Songwriter puts own stamp on Western music
David John and the Comstock Cowboys play at festivals, casinos and special events, as well as private parties all over the Nevada-California region. When not traveling, John and the Comstock Cowboys perform every weekend at the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City.
The band is comprised of lead singer, guitarist and fiddler David John; his brother, Rich Liska, who plays keyboards, steel guitar, dobro and harmonica; drummer Mike Ansoteque; bassist Rick Hammel; guitarist Dale Poune; and fiddler Robert “Doc” Quam.
How would you define your music; country or cowboy?
Western. They took the Western out of country and western a number of years back, after the singing-cowboys era was over.
Songs I write are not country. The topics are of the Old West. We have our own brand of Western music, too. We don’t copy the Sons of the Pioneers; we blend our own sound into the traditional.
Did you ever play another style?
Yes, early rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, Top Forty – early ’70s Top Forty – things like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Eagles, that sort of thing.
How long have you been performing and writing music?
Ever since I was a little kid. I watched the Gene Autry movies, and I loved the guitar. My older brother, Rich, and other guys used to have hoedowns back East, which means you drop your hoe and quit working and pick up your instruments and play. When I was big enough to hold a mandolin, I used to stand on the sidelines and try to follow along. I went to the guitar when I was about 10.
I was 16 when I wrote my first song, and about 19 when I got my first song published. I really don’t know how many songs I’ve written.
How many CDs have you done with the Comstock Cowboys?
Nine, and we’re working on our 10th. I don’t have a title yet, but it will have songs I’ve written along with some that people have asked for, like “Big Iron” and “Orange Blossom Special.” The CDs are available at Northern Nevada Wal-Marts and at a lot of shops in Virginia City, at our shows, Western clothing stores and online from our Web site.
Have you done any other kind of work?
I never pursued another career, but I’ve worked at other jobs. Every musician has to pump gas or something. I worked at a rifle range. When I was on the road, I paid my dues, playing in smoky bars and sleeping in the backs of cars.
Did that influence your songwriting?
I’m sure it helped. People don’t learn from success; they learn from failure and struggle. If you were a success from day one, you wouldn’t have much to sing or write about.
How many shows do you do in a year, on average?
We’re booked every weekend. We play (at the Bucket of Blood) when we’re not traveling. We only get time off if we schedule ourselves time off. We play John Ascuaga’s Nugget every year, we perform the Fourth of July show in Virginia City, and we play the Tin Cup Tea and the Carson Rendezvous.
Who were your biggest musical influences?
My brothers, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins.
Are there any performers out there today that you like.
George Strait and Josh Turner.
What do you see as the future of Western music?
I know there’s a big audience for it. A lot of people want to hear it. I can tell by the CDs that we sell and the shows that we do.
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