John Vanderslice connects with his Florida roots and waxes sentimental about David Berman
The Gainesville songwriter isn’t afraid of challenging material
Published: November 6, 2013
JOHN VANDERSLICE with Alexander and the Grapes
7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 | The Acre, 4421 Edgewater Drive | 407-704-5161 | theacreorlando.com | $11
Anyone who spent their formative years in Florida accepts that a childhood spent here is unlike being raised on any other terrain. Raised in Gainesville, indie songwriter John Vanderslice is part of our state’s kids club, and although he moved to Maryland at 11, his ties to the south of the South supersede any connection he’s felt elsewhere, even his beloved current home in California.
“I’m a product of the South and I’m a product of Northern Florida, and that has made me in some ways – it might be an illusion, it might not be true – but it makes me feel a little bit different and maybe a little bit more unique,” Vanderslice says. “I do think it matters where you grew up. I grew up outside.
I grew up in the sun, outside, in Suwannee River, in the Atlantic Ocean, with a family that has been living in Florida since the beginning of time. That stuff, really, it’s part of your biology.”
Which is why Vanderslice is always sure to make it back here on his tours. His most recent album, Dagger Beach, is definitely inspired by California’s open spaces, though. But its pivotal track, “Song for David Berman,” discovers its haunted sadness not on any landscape, but in connecting with the somewhat recently retired Silver Jews frontman.
“I was really, really impacted by him leaving music,” Vanderslice says. “I don’t know why, but it really got me. It felt necessary, and it felt certainly rational, but it shook me in a way where you think, ‘Oh, this is temporal.’ Your favorite people definitely can make a decision to never play another show again, to never make a record again.”
Dagger Beach is Vanderslice’s ninth album, and his fans know him to be a tireless tour-driven musician, but he admits that after playing more than 1,000 shows, perhaps it’s time that he slowed down, too. Berman’s dismissal of music resulted in a somber epiphany for Vanderslice, a longtime fan of Berman’s who says he offered a model for the kind of songs Vanderslice wanted to create.
Check out this limited batch of event tickets, featuring tour photos Vanderslice took over the past decade.
“I just started aggregating all of these thoughts and feelings and images that I had of him, and it felt like the world was unfair and bullying to artists,” Vanderslice says. “To me and to everyone. And so I just wanted to write kind of a surrealist love letter. It’s a song of mourning about him withdrawing from music, which was a huge deal for me. He was kind of a guidepost as to how to make very personal and meaningful narrative records.”
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