By Nicholas Jason Lopez
On May 8, 2020, Los Angeles singer/songwriter/guitarist David Haerle put out his 15-track sophomore effort ‘Death Valley,’ considered by the artist to be a “culmination” of where his inspirations took him – a rollercoaster of tempos and emotions.
Prior to the release, Haerle emerged with four singles/music videos for “Go Do That With Sharon,” “The Free Show,” “Edendale” and “Romy And Michele.”
Born in a German family already rooted in the country music industry, Haerle has served as president of the Country Music Heritage Label Group since age 24 when he took over after his father passed away. As a result, Haerle’s music career had taken a backseat in order to properly run the label, but he never truly put down the guitar and has now returned to his passion to perform and release original music.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Haerle about ‘Death Valley’ and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Los Angeles to someone who has never been there before?
David Haerle – Like I say in my song, “I Have A Crush,” what you’re looking for I bet can be found here in Los Angeles. People come to LA from all corners of the world to look for opportunity, to pursue a dream. My dad was from Germany and he was one of those people. The cliché that you can get to a beach, high snow-covered mountains or the vast arid desert in a matter of hours is true. Our landscape has two distinct color tones, the green LA of the winter and spring, that trails off into brown through the summer and fall. Both beautiful in their own way. The city is vast with so many different neighborhoods, communities and languages spoken. We are a microcosm of the world. Unfortunately, there are great disparities here in wealth and income and we have many people who are homeless and living on the streets. This level of inequality will take our collective efforts to remedy, both here and across our entire nation.
Music Bugle – What advantages would you say come from being a singer, songwriter and guitarist?
David Haerle – I love my time alone in the morning composing. Being able to write lyrics and then match them up with chord progressions and melodies I sing, is a real joy. I know pretty quickly whether something will work and be interesting, at least to my own ears. If it passes muster with me, I take it into the recording process and ultimately the band.
Music Bugle – What inspired the name ‘Death Valley’ for your sophomore album?
David Haerle – Death Valley National Park is my favorite place on earth. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, often in the summer when German relatives would visit. I find my spirit lifted when I visit. Death Valley puts me in close touch with something much greater than myself. I was intent on making a physical album and we went pretty elaborate. Working with Aaron Murtagh – art director – and Jennifer Cuellar – illustrator – we created a two and a four panel foldout and a 24-page booklet, featuring many of Jennifer’s illustrations inspired by the landscape and feel of Death Valley.
Music Bugle – How would you compare your newer music to your earlier?
David Haerle – Hopefully, I am growing as a songwriter and an artist. The process of writing and making music has become more fluid for me and even more fun. I feel freer, trusting in my own process, quick to put a lyrical idea on paper even if I’m not 100 percent sure it will work. I get as many ideas down as I can and then swim with and let myself be carried by the current of the creative process.
Music Bugle – Out of the music videos you have made so far, which one stands out the most to you?
David Haerle – I loved making “Go Do That With Sharon.” I took a couple road trips on my own for that video. Those were real adventures visiting places like Area 51, Slab City and the abandoned Lake Delores Waterpark. Watching the video brings up those good memories of being on the road with just me, my Subaru and my camera. I also want to mention “Romy and Michele” since that is the first real “music video” with my band outside of the studio. We had a lot of fun shooting it on location at Venice Beach.
Music Bugle – What would you say has been the hardest challenge to overcome in your life?
David Haerle – I am in recovery from obsessive compulsive disorder, commonly called OCD. I’ve suffered much in my life much from it. The good news is that many years ago, a loved one directed me to the proper treatment for OCD, called exposure response prevention or ERP. It is highly effective, so there is plenty of hope for sufferers. I love the regular support group I attend for my fellow OCD folks and almost never miss a meeting. Sadly, the average time between onset of symptoms and finding proper treatment is 14-17 years. In addition to the cornerstone of ERP, appropriate medication can be an essential part of treatment for many OCD sufferers. For any of your readers who may have OCD or know a loved one who suffers does, I want to give a shout out to the IOCDF – International OCD Foundation – as a resource.
Music Bugle – Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you in any way?
David Haerle – For me personally, there have been some positive things. Since recording with my engineer and band came to a halt, I turned more energy to writing new songs and improving lyrics on ones in production. I have enjoyed more time at home with my partner Erica. We make sure to get out for walks and bike rides. The downside is I miss the things we are all missing. The separation and not being able to get together in person with friends and family. I really feel for people who have been taking a direct hit in terms of their work and livelihood.
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to talk one-on-one with one of your musical influences, who would you choose?
David Haerle – Frank Zappa. I’d tell him how much his improvised guitar solos have inspired me, but then I’d also want to talk to David Bowie, Eddie Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Toni Iommi and Merle Haggard mostly to tell them thank you for being my inspirations and impacting my life so positively.
Music Bugle – What frustrates you the most about today’s music industry?
David Haerle – As an artist, I am just happy to be making music at this stage of my life. Thrilled that musicians and artists can have the possibility of reaching a global audience online. I also own a record label that my late father started in the 70s, though our primary business in unrelated to what I do as an artist. We’ve managed to find our niches in the music industry and operate in our little corner of the world. This is a minor thing, but I did love being a kid and holding an LP in my hands while listening to the music of my heroes. Pouring over every credit, taking in every square inch of the artwork. Younger generations often don’t have that same experience with music.
Music Bugle – What’s something people should know about you as a person?
David Haerle – I’ve already mentioned my OCD. I’ll add that recovery from the effects of alcoholism running in my family has played a major role in my life. Both my parents were alcoholics and thankfully both did recover, but alcoholism affects the whole family. I think most people have a cross or two to bare of some kind. Those burdens can sometimes lead to deep insights and changes of attitude or perspective, which then can become a positive in one’s life. Aside from that, I can drive and operate tractors and back-up a car at high speed.