NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: Your church newsletter presents an advertisement for a concert to be held in your town’s auditorium. You picture choirs, robes, pianos, organs and hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace” and “Jesus Paid It All.” You picture an offering plate and people dressed in their Sunday best.
You gather your family to go, thinking it will be just like a regular Sunday service, right?
And then you get there. There is a sound table, and you see guitars, a keyboard and a mixture of people dressed from their Sunday best to their afternoon casual. There are merchandising tables with t-shirts and music and more displayed, and ready for purchase.
The music starts, and it is almost reminiscent of the beginning stanzas of a ‘Beatles’ or a ‘Rolling Stones’ or a ‘Billy Joel’ gig.
You get a puzzled look on your face. Church music? An acoustic guitar? Drums?
That is when the lights go down, and a voice begins to sing. As you listen closely, you hear a soulful ballad of a life lived in ways you don’t imagine being told at church – maybe at a tent revival testimony time. The songs and the notes mixed together don’t sugar coat the life or what is/was experienced, but offer a melodic solution to it all – and it centers on God and faith.
Nothing seems like it fits your image of a ‘church concert.’ The spotlight comes up on the voice you heard – and there stands a tall, skinny man with his long hair askew but it works, tattoos and a beard, a guitar and holes in jeans.
He reminds you of your older brother or your best friend from school or the boy you crushed on in school or even yourself.
You can’t stop listening or staring. Before you realize it, you are so moved that you are standing with the others, letting the music flow through you – and you almost feel as if the musician is conversing just with you.
He literally goes beyond the stereotypical, and ‘colors outside the box’ to reach his listeners where they are are in their lives – and the good, the bad and ugly times are not restricted. He tells the truth from the rhythms, the harmonies, the melodies and the actual words.
And that is what Christian Contemporary musician David Dunn wants for his fans – live or listening in other ways – for them to feel, see and hear the truth.
Ironically, David told The Murphy Gazette(The Murph) during an email interview Tuesday, October 22, 2019, “I actually didn’t choose Christian music. From the start of my career, I chose to be an artist that writes about my own life … what I’m going through, what I’ve learned about myself and my existence with other humans.”
He went on to explain, “So, in essence, every album I’ve put out is an ongoing autobiography of my existence. I’m a believer, and that’s a huge part of my life, so my music ends up revolving around God pretty often … so I just naturally landed in the Christian Contemporary Music(CCM) world.”
When asked by The Murph, when he had his “first kiss” with music, David laughed. “I don’t know when me and music had our first ‘kiss,’ but I did start playing music for the very spiritual reason of impressing females.”
“I was 15 and ‘the chicks seemed to dig it,’ so I knew it was for me. I don’t actually recall the first time I performed onstage … when I first started playing I was convinced I was a prodigy,” he said. “And I can truthfully say, with perfect hindsight, that I was absolutely terrible – so whatever my first stage performance was, I am positive it was awful.”
Born in 1984 in Midland, Texas, David received a degree in petroleum engineering – the idea was he would work with the family business. During college, he performed as an acoustic singer/songwriter in area churches and local events.
He told The Murph, “I chose to do music over engineering in 2009 after graduation.”
In 2011, he said, “I stopped having to have a second job to support my music habit … doing music vocationally took every one of those 10 years to get me here today.” David said, “It has been quite the journey.” Part of the journey took him to audition for the second season of the NBC talent music search show, ‘The Voice.’ Though the audience loved his performance none of the judges turned to ask him to be on a ‘team.’
Of that opportunity, he commented , “I’d say it was a shot in the arm for my career. Even though I didn’t make it past the blinds, it still felt like some sort of validation to my talent. I have nothing, but fond memories of that entire experience.”
From his songs like ‘Today is Beautiful’ to the recently-released ‘Spend a Life’ to ‘Yellow Balloons,’ David’s realistic approaches and personable lyrics have touched many lives, including his own.
“I know this is so dumb to admit, but my songs do a lot in my own life,” he stated, and added, “a few of them are reminders of truths I know to be true, but forget on a daily basis, and one entire record taught me how to grieve…which is probably the most important project for me personally.”
In 2017, David released the album, ‘Yellow Balloons.’ This project came for him during a time of mourning after the loss of his two-year-old niece. “My sister and her husband had a healthy two-year-old little girl who went down for a nap and never woke up. No medical explanation, she was just gone. My family is incredibly close and it shook us all to the core. Her name was Moriah.”
“I’m a stereotypical dude when it comes to grief. My default move is to shove negative emotions into a figurative cabinet and leave it there until it doesn’t hurt anymore, which is super unhealthy, by the way,” he explained.
David said, “But because I insist on writing about my life, I kept having to open that cabinet over and over again to write the songs on ‘Yellow Balloons.’ A yellow balloon is traditionally what you release at a child’s memorial service. That entire record is about kids and heaven.”
In reflecting on something he could say to someone who might be listening to his music, or even reading this story, who might have a spiritual or mental or emotional need, the husband and father took a moment.
“Here is what I am stuck on right now,” he said, and added the following.
“You are not your feelings. YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEELINGS. You are not a slave to the whims of your feelings. Feelings are indicators of POTENTIAL reality… but REMEMBER our feelings lie to us all the time.” David wrote to The Murph. “Paul talks about that Romans 7.”
“Feelings tell a drug addict that one more hit of heroine is the best thing they can do for themselves. Feelings tell a husband he should cheat on his wife, etc… Feelings tell a depressed person they should kill themselves,” he continued.
“Feelings are like the speedometer and RPM gauge in your car – useful to pay attention to, but if you solely stare at them without looking up, you’re headed for disaster,” David said.
He concluded his ‘lyric quote,’ by saying, “You choose what you do. Your feelings don’t choose for you.”
A final question asked to David was about the video of “Today is Beautiful.” The scenes surrounded him and others in nature and cliff-diving.
When asked if he was an outdoorsman or a nature lover, and if he enjoyed cliff- diving, he wrote, “My wife would laugh at this question. I am a negative outdoorsman. To me, camping is pretending we don’t have AC, running water or microwaves. And hiking is just aimless walking.”
“Now, cliff diving, I do love … but only because I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie,” David stated.
To follow David and his music, click here.
—Story by Becky Holland
(c)Photo David Dunn Music