David Easterling, a resident of Oak Ridge, describes himself as an Americana singer/songwriter/storyteller whose “folky Appalachian tales are often comedic, sometimes a little bit scary, but always connecting with the head and the heart.”
“I simply write songs that tell loving, sad, mysterious, and humorous stories, but I usually try to write with deeper levels between the lines for those who want that,” Easterling said when asked to elaborate. “My songs are often tinged with folk, faith, bluegrass, country, roots, swampy, blues, outlaw and even rock elements. Plus, I try to use comedy as much as I can.”
Apparently he’s succeeded. Easterling’s released six CDs of original music, in addition to two studio albums that are nearly completed and a pair of live albums that scheduled for the near future. He also receives ample exposure on YouTube, Facebooks and other social media outlets. In addition to tours both Stateside and oversees, he’s a festival favorite, having appeared at a number of venues and gatherings of particular prominence.
Easterling, who performs Saturday at The Abbey, cites such influences as John Prine, John McCutcheon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, The Eagles, The Beatles, John Denver, and Peter, Paul & Mary, but he also insists that his inspiration comes from everyday existence.
“Telling stories of love, loss, faith, redemption, and the everyday strangeness and ironies in life in my music are what keeps me writing,” Easterling said. “In the last 2 ½ years alone, I have written or co-written over 360 songs with musicians in ten different countries. I connect with them on Zoom and we write on Google docs in real time. My wife Laurie is a frequent co-writer and has recently begun performing in concert as well.”
Having lived in East Tennessee for over thirty years, Easterling said that his music leans on the roots of folk and Appalachian music in the form of story songs. “There is an added plus in co-writing and sharing the stage with dozens of fantastic singer songwriters from this area over the past few years,” he said. “Our area is more than just country music. I also write with folk, gospel, bluegrass, roots, swampy, blues, outlaw and rock musicians. Every kind of music can be found somewhere from time to time. I know about 40 musicians who are all supportive friends, and we often share gigs and songwriter nights together.”
Easterling’s enthusiasm also extends to The Abbey. “The Abbey is one of my all-time favorite places to play,” he said. “Whether we’re playing out on the large patio by the river when the weather is nice or inside in the chapel, the audiences are always enthusiastic and welcoming of my music. I recorded one concert there on my birthday last year of Spooky Songs Live that has just been released on CD. And there is a Christmas concert we recorded there that we will put out next year. Owners Janice and Steve Fillmore and their whole staff are always fantastic and very welcoming. The food and drinks are great. Locals and visitors to the area always have a blast.”
Although Easterling often collaborates with other songwriters, from Nashville and Knoxville to Scotland, Ireland, and Austria, his outreach encompasses more than music. His commitment to the community extends to his involvement in Habitat for Humanity and the KARM stores serving a spiritual purpose. In addition, he recently participated in the Oak Ridge Street Painting Festival that raised funds for scholarship grants. As a touring musician for the past twelve years, he’s encouraged audiences to sponsor children in need through the World Vision International organization. In addition, he was once employed as a spiritual advisor at Cornerstone of Recovery.
Nevertheless, his music remains of prime importance, and his upcoming appearance at The Abbey is no exception. “I’ll play some songs from the new album, a lot of funny songs and even a few that folks can sing along with,” he said. “I talk with the audience quite bit and try to make every evening of stories and songs a meaningful experience for all who graciously share their time with me and my music. I also plan to have a couple of surprise guests show up to sing a few as well.”
Easterling has other appearances slated, including his annual Christmas concert at The Abbey on Dec. 16.
“Getting to network and hang out with songwriters and creative musicians around East Tennessee has been such a pleasure and an honor,” Easterling said. “I’m truly grateful for all the people who have encouraged me and joined me on this adventure.”