SINGER and songwriter David Bankston has had a long and diverse career in music. After starting out in a 70s folk rock band that had a major label deal, he transitioned to musical theater and other artistic ventures before becoming Associate Professor of Music at Coastal Carolina University.
His educational career still affords him the opportunity to write and perform, and he’ll be bringing his vast collection of songs to First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary on Fri., March 1. The show, presented by the Savannah Folk Music Society, will feature a diverse set list and likely some of the amazing stories Bankston tells about his many years in the industry.
“My father was a minister of music in Baptist churches way back in the day,” he tells Connect of his early life in music. “My father was my model. We always would sit around the piano and sing, and he was always the singer in the family. It took me a while to realize that I was a singer, too.”
As a child, Bankston moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he was exposed to folk artists like Bob Dylan.
“That really impacted me, and of course The Beatles did too. But their music was a little more tonally sophisticated than I was ready for,” he says. He learned how to play guitar on instruments he borrowed, and set himself on a course towards an impressive career.
While still in high school, he collaborated with the acclaimed Sam Broussard and legendary guitarist Sonny Landreth, among others. He eventually landed in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he started teaching music at Coastal Carolina.
“Coming to Coastal, I was able to pursue anything I wanted to. So I produced popular singers, musical theater singers, and opera singers,” he says. One of those singers was Elise Testone, the Charleston-based singer who rose to prominence after a stint on American Idol.
The Savannah show is set to be musically diverse, spanning a number of genres.
“I’ll be doing songs in the Americana genre, some jazz-influenced songs that I’ve written, I’ll do some Hoagy Carmichael, maybe some Joni Mitchell. I do a Gullah spiritual, and maybe a field holler. So it’ll be eclectic,” he says.
When it comes to his passion, Bankston says he’s still energized by playing, singing, and writing after so many years. Discovering different types of music from around the world, he says, keeps him intrigued and inspired.
“I’ve been drunk on music my whole life,” he says. “I look to other forms of music for inspiration. I’m a big fan of Brazilian music, and I’ve done a lot of research on that. Another big inspiration for me is Flamenco music. A singer/songwriter friend of mine said, ‘Why would I listen to that, man? I don’t perform any Flamenco songs.’ But that’s not the point. The point is, are they achieving art? That’s kind of the thing that I’m trying to maintain.”