Snapshot: David Berkeley, songwriter, writer

David Berkeley. Photos: Pete Rosos

By Pete Rosos

David Berkeley is an acclaimed songwriter with five albums under his belt. He was a guest on “This American Life” and tours all over America and beyond. Berkeley was a student of philosophy and literature at Harvard, worked for “Outside” magazine, has guided whitewater rafting trips, and has taught public school. Last January he published a book of essays entitled “140 Goats and a Guitar” which tells the stories behind the songs on his newest album. Berkeley lives in Berkeley with his wife and two sons. He plays at the Subterranean Art House in Berkeley on January 21st at 8:00 pm.

When did you arrive in Berkeley?
Last August. But given my name (which is actually my middle name) it feels like I’ve been here for quite a bit longer.

What’s your hood?
West Berkeley, I suppose.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oddly, I don’t think I thought about it that much. I’m not sure what that says, as my 5-year old talks all the time about the seven things he wants to be. At some point, though, pretty early on, I started wanting to write. And I sang all the time when I was little. I think I always wanted to be onstage.

Where and when are you happiest?
Do I have to name just one? Reading to my son. Coming up with a new melody. Singing to a silent room. Tending a fire.

Which living person do you most admire?
I think we’d all probably say Herman Cain, no?

What drives you mad?
The 4-way stop heading into the Marina at the end of University. Well, that and Congress.

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
I’d only need about three hours of sleep a night.

Who, or what, is the love of your life?
Sarah’s been the love of my life since I met her on our first day of college. She shares the title now with our two boys, Jackson and Noah.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I can tell you the most recent crazy thing, which is that I just returned from Las Vegas where I was hired to perform a surprise serenade for a couple taking a gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel. After my singing, the guy got down on his knee and proposed. It’s actually not the first time I’ve done this (though it was the first time in Vegas). Including my own proposal, I’m batting 100.

What three things would you take to a desert island?
See answer to number 8. If it’s cheating to bring people, I could answer like Dwight from [TV show] “The Office”: a hunting knife, strike-anywhere matches and sunscreen. Or how about my guitar, a huge blank book and some kind of pen that never dries up?

What does Berkeley mean to you?
Amazing food. Proximity to great hiking and beaches. Crisp mornings and nights. Fog and eucalyptus trees. The Greek Theater.

If you didn’t live in Berkeley, where would you live?
We spent a year living in Corsica in a tiny mountain village (pop. 38) while my wife did field work for her PhD in anthropology. I’d go back there.

Berkeleyside’s “Snapshot” column, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, is an occasional series by Pete Rosos in which we take a moment to get to know some of Berkeley’s most interesting people. Rosos is a freelance photographer, husband, and father of two who lives in south Berkeley. Previous Snapshots: Urban Ore founder Dan KnappJessica Williams, owner of Brushstrokes Studio, and Doris Moskowitz, owner, Moe’s Books. Let us know in the Comments who you would like to see featured here.

Print Friendly
Tagged
  • Berkeley friend

    Arlene Blum.  As a mountaineer, she led the first American—and all-women’s—ascent of Annapurna;  as a scientist, she was instrumental in banning Tris, the carcinogenic chemical used as a flame retardant on children’s sleepwear;  she founded and leads the Green Science Policy Institute, which provides unbiased scientific data to government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to facilitate more informed decision-making about chemicals used in consumer products.