Dave Mason Plays 'Traffic' Jams, Welcomes a Steve Winwood Reunion
A look back at Dave.
Ask singer-songwriter Dave Mason about how things are going, and he won’t “disagree” that it’s good. Fans know and love his 1977 solo hit “We Just Disagree” and expect it at every one of Mason’s concerts. Now, 71, he’s always touring, revamping his music, collaborating and welcoming the “What’s next?” part of life with open arms.
He’s readying to play the adult-friendly, classy, three-day tune fest at Del Mar, California—KAABOO—on Friday, September 15. Dave’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of the British group, Traffic. The original lineup also included Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. He played with the band in 1967, 1968 and 1971.
Jimi Hendrix magically shares a frame with Dave Mason.
He still includes “Feelin’ Alright” on his most-requested list, recorded by the group in 1968. He authored “Hole in My Shoe,” another Traffic best-seller. He had and still has lots of famous friends in the business, with whom he made magical music. The admittedly awesome list of luminaries includes, among others, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Paul McCartney, Stephen Stills and Fleetwood Mac.
I caught up with Dave while he was on holiday in Hawaii. Here’s what’s up.
We’re looking forward to seeing you at KAABOO, Dave, and then on the rest of your Alone Together Again tour this fall. How are you feeling about it all?
It’s going to be great in Del Mar, a beautiful location, but we are in and out and headed to Plymouth (California) for a show the next night. It’s a quick trip.
Although you were born in the U.K., you really have no accent now. Where’s home?
It’s Carson City, Nevada. I lived in Ojai (California) 16 years, but now we’re 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe and also from Reno. I’m a country boy at heart and find the ocean just doesn’t hold as much fascination for me as for other people—although I do love Hawaii. We have had a house there since January.
You’ve said “Living is definitely not for the weak or faint of heart; it’s a constant work in progress.” There’s a philosopher in you!
Life IS a work in progress. There are always new epiphanies, always something new about yourself that needs a little tuning or fixing—especially at this age. It’s a whole other ball game. I look back and I do agree, too bad youth is wasted on the young. But all in all, life is great, and I have a great partner (Winifred Wilson). I’ve been doing this most of my 71 years and I still love it.
A guitar is always close by. Dave Mason "then."
You do Traffic and you do your own thing. How do you approach the group’s music now, having played it so often?
“Dear Mr. Fantasy” (from the album Fantasy, 1967) was in a major key originally, and Steve did lead vocals. I do it in a minor now and that works for me. It feels more “musical” and I still keep the melody the same.
I do a blues version of “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” (from the album Live: 40,000 Headmen Tour, 1999). The audience likes it. I think I can interpret a song rather than trying to just copy it.
You’ve made no secret that you believe live music is where it’s at. And you talk about fake stuff—which I think means heavily produced, vocal correction, etc. Do you think if all things are cyclical that we’ll return someday to what many perceive is more the real deal?
It’s happening not just in radio, but at the concert level, too. Everything is so tagged and compartmentalized. There is no “old music.” It’s either good music or it isn’t. Radio is a disaster, for there’s nowhere for a unique artist to be heard. There would be no radio if not for us artists.
I’d like a radio station where they could play a “classic Dave Mason song,” and then go to “Here’s the latest from Dave Mason.” There simply isn’t radio exposure like there used to be; it’s very hard to get new stuff heard in the first place. If I have new music, a concert is one of the few places someone might be able to get the CD. I’m happy that people can come see me play—happy to be there, and happy to be anywhere!
Dave Mason and someone you might recognize, on the day of "How Do I Get to Heaven." Yes, Willie Nelson.
What about online?
Putting music there doesn’t mean anything. Someone has to know you’re online in the first place. It’s the largest shopping mall in the world and you could wander around in there forever.
Tell us about touring and your public television special.
Our public television special is from our recent tour of “Alone Together Again,” my original solo album, originally released in 1974. I perform the whole album plus fan favorite songs like “Feelin’ Alright” and “All Along the Watchtower.” We had so many requests from the tour we re-cut the entire album this year and will release it in 2018. The Best of Dave Mason will encompass many if not all of these songs plus others. I’m not sure yet what they will be. I’ll have to see what’s fresh when we start out on that tour.
What else is new with you? Anything you can share?
I’m talking to Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac) about our own radio show, maybe on a terrestrial radio network. There aren’t any artists like us doing their own radio shows, and we want to focus a lot on blues artists from our past. We can also fill everyone in on what it was like to work back then.
During the Fleetwood Mac days. Here with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.
You’re active in philanthropy. Thanks for what you do. Tell us more.
I’m on the Little Kids Rock honorary board of directors. I support music being taught in schools—more music education—and more focus on the arts. I’m also committed to my foundation, Rock Our Vets, that I co-founded. We support not only veterans, but families of fallen police officers and firemen. We do good work.
Now, about KAABOO:
Upper-tier Hang Five and Hang Ten packages are sold out, but do not fear. There are so many amenities here, you will still feel like you’re “special,” so check out the “Hang Loose” ticket offerings. Plus these savvy festival gurus offer both student and military discounts! You can also snag parking passes in advance. Cruise through the main website and see all the things to do—and to eat and drink. There are plenty of places to stay around San Diego and even Oceanside, so get busy on your favorite hotel site after you’ve surveyed last-minute fare deals from your hometown to San Diego or even up north, Orange County.