Music: Stringing Along

David Lindley adds Middle Eastern twist to traditional folk and blues

By Lily O’Brien

Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist David Lindley was deeply immersed in the 1960s Los Angeles music scene, a hotbed of creativity full of aspiring musicians—many of whom would go on to become stars. A highly sought after session player, Lindley has performed with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Taj Mahal, Kenny Loggins, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor and more.

“It’s because I could fit in—and sit in—instantly,” Lindley says, crediting his success partially to his sincere and collaborative approach to playing music. “It isn’t just about playing at the same time on the stage with someone, but to be absorbed in the song and be part of the song and add to the meaning of it and augment it, and I consciously do that.”

Deeply inspired by a story—regarding the difference between communicating from the heart and from the brain—in a book by 20th century spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff, Lindley says, “You can tell when people are playing just from the brain, and you can also tell when people are playing just from the heart, and the best combination is when you put both of them together.”

Lindley is full of anecdotes from the early days—he met Jackson Browne, who was just 16, through a mutual friend who owned a club on Ventura Boulevard called the Magic Mushroom, where Browne would sometimes play. The house band at the time was named Hour Glass—better known today as the Allman Brothers Band. Lindley gave Browne a ride home and the friendship began.

“It was real easy to play with Jackson,” Lindley says, “because his harmonic sense was real logical and linear and you could kind of figure out where the chord changes were.”

Lindley first started playing bluegrass on a five-string banjo, and over the years, his keen interest in string instruments inspired him to become proficient in a long list of eclectic instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, guitar and many from the Middle East. Currently on a solo tour and making a stop at Sweetwater Music Hall on Sunday, May 28, Lindley says that the most important thing to him right now is to always be open to learning new things.

“The main thing is being in student mode,” he says. “I recognized that that’s the way to go—I think I am on the right path.”

David Lindley, Sunday, May 28, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; 415/388-3850;

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