GW: You've released an impressive lineup of original music over the years. What made you decide to release a series of covers now?
DS: For as long as I can remember, I’ve played cover songs. My first gigs were in bands that only had a handful of covers to fill a three-hour show, so we were always on the hunt for tunes we liked and could play well. I’ve had the good fortune to release nine records in the past two decades. Most of the material was original or co-written with other artists. But I occasionally tossed in a cover and it was always a fun addition. The idea for Touchstones was to pick some songs that I had either played live over the years or that just touched me in some way; lyrically, musically or simply because I liked the songwriter. My original list of possible songs for the project was really long. But I narrowed it down with the help of my co-producer Mark Prentice to 11 that just seemed right. The project is less a departure from my Americana recordings and more an homage to the road that got me here.
GW: Why did you choose the name Touchstones?
DS: I liked the idea of using the Touchstones name as a way of looking back at where I came from; musical breadcrumbs or waypoints, if you will. I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music, and these songs represent a small portion of the ones that have made an impact along the way.
GW: Do you hope your listeners will see a new side to you with these releases?
DS: In my early days, I was a drumming lead singer in bands that played everything from Americana to soul to full-on rock tunes. Those are my roots. I suppose it’s just another side of the same coin I’ve had on display in my more recent releases.
GW: You've banked a lot of new tracks. What keeps you feeling creative during this time?
DS: While the pandemic period gave me time to slow down and reflect, I think the songs I’ve been working on this year will take some time to develop. I seem to write best with the benefit of some hindsight or passage of time. The Touchstones project gave me a chance to sing and play with friends in the studio and interpret some of my favorite songs without worrying about my own songs being fully-formed. I’ll be back in the studio working on originals and co-writes in 2021, I'm sure!
GW: "Every Kinda People", your first Touchstones release, is coming out November 19. What's your connection to this Robert Palmer track?
DS: Me and my bandmates were into Robert Palmer’s stuff early on. Little Feat played on his records and that made him extra cool for us. When “Every Kinda People” first hit the charts in 1978, I just loved it. It was positive and funky and full of life. And my bands played it nightly in the clubs and at dances. It was written by the late Paul Fraser of the band Free and I was a big fan of their music as well.
GW: The message of the song really relates to what's going on in our world right now. Can you speak to that?
DS: As the turmoil of 2020 unfolded, it just seemed like a good song to include with its positive message of inclusivity. And I absolutely love singing it!
GW: What message would you like your listeners to take away from this song?
DS: We gotta heal and work together, that’s all we have. This year has brought out the best and worst in us, I think. Time to look hard in the mirror. It takes us all to make it work.
GW: Tell us about your collaborators (production, bgvs, etc) on this song?
DS: The whole project was coordinated with the help of my friend, Mark Prentice. He played bass and keyboards on the track. His wife Michelle and John Oates (Hall & Oates) sang background vocals. Acoustic guitar was covered by Dan Dugmore. Electric guitar and drum duties were handled by John Prentice and Matt Bubel of the Prentice clan. A talented family, for sure!
GW: We're getting close to Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for right now?
DS: I am thankful that my family is healthy, that I get to continue making music, and that my country may finally begin to heal as the new year approaches.