David Kushner interview on breakthrough single Daylight: "Vulnerability is freedom"

The ascendant singer-songwriter talks new song Daylight, what to expect from his debut album and the influences of Hozier and Lana Del Rey.

David Kushner arrived in the Top 10 of the Official Singles Chart last week like the sun breaking through the clouds. 

The 22 year old singer-songwriter (seemingly) came out of nowhere a few weeks ago with his brand new single Daylight, a haunting, gothic ballad indebted to the likes of Lana Del Rey and The National. 

It became David's first Top 10 hit in the UK, and is currently in its second week of challenging for the country's Number 1 single - right now in contention with former chart-topping trance banger Miracle.

With his career exploding and the sky seemingly the limit, we caught up with David as he puts the finishing touches to his debut record in LA. We talk Daylight's success, the influence of Lana Del Rey, how his faith inspires his writing and the awkward conversation he'll probably have to have with Lewis Capaldi later this summer...

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Hi David! It's really nice to meet you

You too, thank you so much for having me. 

We're here, of course, to talk about Daylight and it's success in the UK - it's your first Top 10 single, challenged for Number 1 last week, challenging again this week...how does it feel to be here?

It's hard to even know [where to begin] because everything's happened so fast for me. I'm still, in this moment, processing everything. It's just surreal. I'm filled with gratitude and I'm just so grateful to be able to make the world a better place one song at a time. That's always been a motivator for me, to see the impact that my art can have on the world. This is the biggest release I've ever had...it warms my heart to know what this song means to people. 

I really love the layers behind this song - you've said previously it's about paradoxical desires, it has this almost mythological weight to it 

Yeah, 100%. I would say it's the most meaningful and personal song I've made to date. It has a lot of biblical references, which I like to incorporate lyrically. It's the most important thing to me, my faith. I had the idea of creating this song from a certain part of this Bible, from this disciple named Paul. He talked a lot of evil forces in the world [and how to resist]. There's light and darkness, and the darkness is essentially the worst version of ourselves. It's a pretty universal [concept] but it's super important to me.

And if you've struggled with this yourself, is that hard to incorporate into a song to share with the world? 

I definitely had [questions over whether I should release the song] during the process, never to the full extent where I seriously considered it...but I'm very vocal about my faith. It's in all my past records, stuff like Miserable Man is about the certain struggles I've had believing in my faith. But I'm very open about that vulnerability. It's hard putting yourself out there, especially with things you've experienced that are traumatic and painful. But, you know, I believe that vulnerability is freedom. 

I think that my listeners [recognise that] and they can tell my lyrics and songs are a lot different. I'm different to most artists. I want to make sure that the songs I write...they're not a niche thing you might hear on the radio. I always want to go a level deeper. 

I can definitely hear how people like Hozier, Bon Iver, The National have influenced this track. I also hear a lot of Lana Del Rey, too

Oh, 100%. I love Hozier, I love Bon Iver. I love Lana Del Rey. The National are, like, so amazing. They're so talented. [These artists] are just timeless. I feel like at any point in your life, you could go back and listen to [their music] and still get that feeling you got first listening to it 20 years ago. That's always a goal and inspiration of mine, for sure.

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Like for example, with Born To Die, Lana came out with a very specific aesthetic and point of view and with each release she's...sorry, I could talk about Lana Del Rey all day

I love Lana. 

What I'm trying to say is that your aesthetic already seems so certain and sturdy, like Lana's was. And how do you move, musically, past that point? How do you evolve?

That's a great question that most people haven't asked me for any interview or anything I've done recently. I've been talking about that a lot recently with my collaborators, actually. I'm just finishing my album and I think Daylight set such a different direction in my creativity and in my sound as an artist. It's like nothing I've ever released before. It's really put a different fire in my heart.

I know in my spirit I need to be writing a lot of new songs, and right now they're cohesive around Daylight. A lot of artists can relate to this, I thjink - you have a release that's very different [to what you've done before] and it kind of shocks you in a way, creatively. I'm experimenting a lot. I will say that. I'm trying to expand my sound, trying to make a bigger sound. 

Is there one song you've been working on you're really excited for fans to hear?

Oh, totally. I have a new song called Georgia Rain that hasn't come out yet that's going to be on my album. I'm finishing it up right now. That song is so special and some of my fans have actually posted me singing it at my UK shows. It actually has some buzz around it right now, it seems people are really excited for that.

You recently came to the UK for the first time to play some shows. I know British humour can sometimes be strange to Americans, so I hope we were nice to you!

I love British humour. You guys were amazing to me. Literally ask my girlfriend or my manager, I didn't want to come back to America. There's such a different energy over there. It's so different to America, it was a cool cultural change. I didn't want to leave, but I'm very happy I'm coming back soon.

A lot sooner than you might think! The Official Charts are based in London, David...

Screw it. I'm gonna move there. I live there now.

It's also just been announced you'll be supporting Lewis Capaldi this July at a special gig in Chepstow. Lewis famously just beat you to Number 1...do you think you'll have forgiven him by then?

I'm planning to confront him when I go there. I'll be like...hey, Lewis, we've got to sit down and talk about something. No, I'm just kidding. All is forgiven, but I am coming in hot. So, Lewis, if you're reading this...you better be worried. I got a lot more songs coming for that Official Chart!

And not to tempt fate, but if that Official Singles Chart Number 1 award does make its way to you in the next few weeks, how would you celebrate?

I would definitely come to you guys in the UK. I'd probably do a massive show, try and sell out a big venue. We'd have a massive celebration. I would bring my family with me, my girlfriend, everyone that I love. I would definitely be with you guys, though. I'd definitely come to the UK. 

Daylight is out now via Miserable Music/Virgin. 

Article and Body Images: Lizzy Mae/@momentswithmae 

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