, "I saw Pat in a concert at San Jose State University without having any idea what his music sounded like, and without knowing anything about him. I was blown away that this incredible jazz player was playing this music that had so much power and rock influence and his style was so unlike anything I had ever heard. I was always really into Steve Howe and Yes, and how he would have these clean guitar sounds integrated into really powerful and big music. There came an opportunity to go to New York and study in a very unique intimate 2-week workshop with Pat, Jack Dejohnette and Dave Holland. This was an amazing learning experience for me."
He returned to California and settled in Los Angeles where he entered a guitar program at the Grove School of Music and later studied film scoring at UCLA. The move to LA was spurred after his stint as a lead singer and guitarist in the local rock ‘n’ roll band Metro Jets, which he reminisces, "I loved playing in the Metro Jets. The band was really good and we were playing some cutting edge stuff. I was also a primary vocalist in the band and really dug that, but knew that I wanted to focus more on instrumental music. I learned that I sort of needed to expand my playing and play with some jazz players and be in a place where I could really have opportunity to meet some other musicians. That’s when I decided to move to Los Angeles and go to Grove School of Music. I met some amazing musicians while in school there, some of which I still play with."
Those early days helped Boswell to fine-tune his talents and move where his artistic leanings wanted him to be. He recalls how he decided to become a solo artist and record his debut album Hold Tight To Your Dreams in 2004, "I had written a batch of instrumental tunes that I started recording and it wasn’t until I was halfway through the recording project that I decided to release it on CD. I also was writing a lot of instrumental film score music and putting together a reel to pitch to the studios for film work. I met Eric Rigler at that time who had done all the bagpipes and whistles on Titanic and Braveheart, and asked him to play on the record. There is this one really epic film type tune on the album that features Eric called ‘Path to Freedom.’ To this day, that is one of my favorites."
He describes, "Hold Tight to Your Dreams is very eclectic as far as genre. It sort of covers everything, but still has my particular guitar voice throughout which is a common thread to the music and for some still that CD is a favorite for that reason."
He followed his debut disc with his sophomore outing, Bridge Of Art in 2006. He claims that his second recording come even closer to jazz-inspired motifs, "My approach to recording Bridge Of Art was a lot more conventional in the sense that I had a very strong idea of how I wanted the record to sound and had chosen the players for that sound. Dean Taba plays bass on the record and played most of the tunes on acoustic bass. To me that really gave it more of the jazz sound that I was looking for. Tim McIntyre played the drums on that one, and Tim is one of my favorite jazz drummers here in LA. I had also just built my own studio, so It was all recorded in my studio which made it very relaxed and without any time pressures."
Boswell’s latest offering, I Like That looks even deeper into the prism of his talents exposing other facets of his artistry. He reveals openly where these songs came from, "All of the tunes are new ideas. Most of the tunes from I Like That started off as ideas that would just pop into my head at the most inopportune times. I have a little microphone attachment for my ipod and would sing into it as a voice memo anytime I had an idea that came to me. Most of the time I was in the car, so you can hear wind noise and the engine on all these memos. I sat down and had about 60 to 70 tune ideas, and kept listening to them and selected 8 that I liked the most and that had this really uplifting and spirited sort of vibe."
He asserts, "The title track was a vocal melody that I started singing in the middle of an acoustic guitar session. I had to put the session on hold for a second while I recorded the idea. Fortunately it was a guitar overdub session, so I wasn’t putting anyone out by doing that."
He supplies, "’Awaken The Gentle Giant’ was something that came to me at the music store when I picked up the Taylor 12 string that I now own. It was really strange because the chord changes to the verse weren’t anything that I had ever played before. I had to buy the guitar, so I could finish the tune."
He outlines, "’Did I Tell You’ was from a vocal idea, singing to my girlfriend, ‘did I tell you how much I love you?’" The song, "‘A Westward Path’ comes from a recurring melody from my first album from the tune ‘Path to Freedom.’ Each one of my recordings has a ‘path’ tune which sneaks in the original melody all in really different ways."
Joining Boswell on the recording is a roster of accomplished musicians including bassist Jimmy Haslip, alto and tenor saxophonist Nelson Rangell, and drummer M.B. Gordy III. Boswell explains what brought such like-minded musicians together, "I met Jimmy Haslip through Robben Ford. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jimmy’s playing from all the Yellowjackets, Bruce Hornsby, and recently Alan Holdsworth’s recordings and thought that this project would be really perfect to have him play on. As well, I’ve been a huge fan of Nelson’s playing and his approach to the horn and had the opportunity to see him perform in Los Angeles a year or so ago. I met with him after the show and asked if he would play on the album. I met M.B. through my brother John many years ago. M.B. and I have worked together for years. M.B. played percussion on my first 2 recordings, Hold Tight To Your Dreams and Bridge Of Art. We did some gigs together with M.B. on the drum kit and man was I blown away. I knew then that I’d want to have him be on the kit and percussion for the next record."
He observes, "The music on I Like That is coming from a jazz influence with a lot of rock sensibility and when you put Jimmy and M.B. together as your rhythm section, you’ve really got the perfect guys for the gig."
Boswell tells, "During the sessions, I played acoustic guitar on most of the tunes with the basic tracks. The acoustic rhythm guitar on this record was really important as far as setting up the feel for the tunes. Each one of the tunes sort of stands on it’s own as a really different piece. I knew I wanted to use some of the different guitar synth sounds, so that helps create a variance in tonal color. The old vintage Roland GR300 is something that I really wanted to use at the end of some of the tunes to bring the climax up a notch and make the endings powerful. I use it where a lot of guys might use a ripping sustaining distorted guitar sound. It’s such a unique sound. I also knew I wanted to use the harmonica and sitar sounds from the Roland GR33 guitar synth. On ‘Tightrope’ and ‘It’s Possible.’ I used the Fender Telecaster and put it through some distortion and delays to get that biting sound that I have on those tunes. This is the first record that I used a distorted guitar tone, and these tunes really called for it."
Boswell works with a variety of guitars on this album, both acoustic and electric and layers them to give the songs a full-bodied figure. Acoustic guitars offered by brands like Taylor and Larrivee provide Boswell with differently textured sounds to work with, as he remarks, "I think every guitar has it’s own tone and sound and I find in the studio that my Taylor 6-strings are a little brighter than the Larrivee 6-string. I like using the Larrivee for solo guitar recording because the sound is so even across the neck."
Though Fender and Gibson are virtually household names as for as guitarists are concerned and as a consummate guitarist, Boswell owns a fine assortment of guitars offered by these brands, but he is not one to snub a lesser known brand. He’ll investigate the sounds of a Peavey toy guitar with the same enthusiasm as he does a Gibson Les Paul model. He finds pleasure in playing the synth-textured guitars of Brian Moore and comments about them, "I really like the Brian Moore guitars and the built in synth pickup. The tracking on them when I use the Roland GR33 is really accurate. That is what drew me to them in the first place. I really love my Gibson L4, so I primarily use that even when I’m using the Brian Moore on the same tune. I have my Brian Moore on a stand so I can go between the synth and the L4."
You can find his brood of guitars in a family photo which he proudly displays on his website. He assesses that the photo, "Probably reveals that I like the variety of sounds and tones you can get from having different instruments at your disposal, especially when recording."
He confesses, "I would love to have a Vintage Gibson L5 or Johnny Smith arch top and would also love to have a Roy McAlister acoustic and a vintage Gibson J200 acoustic."
In addition to playing a number of different guitars, he also plays the mandolin and admits, "I have always loved the sound of the mandolin, and I had a couple of tunes that it works beautifully for on the CD, I Like That. When I first started playing with it, I was tempted to tune it like the 1st 4 strings on a guitar, but then thought that the beauty of it’s unique sound is the fact that it’s tuned in 5ths, so I just started playing it and building chords using basic theory. The biggest challenge for me is that I have big hands and the instrument is so tiny and the strings are so close together, so that is the biggest challenge for me, but I plan to really get into it and use it more on future recordings. I think guitarists that are looking for different colors of sounds should check out a mandolin for sure."
In a recording studio, instruments can be layered and sounds can be manipulated with the touch of a button or lever, but performing songs in concert presents a number of different challenges for Boswell. He cites, "It is a big challenge to recreate the exact sound of the recording. I use a guitar stand so I can do quick switches to other guitars within the same tune, so that helps a lot. On a few of the tunes I have 5 or 6 guitar tracks on the recording, so there has to be sacrifices when performing live. The tunes take on a different feel live anyway, so I try to look at the live thing as it’s own renditions of the tunes."
He provides, "I’ve used different amps over the years and the higher end amps are all really nice now, but I do insist on having a stereo guitar setup, even if the end result in the house is mono. Probably the most important effect is really just the digital delays that give me that stereo spread. Right now I am using 2 Digitech 256 XLs and a Roland SDE3000 Digital delay all through a Mackie mixer and a Carvin power amp."
One thing that has not been challenging for Boswell is convincing his brother, John to play the piano on the recording of I Like That and performing live with him. Boswell beams, "I always try to have John with me when I’m performing. There is never tension with John, as a matter of fact, having him there really relaxes me and we always have so much fun. John is one of the funniest people I have ever known, and we always have such a great time playing together. He’s an incredibly versatile player and such a great improviser."
Having worked with and admiring different musicians and experimenting with a vast assortment of guitars has greatly influenced Boswell‘s songwriting, as he reflects that his writing has certainly progressed over the years. "I approach writing really differently than I did years ago in the sense that I let the melodies come to me, and I record them as they are coming to me rather than force or try to write a melody over a set of changes. For me that makes the music a lot more natural and the melodies more lyrical, because the melodies generally start as ideas that I sing into a recorder. This forces the melodies to have to breath, because I’m singing them."
He even notices how his preferences in guitars has evolved, "I didn’t play any acoustic guitars in the Metro Jets and find myself using the acoustics a lot in my music now. I also use the Roland guitar synth, but more in a way that I am emulating other instruments rather than a synthesizer sound which is how I used it back then. I have always been a Gibson guy, and never thought that I would have a Fender electric, but now I have the American Telecaster, and man I love that guitar. I think I will be playing that instrument a lot more in the coming years. It is a lot more versatile than I ever imagined, and it plays like butter."
Through it all, David Boswell has remained a man who enjoys communicating his thoughts and moods using the strings of a guitar. His investigations into different sounding guitars is like watching a kid taste every confection concoction in a candy store. Boswell’s music is a canvass that conveys his ideas, and what he puts on those canvasses affects people in a way that only artists can dream of doing, just like he remembered artists doing in his youth.