Dave Cleveland is a first call session guitar player in Nashville, Tennessee. He has played on a multitude of Grammy and Dove Award winning projects with artists including Steven Curtis Chapman and The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Over his 26 years in Nashville, Dave has played on over 30,000 songs for artists like Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Stephen stills, Russ Taff and many more. His movie credits include I Still Believe, The Apostle, Jimmy Neutron, Courageous, and the Netflix Series Space Force. He is a member of The Sam’s Place house band at the Ryman Auditorium which is hosted by Steven Cutis Chapman. On that stage, he has had the privilege of performing with Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant and many more.
In a constant pursuit of creativity, Dave has amassed quite a large library of songs used consistently on TV shows, commercials, and movies worldwide. With over 1500 original compositions in rotation, he is constantly heard on shows like 20/20, The Chew, Undercover Boss and many more including the 2017 Pepsi Lemon Lemon commercial.
5 Minutes with Dave
PRS: You are a veteran of the Nashville session scene and a seasoned touring guitarist; do you find one working environment more satisfying than the other?
DC: When I first got to town my main gig was touring. I traveled with an artist named Twila Paris and then Steven Curtis Chapman. After that, Russ Taff, the Young Messiah tour and my last official tour was with Crystal Lewis. I loved what I did!! But, getting into a studio and creating parts and sounds for a project is really what makes me tick. I love the challenge of taking a basic demo to the next level. And I love the gear that helps me paint the picture a little more clear. So, I'd have to say the studio environment is the place I feel the most satisfied at the end of the day.
PRS: If you had to pick one, which is the more important aspect of a guitar to you, tone or feel?
DC: Well, to me, these two feed off each other. If the feel is there, then I am able to get better tone out of my hands. But with great tone, everything feels better. So I pick both!!
PRS: We know you are a multi-instrumentalist, skilled on several stringed instruments. Was the guitar your first instrument and who initially inspired you to play?
DC: I grew up near Washington DC and my dad was a guitarist. He was my initial inspiration. He and my Uncle Butch would play for hours at the house and I remember the sound just really got to me. I loved it. Plus, after the jam session there would be shredded picks on the floor and I thought that was so cool. And being in the DC area afforded me the opportunity to hear and hang out with Danny Gatton. That was an inspiration that is with me to this day. Not to mention the fact that Blues Alley was always hosting great guitarists like Joe Pass, Barney Kessell, Herb Ellis and other legends. Got to see them all!!
PRS: You were among the lucky few to play our new SE Parlor & SE Hollowbody II Piezo models, pre-release. Knowing how much versatility your work demands, we would love to hear what you think after putting them through their paces.
DC: The main observation after some time with both guitars is that I do not consider them as any less a guitar than the more expensive models. The SE Hollowbody II Piezo is so rock solid. I can take it to any gig anywhere and be totally happy with the tone, feel and tuning stability. It's right! Plus being able to have a complete separate out for the acoustic side makes it extremely versatile. In the mix mode, I love rolling a little off the piezo into the sound to add a little shimmer complexity to the electric sound. Especially on clean ethereal type tones.
DC: A parlor guitar, to me, is that guitar you always want sitting around ready to go when inspiration hits. And the SE Parlor fits that requirement perfectly. I honestly can't believe the price of this guitar! It is well built, easy to play, and has all the characteristics of what that size guitar should portray. The first day I got it, I recorded it on 2 songs. Producer loved it. That's the real test. I'm starting to experiment with a blend of mics and the direct sound on the Parlor. Very cool and finding some unique tones that will find their way onto recording projects.
PRS: Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.
DC: Well, I'll tell you about my family. I've been married to my high school sweetheart for almost 33 years. We meet in Fredericksburg, VA. She is an amazing woman. It takes a special person to be the spouse of a musician. She has always supported me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. The truth is, she is my dream. All the other stuff means very little compared to her and my 3 kids Olivia, Catherine and Joshua. Also, I love Indian food and my favorite movie is Rocky. I gotta get back to work! My turn to punch in and fix my mistakes :)