North Bay native David Luning was playing piano and studying film scoring at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when his world turned upside down.
“I was hanging out with friends who lived in my apartment building and listening to music. They played me John Prine and Old Crow Medicine Show and Ryan Adams, stuff like that,” Luning says. “I had never really heard that music before, and I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.”
That spark of inspiration led Luning to drop out of Berklee, return to the North Bay and take up the guitar in a transformation from cinematic composer to Americana troubadour. Now a full-fledged rambling man, Luning presents his new album,
Restless, in concert on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma.
After relocating back to his hometown of Forestville, Luning built up a repertoire of country-tinged folk and assembled a backing band to join him on the road. His first album, Just Drop
on By, came out in 2012 to wide acclaim.
Luning says of his early songwriting aspirations that he wanted to “write about real things, and make it more honest. I just really loved creating layers in the lyrics.”
Coincidentally for the one-time film-score student, several songs from his first album found their way into films and television programs, propelling Luning onto larger and larger stages. A constant traveller, the songwriter has appeared at festivals all over the West Coast and has shared stages with the likes of Elvin Bishop and Robert Earl Keen.
Now with Restless, Luning rises to the occasion with a polished, confident collection of country rock and Americana music that’s both radio-ready and emotionally resonant. Luning credits some of the new sound to producer Karl Derfler, who has worked with Tom Waits and Dave Matthews.
“That was a huge learning curve,” says Luning. Although he was initially nervous about allowing an outside input into his music, he says Derfler quickly proved intuitive and supportive of his vision. “He knew where I wanted my music to be at, even before I knew it sometimes.”
Recorded at Panoramic House studios in West Marin, a stunning and sonically unique studio space, Restless moves from exuberant rock and roll to softly melodic ballads with ease, reflecting the record’s wandering themes with songs that act as character studies inspired by moments in Luning’s travels.
Those travels will continue after Luning’s album release show this week. “We’re going to play everywhere,” he laughs. “And all the time.”
David Luning performs on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Mystic Theatre,
23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8pm. $17–$22. 707.765.2121.