David Berkeley Keeps Moving

Music Features David Berkeley
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Hometown: Atlanta
Album: Strange Light
For Fans Of: David Gray, Damien Rice, Josh Ritter

Tucked between a cellist and a trumpeter on stage at Decatur, Ga., acoustic hotspot Eddie’s Attic, singer/songwriter David Berkeley is singing like he means it. “Homesick is hard when you don’t know just where it is where you call home.” It’s an appropriate sentiment for a guy who’s lived in every corner of the country; who’s spent the last 15 months in Tralonca, a tiny village just outside of Corsica, France; and who’s back in the States playing 22 shows in 20 days.

“There are 35 people who live there and basically nothing else,” he says of his adopted village, sitting in a coffee shop down the street from Eddie’s. “There’s a bread truck that comes every morning and a meat truck that comes once a week and a fish truck that comes once a week. We can go into the city, but it’s like living in a different era—goats and sheep all around.”

His sojourn was oddly timed, as his career was just beginning to pick up steam. He’d appeared on radio programs like World Cafe and Mountain Stage, and songs from his 2004 album After the Wrecking Ships were getting played on radio and TV shows. His follow-up, Strange Light, was already recorded with Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter) in Chicago and ready for release.

But in some ways, it made perfect sense. Berkeley’s wife was studying village traditions for her PhD in anthropology, and he was able to spend his time off the road with his son, who’d just turned one. It also suited the same wanderlust that made him think he’d be a travel writer before he ever started writing songs. After a stint as a river-rafting guide in Idaho, he moved to New Mexico to work for Outside magazine, hiking in various locales and writing about his adventures. He then moved to Brooklyn and started teaching creative writing at an impoverished public school, while writing travel pieces on the side and playing his songs in local clubs.

“As music started to pick up, I had less and less time to pitch stories,” he says. “I was doing three things and ended up having to make a choice. Ultimately, it became a choice between music and teaching. I chose music, but maybe I’ll return to teach at some point in my life. I hope I will. Sometimes I feel selfish about being a musician, and other times I feel like music is the highest calling.”

After finally releasing Strange Light, Berkeley will move back to Atlanta in early 2009 for his wife to finish school. After that, he says, who knows where he’ll go?

Listen to David Berkeley on DavidBerkeley.com.