Right after wrapping production on Aquarius—an NBC series premiering in 2015—David Duchovny turned to a very different project: finishing his debut album, dropping in March. Produced by local indie label ThinkSay Records and recorded at Somerville’s Q Division Studios, it features a backing band of Berklee grads, and Duchovny hit the school to speak with students during his December stay in town. But first, he riffed with us a bit in the studio.
You’re known for your roles on The X-Files and Californication, and you’ve also written and directed. But what brought you to music? I was on a path where I was working four months out of the year, which gave me a lot of time off. I was with my kids in the city, and they were in school all day. So I had a lot of time until 3 o’clock, and I’d always wanted to play guitar. I started teaching myself, you know, looking up chords on the internet for songs that I like, and started playing them. And then I realized, oh hey, these songs are not reinventing anything. It’s rock and roll. So I thought, you know, why can’t I do that? And lyrically I knew that I could hang because I’ve always written. I’ve written a lot of poetry and I’m sort of a mediocre poet, but I think mediocre poets make good lyricists.
And how did you connect with ThinkSay? I started recording songs with Keaton Simons about a year and a half ago, or just writing songs and then recording them with Keaton in his garage.… I didn’t expect anything to happen at all. And then Keaton was playing down at the City Winery in New York, probably about a year and two months ago. A year ago September. And I just went up there with a couple of my brothers and Keaton and sang one of my songs, and Brad [Davidson, president of ThinkSay] liked the vibe…. And he said, you know, do you have other songs? And do you have an album? That’s ridiculous, sure. And we just worked from them. And Brad has been really pushing, pushing, pushing because I don’t know the business at all, or at least the recording business.
So who are your musical influences? I have music that I really like to listen to, but I wouldn’t say that they’re influences because I’m not that kind of musician. I’d say the Beatles and the Stones, but I don’t write that kind of music. So—and not to say these other bands I’m going to mention in terms of what I hear as my sound are any easier than those guys—but REM and Wilco, and maybe Tom Petty if I’m lucky and Lou Reed. These are great, great things. I don’t want to say that they’re influences or anything like that, but that’s some stuff that I like.
Are there any themes that keep popping up on the album? And any songs that stand out as favorites? The material’s very personal. But because it’s personal it’s universal. It’s always the more personal something is, the more universal it has a chance to be. It’s when you start trying to write something universal that it’s weirdly personal…. I think “Hell or High Water” is really strong. I think “Stars” is a beautiful song. “Let It Rain” I always like to hear. We range from kind of ballads to rocking out a little bit. Three or four songs, we’re rockin’.
You also have a book, Holy Cow, hitting shelves in February. I don’t want to say it’s a kids’ novel, I don’t want to say it’s an adult novel, and I don’t want to say it’s a young adult novel. But it’s something of all those three. It’s kind of a book where I would hope parents could read it with their children, because there’s some stuff that kids aren’t going to get, but it’s a fable. It’s an allegory; it’s about animals. It’s about a cow, a pig and a turkey.
And what about Aquarius? I play a homicide detective who’s tangentially involved with Charles Manson before the murders. So it’s an interesting show about America at a turning point…. We may be at one right now too, so it’s kind of timely.
Any other plans while you’re in town? I’m not going to do anything. This is going to take all my focus and energy. Because it’s all so new to me and this is the one time we have to do this album, I want us to do everything we can to make it as good as we can. I spent some time in Boston—my dad lived here for a while—so I know it and I like it. But it’s not really sightseeing weather.