Tag Archives: live

David Ramirez

David Ramirez is a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas. He played a CAB-sponsored show at Iowa City’s The Mill last Thursday and I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with him.

Unlike many musicians, Ramirez did not discover his musical talents at a young age. He was an avid baseball player throughout his youth. However, when his family moved at the start of his senior year of high school, he decided he did not want to continue playing baseball at his new school. It was at this time that his new acquaintances convinced him to join the school choir and theater programs.

Ramirez picked up both guitar and songwriting that same year. He then went on to form several “awful bands”, as he calls them. While he has been touring full-time for only five or six years, Ramirez says he began to perform at various open mic nights at age 19.

As far as his goals go, David Ramirez says they have changed significantly over the course of his musical career. When he was first starting out as a performer he set concrete goals, such as making a certain amount of money, getting signed to a label, or winning a Grammy Award. Ramirez felt the quality of his music suffered because of these goals – he was too focused on getting recognized. His current goals are to continue writing things that he believes in, putting out great records, and playing great shows. “If those [other] things happen as a result, then that’s great,” Ramirez said. He continued, “I believe art has a big influence on people, and I want to be a part of that.”

At age 21, Ramirez was given a Ryan Adams album. Adams became his main source of inspiration; he “changed it all” for Ramirez. The influential Adams has played a large role in what Ramirez writes and why he writes it. Ramirez is compared to Adams quite often. “People compare me to him, and I think that’s probably inevitable,” Ramirez said. “I looked up to him a lot for several years and I still do. It’s kinda hard not to mimic some of his stuff.”

This was David Ramirez’s first time playing in Iowa City. Kudos to CAB for bringing him out! He is playing at the SXSW festival in his hometown of Austin, Texas this week.

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Open Mic Night at The Mill in Iowa City

The Mill, an Iowa City staple, has been around for over 50 years. The restaurant doubles as a concert venue where live music can be heard almost any night of the week. Every Monday night, The Mill hosts a well-attended open mic night. I asked Joanne, a waitress at The Mill who works most Monday nights, about the acts she sees every week. “Well the sound guy is always the same and he opens and closes every week with his own set,” said Joanne. She added that there are usually four or five new artists in addition to the three or four performers who attend open mic night on a regular basis.

The “sound guy” Joanne is referring to is J. Knight, creator of open mic night at The Mill. I got to ask him about the origins of open mic night and what motivated him to create such an institution. “I started this open mic in 1981,” J. said proudly. He continued, “I was playing music as a singer-songwriter and I had come to Iowa City the year before. The Mill was the main place that I played in town and Monday was kind of a musician’s night off – they’d usually play on the weekends and be back for Monday. So I talked to the owner about doing an open mic on Monday nights.”

I then asked J. how often he plays his own set during open mic night. He replied, “Not always, but if there’s time!” J. explained that his open mic nights are usually fully booked two to three weeks in advance, but he is “always ready” to fill extra time or replace an act that fails to show up.

When I asked who his favorite artists are, J. had an interesting response. Chuckling, he said, “All the people who come and play at my open mic! Those are my favorites!” J. went on to say that as a musician, he does not listen to other musicians very often. Instead, he listens to National Public Radio. He then said that he plays a lot of Hoyt Axton and Johnny Cash songs. Sure enough, J. closed his set with a Johnny Cash number from the 1950’s.

If you are a musician, open mic night at The Mill is a great way to get your music heard. Open mic night is every Monday at 8pm, and admission is free for audience members.

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