By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
In the east Nashville neighborhood where David Bavas lives, he can’t swing his guitar without hitting another musician.
They don’t call Nashville “Music City” for nothing.
“I kind of fell in love with the people and the city and the town,” said Bavas, formerly of Stoneboro. “There are musicians everywhere.”
Bavas, a singer, songwriter and guitarist of music that has been called country, folk and roots music, said he moved to Nashville almost two years ago from Seattle, but only partly because of its musical culture.
Nashville is closer to his family in western Pennsylvania than Seattle, and the town is family-friendly, offering plenty of free activities that are geared to families, and events that include children’s activities as well as things that appeal to an older crowd, he said.
As a father of children ages 6, 3 and 1, Bavas said he appreciates a town that caters to families. The Lakeview High School graduate has found the pro-music, pro-family atmosphere inspiring.
“The talent here is amazing,” he said. “You can go out any night of the week and see the greatest songwriters.”
The Nashville audience is much different than he was used to in that all ranges of ages come out to see live music, whereas it was mostly young people in Seattle, Bavas said.
“People are more into songwriting here. There’s definitely this culture of going to see music and listening to songs.”
Bavas works for a company that licenses music for independent films, but considers his music performing and recording a “second job.”
He looks at his songwriting as a time capsule – he writes songs about what is going on in his life.
“Right now, I’m writing more songs about being a father,” said Bavas, whose second album was called ‘Songs of Love, Death and Trains.’ “I’m writing about paying bills and what happens to you when you’re 36 years old. I’m not writing songs that are as sad.”
As the sadness factor slips away, the tempo on the metronome also ticks up for someone whose music was once described as “low-moaned depresso strum lament” by Chuck Eddy of the Village Voice.
“Definitely, things are a little, tempo-wise, upbeat,” Bavas said.
His secret to pursuing a music career, a full-time job and a family: “It’s lack of sleep,” he quipped.
“I can get by. When all the kids go to sleep, that’s when I practice.”
His wife, Anika, is supportive of his endeavors, he said.
His oldest daughter, Florence, is getting to an age where she can appreciate music, and he can incorporate her into his musical activities. Speaking of a recent practice session, he said, “I had my daughter and I was showing her to transpose keys with a capo.”
A capo is a small bar that straps to the neck of a guitar and presses all the strings at the same fret. It is used to change the base key of the guitar without retuning the strings individually.
“She said that was kind of fun and asked if we could to that again. It’s fun to see how they are discovering music.”
Bavas does not venture far away from Nashville, except for occasional long weekends that include the mini-tour that brings him to Pittsburgh April 4 for a show at the Smiling Moose, and Cleveland April 5 for a gig at the Barking Spider Tavern.
The tour also includes stops in Louisville and Columbus, all the shows shared billings with Seattle buddies Willow and Kevin Wood, with whom he made the album “Lonesome Lo-Fi Lullabyes” under the billing of Mabel McGee and Pennsylvania Slim.
The venues are new to Bavas, making it a little scary not knowing if anyone will show up.
“That’s just part of the job,” he said. “Sometimes you think there’s only going to be a few people and it’s packed and sometimes it’s the other way around.”
At least he knows he will get some friends and family members to the regional shows, including Nick Reckhart of Coolspring Township, who will play banjo and mandolin at the Smiling Moose.
“My dad (David A. Bavas of Meadville) is going to play a song with me in Pittsburgh,” Bavas added. “He taught me how to play guitar and it’s going to be fun to have him on stage with me for the first time.”
Just as he embraces the challenges of performing, he sees similar ones with songwriting. He’s working on a follow-up album to “Make it Rhyme” from 2012.
“I don’t know if it ever gets easier,” he said. “You always want to get better.”