Interview: David Gerald Sutton

83-atxl (1)Born in Illinois, David Gerald Sutton came to Minnesota to attend McNally Smith College of Music after taking up the violin at age 10. His music is a unique blend of violin loops and effects, allowing a wide spectrum of sound from symphonies to pop anthems. Post-graduation, David was one of 6 commissioned artists in the second year of the Cedar Commissions (formerly the 416 Club Commissions). During this project, he presented a concept album about the effects of Alzheimer’s.  He released his EP, “Communion,” in 2014, and he will be at The Cedar this Friday, December 2nd for the release show of his first full-length album, “Here I Remain.” We spoke with David in advance of his show; tickets are still available here

Q: You released your EP, “Communion,” in 2014. What does the upcoming release of your first full-length album “Here I Remain” mean to you?
A: Releasing this record is so exciting for me. Communion was the beginning of my sound as a composer and musician, and Here I Remain is about seeing how far I could stretch what I do. I wrote two legitimate pop songs with vocals on this one, as well as some of the same sound from Communion with the instrumental pop. Lastly, there is some heavy film score influence as well. It was a great exercise in writing for me, and I’m excited to send it out and see what people like.


Q: You are considered to be “well-versed in classical and jazz genres,” but you currently focus on a unique pop style that shows off the immense versatility of the violin. How has your experience with jazz and classical music influenced the way you approach creating your own music?
A: The Jazz element comes out a lot in the writing process. Most, if not all, of my song ideas started as improvised pieces that were created performing at the airport, weddings, and a lot of my gigs/performances. They were ideas that felt right for that space, for those people, in that exact moment, and then if I remembered the loop the next day, I knew it was something to refine and craft into a full fledged song. The classical element seeps into my work in a lot of ways, from the arrangement of the strings parts, to the harmonic movement in songs like Creases and Surrender from the new album. I think the biggest way it manifests in what I do now is that it helps me focus on making sure the listener can feel the emotions or situations I’m creating in the music; painting the right picture, as it were, especially when most of my music is instrumental.


Q: You are known for looping, layering, and adding effects to your violin to create a completely unique sound. How did you get into this style, and how has it evolved?
A: I got into looping and effects with the violin by wanting to imitate other violinists I admire that used electronics with their instruments: Jean-Luc Ponty (jazz violinist) and Andrew Bird (Chicago singer/songwriter) are great examples. As I went down that path, it just got bigger. It started to make me think like a producer and arranger all the time, trying to craft the perfect loops and layers. In its current evolution, I can play on my own at weddings since I can loop and layer all the string parts for pieces like Canon in D. I’ve even toured with a couple bands (The Honey Trees is one such band, Sucre is another) where I was their one-man orchestra. On the one hand, it’s hard to justify a single violinist or cellist in a band, or afford a full string section on the other. However, if you can offer a string section in one person, that opens a lot of doors for you and for the people looking for opportunities to use strings.


Q: You grew up in Illinois but moved to the Twin Cities to attend McNally Smith College of Music. What made you stick around in Minneapolis after graduation? How has the music scene of Minneapolis affected your own music?
A: I stuck around because it felt like I needed to refine my craft where I started learning it. Minneapolis is amazing at giving space for new artists to grow, in a way that I don’t think many other cities do really well right now. The community is so close knit, and there’s amazing support between fellow creatives in what we are doing together. There may be travel in my future, but being in Minnesota during this time was absolutely the best decision, in my opinion.


Q: Who do you think are the most underrated musicians in the Twin Cities that everyone should check out?
A: John Chuck and the Class are amazing dudes. Jessica Manning has been doing some great stuff. Nomad is up and coming to be a great twin cities band. There’s always great stuff happening here, I love seeing all these new projects popping up.