A recent graduate of the University of Southern California, David Ayscue’s debut album, Southwood Waltz, narrates his journey thus far and the transition into adulthood that he now faces. Ayscue’s San Francisco Bay Area childhood is what first exposed him to new music genres and inspired him to begin playing at open mics and students concerts. During his junior year of high school, the young artist discovered his love for songwriting and has been making music ever since.
Southwood Waltz is a whimsical and heartfelt album composed of eight tracks that detail Ayscue’s upbringing and growth over the years. I sat down with the singer-songwriter to learn more about his music style and childhood inspirations.
Ariel Zedric: What are three words you would use to describe your music style?
David Ayscue: Nostalgic, acoustic and sincere.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your debut LP, Southwood Waltz!
The album is a collection of eight songs that I’ve written in the past few years and finally got around to recording this past year. I think it represents very accurately what I do lyrically and musically at this point. Much of it is inspired by my hometown – Marin County, California – and the experiences I had growing up there.
Can you recall the moment you decided to write the album? Is there any event in particular that inspired it, or was it more of a culmination of things?
Definitely a culmination of things. I think the name for the album – “Southwood Waltz” – came at the end of the recording and producing process when I realized that most of the songs are tied together by a sense of nostalgia. Southwood is the name of the street I grew up on, and “waltz” is this cool word that isn’t used too much anymore but has a fun and old-timey feel to it. It’s definitely not a concept album — it’s more of a collection of songs that describe my life up until this point.
Do you have a favorite track on the LP? Or would that be like asking you to choose a favorite child?
Haha, yeah, it sort of would be. I really like all of them, and my favorite track changes depending on the day or week. I’m currently very proud of “Where We Land.”
How are the songs on the album different from some of your first singles, like “S.S.R.I?”
“SSRI” is a song that I wrote in high school about an anxiety medication I used to take. The songs on the album are a good bit more produced out than “SSRI,” but I think the feel of it is pretty similar.
What are some elements from your childhood that you often incorporate into your music?
I write a lot about places I’ve been, and I’m drawn to the adventures through nature that I’ve been on. The natural beauty of Marin County has played such a big role in my life, and I think that shows up a lot in my writing.
In high school, you played in open mic nights and student concerts! Tell me a little about finding your love for music. Can you recall a moment when you realized it was the path for you?
I’ve always known that I’ve loved music, but I think I realized that I should try to do it professionally in high school. That’s when my playing and singing really developed, and people started really encouraging me to go down down this path.
You recently graduated from the University of Southern California, congrats! What impact did music have on your education?
I was a music major at USC, so it played a pretty massive role in my education. It was pretty tough to go from music being just a passion to studying it full-time, and I struggled in that journey quite a bit, but looking back I’m glad that I stuck with it all the way through.
Tell me about balancing school and making music, as well as your personal life. If you could do it over, would you change anything?
I think that I would commit myself to fewer activities and try to focus on just music. I did a bunch of different stuff in college – played on the club lacrosse team, joined a fraternity and sang in a pretty serious acapella group. It was all amazing, but I was spread pretty thin and eventually realized that I needed to de-commit myself from certain things in order to dive deeper into the areas that I really wanted to explore.
Have you ever doubted your choice to pursue music? If so, what’s kept you going?
Absolutely. College was filled with self-doubt and second-guessing, but I eventually realized that there was nothing else I saw myself doing besides music. When I started thinking of music as a service that I could give to other people and that I would be paid for it, that started to really motivate me and push me along. I consider it my full-time job now.
Who is one person you would thank for helping you reach where you are now?
My middle school music teacher, Matt Silverman.
If you could give young aspiring artists one piece of advice, what would it be?
Perform often, write often and give as much to people as you possibly can!
Feature image courtesy of David Ayscue