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david m. bailey: Reviews

Truthfully, I don’t recall exactly how David M. Bailey came to my attention. Maybe because I am a developing guitarist and David is a professional Singer/Guitarist who has an exceptional work capacity and multiple CD’s on the market. I investigated his Website and decided it was a good fit with mine, so I Linked David. Last November, I wrote David an e-mail. In late February of this year, I received a response in the mail along with two CD’s I was interested in and one was a “Live” CD. Live CD’s allow us all to hear the interaction that is unique between an artist and his or her audience. I found David to be very “down to earth”, warm and open to sharing and exchanging new ideas. But there is more to his story. Much more!

Some 9 years ago David began experiencing terrible headaches. His wife urged him to go to the doctor but David was initially reluctant. When he finally was examined by physicians, the news was absolutely devastating. A brain tumor the size of a baseball was located in David’s brain. Surgery successfully removed the entire mass. But the doctors told David he had 6 months left to live. David’s story has been featured on CBS News/”48 Hours”, “60 Minutes”, Fox/Health Channel and NPR (National Public Radio) In May of 2003 he won the Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition. He is inspirational and motivating and I am very honored to welcome to my new Blogsite interview series a very special man you won’t soon forget: David M.Bailey. David, Welcome!

MM: I always like to work backwards a bit. So tell me, when did music first become your passion?
I took piano lessons through elementary school but it never really stuck. Then in 7th grade, I took guitar lessons from my English teacher after school – My guitar was pieced together from 3 broken ones that had been donated to us. it was love at first pluck.

MM: Who were your earliest musical influences?

DMB: I grew up overseas, so radio didn’t really have much of an impact on me. My folks had 1 Joni Mitchell record and a few from Peter Paul and Mary. I think I learned the idea of harmony from them. It was a huge thrill of mine to meet Peter years later in Kerrville. I also listened to a lot of Cat Stevens and CSN – and J.S. Bach 

MM: Your parents are Presbyterian missionaries and I know that you were in Beirut, Lebanon until the civil war there forced you to finish your schooling in Germany. Tell us how your musical training evolved?

DMB: After the guitar class was officially over, the teacher asked if I would like to take private lessons in classical guitar. I don’t think I was hugely interested in that, but he assured me that it would really help my technique no matter what I ended up doing – he was right. I did that for a year, then later when I evacuated to Germany for high school, I connected with a German tutor for a bit of finger picking and jazz, but mostly it was in playing everyday that my style developed.

MM: When I listened to your “LIVE” CD, I was struck by how entirely at ease you were with the audience. Is there a method or a ritual you go through before every show to prepare for the gig?

DMB: great question thanks – and, no.  Part of that comes, I guess, with years of just doing it. The other part is that I do have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do that night by way of a set list that I spend a lot of time on for each show – no 2 are the same. I think of it as a journey that we area all on together and while I have a pretty good idea of where I hope we end up, the road there can take a lot of turns. Just try to enjoy the ride and be a good tour guide.

MM: You’re known internationally. And I have heard others compare you to Cat Stevens, or Jim Croce. But I was surprised to learn that your influences are J.S. Bach and Kahlil Gibran?

DMB: listen to the Brandenberg Concertos with your eyes closed. The way he has so many things moving and finally resolving is kinda how I think. – Gibran does the same thing with words and his use of metaphor continues to inspire me.

MM: How does David M. Bailey answer to critics who might say, “He’s too religious” or “He’s in the ‘Inspirational’ category only”?

DMB: [smiling] Well, I’d be inclined to ask them why ‘inspiring’ is bad. I’d also invite them to a concert so they could hear me in context of a larger body of work than just 1 song or CD. It’s all about balance. E.g. I usually play my song about psycho airport security people right before or right after the one lamenting the death of a friend. Finally, I’ve been around enough to learn that winning awards and critics’ ears is not what matters – nice when it happens, but I’m way more interested in connecting to my listeners and being true to who I am. Sounds really corny, but it’s true. And, you know what they say: No one ever built a statue for a critic.

MM: Like many of us, you put down the guitar and went into the corporate world for awhile. What made you focus entirely on earning a living with music?

DMB: I’d like to say that I had the vision and plan and executed it in a timely controlled way, but the truth is at first, I never focused on trying to make a living with music. I was just making music to help keep my own heart and head a live and to share some of what I was learning with others. The money kinda straggled in later until I had to choose between throwing myself back into the corporate world [kinda unthinkable] or take the small leap of faith and finding out where music could go. It’s trite to say it, but now I have both a living and a life. More than anything, I love saying or ‘musician’ when asked what I do. 

MM: I’d like to shift gears, if we can onto the subject of what happened to your health. I’ve been treated for headaches and have had scans but I am totally healthy. Your brain tumor sounds like something that came right out of “left field”?

DMB: The headaches showed up one day, got bad, then over thre course of a few days got really bad, then one day I woke up and had a seizure and fell over. – my wife called 911 and the next thing I remember it was 4 days later and I’d taken an ambulance ride, a helicopter ride and had a brain operation. Crazy.

MM: You were married at this point, I know. How did you and your wife respond to such a terrible prognosis? Six months isn’t much time at all to get one’s life in order?

DMB: She was (is) a rock. Crazy thing is, the day all this happened was the same day we were supposed to move – the van was on the way and our house was all packed ready to load. All of a sudden, everything changed and while it took me several days to first understand this and second come to terms with it, she understood immediately that a new chapter had started; kept everything running and everyone afloat –and, never had any doubt that I would live. Faith beyond measure.

MM: David, how do you yourself explain that you have beaten the odds? You’re very much alive and well today. I have looked over your Touring Itinerary and it’s relentless. How do you explain your ability to achieve this from your perspective?

DMB: My As for beating the odds, I’ve received the very best care in the world at Duke University, am aware that there are countless people praying for me – most of whom I’ve never met, and I have a unique passion that drives me to get up early and stay up late. And – I learned this the hard way – the passion must include helping others. I think that’s huge. It’s kind of exhausting to live that way, but nothing a nap can’t fix. As for the busy touring, well, the kids like to eat and I don’t have much else to do. . 

MM: Do you ever ask, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?”

DMB: 10 days after the first surgery. I asked it once – had a long conversation with God that day.– and quickly learned it wasn’t that it was a bad question – just a useless one. I realized that even if I knew, it wouldn’t change what was important - namely , what was I going to do with the time I have? It was an easy change – not ‘why’, but instead, ‘what now? ’ that question was empowering and I still ask it every day.

MM: You’re a spiritual man, a Christian. Were you ever angry at God?
DMB: Yes, just once -- at the beginning of the ‘why me’ conversation – which actually began with me screaming that question. By the time we were done, I was looking for my first answer to ‘what now?” – which turned out to be the guitar.

MM: How are you feeling these days physically?
DMB: Great! Just got my annual checkup scan and it’s all clear -0 also just turned 40 – which is a bigger milestone than I expected. Wondering if I’m supposed to get a real job now that I’m all grown up… 

MM: Can you take us through an “average” day when you are off the road and on the road? Are there certain medicines that help you or certain exercises that help you remain well?

DMB: Medicine-wise, I just take stuff for seizures and vitamins. Nothing fancy. A typical day on the road is actually more typical than at home – fly, hotel, gig, fly. I guess the stage is kinda like a second home But it takes a good amount of effort and time to get to that 90 minutes on stage. Aside from the actual performance and the time afterwards meeting people, the whole process of touring is semi-routine, punctuated by lots of unpredictable variables – the sound system, the sound check, the audience, the lodging, the town itself, etc. There are moments when you stop and wonder ‘what am I doing here?’ but they are few and far between – mostly, I am blessed to have one of the few jobs in the world where, when you’re done, people stand up and applaud. And on those nights when it feels like maybe I didn’t really connect, it always amazes me to hear what folks say afterwards. Very affirming.

MM: Your journey literally led you to several hospitals and doctors. What was missing that you were searching for at these facilities?

DMB: I think it all comes down to one word: hope. It is hope that Duke offered. I think you can have the best treatment in the universe, but if you offer the patient no hope, there’s no point. Conversely, hope can lift you above a lot of roadblocks.. I could go on a long time on this one…. Which is tricky, because a lot of people who don’t make it had hope until the moment they passed. The difference? I wish I knew.

MM: I sense that you refused to die. Am I correct?

DMB: I Sort of. I saw a lot of others just give up. I figured it was a choice early on and giving up never really occurred to me.

MM: Still, how did you face the facts and how did your wife face all of this? This had to be a nightmare of equal proportion for her? –

DMB: Probably more so. I’d rather be the patient than the caregiver -- I’ve heard many other patients say that. For me, death has sort of become like a friend who walks beside me but is annoying enough that I keep him at a solid arm’s length.

MM: David, one of the risks in an interview like this is that many people with Cancer might become frightened even more than they already are. What can you say to them?

DMB: This sounds melodramatic so I hesitate to comment, but it’s a phrase I’ve heard before: Cancer saved my life: it showed me how precious the gift of time is. It forced me to overcome some fears and pursue a passion. It drove me to want to make a real difference in the world and in other people’s lived by sharing hope and to leave a legacy for my children more resounding than a few mementoes and a 401k. When I first starting getting out there and performing and doing interviews and such it used to irk me that everybody wanted to talk about the cancer and I really wanted to talk about the music; which was a bit small-minded of me. but I’ve learned a lot since then; truth is, there’s not that much unique about music – I mean, anybody can write a song. The story is surviving, and we all want to survive – whether it’s an illness or unemployment or divorce or abuse – deep down, we want to survive. If I can help others do that in some small way I’m thrilled to do what it takes.

MM: I have to ask you this. What do friends and acquaintances say to a Cancer patient. I have always detested the old “If there’s anything I can do” because that sounds so contrived and passive. So I say “Tell me what I can do and if I can’t bring a solution, I’ll find someone who can”?

DMB: Umm… I wrote a song a long time ago about that one… 
Don't tell me what i should be thinking
Don't tell me what words I should say
Don't tell me how i should be feeling
Don't tell me who i should obey
Don't analyze me or explain me
Don't speculate and don't impose
Don't try to figure out my silence
Accept that neither of us knows
Just understand, if you really want to share my burden
carry me across this thorny ground
If you really want to find a way to show me that you love me
Just be with me, don't make a sound

Don't tell me there is meaning in the madness
Don't tell me someday i will see the light
Don't tell me all about the silver lining
Don't tell me I'll be stronger for the fight
Don't tell me I am like so many others
Don't try to get inside my head
Anyway, it's not my head that's hurting
It's always only ever been my heart instead

Just understand, if you really want to share my burden
carry me across this thorny ground
If you really want to find a way to show me that you love me
Just be with me, don't make a sound

MM: One of the things I love about your website is the Treatment section where you talk about “The Annoying and Important Stuff”. Many people reading this worldwide for the first time are eager to hear your summary of this?
Annoying: taking medication every day slows me down –
important – I’m still alive.
Annoying: I’ve love a lot of vision
Important – I can ‘see’ better than ever what is important:

1 - Faith; For me, faith in a God who loves me and would stick it out with me no
matter what, a faith I had started to lose over the years - the foundation
of the house of my life. .
2 - Family & Friends -; the walls of my life behind which I could find shelter
from the winds, and could lean upon when weary.

3 - Future - the new windows and doors of my life that showed me the possible,
and gave me the chance to start believing in dreaming. I think we all have a dream for a reason and I think we all have the time we need to make it happen. In some ways, we are the lucky ones because we are given a chance to really understand how precious the gift of life is. I returned to music and gradually began a new life as a full time performing songwriter, there are a million other smaller dreams I'm still working on. And I know that is true for everyone.

MM: “Reminders & Resources”…I’m quoting your own website. It has a message of hope, as does your music. Please share that, if you don’t mind?

DMB: The Doctors are incredible people, but only human - Remember that whatever
they tell you is ultimately just their educated guess. They are proven wrong
every day. If 'there's one chance in 500, someone's gotta be the one" Never
stop thinking that you're the one.

If there is a brain tumor support group in your area, join it. One of the
greatest comforts and strengths you will find is in the sharing with
others - particularly as you discover that you are in a position to help
others - and as you do so, will help yourself. It's a magic that never

Duke Info

The Duke Brain Tumor Center, including the family support team, can be
contacted during business hours at 919) 684-5301. Their policy is to return
your call within 24 hours.

If you need to speak to Henry right away, you can page him at 919-970-5656.
Feel free to use use my name as a reference- He will probably call late at
night and has been known to speak quickly. - Be sure to have your questions
ready so you don't forget. He always does better than his best.

The Brain Tumor Mailing List

This is an astounding resource where over 900 patients, caregivers, and
medical professionals from around the world ask questions, make comments,
and provide answers to just about any thing you can think of. I've made
countless friends on the list who are a big part of my life today.


- Send an Email to <>
- Put in the message body:

SUBSCRIBE BRAINTMR (putyournamehere)

I am on tour around the country pretty much all the time and would welcome
the chance to meet you if I'm in your area.


There are A LOT great websites with brain tumor info - I suggest starting
with the following -

Al Musella's List of Clinical Trials and
Treatments - The National Brain tumor
Foundation -
The American Brain Tumor Association- MM: So at this point in time, David M. Bailey is “Clean”. No Cancer. How do you overcome the fear that it may return, David?

DMB: I don’t know if this fear is one I’ve overcome or just ignore. In general, Fear is something I try to avoid. – My next CD has a song on it called “Do not be afraid....” I Maybe growing up in a war-zone helped me. It’s true that the tumor might one day kill me, but it’s more likely I’ll get hit by a truck crossing the road --- which has already happened once. (yes, I wrote a song about it..) .  But I don’t experience fear crossing the road – just a bit of care. So I don’t live with fear of dying; I already know I will (someday) and am lucky enough to have learned early on that these moments need to be cherished.

MM: You tour year-round from the schedule I have in front of me. And I like how arranged the dates—some gigs come one day after another, some a week apart. Would you say you receive energy from performing? I read where Cher once said the performing is the easy part, it’s the constant moving from town to town, hotel to hotel that “kick’s her butt”—so to speak. Describe the experience on the road for yourself?
DMB: Well, Cher is correct, though I suspect her tours are a bit more planned. My schedule is created 100% from invitations. It’s a huge blessing not to be out pounding the pavement trying to find gigs, but the less than proactive approach to booking does tend to produce a somewhat unpredictable tour schedule. I’ve been a traveler all my life, so the road doesn’t really bother me. I’m mostly gone on weekends and the deal at home is to try to be home at least one weekend a month – I’m usually home during the week to I get to be a dad and husband pretty regularly and, when I’m home, I’m totally home. It’s a very short commute to my study. Time in the home office is generally spent on pulling together the next tour, working on the next album, and occasionally, writing.

MM: I’ve faced this next situation I’m about to ask you personally too often. Comforting a person facing a terminal diagnoses. Or someone who has a 50/50 diagnosis with Cancer. How do you do it? What is most helpful?

DMB: I sing. 

MM: Let’s say a person in your audience is an agnostic, an atheist, or is simply not a very religious person. How does your music seem to affect them? Is there a detachment or an appreciation? What are your observations?

DMB: I’m not sure this kind of person tends to come to my concerts. If they do, they aren’t standing in line to talk to me.  Truth is, I used to worry about this a lot more – as in, not wanting to offend people with different beliefs. But I’ve found that’s it’s better to be honest about who you are and what you believe – most folks respect that – anything less comes across as phony. And, I try to do it with a reasonable degree of grace, recognizing that out different beliefs make us who we are. I never tell people what they should believe – I simply tell stories and reference my own thoughts matter of factly and the listener can accept or reject my conclusions. Deep down, I I guess I just assume that the presence of a loving God is a given and focus on how we are called to live day by day.

MM: I recall a story where Elvis Presley was visiting his hairdresser one night, and she realized that she had been cutting his hair all these years and never asked for an autograph. So he signed it (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here): “To Pat: Ingredients for a successful life: 1.) Someone to love. 2.) Something to do. 3.) Something to look forward to”. That was several months before he passed away. Do you agree with Elvis’ sort of practical, common-sense outlook?

DMB: David and Elvis. Now there’s an oxymoron. My dad always told me that the most exciting days in his life were the ones he was in at the time and the ones immediately ahead. It took me about 20 years to understand that that is the definition of living in the moment – which I think I’m getting the hang of now. I would expand on the King’s thoughts by adding 1 - ‘to be loved – and understood- by someone’ 2 – to do something that leaves the world a better place because of you and 3 – to live and share hope.

MM: What is next for David M. Bailey?

DMB: I’m booked through the fall – outside of that, I have 3 big things coming up. This week I’ll be putting the final touches on my next studio album – including settling on a title (!) I’m really excited about this one. It’s my 13th release and sometimes it is tricky finding a fresh sound that is still authentic, but I think we’re there. The songs are strong and the production is really rich. That should be released in June. In May, I’m to receive an award from the Oncology Nursing society and perform in front of 5500 nurses. That will net some interesting conversation… In July, I will celebrate the magic 10 year survival anniversary, Ten years of One more day. In August, I travel to Cyprus to attend my sister’s wedding then the fall touring begins in earnest. I am a happy man.
MM - Blog Interview (Feb 17, 2006)
There’s a musical marking called a repeat sign — a colon followed by two vertical bars — that can send musicians right back to the beginning of their work. Sometimes, that’s not where they’d rather be.

A dozen years had come and gone since David M. Bailey first used his guitar as a secret weapon during his recovery from a brain tumor. He’d ditched the business world to return to his singer-songwriter roots in search of a more genuine, heartfelt career to make the most of his second chance at life.

He built and sustained three distinct fan bases — folk music fans, church audiences and medical groups that included everyone from doctors, nurses and cancer researchers to fellow survivors and families. Each found something to cheer about in original music that resonated on a personal level. People bought his CDs, invited him to speak at conferences and kept up with his touring schedule.

Last autumn, he’d just returned home to Albemarle County after a successful tour of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden.

“I was at the top of my game,” Bailey said. “Every show was better than the last.”

He started getting dizzy and stumbling over words, but wrote it off to jet lag. Then he was in the recording studio, playing his guitar, and he leaned toward the microphone to sing.

“I couldn’t find my pitch,” Bailey said. “For me, that’s like breathing.”

Doctors found an eight-centimeter cyst full of fluid — pressing on exactly the spot in his brain that recognizes pitch —and something else.

A recurrence of his serious grade-four brain tumor. “The big nasty,” Bailey said.

He had successful surgery in November, then another procedure in December to get “hardware in my head for nuclear medicine,” he said. Next came chemotherapy. He spent Christmas Eve in the emergency room.

“It’s like someone picked up my Scrabble board and dumped all the pieces,” Bailey said. “My first reaction on walking out of the hospital in November was, ‘It’s not fair. I’ve already fought this battle.’

“Then I had a reality check. It’s not fair that I’ve lived 12 years, either.”

Fast-forward to March. Bailey is performing again, balancing touring with treatment. He had an encouraging clear MRI earlier this week, followed by another round of chemotherapy. And next week, he will present his first two local performances since his recurrence.

Tuesday afternoon brings an appearance for one of his favorite audiences, the University of Virginia School of Nursing, in McLeod Hall Auditorium. Then, on Wednesday evening, he’ll take the stage to open Garnet Rogers’ show at Gravity Lounge.

“It’s always a good vibe in that room,” Bailey said of his McLeod Hall gig. “They know they can hear things from me that they’ll never hear from anyone else.”

And he said he’s pleased that Gravity owner Bill Baldwin chose him to open Wednesday’s show.

“When I heard him play and sing, it was like listening to a brother,” Bailey said of Rogers.

Now that he’s getting a handle on his new routine of treatment and traveling, Bailey’s also “just itching to get back in the studio,” he said.

That’s because one part of the grand repeat is welcome: he can’t seem to stop writing.

Just as in 1996, when his first victory over cancer ignited a creative period that yielded songs that touched people’s hearts, “the floodgates just opened after my surgery,” he said.

Some of the new material picks up on earlier messages of hope, faith, perseverance and focusing on what matters most in life and amplifies the sentiments, Bailey said. He’s having fun following older songs with the newer ones that take already satisfying musical ideas and run with them.

“It’s been a rocky road, but I’m still walking,” Bailey said.


Among the best recorded acoustic guitar I’ve heard!”
L.R.Baggs - L.R.Baggs (Sep 10, 2006)
WOW! like gentle rain on my soul.”
Laurie Beth Jones - Laurie Beth Jones (Sep 10, 2005)
“uncommon compassion and insight”
WCUW 91.3 FM, Worcester, MA – (Sep 10, 2004)
“Songs that change lives!”
Rev. Charles Hasty - 1st Presbyterian Church, Columbus, GA – (Sep 10, 2003)
Some of the best adult male folk pop within and beyond our indie world
CD BABY (Sep 10, 2006)
Thanks so much for the CD of your music. I was tremendously impressed at first hearing, and subsequent listening sessions have reinforced my enthusiasm.

I know it ain't easy to mine that acoustic singer/songwriter vein and remain original, but you manage to do just that. Lovely melodies, thoughtful lyrics, great sound- what's not to like?
Tom Craggs - Blue Oasis Audio (Sep 25, 2008)
1. Very uplifting
2. Inspirational!!!
3. Excellent, inspiring!
4. A wonderful experience, thank you so much for having David Bailey share his evening with us.
5. Excellent! Food for our spirits.
6. Excellent performance. Touched everyone.
7. Awesome!
8. Very different and much needed. Thanks.
9. Very nice program, inspirational, truthful. Loved seeing David again. Thank you
10. David was amazing. Thank you.
11. This year was so much better than last year (food). David was excellent. I wish he could come to our floor and inspire all our nurses.
12. The program was awesome. Great perspective for what our patients are going through. Hope is important. Thanks to David Bailey for sharing that with our group.
13. David, you touched my heart and opened my eyes. Thank you. What an awesome message. Lessons learned and you can be sure I will carry them with me. God has truly blessed you.
14. Uplifting, heart-warming, inspiring, creative, thought provoking. Engaging with the audience, involving interaction, humorous way to deal with the topics. Encouraging, supportive. Very worthwhile evening and educational.
15. I have come to meetings for more than 10 years, by far the best. Amazing. Thank you so much.
16. Unbelievable.
17. A different perspective. Very good for clinical practice.
18. Outstanding. What a blessing this speaker was.
19. Enjoyed. Excellent, personal presentation of life, his faith, endurance, and acceptance.
20. Excellent speaker. “Keep on keeping on”.
21. Excellent.
22. David was great. Smiles and tears.
23. Excellent choice! To give meaning to oncology nursing and a reason to why nurses remain in the specialty.
24. Excellent. Thanks. God bless you.
25. It was great, just what I needed. This program will remind me to always have hope.
26. Awesome. Mr. Bailey’s CD should be in every patient introduction packet. Saint David among us, how fortunate for us.
27. Great program
28. Beautiful singer, songwriter. Very inspirational. Thanks for the personal insight having that patient perspective helps me to better my nursing.
multiple-comments - Nursing conference (May 17, 2008)

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