Tahoe Onstage recently tracked down the bandleader of the David Luning Band. He had just returned to Northern California in a non-stop drive halfway across the country.
“We drove 30 hours straight,” Luning said. “We drove from Kansas City to Sonoma. We were attending the Folk Alliance Conference out there and playing showcases and meeting a bunch of industry people and festival presenters. It was incredibly fun; exhausting, but super fun.”
Hosting a variety of players from the folk and Americana music industry, the Folk Alliance Conference saw 3,000 people arrive in Kansas City to play, promote and discuss their lives’ passion.
“It’s wild man,” Luning said. “We played six showcases; what they do is they have official showcases where they set you up with a stage and a P.A. system in a conference room or something like that, in a hotel. But the other showcases are private showcases, in hotel rooms.
The Kansas City trip was only the most recent leg of Lunning’s musical journey.
He was drawn to music as a young child, studying the piano beginning at age 5. He had a number of bands in high school, and then attended U.C. Santa Cruz, studying music.
In 2007, he transferred to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was there that he first became exposed to Americana music, hearing the likes of John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Dylan and Guy Clark for the first time.
“I hadn’t heard any of this music,” Luing said. “I was like ‘Holy shit, I need to do this for my career.’ The only thing that I can say is when I heard it, it clicked with me like no music has clicked with me, it just felt real; the humor, the wit, the heartfelt lyrics, It connected with me in such a way that I just knew that it was what I had to do.”
Luning began playing and writing extensively in his newfound style, including a song called “Northern California” about my troubles in Boston.
While his parents were initially against this new direction in his music career and warned him to stay in school, Luning returned to California and explained that he needed to take this step for himself. When they heard “Northern California,” they were sold, and gave him their blessing.
After playing solo for some time, Luning decided to add a b assist and a drummer to his act. This lineup only lasted two months.
It was 2010 when his band truly solidified. Luning played one show in Sebastopol, with Dave Sampson (guitar, mandolin), Ben Dubin ( bass), and Linden Reed (drums), calling the group Hot Monk.
“The group really came together,” Luning said. “We all thought ‘yeah, this works.’ After that those were the go-to guys.”
Luning still performs solo shows, but plays with the group as the David Luning Band.
DLB is currently at work on its second record, the follow up to 2012’s “Just Drop on By.” This second album should provide a marked development of the band’s sound in recent years.
“There are more complex arrangements, there are more vocal harmonies,” Luning said. “In terms of production-wise it’s a little grittier.”
Now, the band is turning its focus to the summer touring season, with the goal of touring more regionally. Aside from a run in the Houston area and the trip to Kansas City, DLB is still working on breaking into markets east.
“We just talked to a bunch of festival promoters in the Midwest,” Luning said. “We would love to get out there for sure.”