Putting the top down with Dave Koz

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday November 23, 2010
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It's hard to imagine a more perfect title for Dave Koz's new album than Hello Tomorrow (Concord). After almost 20 years on Capitol Records, Koz has relocated to the Concord label, and the album feels like a fresh start. "I feel like a brand new artist, too," Koz said as we began our interview, shortly before the release of the disc. "That's a great thing to be able to feel. I have had a wonderful career and feel very blessed, yet in many ways it's like starting from scratch again, because the business has changed so much, and also new people, new companies, new producers and new ways of recording. Everything has changed. And everything was brand-new this time around. For someone who's been around for a lot of years, it was very refreshing and right on time. I needed that new dose of energy and new way of looking at things."

Gregg Shapiro: Dave, you have always been generous in the way that you share space on your CD, by collaborating with vocalists and other musicians. How did you go about selecting collaborators for the songs on Hello Tomorrow?

Dave Koz: Each song had its own unique calling. It was kind of like a casting session, really. I have two co-producers who have so much prestige that people really wanted to be involved in this project. When we called Herb Alpert, for example. "This Guy's in Love with You" is a personal song for me. I have always connected to it. When I heard it with fresh ears in 2010, it sounded like a song written for gay marriage. In my head, it sounded like a marriage-equality theme song. That song is simple, poignant and a sweet message about love, of any kind.

I said, "We really should send this to Herb Alpert, just for him to hear," because he has been a mentor of mine for many years. I love that man. So I sent it to him. He called me back and said, "I not only give you my blessing, but I would like to play on it." So he came in and played on the track, and truly that was a Hello Tomorrow moment. He was playing on a song that he made famous in the late 1960s.

"Put the Top Down" is the perfect opening track. It feels like driving along the California coast, or Lake Shore Drive in Chicago for that matter, in a convertible.

I remember writing that song with one of my collaborators, Brian Culbertson, and the name of that tune just came, it sounded like a breezy, fun kind of track. It's funky, it's got kind of a carefree attitude to it.

Each song on this album feeds this message of embracing our future and change. I don't know anybody who hasn't felt the monumental amount of change that is swirling around us in our lifetimes. Many people waking up in 2010 are saying, "My life looks a lot different than I thought it would be." That's what this album addresses. I used the songs and the music as a kind of survival guide through that stage in my own life. I think that's what the message is of the album, embracing change, just surrendering and going with the flow, seeing where these changes and these new things lead you. I say, put the top down on your imaginary convertible. If you don't have a convertible, you can put the top down in your life, because that's what it is. It's about making the most out of whatever you find yourself doing. It's about being present and coherent in the moment.

What can you tell me about the upcoming Desperate Housewives appearance you are making with Dana Glover?

I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know what to make out of it just yet. That song, "Starting All Over Again," it's Dana's piece of music, she wrote it and sings it. Once I heard it again in the context of this album, I said, "That's the tree trunk to this album." The fact that Mark Cherry, the creator of Desperate Housewives, heard it and loved it as well, and said, 'I want to make this one of the cornerstones of episode five, and a theme running through this episode,' is a dream come true. Then he invited us to be a part of the episode. Dana is actually a housewife who plays a "desperate housewife." It'll be very interesting to see how it all comes together. It's a very powerful song, and it speaks to a lot of people's journeys right now. At any point in time, as long as you're breathing, as long as you're alive, you can reinvent yourself.

Speaking of reinvention, I know it was 20 years ago, but do you have any regrets about the mullet you were rocking on the cover of your first album?

I have only regrets about the mullet I was rocking! You're very cute in saying that I was "rocking" it. That's probably different from the way I would refer to it. I would probably say that it hasn't worn well. It's rather embarrassing when it's a record cover that never goes away. The truth is that everybody had that haircut. I wasn't the only one. Unfortunately, I had to have a picture of me on my first CD. So it rears its ugly head constantly in my life. I wear it proudly as a symbol of staying power.

Dave Koz will perform in San Francisco at the Nob Hill Masonic Center (12/11), in Santa Rosa at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts (12/14), and in Sacramento at the Radisson Hotel (12/15).