INTRODUCTION: David Christopher (AKA David Lourim) worked with Eva Cassidy in the late 1980s. They made an album together with a band entitled METHOD ACTOR.
Question: How did you meet Eva?
David Christopher: Eva and I grew up together, more or less. We both attended Bowie Senior High although she was a year ahead of me. Her brother Dan and I were friends originally. We used to play music in the hallways, I’d play guitar and he’d play violin, and people would throw money at us. Dan and I would get together after school, trying to make a band. I had heard Eva sing with him in another band. I remember the first time I heard her sing she did a Heart song called “Crazy On You,” and I was amazed at how much she sounded like Ann Wilson. So I asked Dan if she would be interested in performing with us. He asked her, and she agreed to do it. That’s how the band Stonehenge came to be.
Question: Stonehenge was a progressive rock band, right?
David Christopher: It became that, it started out less progressive but as the people in the band got better and better they started getting into more and more challenging music. The band had a lot of talented people, they joked about having the best high school band ever. Some of the other people involved besides me and Eva were Larry Melton (bassist), Ned Judy (keyboardist), Mark
Merella (drums) and Dan.
Question: What did you think of Eva at that time?
David Christopher: I always thought she was amazing, she was gifted with a fabulous voice but she also knew proper technique, which is what makes her so special.
Question: How did Stonehenge move into Method Actor?
David Christopher: It didn’t. I stopped working with Stonehenge while I was still in high school. They left me behind, at least in terms of how far I wanted to go with music. Eva was with the band longer than I was and I don’t know how the band stopped. Some of the members went out to California to study music and I think it kind of stopped at that point. Method Actor was kind of my pet project, I guess, a few years later. When I first started trying to write songs and record them in a 24-track environment it just kind of became Method Actor, and the people who helped me when I was recording became part of the band.
Question: Did you write songs especially for Eva’s voice?
David Christopher: Not really, I was just learning how to do it, experimenting with different instruments and sounds. She sang on them because we were friends, she was the first person I asked and, fortunately for me, she happened to say yes. I would never tell her what to sing beyond a basic melody, she would improvise the lead vocal and do all the harmonies making them very special with what she added to them.
We built up more and more material and decided that we wanted to try to do something with it, let record companies hear it, so it became a band out of what I was writing. A friend of mine had recorded stuff at Chris Biondo’s studio and recommended Chris to me, so I went over, met Chris, talked with him a while and we started doing recordings. Then I brought Eva over. She was nervous about the whole process, she was always always nervous in those situations where she wasn’t in control of what was going on. You’ve heard the story before, she stayed outside, Chris came out, kidded around with her, got her to come in, the rest is history I guess.
Question: Talk about that album, METHOD ACTOR.
David Christopher: The music is kind of pop-rock oriented, certainly not what you would ordinarily think of when you think of Eva. But there are recordings of Eva doing all different styles, because Eva would sing anything if people asked her, I even have a tape of rap she did for someone.
Question: Someone asked me about Eva’s rap recordings and whether they were full of colorful language.
David Christopher: The only time she said bad language was when something mechanical broke down, like her car, or when she was goofing off. When Chris would record her and was trying to set levels, he used to tell her to curse real loud so he could make sure the compression was right. That was always funny.
Question: Some of Eva’s drawings are on the cover of the METHOD ACTOR album.
David Christopher: I asked her if she was interested in doing something for the album cover. She had all these characters she drew, she called them friends of hers, they all had names. She glued the different drawings onto one sheet of paper, we copied it onto the gold-colored paper and she colored it in.
Question: I saw the good review in the Washington Post, what else happened with that album?
David Christopher: Not a whole lot, my primary interest was in getting record companies to hear it, we never really tried to sell it, it was something we used to send out. We played around town some, we even played at the Bayou a few times in 1988. The guy who booked the club liked us and tried to get us a record deal with Sire/Warner Bros. On the night they came to hear us, we just had a miserable evening with nothing going right. The people from the record company were there sitting in the balcony watching us perform. Halfway through we saw them get up and go backstage to talk with somebody else, we were like “Aaaah, forget it!” They ended up signing a band called “The Judybats” who played after us.
It wasn’t too long after that when we all came to the realization that Eva wanted to go in a different direction, she wanted to record the music that she was interested in, she didn’t want to commit to what we were doing because if we got a record company deal she would be locked into it.
Question: What was it that she did want to do?
David Christopher: Blues, folk, whatever you would consider the stuff on EVA BY HEART to be, she didn’t have any particular blueprint but wanted to do all kinds of things. She had so much talent, something would have happened eventually. She could have been famous any time she wanted, but, it seemed to me that she didn’t really want it. It was as if every time she had a chance to do something, she would make sure it never really happened. Most people, would compromise to some extent if it meant getting what they wanted in the end. Compromise doesn’t always really mean “selling out.” But Eva would say “No, I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to do that.” You can call it artistic integrity but you can also cut off any chance of having success that way.
Bruce Lundvall of “Blue Note Records,” he loved her voice. I felt he would have done anything with her, but all he wanted was for her to choose one genre or style to work in, and she just refused to do it. That’s the sad part about it, she could have had a lot more success when she was alive than she did. It’s nice to see that she is having that success now, that people have a chance to hear that voice.
Question: What do you like best of Eva’s recordings?
David Christopher: My favorite, not including my stuff, is the album with Chuck Brown. I played guitar on “God Bless the Child,” which was the first song she did in that vein. I happened to be there and Chris said “Hey, grab a guitar.” I think it was Chuck Brown hearing that song that inspired the album THE OTHER SIDE.
Eva recorded a lot of different music because she loved it. When she had to sing in front of an audience, though, she really hated it. But if you asked her to be a background singer for a performance she changed, she’d do the dance steps with the other singers, she’d relax and have fun. She didn’t like the pressure of being in front.
The last time I saw Eva before her illness was at Fleetwoods, Mick Fleetwood’s club in Alexandria. Mick was there and sat in with her on a couple of songs. That was a nice evening. I was also at the tribute concert at the Bayou and was blessed to hear her final performance. As sad a night as that was, I felt like it was her finest moment on stage. She was joking and seemed so relaxed and I think she was genuinely moved by the love she got from the audience.
Question: What are you doing now?
David Christopher: I’m a husband and a father, I’ve got a boy who turns 2 in June who takes up most of my free time. I’ve also been working on the songs that I recorded with Eva, reworking them with the help of Tony Taylor (a producer and songwriter who also recorded some music with Eva).
Question: Are you still writing songs?
David Christopher: I still do a little bit of it and will probably get into it more when my son is older, especially if he takes a liking to music.
Question: Thank you, David Christopher, for your time.
For more information about METHOD ACTOR, see the METHOD ACTOR PAGE.
Copyright 1999 by Laura Bligh and David Christopher. If you would like to use sections of this interview for an article about Eva, please ask for permission.