Over the course of his career, David Duchovny has been an award-winning actor, filmmaker, director and published author. But this past May, the man who’s name is synonymous with shows like “X-Files”, “Californication,” and “Aquarius” introduced himself to the music world with a hauntingly surreal debut album, Hell or Highwater.
Released to rave reviews, the twelve-song, alt/rock album represents Duchovny’s truest form of expression. And although the actor turned musical artist will be quick to tell you that he has no intention of ever being on the same level as his musical heroes, he still succeeds by releasing an honest album of reflection that’s a welcome treat in a world filled with mundane, techno-beat pablum.
In addition to gearing up for another season of filming his hit NBC show, “Aquarius”, as well as a new, six-episode revival of “X-Files”, Duchovny is about to embark on another round of East Coast concert dates. A tour which includes a stop at The Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
AXS recently spoke with David Duchovny about Hell or Highwater and his upcoming tour in this exclusive interview.
AXS: What made you decide to write and record an album?
David Duchovny: It was one of those things in my life that happened organically step-by-step. It actually came about a number of years ago when I decided to teach myself how to play guitar. As I was playing these great rock and roll songs I discovered that even though they were genius, they weren’t all that complicated to play. It was all about the melody. That’s when I thought maybe I’d be able to come up with some. So I began writing songs in my apartment. I also started working with Keaton Simons – who’s a friend of mine as well as a virtuoso musician. He introduced me to Brad Davidson at ThinkSay Records and Brad was the one who asked me about making an album.
AXS: A lot of people have described your music as singer/songwriter-based, folk or even an homage to ’90s rock. How would you describe your sound?
DD: It’s kind of hard to do. I’m just coming up with melodies and lyrics and putting them over chord progressions. I would imagine that since I love the late 60’s and 70’s rock of the Beatles, Stones, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Lou Reed that maybe I’m trying a few things that they did. But I’ve never consciously sat down and tried to sound like this guy or that guy.
AXS: What are some of the creative differences between writing and recording an album of music as opposed to working in film or television?
DD: When you’re acting, you’re really giving one part of a bigger whole. There’s so much more going on around your particular performance. With music, it’s more of a collaboration of the present moment between you and the musicians. These are musicians who are way more experienced and versatile than I am and can audition sounds and tempos or make me hear a song in a way that I may have never heard or intended.
AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?
DD: I do write down lines and things like that but usually don’t attach them to songs right away. Normally, I’ll just be putting chords together and then I’ll start to hear a melody over the chords I’m playing. That’s when I’ll try to fit some words into that space.
AXS: What was the driving influence behind the song, “Hell or Highwater”?
DD: One of my favorite songs is “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. He uses all of the D chords in a row and I really liked the way the D to D-major progression sounded. It was about how much I liked that sound and then playing around with it that influenced the way the line goes up at the end of the chorus. It made it really distinctive to me.
AXS: What can you tell me about the track, “Unsaid Undone”?
DD: “Unsaid Undone” actually started out as a phrase. In my mind, it was something that seemed very universal. In the sense that if you don’t speak up you leave things undone. The whole song ran from there. Then I remember playing it for the guys and saying, “This feels like it has a lot of energy and anger to it.” I really wanted you to feel the anger of the singer. That’s where the “punk” aspect of the song comes from.
AXS: Are there any songs on the album that are particularly special to you?
DD: “The Things” was the first song I wrote and was only just a few chords until Pat McCusker (who plays guitar in the band), came up with the riff that sounds late-’70s Tom Petty-ish. The whole song is about that riff and I’m grateful that Pat put it down there.
AXS: Are there any surprises fans can expect from your upcoming tour?
DD: There is one song that was left off the album called “Stay On The Train” that we play live. There’s also a few other new songs I’ve written that I’d like to start playing. Maybe that could be the surprise of these next concerts: new material that’s not on Hell or Highwater.
AXS: Speaking of new material, do you plan to record another album at some point?
DD: I’d love too. It’s weird because I never thought I’d ever write a song or make an album and now I’m sitting around thinking, ‘Now I’ve got to write songs for a new album!” [laughs].
AXS: What have you enjoyed the most from the process of making Hell or Highwater?
DD: It’s been humbling and gratifying to be able to put a song in front of friends that I’m playing with and after a few hours of batting it around it becomes a whole different thing. It’s better and yet it’s still the same. I’m constantly amazed at the collaborative aspect of music.
AXS: What other projects are you working on?
DD: I have a new novel about Bucky Dent that’s coming out in April and I’ll also begin shooting the second season of “Aquarius” in LA in a few weeks. That will come out sometime next summer.
AXS: Can you give me an update on what fans can expect from the new “X-Files” series that’s coming in January?
DD: We did six episodes and I would say three of them are in the arc of the mythology of the long-running conspiracy that we used to refer to in the show and the other three are stand-alone, “monster of the week” episodes. It was a tough line to walk because we had to make it available to people who may have never seen the show before but also not bore the people who love the show by going over the same old ground. I think there’s going to be enough new surprises and enough nods to old stuff to satisfy everyone.
David Duchovny will perform at The Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Showtime is 8 p.m.