Singer-songwriter-composer D.A. Wallach, former front man of Chester French — an indie pop-rock duo that was initially the subject of a ferocious bidding war between Kanye West, Jermaine Dupri and Pharrell Williams — has finally stepped out on his own with his more than impressive first solo album, Time Machine.
Let’s hop right into this brand new debut solo LP, Time Machine — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
The song “Time Machine” is about a relationship in time; how the passage through time changes everything, including the dynamics between people. And then, I had the realization that music itself is a sort of “time machine”; a way of capturing a slice of time forever and allowing one to revisit it. In the case of this album, each song is a dense layering of different moments since I recorded different parts at different times. Each song is a collage of moments, literally. And then, the cover of the album is what we imagined to be a timeless abstract location in which one could escape the pace of daily life and engage with the music. It is therefore a third sort of “Time Machine.”
How does Time Machine either differ or compare, sonically, to previous Chester French recordings?
It is much simpler. The focus is more on the pure songwriting than it is on production. I think Chester French was more about sound itself, whereas Time Machine attempts to present each song as cleanly as possible.
On it, you teamed up with Pharrell Williams, Diane Warren, Dan Wilson and David Campbell. How were you able to make some of these high-profile collaborations come to fruition?
Pharrell has always been a supporter and was so king in taking the time to add his touch to “Faded Blue,” a song I wrote the week before we worked on it together. Diane blessed me with two of her masterpieces, which I sing really as tributes to the quality and power of her compositions. Dan has been a great friend, and David Campbell accepted a cold email from me and liked the music enough that he was willing to get down together on it!
What particular string of events led to your current signing with Harvest/Capitol Records?
My manager, Chris Clancy, loved the album and brought it to them. They have been a wonderful partner.
As a songwriter, when you sit down to pen your lyrics where do you draw your inspiration from?
All sorts of places. Some songs come from my point of view; from everyday life. And others, are me putting myself in the shoes of people I know or have met, or compositing together different emotions and experiences that have touched me.
Reflecting, when did you first become interested in music?
Literally with eight-tracks that my parents had. And then, onto cassettes. The first ones that captivated me were Aerosmith’s Get a Grip and Janet Jackson’s Janet.
You are a native of Denver, correct? So growing up in the Mile High City, who did you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
I was born in Denver, but grew up in Wisconsin. I didn’t take a lot of influences from the music in Milwaukee, but I listened broadly in high school. My friend, Lukas Kaiser, who is a great comedian, introduced me to rap, and from 15 on I listened to a lot of hip-hop. All the Okayplayer stuff, Mobb Deep, OutKast, etcetera. And, I also listened to and played a lot of jazz … I was a drummer before singing.
At what point in time did you even opt to pursue music professionally?
I decided I wanted to try during freshman year of college, in 2003.
Initially, how did Chester French come together in the first place?
We started in the dining hall at Harvard. Max and his high school friend, Fuj, talked to me about it, and I tried to be the drummer, but got beaten to that role by Damien Chazelle, who is now a great filmmaker. Our former keyboardist, Justin Hurwitz, is a brilliant composer who now works with Damien, too.
What prompted you to leave the band? What was the main cause behind its dissolution?
We just ran our creative course. But, Max and I are close friends and hung out last night, in fact.
Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Continuing to try. That’s it.
Do you have any other additional or outside aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
I spend an increasing amount of my time investing in technology companies.
To date, what has been your biggest career moment?
Probably when we first saw any hope of doing it professionally. This really happened when Kanye West called me on my cell phone in college and said he believed in us.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
I have no idea. Hopefully, I’ll be a successful investor and artist.
As for the immediate future, what’s next for D.A. Wallach?
More music, more investing in innovating entrepreneurs, more fun!
D.A. Wallach’s debut solo album, Time Machine, is available now on iTunes.