A lyrical musician who got his rise to popularity by playing next to campfires in front of intimate groups of friends sounds like the perfect biography from a born Coloradan. Not in David Burchfield’s case. The Kansas native, who takes inspiration from the likes of Gillian Welch and Joe Pug, may not have gotten his start here but he certainly fits the Colorado folk community.
A teacher by day, Burchfield straps up his guitar any time and anywhere he is not molding the minds of fourth graders at Centennial in Northwest Denver. With or without his band, which includes Neil McCormick — his right-hand man since age 11 — his goal in 2018 is to play 80 shows. We sat down with him to discuss his upcoming performances and to get more out of the man we see on stage.
303 Magazine: What brought you to Colorado?
David Burchfield: I am originally from Kansas. This is where my family vacationed and I wanted to live here since I was about five. I first moved here when I was 23. I had to leave for a bit, but I came back.
303: What put the guitar in your hand in the first place?
DB: I started playing when I was 12. My brother was playing guitar and I wanted to do it too. I mostly play guitar, and I am okay at banjo. 10 years ago I got really into old-time music, and banjo is a really big part of that. My friend built banjos and he helped me build mine.
About a year and a half ago, I was going to a friends house, driving my scooter. A guy turned in front of me, and I toppled over and broke my nose. It freaked me out and took a while to process, and I ended up writing a song. That experience made me really examine what I’m doing with my time, however much I might have. It made me want to reprioritize doing music more seriously.
303: You describe your music as Astral Americana. Can you expand on that?
DB: [Laughs] I made that up. My second record is called Perseids, like the meteor shower. During that time period, my group was doing epic, carefully arranged acoustic songs. The whole album was about the wonders of the universe and big questions like that. I still write folk music that is fascinated with big ideas.
303: You have a lot of shows coming up in the area. Do you normally play this often or are you experiencing a pick-up in performances?
DB: I wanted to play 80 shows this year, and I think I might depending on how the summer goes. I am trying to make a new record right now, so every dollar I make goes to that.
303: How often is the right amount of shows for you?
DB: I think I have hit the very threshold of sustainability. If the opportunity somehow came along to make this my full-time job, I would love that. But the way it is now, I don’t feel like I’m writing enough and I don’t feel like I am picking up the guitar at home enough.
303: Being of the folk genre, do you feel that Denver provides the kind of support that you are looking for?
DB: From what I hear from other scenes and other scenes that I have been a part of, this is a really supportive one. They help each other get gigs and make it really fun.
303: Are there areas for improvement?
DB: I feel like I am still getting to know some parts of the scene. I would like to see more opportunities for listening rooms for artists. I know that’s happening here and there but I just love that setting of three or four songwriters sitting around and taking turns.
303: What Denver venue is your favorite place to showcase a finished product?
DB: Hard to say, it depends on the night.
303: Have you had a favorite show?
DB: About a year ago I booked a last minute show opening for a band called The Way Down Wanderers. They were at Globe Hall, which is a great venue. They booked me last minute so no one in my band could come along. The audience was just… there and listening and digging it. It was just me and it was awesome. I love playing with a band, but that was a revealing moment for me because it showed me that I could keep an audience’s attention even if I’m up there alone.
303: What are you most excited for in the upcoming show at Cervantes with the excellent lineup of Andy Thorn and Greg Garrison of Leftover Salmon, Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic and Tyler Grant of Grant Farm?
DB: Cervantes’ is just a party, man. People really come out and they are real music fans. There is enough of a cover where anyone could go somewhere else, but they choose to go there for the great music. Also, to play with those headliners. It is crazy stacked. I don’t even know how we got that.
303: With all of these upcoming shows, what do you hope 2018 brings you?
DB: I want to get into the studio. I want to book a string of out of town dates. I don’t know where I’ll be going to, but I want to make something work.
303: What would you say to any readers who might be just getting into your music now?
DB: I’m excited to open this show for Alright Alright on 4/20 at Barfly. They’re friends of friends and I’m excited to meet them in person and play with them. That’s just another example of how interconnected and supportive the community of artists in Denver is.