Kevin DeForrest is the most interesting man you’ve never heard of. He reluctantly admits that he’d like to change that.
“My brother asked me once ‘why do you write songs, anyway?’ I said ‘I just want to write better and better songs all the time, right?’ And he said ‘bulls*** — I think you want to write great songs and you want people to hear them,” DeForrest said. “You know, I’ve always hated it when [he’s] right, but he’s right. I want people to hear because I think they want to — they just don’t know it yet.”
DeForrest’s new album “All I Got To Give,” recorded in Woodstock, New York and written all across the country, is the culmination of years of effort to convey a lifetime of experience. He’s recorded and distributed records in the past, but this time, he set out to perfect the process.
“My wife and my producer, the three of us, made a promise to each other,” DeForrest said. “We’re gonna do it, and we’re gonna do it the very best we can, and we’re not gonna cut any coils and it’s going to cost too much and we’re going to spend too much time and there’s going to be a whole lot of bulls*** and heartache along the way, and we’re going to get through all of it.’”
With the help of a Kickstarter campaign (“I hate them; I hate those things,” he said), an endlessly supportive family, and a strong friendship with one industry professional, DeForrest crafted a folksy, bluesy, emotional, philosophical thing of beauty.
“All I Got To Give” provides a window to DeForrest’s innermost thoughts about love, gratitude, family, death, and nature — just to name a few. The title track, borne from DeForrest’s complicated feelings about funding his album partially through an online campaign, is a reflection on what he’s able to provide to his fundraisers in return.
“I was sitting around saying ‘I’ve got people giving me money. What do I have to give them in return?’ Oh, I’ve got songs. That’s what I have,” DeForrest said.
In “Still Today,” DeForrest pulls from an extensive knowledge of philosophy and literature to drill into his own outlook on life: “I’ve never been anywhere other than here, and it’s always been now.”
DeForrest recognizes the paradox of the deeply personal nature of his songs and the desire to have others experience them. Though a physical copy of “All I Got To Give” contains notes on the ideas behind each song, he won’t reveal what his songs are “about,” noting that music and art should be experiences unique to the individual consumer. He quotes Yip Harburg, who once said “Words make you think thoughts, music makes you feel a feeling, but a song makes you feel a thought.”
“I said ‘That’s freaking exquisite. If I can play a song and get the sense that someone is feeling a thought, that’s what music is, and that’s when songs are at their best,’” DeForrest said.
A long life of remarkable successes and daunting challenges has given DeForrest a trove of memories to draw from for his writing. In college, he was an accomplished swimmer, breaking several records during his time at University of Missouri where he was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. He’s written books about sports psychology and philosophy, and spent several years as a proverbial “ski bum.”
In the 1990’s, deciding he wanted a greater challenge in life, he moved to Evergreen where he met his now-wife — they had a baby on the way three months later. For the past 20 years, he’s been a stay-at-home dad with three kids.
“I guess I got the challenge I was looking for,” he mused.
DeForrest’s musical journey has been a long and winding one. It started in college, where he and his buddies from the swim team joined forces to create a bluegrass band.
“We couldn’t find people that were playing [bluegrass], and so we decided ‘let’s start a band,’” DeForrest said. “None of us played anything, and we literally drew straws to see who would learn how to play what instrument.”
On New Year’s Day 1999, DeForrest decided he would be a songwriter.
“One of the first things I’m gonna do is when people ask me what I do, I’m gonna say ‘I write songs.’ But in the interest of integrity, if I’m gonna do that, I damn well better write songs,” DeForrest said.
Since then, DeForrest has recorded and released more than 50 songs and typically plays live shows up to 200 times a year.
DeForrest’s new album, recorded in just four days, was an attempt to capture the magic of “the first time a song comes together.” His thoughts on the finished product?
“I think we got exactly what we wanted.”
Stream “All I Got To Give” on Spotify or Apple Music, or support DeForrest directly at https://kevindeforrest.bandcamp.com/.