Indiana-based country artist David Quinn releases debut video for "Born to Lose" at Ditty TV, in advance of his sophomore LP, Letting Go, out October 23rd. Quinn assembled a crew of ace supporting musicians, starting with producer Mike Stankiewicz (Willie Nelson, Maren Morris) and keyboard player Micah Hulscher (Margo Price, Jim Lauderdale). Hulscher brought in a few colleagues in Price’s backing band, including drummer Dillon Napier and guitarist Jamie Davis, along with pedal steel virtuoso Brett Resnick (Kacey Musgraves). Rounding out the band is guitarist Laur Joamets, a guitar virtuoso best known for backing Sturgill Simpson and Drivin N Cryin.
David Quinn likes to write in his old pick-up truck. Most of the songs on his second solo album, the sharp-tongued, open-hearted Letting Go, came to him during a ramble around the Midwestern countryside. “Driving is one of my favorite things to do. There’s something special about heading somewhere, but it’s not necessarily about where you go. It’s more about the ride there. There’s where stuff comes to me.” The ride there is one of the ideas Quinn addresses on this record, offering an idiosyncratic take on country music featuring some of the best players around. For him wandering isn’t just a passion but a compulsion. “It’s like what they say about some sharks: If they’re not moving, they die. Deep down I might have a little of that, because I’ve always gotta be doin’ something, always gotta be movin’ around.”
During one of those long drives in his pickup, Quinn got the idea for a new song that would determine the sound and the spirit of the album. “It all started with that first line, ‘I’m lettin’ go of everything that’s holdin’ me down.’ That line just hit me—this is what I’m trying to say. Then, I just built on that idea of letting go of all the groupings, all the expectations, whatever people end up putting on you.” That one line grew into a spry, two-stepping ode to transience, emotional and otherwise, with a killer guitar lick and a rambunctious spirit borne of long drives with the windows down and the radio up.
Examining freedom in its many forms, Letting Go is as musically adventurous as it is lyrically insightful. “I got pushed into this traditional country thing on Wanderin’ Fool, and I got tired of trying to fit into a genre. I love music and just wanted to let every influence in and not worry if it was a little different. I wanted to make the record I wanted to make, and hold strong to my instincts. So I’m excited to put this out there and say, This is who I am.” Songs like the barnstorming “Thunderbird Wine” and the woe-is-me “I Hope I Don’t” integrate a wide range of influences—from Texas outlaws to Bakersfield badasses, from southern rock heroes to Nashville cats. Wherever he rambles, however, Quinn remains rooted in the Midwestern soil: “It always comes back to John Prine. I got started in the Midwest, so he’s somebody I love.”
To capture that sense of musical freedom, Quinn assembled a crew of ace supporting musicians, starting with producer Mike Stankiewicz (Willie Nelson, Maren Morris) and keyboard player Micah Hulscher (Margo Price, Jim Lauderdale). “When I first met Micah, I was so intimidated. He’s probably the best musician I’ve ever played with. Right before he came in, I heard someone say he’s got perfect pitch. I thought, damn, I don’t really want to sing around him now!”
Hulscher brought in a few of his colleagues in Price’s backing band, including drummer Dillon Napier and guitarist Jamie Davis, along with pedal steel virtuoso Brett Resnick (Kacey Musgraves). Rounding out the band is guitarist Laur Joamets, a guitar virtuoso best known for backing Sturgill Simpson and Drivin N Cryin. His crackling guitar licks push “Ride On” along at a pedal-to-the-metal clip, as he becomes a musical foil to Quinn: Joamets darts in and out of the spaces around Quinn’s words like a gremlin in the works, then unleashes a rip-roaring solo that slyly underscores the jumpiness of the lyrics. “I ain’t gonna run and I ain’t gonna fight,” Quinn sings in his commanding twang. “Gonna ride that train southbound, gonna fly on through the night."
The crew worked quickly to track Quinn’s songs without losing any urgency or buffing away any of their rough edges. “I’ve been playing three or four shows a week, so I’ve been playing these songs a lot. I knew pretty much how I wanted them to sound. So we tried to work quickly. I hate getting wrapped up in perfect—doing a bunch of takes and punch-ins. I’m just not interested in that, at all. I want to capture the sound of a band.” They prove dexterous and agile, especially on “1000 Miles,” where the relentless rhythm section and nimble guitars count the long miles along some lost highway and change tempo the way you might take a highway exit. Yet, Quinn exposes an undercurrent of melancholy in his performance, as though that constant and often exciting motion takes its toll: Lovers are abandoned, roots severed, friends left in the dust. “That one touches on not necessarily having a destination. The meaning is more in the moment of leaving.”
These are songs about new starts and the gumption it takes to make them. Perhaps no song demonstrates that lesson more clearly than “Born to Lose,” whose bluesy swagger makes the lyrics sound even more haunted (“There’s a crow calling out my name…”). “It’s about my struggle with depression, which is something I’ve dealt with for a long time. The verses are about that impending doom you feel, when you wake up with a dark cloud hanging over you. It’s something you have to will yourself out of every day, so there’s this constant back and forth. Writing this song let me say, ‘I’m not gonna let that stop me and everything is going to be fine.’”
Ultimately, putting those fears and worries and confinements into songs allows Quinn to let go of them. “You write it to get rid of it. I enjoy that process. It’s been fun, but strangely, I always end up learning new things.” It’s fitting then that Letting Go ends where it begins: The wistful closer “Maybe I’ll Move Out to California,” which dreams of a better, more settled life out west, picks up the same melodic and lyrical themes of the short “Intro” that opens the record. It’s a deft stroke of sequencing, one that portrays Quinn as a man who lives forever in that moment of leaving, where he finds joy and heartbreak and endless inspiration.
David Quinn's Letting Go is due out October 23.