During the 1980s, David Haerle had rock-star desires, with one of his bands getting as far as playing original material in clubs around Los Angeles.
That dream was sidelined when Haerle became a music agent at International Creative Management, and playing guitar remained a hobby after he took over running the independent bluegrass label CMH Records (now known as CMH Label Group) following his father’s death in 1990.
“I didn’t have an aspiration to work there; it wasn’t of any interest to me at that point in my life,” Haerle recalls of taking the reins at CMH. “It really absorbed me, but not in a bad way. I had a sense of duty, I wanted to do it, and I wanted to learn it to keep this thing going. It proved to be a wonderful career, and still is.”
He didn’t feel as though he was missing out on a career creating music, but closing in on his 20-year mark at CMH, Haerle — by then in his 40s — had an artistic reawakening of sorts.
“I was having a conversation with someone and was going through some stuff in my life, and he said to me, ‘Is there something you’d like to do that you’re not doing right now?’ ” he says. “I thought about it and [realized] I’d like to take singing lessons.”
He began working with vocal coach Sue Willett in 2009, and during the course of his studies, Haerle decided he wanted to dedicate “a serious amount of time” — roughly half a work week — to playing, recording and writing music.
Haerle spent seven years working on his debut album, Garden of Edendale, which arrived in 2018 via Edendale Records. Perfectionism played a big part in the amount of time needed to finish it.
“I started out as a novice,” the singer-songwriter explains. “Yes, I played the guitar and knew my instrument fairly competently. … I just couldn’t get to point C or D without getting through point B and C.”
He adds, “I’ve been in recovery for OCD, and that’s been a very important part of my life … the kind of things that come up when you have OCD crept into my music. It caused me to move slower, and I did lots and lots of takes. Part of my recovery in a very specific way had to also be worked out in that world: ‘Oh, I got it in three takes. I can stop there.’ ”
Death Valley, his second album, arrived in May. Across 15 songs in a voice that melds Jakob Dylan, James McMurtry and Warren Zevon, Haerle sings about matters serious and silly. “The Groove of the Record” is about his recovery from obsessive-compulsive disorder, while “Go Do That With Sharon” stems from a joke with Erica Koesler, his partner, who in brushing off Haerle’s interest in offbeat activities would suggest their mutual friend.
“I told Sharon about the song, probably a few years ago, but I only wanted to play it for her when it was done,” Haerle says. “She loved it, and what was just as fun is when I decided to shoot a video and have her make a cameo. It was a wonderful experience to share that with her.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Photo by Jenna Schoenefeld