Worked with artists The National, Sufjan Stevens, Taylor Swift, Mumford & Sons, Joanna Newsome, Jonsi, Local Natives, Lonney Holley, Steve Coleman, John Adams, Martha Wainwright, and many others.
Performer, producer, arranger, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Dave Nelson works extensively as a session player, often arranging and recording remotely from his personal studio in Upstate, NY.
Born and raised in Georgia, Dave moved to NYC in 2006 where quickly established himself as a go-to trombonist in the burgeoning crossover scene of indie rock and contemporary classical of late 2000’s/early 2010’s Brooklyn. This led to ongoing collaborations with artists like The National, Sufjan Stevens, Beirut and Nico Muhly alongside his work in the NYC classical chamber music scene via groups like International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea, Signal and The Knights Orchestra.
In 2012/13, Dave joined the touring band for David Byrne/St. Vincent’s project “Love This Giant”. That same year, he formed his experimental duo, Nelson Patton, and released an album featuring Lonnie Holley on vocals. This led to a meaningful friendship and collaboration that was further documented on Lonnie’s critically acclaimed album “Mith” as well as the short film, “I Snuck Off the Slave Ship”, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Dave is also a member of Pfarmers, a collaborative trio with Bryan Devendorf (The National) and Danny Seim (Menomenah). Together, they have released two albums.
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Interview with Dave Nelson
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: 2 LPs from my group Pfarmers. We co-produced it together and I worked extensively on arrangements and musical elements, recording horns, guitars, bass, keys, percussion, vocals... An extremely fun collaborative project.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Music for a documentary
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I'm sure but I haven't looked through everyone..
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both have their own plusses and minuses.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: It's going to add to the emotional impact of the song
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love collaborating with people but also tend to love working alone. Recording/producing remotely is kind of the best of both worlds.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Are you interested/available? It depends on the project and whether or not I'm interested/available.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: not sure
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What is the vision for the song, what feeling are we going for?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: reach out!
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: laptop, interface, microphone, trombone, space echo
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: Undergrad & Masters in music, moved to NYC and stated working in the classical chamber music and burgeoning indie rock scenes of the late 2000's/early 2010's. Worked with so many great artists. All the while developing my own skills in production. Moved Upstate NY and built my own studio which became more and more of my focus.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Warm, melancholic, funereal brass choir sounds
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Brian Eno. He seems to think like a philosopher and music just happens to be the medium. I'm attracted to the higher order of thinking in his work.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Don't overthink
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Indy rock, americana, singer/songwriter, classical
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Sensitivity and beauty of tone.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I try to bring a sensitivity to what the song wants to be and work with that energy as opposed to forcing my own ego onto it.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I start by listening and internalizing the emotional intent of the song. I then try to enhance that intent with specific arrangement or production choices.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: A beautifully built studio designed by celebrated studio builder Chris Harmaty. It features a control room, live room, drum booth, and an echo chamber - all well tuned and separated. A joy to work in!
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Session drummers inspire me because since there's such a demand for drums, they can stay quite busy with remote recording
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Brass arranging & recording. I determine what type of accompaniment will best serve the song, and then layer all the parts with a variety of brass instruments - trombone, trumpet, tuba, euphonium, etc. As a multi-instrumentalist, I can also record drums, guitars, keyboards...