“20 Questions” with Dave Elkins of MAE & Schematic

August 13, 2014

Mae has had a constant place on a mixcd and my iPod for over a decade. With that being said, I was super pumped when I heard Dave Elkins had released a new project called Schematic. His debut record called Color (n.) Inside The Lines is just heavenly. My take on it, is a perfect combination of MAE and a little bit of The Postal Service. MAE will be embarking on a small tour this winter, which will be epic, obviously. If you are lucky enough to catch one of those shows I am forever envious. (enter West Coast no tour dates sad face)

For those of you who haven’t heart of Schematic quite yet…that’s ok. NOW is your moment!

You can hear it here. Actually click HERE , push play and read this interview with the perfect musical background.




When did you know you had officially fallen in love with music


I was very young. My dad was the lead singer of a band he was in, in the late 70’s to the early 80’s. I was born in 1982. He brought music into the home at a very early age for me. My mom also played piano growing up. Some of my early childhood memories were my mom holding me in her arms and dancing with me to Thriller by Michael Jackson, which came out in 1982. I remember playing piano with her when I was about three years old. And hearing my dad sing to the radio in the car. I now have a studio here in Nashville where I produce and engineer for a living. Just last week I remember something hitting me in the right spot while working with a band and I was reminded how much I love music. I think it is such a blessing to be able to play in a band for over a decade, to have grown up around music and to play music as a profession and still feel so passionate about it. Also when I was around 10 or 11years old I stared to discover my own favorite bands from listening to the radio and watching MTV around 1992-1994, the whole Rock & Roll “Grunge” era. I used to write some of my favorite lyrics on paper just to see what it was like and what it looked like to write lyrics. I didn’t have any of my own. I knew I was connecting to these songs and lyrics and that some day I wanted to be a song writer. It was just a matter of developing my writing style and learning how to play an instrument. Music has been a part of my culture since I was born.


Do you remember the very first LIVE show you ever attended? 


My uncle was a concert promoter so I went to a lot of shows when I was REALLY young. Having an impact on me, I remember there being quite a production to put on a concert. I would also go see local bands when I was old enough to care and old enough to be dropped off with a couple of my friends. I don’t have a memory that comes to mind for a specific show. I remember when I was in High School somehow my teacher gave me free tickets to go to a Moody Blues concert. I took my mom to that show. I remember her telling me that she thought someone was smoking marajuna. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but it lead to more mature conversations down the road. I went to so many concerts because that is what my family was doing and I was just tagging along. One show, I can’t really remember, BUT many shows is what I grew up around.


Do you remember the very first album you ever purchased with your own money? 


Yes I do! I remember it was a bunch of them. I used to cut grass and referee soccer games when I was a kid. Those were my first jobs. I became a member of Columbia House, where you cut out a little coupon in the back of the sunday paper and you could get 12 cassette tapes or cds for a penny. Then you would have to buy one or two a year for full price. At that time, the “Top 40 Radio”  consisted of Pearl Jam followed by Snoop Dogg and Counting Crows. So one thing I really loved was, and I am really grateful for is that I grew up having an appreciation for many styles of music. Alternative would be just as important as a really great rap  or hip hop album. It was a really great time. Music production during that time was growing my leaps and bounds as far as what people could accomplish in the studio. I also remember having a library account and checking out Beatles records. The first official record I bought all on my own was Weezer’s Blue Album and PURPLE by Stone Temple Pilots. Those were my first “record store” purchases.


 Tell me about your newest project Schematic! 


I moved to Nashville about 3 and a half years ago and set up shop with my own studio. That was my first experience owning my own gear and working by myself. Mae’s bass player, Mark has had a studio and he was always responsible for engineering. I produced and he engineered. This was my first approach handling both sides of the operation. I was more a part of the recording process, and playing more of the instruments myself as opposed to just playing guitar. Schematic kind of started off at first as a result of me playing around in the studio. I was learning the gear and the interments, and becoming more familiar with them. In between projects and before projects would get booked to come to the studio, I would sit at the drum kit and play for about an hour or long just to find my own style and sense of groove. I would also spend more time with the piano and get more comfortable with the microphones, amps, compressors and other gear in the studio. It was a very educational time for me when I moved here, needed to learn how to operate all this new gear. If a band came in and needed a bass player I could be their bass player. And of course in Mae, I spend so many years song writing. That is something that is a part of you. So Schematic was an experimental project for education myself in the studio and now that I was a “solo artist” it helped me to express what I wanted musically.  Since I live in Nashville, and there is such an amazing community of musicians and singer-songwriters, I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to the project if I didn’t take advantage of that. So I invite people in to play and/ or write with me. Once I discovered I had enough songs to make a full length record I became intentional to finish the project.


What would you say the main difference between MAE and Schematic is?


I would say the synergy. When I am with my bandmates in MAE, that is when the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. We are very intentional when we sit down and write music together. We want to write something that MAE fans or soon to be MAE fans will love. We want the melodies to be strong and for the lyrics to be able to connect with a whole lot of people. With Schematic I of course wanted people to enjoy the music, but I was really writing and recording for myself. So I wasn’t really too concerned with who it was going to reach. Once you realize that people connect with it, you then want to continue to now write to make  music that people can enjoy. Being in my late 20’s and early 30’s and writing the Schematic record, it was really freeing not  having any expectations or pressure and being able to just go for it!  But at the same time I missed the synergy. With the MAE brotherhood, there were so many strengths amongst the five of us that the weaknesses could quickly be compensated for. Also there was such a rich history. When you find people that you can write music with for over a decade, there is such a high comfort level there. I didn’t have any of that with Schematic. That was actually really great for me, at least for that season, because it was such a great learning experience for me.  I grew a lot because of it.


 Were you inspired by anyone in particular when creating this record? 


Yeah! Absolutely! Mae was on Tooth & Nail and Capital Records which were both EMI labels. EMI has such a rich musical history. They put out  Beatles, Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Radiohead and Coldplay records. Since we were on that label we got a bunch of free “swag.” I remember listening to Radiohead records in the MAE van years and years ago when we were touring. I remember liking some of it, and feeling that some of it was very alien to me. I didn’t understand the chord progressions. I couldn’t figure out what some of the instruments even  were and how they were getting so many sounds, but I knew I liked it. That was back in 2003. Radiohead is now my second favorite band of all time following the Beatles. I really appreciate what they do. It takes such a thirst to understand why they do what they do, and every time they do something new it is something I have never heard before and I really love that. I would like to say that listening to that Radiohead and appreciating what they do has been a huge influence over the last decade or so.


 Do you have a favorite Schematic song or a lyric that has the most meaning to you? 


The last track on the record, is called ‘What It Means.’ That is sort of me being a 30 year old married man, away from my comfort zone, being out of the band for a while, taking on new challenges, falling short and finding out my role in the bigger picture. It’s me, living in Nashville, being a husband and who I am in life. ‘What It Means’ is a song that after I wrote and recorded it, I listened to it a few months later and it brought extra meaning to my life and some extra perspective. The power of songwriting, when you are open to it, has a supernatural force that can come in and finish the song for you. Then it is as if you can go back and listen to it and learn something from it yourself. I really love the way that song turned out.


If you could put together a dream tour to be a part of, which bands would you take on the road? 


It I was supporting, I would love to open up for Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, Radiohead or Paul McCartney. I would love to watch them play every night. The dream tour we ACTUALLY did was back in 2005 when MAE got to open for The Foo Fighters and WEEZER for six shows. That was amazing. Opening for those bands was like a dream come true. It was beyond my brain to even imagine happening.


We had the opportunity to bring some amazing bands on tours with us when MAE was the headlining band. We brought out MuteMath in 2005 and As Tall As Lions in 2007. Those are some bands I really enjoy listening to. Also Copeland, I still really love them today. It was great to take them on the road and stay friends over the years.


Would you say that the MAE and Schematic are a good blend? Or does each band have it’s own personal fan base? 


Time has passed, and as people get older people’s musical interest will change and hopefully grow. I think a MAE fan who was 17 when our first record came out  is about 30 years old now. So they may be open to different sounds. Some MAE fans may not have a clue that my Schematic project is out there just yet. Im hoping that I get to make a few Schematic fans as a result from doing this MAE tour. I would also get it completely if a MAE fan listening to Schematic and said it wasn’t really for them.  It IS the same voice singing on the both of those projects,  so maybe more of a mellow Schematic song would be a good door for a MAE fan to become a Schematic fan.  We will have to see!


What is next in the future for Schematic?


Right now I have several projects going on in the studio. I am wearing the “producer” hat.  So more often that not, I’m working with other artists. I am also writing and working on my own stuff. So it remains to be seen what will be for Schematic. I hope to further the Schematic catalog in the future. Schematic was unintentional and more of an experiment. I will, for now, continue to treat it the same way. I will always continue to write between producing projects for other artist!



  (begin random/silliness)

If Hollywood made a movie based on your life, who would you choose to play the part as YOU? 


It would have to be Keanu Reeves! Over the years people have told me that I look like that guy. I remember when the movie Speed came out back in the 90’s, I was in middle school and I had short hair just like he did. I hopped on the bus the Monday after I saw the movie, and said “there’s a bomb on the bus, stay above 50!” and I got a week’s worth of after school detention.


Let’s say the movie was a huge success, and you became the topic of tabloid magazines. What would you like the headline to read about you? 


If I could go crazy with it I would like it to say, ” Dave Elkins signed the biggest NBA contract of all time with the Memphis Grizzlies!” Also that they decided that with me on the team we were going to win countless championships!


If you stumbled upon a time machine one day, what time would you travel to and why? 


I would travel back to the 1960’s so I could appreciate music that I love today in real time of when it was originally released. It would be great to see The Beatles in the 60’s.


If you could acquire any superpower, which power would you choose and what would you do with it? 


I would fly! It was be easier to travel and go to places I had never gone to before. I would love to fly to South America without having to book a flight on Priceline! It would be so awesome.


Is there a trend in music and or fashion you would to see vanish?


Currently it would be mustaches. I mean my dad had a mustache. I feel like not enough time has passed for it to make a comeback. I think we should let it go for longer….or even for good! I would say most times it doesn’t even look good on a guy. So I would like to see the mustache craze to go. It is a little too much for me.


If you could commit one crime and get away with it, what would you do? 


I would rob a bank! Who wouldn’t? I would like to have a Robin Hood mentality and spread the money out and pass around to people. Then I would buy myself something nice or a new piece of gear for the studio.


I know many bands play pranks on tour mates when on the road. Do you have any fun tour prank stories?


Pranks are a tour necessity. When Mae has been a headlining band, we will use the last show of the tour to get all the pranking out of our system. One thing we like to do is feed members of the opening band alcohol between each of their songs. So if they play 8 songs you can imagine they would be pretty inebriated at the end of their set. We also like to take instruments away during their set. So they end up drinking and trying to play their songs with fewer and fewer instruments.   We have also put Vaseline on drumsticks!



If you could pick a song to describe your life at this moment in time, which song would you choose? 


It would have to be “FAST CAR” by Tracy Chapman because I am currently driving!


What would you tell the teenage version of yourself  TODAY if you could?


I would say, “Keep practicing, bro! Because as good as you think you are, you’re really not that good. And the only way you will get better if you keep up the practicing!”


What makes you come alive? 


Creating music. Being in the studio, working with other bands and discovering new parts of music i never noticed before. Sometimes the same chord progression you have heard 1000 times can be put together with the right lyrics and right melody and it can change your life. I am blown away on how that can still happen. I am very grateful for that and I am also grateful that I get to be around it for a living. It really does make me come alive every time I get to work with it. It challenges me daily. So, music is definitely what makes me come alive.



Thank you so so much Dave for taking the time to chat with me. I am excited to hear more beautiful tunes from you. Have so much fun on the MAE tour!!!