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Coffee Cups to 10 Tracks

Steaming coffee cups. Espresso Presses. Caffeine Powered People. In this day and age the coffee shop has become a haven for all people including the dedicated creatives and corporate professionals. When I moved to Ojai, California in 2015 I encountered a coffee shop like no other that I didn’t know would set up my musical journey for tghe next years to come. At Full of Beans Coffee House I met the owner Dave and gave him my undercover demo CD that had popular covers on it and asked him to consider me for performing. This coffee house, a mustard yellow building sitting on grassy acres was a staple of the community drawing in tourists even those from the UK who would say “they looked forward to their Christmas trips every year when they could visit F.o.B.”.

Dave ended up giving me a call and let me know he loved my CD and wanted me to play at Full of Beans. Although it was just for $50 on a Sunday morning at a coffee shop, I was grateful for the opportunity and this would be the second place I would get to appear since moving to Ojai. Dave’s favorite song is “Sweet Melissa” so each time I performed on Sunday’s I'd begin my set with that song. (Stream "Melissa" here)

On my first or second time playing at FOB I met Jon Paquet who played guitar and harmonica. He was a great friend and eventually helped me get a few gigs but he also was adamant that I meet an Ojai native Martin Young. I learned that Martin was a fantastic producer and guitarist who was a lead player for Country legend Clint Black who did the classic record “Killin’ Time”. He would become an amazing musician to team up and record with on projects. He has a studio that sits up in the hill of Ojai where we periodically recorded vocal and guitar tracks for the "Suspend" recording.

While still performing at FOB I met Robin Pitigliano who was a singer/songwriter who came to sets. Like Jon, Robin was able to help me get gigs, learn about the area, and introduced me to other musicians. She recommended a percussionist and producer who worked for SonyTV for many years named Jeff Gross. Eventually Jeff came out to see me play at FOB and said he liked my performance style and we stayed in touch.

I felt grateful and lucky to be in this position to be able to consistently perform at FOB and meet amazing people. These small moments would be the dots that would connect to the evolution of creating a future project.

Then, after two years of performing solo gigs from Malibu to Moro Bay, I decided to place an ad for an improvisational sax player who could play “any key, anytime, any song, anywhere” on the South Central coast. Christian Choh answered the ad and then showed up at Casa Escobar on a Friday night in Malibu to perform with me. He was fantastic live and was just the person I needed to connect with while playing.

Over time I had completed 10 tracks with vocals and guitar vocals, so I was trying to think up with unique ways to get the full recording complete and adding different sounds. I invited Christian to lay down saxaphone elements against the tracks, as I first thought I would make the record simple. Just he and I and percussion. His parts were perfect for the recording. (Stream "California Dreaming of You" here.)

Then I contacted Jeff and told him we were cutting a new record and needed a unique percussion sound to go with the beaches and harbors I'd been traveling. He liked the idea and offered to play the Udu and additional percussion and mix the parts. I also added the bass parts myself on a fretless uke bass.

The sound for those tracks had a great, simple, fat tone and Jeff added great rhythm to the track on the udu making it sonically sound like harbor boats on the songs.

The record, with the additional of help from these players and Martin, who came performed on “The Name” and “Little Ones", took the project from a simple snapshot to a production. I told everyone that I was so grateful for the work everybody has done on my barebones budget, including Jon who took an EP role in helping me get the original recording endeavor from a simple demo idea to a completed production allowing a handful of fantastic musicians to come together.

Adding to the crew we also featured Rob Smith, who I had met in Little Rock Arkansas based on a Craiglist ad, played dobro, mandolin, and guitar on “Suspend”, “Ojai Storm”, “Little Ones”, “I Hope Were Wrong”, and “A Cool Breeze”. Rob was a young kid with the best feel I’ve ever heard and carries an A-list skill set.

Needing a drum kit on “I Wish You Would Come” and on “I Hope We’re Wrong”, we have reached out to Jeff’s buddy, Mike Holowatch to perform on brush kit. The session was fantastic and Mike put his heart on line. I could see it in his emotions as I sat right beside him when he recorded. The leader of his band, Veronica, from The Replicas, also contributed to the vocal chorus in “Little Ones”. 

While still working on the recording a doing gigs, I was playing at Deep Sea Tasting Room in Santa Barbara, where I met a musician named Russ Dougherty, who introduced me to Lorenzo Martinez who performs on percussion. He told me Lorenzo had worked with Santana and would be fantastic choice for enhancing the percussion on the recording. Another layer to the recordings, Lorenzo added his style with congas and djembe to the songs “A Cool Breeze” and “Little Ones” at Jon Paquet’s house. He brought such a patient and positive spiritual energy that I appreciate him bringing to the record.

The evolution of writing and creating “Suspend” was a long journey that helped me vent, meet new people, and create to heal. The people I met like Dave, the owner of FOB who let me play many Sundays through the business being sold in 2018. I was the last musician to play Full of Beans.

I’m thankful to all of the musicians like Martin, Choh, Jeff, Rob, Mike and Lorenzo who would become essential parts of the record. I even want to acknowledge my ex lover for the lyrics and emotion, and the clients who booked me to perform on coastal towns. Full of Beans in Ojai, was the catalyst for the production of the record “Suspend”. 

The “Mark David - Suspend” project is a collection of 10 songs, 10 parts, 10 stories, that define my experience and express the emotional journey I went through, in separation from a long marriage.

Lesson learned? Never overlook a $50 coffee house gig.

You can stream Suspend here!


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