“Breaking Hearts and Taking Names,” The David Kersh Story Interviews

By far, the most successful story on this blog to date was my profile on the career of David Kersh.

What many of you may not know is that the story was originally written for a class during my senior year at Rowan University. This blog was created the next semester for another class, and I had no plans of continuing to update it after the semester ended.

After about six months of sitting around on my computer, I decided to upload the David Kersh story, as well as the “I Loved Her First” profile; my favorite things I’ve written. David Kersh’s story has gone on the receive almost 2,000 views, and has been seen by people on every continent.

The original story had a limit of 1,000 words; but the original story, before edits, was over 1,500 words; so a lot of great stuff from all three interview subjects had to be cut out to make the story conform with the word limit.

After re-reading my interviews with all David, Pat McMakin and Mark Hybner, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of great content that I was just unable to use for the original story. Check out all three interviews below for an even more in-depth look at David Kersh’s career!


David Kersh

JL: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?

DK: Music was always a love and a passion as far back as I can remember. Some of my influences when I was young were George Strait, Ronnie Milsap, Steve Wariner, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis and Clint Black. There were others I’m sure, but they influenced me the most. Especially George.

 

JL: When did you realize you wanted to make music for a living and when did you realize this was actually a possibility?

DK: Being that I sang all the time, driving my parents crazy, I just always loved to sing. I honestly never dreamed about actually becoming an artist, ever. I did jump at the chance to be the lead singer in a dancehall band in South TX, though. But even then, I never considered pursuing a record deal. I was going to college and gonna just become a physical therapist or take a sales job in the medical field.

 

JL: How did your record deal come about?

DK: So the owner of the band I was singing for, Mark Hybner with The Emotions, came to me one day and told me he was gonna get me a record deal. I laughed and said ok. Next thing I knew, I was performing at a dancehall in Giddings, TX, and there were 3 label reps there. The next night I performed in Austin. It was the week of SXSW. A rep for Curb was there. I eventually got offers from two labels, one being Curb. I was flown to Nashville and cut a few sides with Pat McMakin. Mike Curb decided to sign me and away we went.

emotions
David Kersh with The Emotions

JL: When Goodnight Sweetheart came out, you had a few pretty high charting songs. What was it like to hear your songs on the radio for the first time?

DK: I was in Erie, PA the first time I heard myself on the radio. My rep and I had just left the station and we were in the car when they spun “Breaking Hearts and Taking Names.” It was indescribable. I had a flood of emotions going through me. All of the sudden it was all real.

JL: Did you ever have a “now I made it” moment any time after your first release?

DK: I never had a “now I’ve made it” moment. I never saw myself as really successful. Not that I wasn’t thankful. I just never got to that George [Strait] or Garth level, and they were the bar for me.

 

JL: When “If I Never Stop Loving You” came out, the title track went to number 3 and was your third top 10 song overall. Is it hard to believe/handle that level of success so early in your career?

DK: Back when “If I Never Stop Loving You” came out and rose to top 10 status, I was still playing bars and fairs on the “Mud and Dirt” tour in the summer (laugh)s. I wasn’t a household name. I actually never became a household name. I didn’t get to that level where everyone knew who I was and could connect the name with the face with the song.

JL: After “If I Never Stop Loving You”, you had to take a step back because of a vocal chord injury. How tough was this to swallow so early in your career and after two pretty successful albums?

DK: My vocal injury turned out to be pretty minor. I did need to give it a rest, but what got me was the loss of vocal control. It all started while I was touring with Reba, Brooks & Dunn and Terri Clark. I was only singing 20 minutes a night. It caught up with me. The vocal cord is a muscle that needs to be worked out to stay strong. Strong vocal chords equals great control. I lost that and it killed my confidence. I didn’t realize what was going on when I started getting pitchy on stage. I was embarrassed. It affected me so badly that I didn’t want to return to the stage.

 

JL: You didn’t release any music after the injury before you announced your retirement from music. Did you record any material during those years for what would have been a third album?

DK: I had cut about 5 or 6 songs while I was touring with Reba that were slated for my 3rd CD. One of them was put on a compilation cd with other Curb artists. [It was] called “I Pray For You.”

JL: In 2005, you retired from music. You made comments that your heart wasn’t in it anymore and you weren’t able to make your own decisions. Can you elaborate on this decision?

DK: The only reason I stepped away from the business was from the lack of confidence. What once made me the happiest guy on the planet, now made me miserable. Singing came as natural to me as breathing, and then one day, I couldn’t breathe.

 

JL: In the years since your retirement, do you ever find yourself missing making music? How does it feel when fans reach out to you today?

DK: I miss performing like crazy. On stage was my happy place. I loved the energy and excitement. And I’m a people person. I love my fans. Still, It’s heartwarming to hear from fans these days. Brings back great memories

 

JL: If you could go back and do everything all over again, would you do it all the same or change anything?

DK: The only thing I’d change if I could go back is I would treat the opportunity as a career and take it a little more seriously. And certainly, I would take better care of my voice and continue singing hours a day instead of minutes over a long period of time like that Reba tour (6 months).

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 5.52.19 PM
David Kersh live: 1998

Pat McMakin (producer)

JL: How were you recruited to produce the “Goodnight Sweetheart” album?

PM: David’s manager, Mark Hybner and I had met several years prior and worked briefly on a project with Joel Nava, another Texas dancehall singer. For a variety of reasons, that project didn’t go very far, but Mark and I decided that we would work together on something. When Mark had worked with David onstage with The Emotions and felt like he was ready to go, he called me and I headed to Austin to see David perform live. I was sold instantly on his voice, looks and stage presence.

 

JL: What were your initial thoughts of David Kersh when you heard him sing and after the recording of the “Goodnight Sweetheart album?  

PM: I’ll never forget the first time David came to my office in Nashville at Sony Publishing (now Sony ATV). He pulled out his guitar to run through a couple of songs I had sent his way. As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, this really big sounding voice came out and filled the office. I’d only heard him through a PA initially. This eliminated any doubts that might have lingered. I knew he had the goods.

JL: What were your expectations for the album and its material after it was complete?

PM: Myself and Mark felt like we had something that could hit. I can be a bit crazy when it comes to choosing songs, so we really did our homework finding the best material we could. Bear in mind that I worked in a publishing company (the largest), and came up recording many song demos, so I wasn’t about to put a single song on that album that I didn’t believe could be a single. We thought we had at least 4-5 that could go the distance on radio. I still think there were several that would make good singles, including “Boys will be Boys.”

JL: When the “If I Never Stop Loving You” album came out, the song of the same title charted pretty well, making it Kersh’s fourth top 15 hit in a row. Did you think there was a star in the making after this success?

PM: Absolutely. Also, when David and I would go to lunch, I noticed the girls all check me out when we walked into a restaurant and was so bummed out to realize they were checking David too. SO much for vanity. Suffice to say, I knew he had the looks, the talent, a great manager and pretty much everything a start needs to be.

 

JL: David told me he recorded 5 or 6 songs for a third album with Curb before stepping away from music. Did you also produce these songs and what were your thoughts on his potential third album after hearing them?

PM: I think I recorded 3-4 new songs for a third album. That was right when his vocal issues began to appear. I remember he was in LA for an award show, and I booked studio time at Westwood Studios to grab the vocals on those sides. His voice was pretty shot, and we just attributed it to an intense performance schedule. After that, the label hired another producer to cut some sides but they ran into the same issues.

 

JL: What was your initial reaction to hearing the David was stepping away from music?

PM: I was and am still extremely disappointed. David had all the makings of a true star, Curb was telling us that he was going to follow in Tim McGraw’s footsteps and he would be a major priority for the label. He also would have been my big break as a producer. On the road, he was giving Kenny Chesney a run for his money, so I can only imagine that had David stayed in the game, he would have gotten there before Kenny. In fact, “If I Never Stop Loving You” had kind of an island calypso feel that Kenny has made a career off of in more recent years.

 

JL: What do you think of David’s two albums today? Do you think he had the potential to become a star had he kept going?

PM: I listen to them once in a while, but honestly, it’s painful memory and reminder of what could have been for him as well as Mark and myself. I know he would’ve been huge had he kept at it.


Mark Hybner (manager)

JL: How did you discover David and how did he end up with The Emotions? What led you to believe he was ready to go solo?

MH: I conducted a search for a male vocalist that I thought would have a
chance at being a successful country music star.  I was asked to go listen
to a male vocalist and his band at a dancehall in Texas.  The vocalist was
good, however, I was constantly drawn to his back-up singer. After I
listened to a few songs, I walked up to the back-up singer, and asked him
if he would be interested in auditioning for me.  He said “sure,” and his
name was David Kersh.  So, the following week, he came and sang three songs
with the Emotions in Austin, Texas.  After hearing the three songs, I asked
him if he would be interested in performing with The Emotions for a year;
and that way, I could get him ready to get a record deal in Nashville.
After six months, he was ready and I invited Pat McMakin to see him, and
that’s how he made his way to Nashville.  The first time I heard him sing,
I knew he had what it took to be a successful country music act.  He was
the 92nd person I auditioned.

DKPMMH
Pat McMakin, David Kersh, and Mark Hybner (courtesy of Mark Hybner Facebook)

JL: How did Curb Records discover David and how quick were they to sign
him?

MH: Pat McMakin had a great relationship with Mike Curb and was able to get
Curb Records to sign David.
JL: After recording his first album, “Goodnight Sweetheart,” what were
your initial thoughts on how the album would perform?

MH: I had a lot of faith in David as a performer, and I felt that the record
captured enough of him to take some great songs up the charts.

JL: After having three top 15 songs from “Goodnight Sweetheart” and a top
5 with “If I Never Stop Loving You,” did you think you had a star on your
hands?

MH: I knew I had a star on my hands the first time I auditioned David.

JL: David told me that he stepped away from music because vocal issues
(pitchiness, etc.) were killing his confidence and embarrassing him on
stage. What was your initial reaction to David’s vocal issues and him
deciding to step away from music?

MH: The business back when David was in it was very hectic and pushed artists extremely hard.  David worked a lot of dates and knew he needed some time off.

JL: Pat McMakin said that Curb was saying David was going to follow in Tim
McGraw’s footsteps at Curb, being a top priority at the label, and that
he was giving Kenny Chesney a run for his money on the road. Is it even
more disappointing that David decided to walk away from music after such
high praise and good draws on the road?

MH: Everyone in Nashville knew David was a star, but fate had a different turn
for him.

JL: Looking back, what do you think of David’s two albums today? Do you
still listen to them occasionally?

MH: I think the projects are great and I do listen to them often.

JL:  Had he kept going, do you think David would have been a star?

MH: Like I said earlier, we all knew he was a star, and I think he could have
been Entertainer of the Year at some point in the future.

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