There is something truly great about Milwaukee in the spring; that we are closer than ever to our coveted warm summer months. Soon the city will be filled with gratuitous "Best Patio Lists" and an overwhelming amount of outdoor festivals; but most importantly, the people of Milwaukee will be happy, as Vitamin D will flood the streets as much as PBR.
Perhaps no one understands the wonder of a Milwaukee summer better than Waukesha-native, David Engen, who recently re-re-re-located his family all over the country, only to end up right on Bay View's doorstep. Performing now as Markowski's, Engen feels right at home to embrace the Milwaukee music scene.
His debut album "Añejo on Dogwood" out 5/27, showcases blues, folk, and americana songwriting infused into a light-hearted orchestration, with an inviting, clever voice that is highlighted on top. The second track, "Know-It-All", brings out a little Van Morrison vibe, while telling what feels like a life-long love story smushed into an elevator pitch.
We are honored to premiere Markowski's debut album "Añejo on Dogwood". You can stream it below and check out our interview with Engen.
MM: How are you doing?
DE: I’m really into grilling right now. I worked at a Tiki-themed wine bar & cheese shop on the Gulf of Mexico, and my boss there, a former semi-pro ballplayer, showed me how to make raw ground beef balls for quick snacks throughout the day. He played a small role in the film Major League II, and is my closest link to Bob Uecker. So I’ve been eating a lot of raw meatballs.
MM: You're a Wisconsin-native, but you have moved your family from Sarasota to Berkeley, only to end up back in Milwaukee. What continued to draw you back home?
DE: We've lived everywhere that we wanted to live in the continental US (besides San Diego- and maybe Maine). As we impulsively jumped from place to place, we always said, Lord, why not just move back to Milwaukee? Really we love everything right here. Living in Florida, I remember going to an Oktoberfest and thinking “now this is what I love about Florida.” The housing scene in San Francisco is so wonky that my wife & I bought a book, “The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat,” but we nixed the idea when we realized how long it would take to get the boat back to Milwaukee. But really, when you are pining, when you are longing, it's hard to know exactly what for.
MM: Your music definitely showcases a hint of levity and comic relief, which is refreshing. And yet the sound seems timeless with the likes of Van Morrison or Randy Newman. Can you talk a little about how your sound comes together?
DE: I mean, once I overheard Paul McCartney talking to Oprah and he was saying… "The songs just come down from a cloud" and that's how I always felt. Is that a humble way of saying- 'it's not very hard for me to write a song'? The songs just show up. They do. But perhaps McCartney just meant that he downloaded the songs on his iPhone.
MM: With your debut album, Añejo on Dogwood, around the corner, how are you feeling?
DE: Y'know for me, right now, its all about getting onstage and playing this stuff for people live. I recorded the demos in a garage while my kids were… what were my kids doing? When we got to Berkeley, I didn’t have a band, so I hired a great Bay Area drummer, Dawn Richardson, and I found this really fun horn trio called Red Beans and Rice. I asked them to come in after seeing a youtube video of them playing the Ghostbusters theme song. Now I want to see how these songs will adapt. I want to find other musicians to come in on this - folks to collaborate with. I have a tremendous drummer, Brian Farvour, who's joining in, and we'll piece the rest together.
MM: As you continue to adapt back into Milwaukee and its music scene, what do you hope to accomplish?
DE: Y'know, I've just missed making a crowd laugh. Performing in other cities, I've found that harder to do. People in Wisconsin, they do laugh. They're ready to have a good time. Y'know, you feel like an entertainer, rather than a curiosity. Or Wisconsin is laughing at curiosities. That may be it.
MM: Something you want the world to know?
DE: I feel like Kevin Costner trapped in a Kevin Costner film.
MM: Favorite spot/thing to do in MKE?
DE: Pizza Man- I've eaten pizza all over the damn place. Pizza Man is absurd. The crust is like an octopus cracker. Meatball - cream cheese- brussels sprout - mm-yep.