You may think you don’t know Dave Eggar, cellist, composer and arranger, but if you listen to music at all, you probably have heard the sound of his cello at some point in your life. That’s because Dave Eggar is an extremely busy and prolific musician who has worked with numerous artists across many genres and styles, from classical, to world music, to rock, including recording and performing with bands such as Coldplay and Pearl Jam and a long time collaboration with Evanescence’s Amy Lee.
Fans of Phillip Phillips best know him as the creator of the beautiful cello and string arrangements on Phillip’s first album The World From The Side Of The Moon and as one third of Phillip’s wonderful acoustic trio. PhillPhillcom had the pleasure to interview Dave Eggar recently to talk about his inspiration and evolution as an artist, his collaboration on Phillip’s upcoming album Behind The Light and life as musician on tour. Check our interview below.
PhillPhill.com: We know you started playing music at a very young age. How did you start and when did you realize the cello would be the instrument for you?
Dave Eggar: I started playing the cello when I was 6 years old! It’s kind of a funny story. My mother really wanted me to be a concert violinist, so she enrolled me in those Suzuki violin classes for kid–you know–the ones where you march around holding the violin and play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”! Well I really hated it–so I smashed my violin (I know it’s immature)! For Christmas that year my mother bought me a cello and I took to it right away–it was kind of weird–it just fit me. Six months later I was playing the Brahms sonatas.
PhillPhill.com: Throughout your career you have worked with an incredible amount of musicians and artists in many different mediums and genres. Can you share a little about your evolution and inspiration as an artist?
DE: Until I was 21 I didn’t play any music except for classical–my whole family was classical musicians. However I was always improvising and writing songs. When I was a teenager I started to fall in love with rock music–especially Nirvana and Pearl Jam which became a major influence on my musical development. In my early 20’s I started to become fascinated with the use of the cello in other music. The cello is like a huge bowed fretless guitar–and I found very quickly that I loved the idea of re-imagining the instruments in different styles (jazz, rock, Persian music, South-East Asian folk music). Pretty soon I was on tour–even with some of my heroes–and I kind of didn’t look back!
PhillPhill.com: How did you get to work with Phillip for the first time? Can you tell us a little bit about your collaboration on Phillip’s first album, The World From The Side Of The Moon?
DE: I first met Phillip through his producer Gregg Wattenberg. Gregg is an incredible producer of pop music-and I have worked for him on many projects. Phillip and I just started jamming at the beginning of the first session–and I don’t know, it just clicked [and] we just kept playing. He’s my musical brother in a lot of ways. I loved his music immediately and found a voice for the cello in it right away. The first album was made very quickly (in about a month) and we all worked around the clock–it was a really amazing adventure.
PhillPhill.com: What do you look for in a song or a piece of music, either as a listener or as a musician? What is it about Phillip’s music that makes you want to play with him?
DE: I care about the story and the depth of emotion in a song. I also care about clarity of execution and intellectual detail in playing. I also love music that pulls together influences you would not normally find together. I really dig Phillip’s guitar patterns and melodies. I feel they have both directness and sophistication. I also love the emotional diversity of his songs and the tremendous dynamic of the live show–it’s rare that you will have an artist with a fragile acoustic song like “A Fool’s Dance” in the same show with an epic pop hit like “Raging Fire” and a rocking cover of “Thriller.” His shows keep us on our toes technically and I like that.
PhillPhill.com: Phillip’s second album, Behind The Light, is coming out in just a few weeks. How much did you get to play on this album? Can you walk us through the process of creating the cello or string arrangements for a song?
DE: Much like the first album, the process was very organic and very fast paced. I am really excited about the strings on the record (there are strings on most of the songs), as we were able to create a powerful diversity–some songs have a full rich orchestral arrangement (like “Raging Fire”) others are quirky and cool with an almost jazz or gypsy type use of the cello. Many times we would come back to a song a number of times tweaking it over and over till the parts were just perfect.
PhillPhill.com: How would you say this new album is different musically from The World From The Side Of The Moon? Did you approach your work differently this time? What is your favourite song that you got to work on in the album?
DE: I loved working on “Raging Fire”–and also some of the more striped down acoustic songs. I like “Face” a lot. It was great working on this album because I have done hundreds of shows with Phillip since the first album and I felt I understood his message and style much more. It was personally a very important album for me for that reason as well.
PhillPhill.com: The string arrangement on the album’s first single, “Raging Fire,” is beautiful and quite prominent. How did the strings came to be such an important part of the song?
DE: It was Gregg’s idea (and a brilliant one). We found a perfect blend of violins and cello that are reminiscent of Gustav Holst and Elgar–there was a moment where we found the perfect sound–you know when everyone looks at each other with a smile in the studio. I’m really excited about how that track turned out.
PhillPhill.com: You are a very busy musician, but fans were lucky to see you on the road with Phillip during his college tour last year. You have also played numerous shows with Phillip and Errol Cooney as part of an acoustic trio. How do you approach these two settings? Does your playing and arrangements change when playing with a full band?
DE: We are always playing. While we don’t rehearse all the time, we are always jamming on the bus, in the hotel, etc. The trio is a lot of fun because there is so much freedom. Errol is pretty much the best guitar player I have ever played with so I love when the three of us get to really stretch out. Full bands rock though, and that is tremendous fun!
PhillPhill.com: The video for “Where We Came From” was shot during the band’s stop at the Alaska State Fair last summer. How was it to record the music video for this song, in particular the “trio” version of the video?
DE: Haha—it was COLD! But a lot of fun. When we recorded on the mountain it was also very, very windy and the cello almost blew off the side of the cliff. The show itself was magical though–so many awesome fans and an unbelievable setting.
PhillPhill.com: Phillip’s shows are known for having a good amount of jamming and for their display of excellent musicianship. How much do you get to practice as a band before a tour or before a show? How much of what happens on stage is improvised and how much is rehearsed?
DE: We are always rehearsing. We set aside time before the tours for more structured rehearsals, but also, since Phillip does different groups of songs each night, we are always doing touch-up rehearsals on the bus, and trying new things at sound check. Some of the new songs emerged from things Phillip would teach us at sound check and then over months they developed into the new songs. It’s a very organic process.
PhillPhill.com: What song do you most like to play with Phillip? Among your performances, which one is the most memorable and why?
DE: I like all the songs, but some of my favorite to play are “Hold On,” “Tell Me a Story,” “Where We Came From,” and “A Fool’s Dance.” I feel I really connect to these songs and they have really challenging and fun cello parts. It was really amazing playing “A Fool’s Dance” at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. I had played the second to last concert of Michael Brecker, who was my teacher and mentor, on that stage and it was very meaningful for me to play on that stage with Phillip a song that meant a lot to me.
PhillPhill.com: We read recently that you play the Bach cello suites almost every day. Is this part of your daily practice or part of a special ritual for you? Do you have any special rituals or things you do before a show to get ready?
DE: I really love to practice classical music–I do it every day and it is really grounding for me; I love the balance and the subtlety of detail. It makes it easy for me to play all the other styles I play. I also am really into Karate, so sometimes I will do a Kata before going on stage. I also eat a lot of chocolate, which probably isn’t a good thing haha.
PhillPhill.com: Do you have any funny or interesting stories about life on tour with Phillip? What do you like to do on your days off when you are not playing or practicing?
DE: Man–we have a great time–we’re kind of like a family. It’s always fun. Phillip is a really down-to-earth guy, so it’s a great hang. We’ve finished a lot of video games on the bus too haha.
PhillPhill.com: We know you will be performing with your band Deoro in May. Will you be joining Phillip on his tour this summer?
DE: Yes, I will be touring with my own band in May with a collaboration we do with this really cool dance company called Hammerstep which fuses Irish Step dance and hip hop and then I will join Phillip in June for the tour with O.A.R. which will be awesome!!!
PhillPhill.com: You are an amazingly prolific artist and a huge inspiration to many other musicians. Do you have any tips or advice for beginning music students?
DE: Thanks so much for your kind statement. You always have to follow your dreams and be persistent no matter what anyone says. A lot of teachers told me the way I played the cello was different and strange and wouldn’t work. There was one very old teacher, Ardyth Alton, who was the person who accepted me into Juilliard when I was 9. I saw her years later when she was in her 90’s–she said: “Thank you for being different–I always knew you would be the one who would make a difference for the instrument.” There is really room for all artists, you just have to find your own way home, so to speak.