Interview with Dale Sechrest
Dale Sechrest is a singer and song writer from USA. He has been ‘background guitar player’ in the movie, ‘Breaking Away’ and having had a chance to chat with Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern; to playing a song for Jim Nabors, playing and meeting Grandpa Jones and his son at the Ozark Folk Festival, having a chat with with the ‘real’ Batman: Adam West on a tv set, playing music on the sidewalks, bars, dinner cruises, television, radio, his music has allowed him many wonderful opportunities, but the thing that amazes him the most is the wild notion that some people like to hear his music. We have interviewed him about his journey in the field of music.
What is music to you?
How deep can I go?
Music is a great form of communication, surpassing words said in conversation, because in music, there is the added element of revealing a portion of one’s soul.
Music can be a time machine that immediately takes you back. It can be inspiring, urging you onward.
Music can be healing.
Music can be used to bring about change.
It calms the soul, soothes the beast, encourages, makes us feel good, can tell a story even without words – it can unite and can be used in a battle cry.
Words are powerful – But add the element of music to them and what you have is an explosion of inspiration. This can be for the good, or, for the worst.
If music feeds the soul, then from time to time, we should be asking,’ what are we filling ourselves up with’? Are we listening to music that inspires us to do good; encourage us; give us hope, makes us feel good?Or, are we filling ourselves with music that is negative and degrading?
There is so much power in music that in Biblical days, there was a time when singers went out front, in battle, singing – and they won the battle.
Music can be a powerful thing.
Tell us about the experiences of traveling and meeting people as part of your musical events across the places.
Among the stories to share, a couple of them stand out. I was playing on a street corner in Bloomington Indiana, back in 1978. Someone told me that a movie was being filmed just down the road and asked if I wanted to be an extra? He said I would be fed and paid, so I was all in. The movie was, ‘Breaking Away’. I had a chance to talk with Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley, whom I’m glad to see, has made a great comeback in films. I managed to upset the female lead, Robyn Douglass, but that’s another story for another time.
Another time, I had performed a number of times on a tv show, based out of Indianapolis, called, ‘The Jim Gerard Show’. It was a half-hour talk show. Adam West was to be interviewed on one of those shows. Now, I had been, and always will be, a huge fan of his since my childhood days, watching him on ‘Batman’. I start to introduce myself to him and he says, “Hello Dale! You play guitar and sing, don’t you?” I answered, “Yes! How did you know?” He says, “Batman knows everything”. A wonderful guy. And I have to add that Jim and the entire crew at the Jim Gerard Show were wonderful to work for and with.
What or who inspires you in your music creation?
As far as writing, it is various things that can inspire me:I think life events, inspire, whether we know it, or, not. In just about every song I write, there a little piece of me that gets put into it.
Some of the things that inspire me to write can be a simple line that someone says, or, something I see…Maybe a moment in a movie that inspires to write.
For instance, the song, ‘Higher Ground’, (Song for (my son), Jason), (first track on Speed of Light) was written after watching a scene from the movie, ‘Cool Hand Luke’.
In the movie, Luke gets word, while he is doing time in a work prison, that his mother has passed away. In an earlier scene, we see that Luke really has very little belief in God, if any belief at all. But at this moment, he reads the letter and picks up a banjo and starts playing, ‘Plastic Jesus’. That’s probably the farthest thing from a ‘religious’ song, but in the movie, it makes a huge impact. It’s a very religious moment. It’s like, this song is the only song that Luke knows, that has anything to do with God and he feels a need to connect with God – By the end of the song, you feel that he has made his peace.
So, I’m at home, watching this movie. I’ve seen it a hundred times and yet, for some reason, I view it differently this day and as soon as that scene finished, I turned off the tv, picked up a pencil and started writing…
…‘sometimes life won’t go just the way that you plan it – sometimes life comes down far too hard – but don’t let it get you down, son, ‘cause it goes ‘round in a circle. Things always get better, you can take that much to heart’…. And in five minutes the song was finished. Jason, my son, was going through a difficult time and so I felt that the words in this song were meant for him.
Then, there are moments, while spending time in prayer that I will start writing whatever comes to mind and before I know it, a song is born.
Years ago, I used to drive around the city at night to clear my thoughts and I would write down anything that would pop in my head. That’s how the song, ‘Sometimes’ (Speed of Light), came be written.
What thought process do you go through before and during music creation?
A lot of that has to do with the inspiration process. I find it difficult to sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a song’. Two hours later, I’ll be looking at a blank sheet of paper.
With that being said, while we were recording my latest album, I knew the title was going to be, ‘The Journey’, and I felt that I really needed to have a title track. So I sat down and decidedly wrote around that title.
But I have to say, that on some songs, there is definitely a thought process involved. In comparison, my song, ‘New Orleans’ (Speed of Light), a throw-back R&B song, I simply woke up one morning and wrote it. No thought to it. It was done in three minutes.
But then the song, ‘Harry and Sandy’, (The Journey), comes to mind.
Before ever taking a pen to write it, I knew that I wanted to write a song that had a connection to the late, story song writer, Harry Chapin.
I was fortunate to meet Harry and to speak with him a few times. Any time you would see Harry in concert he would always talk about his family, specifically, his wife, Sandy. He would call her before the show, during the intermission and after the show.
I had the thought about writing the song, ‘Harry and Sandy’ long before I had the music, or, the story. The storyline for the song came about a year later. I won’t share what the story is, aside from just saying that it’s about a guy who works in a factory and a woman that works with him. But, it was important for me to write in Harry’s style –for the song to be a Story Song. The music for the song came only after having the story set in mind.
Before telling my producer, Michael Clark, (Mellancamp, Jonny Lang), anything about the song, I played it for him and his first words were,
“That reminds me of Harry Chapin”.
I took that as a big compliment. Michael felt that, ‘Harry and Sandy’, was my, (and his), ‘Taxi’. And it’s funny because I’ve had other people tell me the very same thing.
So, to get back to your question, sometimes there is no thought process and other times, the process is very deep. At this very moment I have about half dozen songs that I’m going through ‘thought process’ on, and haven’t finished writing the words or the music to any of them yet.
Writing a song is like raising a child. The idea starts, and it grows, you add a little here and there and at some point you find that it is developing on its own and yet it still has a little bit of you in it. And then hopefully it will stand on its own.
Like the song, ‘Life is Changes’ (Song to Andrew) (The Journey). I was intent to write a song about my experiences in the music business….’Been down this road so many times….on the path of running late, always one step behind. Almost gave in, almost gave up, (on music as a career).
But then, by the second verse, the song went its own way, and I was no longer influencing the pen, it was writing itself. It ended up being a song for my youngest son, Andrew. And I’m very pleased to say that it is ‘standing on its own’. It is receiving radio play here and there.
Is there a specific genre of your music you’re quite passionate about? Or what genre/s do you like the most and why?
In the past, my music has always been difficult to connect a genre with, as I write various styles of music. While working on this last CD project, the producer advised me that my style is ‘Americana’. Since he has worked with several top name artists and has won many Gold Record Awards, I figure he knows what he’s talking about.
I grew up listening to many different styles / genres of music. So there are many that I enjoy. But I have to say, when I’m in the car, punching on the radio, I will usually stop at station that is playing some good classic rock.
What music am I passionate about? Life can be rough sometimes, so if there are any songs that lean toward giving us hope, then that’s what I’m passionate about.
Tell us about various songs that you’ve written and composed so far.
I currently have 3 albums recorded; Speed of Light, Worship and The Journey.
Speed of Light:
The album, Speed of Light is a collection of Rock, Blues, a little Country and Ballads. A mix of full band and acoustic songs.
The title track on Speed of Light received airplay on radio stations across the Midwest in ’97. The title track also includes the vocal talent of Jim Ryser. (Arista Records).
The song, ‘Higher Ground’, from this collection has been used in commercials.
The song, ‘Best of Friends’, (an earlier recording), was the first of my songs to get radio play.
Speed of Light featured the vocal talents of Jim Ryser, Jerry Mihay, Tim Grimm. Musicians were Greg Hedges, Jerry Mihay.
Worship is a ‘home-made’ recording, all acoustic songs. There were a few people at the church I was going to, who asked me to record some songs to help them in their prayer time. The songs on this album were all written during times of prayer.
The song, ‘Worthy’, has been heard on radio stations and has been used at various churches in their Sunday Services.
‘Falling’, from the same album, is one of the most downloaded, of my songs, on iTunes.
My newest CD is my intro back into music, after taking nearly a 20 year sabbatical from performing.
‘It’s All About Love’, the first track, has been used in a radio commercial. It is also receiving airplay on radio stations.
‘Life is Changes’ (Song to Andrew), is receiving radio play and is considered to be the strongest song on the album. Folk Alley has given it their ‘Recommended’ status.
‘Harry and Sandy’ is the most talked about song, from this album. Likewise, it has received a ‘Recommended’ status from the good people at Folk Alley.
‘With All My Heart’ is being used at churches during their Sunday services. It is also used as a ‘theme’ for a non-profit organization.
The Journey features the musical talents of Michael Clark, TroyeKinnett, Steve Dokken, Chris Pyle.
I currently have a goal to record another album, within the next six months and many of the songs are already selected for this.
Thank you for the interview. I’ve enjoyed it and appreciate it greatly.