Since the late 1990s, Penrose-based singer-songwriter Dave Desmelik has released more than a dozen albums, but his latest, long-gestating project is especially noteworthy. As its title suggests, The Calendar Album is a collection of 12 songs, one representing each month of the year — but not necessarily 2020.
Desmelik explains that the songs were written as a project seven years ago. He discovered early on that giving himself a prompt was a useful strategy for songwriting. “When I tell myself, ‘I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna commit to it,’ that definitely motivates me to do it,” he says. “I’m one of those people: If I start something, I want to finish it. Even if it’s vacuuming the house.”
In the case of the songs that would eventually end up on The Calendar Album, Desmelik’s goal was a bit more ambitious than keeping his home tidy. The songs capture the zeitgeist of each month in a way that resonates with the songwriter. And while there are hints of melancholy, the record explores a wider range of human emotions and experiences.
“I would get to the end of each month and then reflect on it,” Desmelik recalls. By design, his writing style is open ended, allowing the listener to personalize the songs. But even if it’s not overt, each of the tunes has a specific meaning for its composer. “‘June’ is about the month when we lost our golden retriever,” he says. “But to someone else, that song might be a completely different story. And that’s great.”
A songwriter’s perspective can change with the passing of time, so it’s fair to wonder if the lyrics of songs written in 2013 still resonated with Desmelik as he began the process of recording them in 2020. “You hear the old saying, ‘There’s no such thing as a time machine,’” he says. “But really, if there is such a thing, it would be music.” He says that as he revisited the songs, each one “took [him] right back into the moments when [he] was writing it.” And that experience reinforced his desire to complete the project.
Of course, 2020 being what it was, Desmelik had time on his hands. “When the pandemic started, I realized, ‘This is going to be more than a short period when I’m not doing my normal gigging,’” he says. “So I thought, ‘I’ve had this written. I’ve been meaning to get this recorded, and now is my time to do it.’”
With that decision made, Desmelik says that he holed up in his home studio “and didn’t come out for a little while.” But The Calendar Album isn’t a one-man-band effort. Blues guitarist David Philips’ leads are key components of four songs.
“David is originally from England, and he lives in Barcelona, Spain,” Desmelik says. The two first digitally crossed paths even before the songs for the new album were written. “David had heard my music, and somehow we made a connection via Facebook,” he says. “We’ve never met face to face, but I consider him a good friend.”
As Desmelik began his solo recording sessions, he sent Philips an offhand message: “It would be great if I could get your guitar-playing on a few songs.” It was nothing more than idle musing — Desmelik’s preferred way of working puts all the musicians in a room together — yet Philips encouraged him to try something new.
“I had never done file sharing before,” Desmelik admits. “I’m very primitive in my home studio. I don’t consider myself a fancy engineer who knows a lot of technology. I just want to be able to capture a song.” But with Philips’ help, he integrated the guitar overdubs seamlessly into the musical fabric of The Calendar Album.
A limited number of CDs have been pressed and can be purchased directly from Desmelik — “when we get back to gigging,” he notes. “But in light of current times, I’ve been making a digital push.” Part of The Calendar Album, however, is currently available in physical form. Desmelik found that making a vinyl LP would be cost prohibitive, so instead he released “December” as a limited-run, 45 RPM single. “I got 30 done at American Vinyl Co. here in Asheville,” he says. “They’ve been getting snatched up. I literally have less than five left now!” davedesmelikmusic.com