Dave’s Song (Song for a Veteran)” by Americana band the Appalucians (pronounced appa-loosh-ans,) is the collaboration of songwriters Jay Brown and Angie Heimann and Vietnam war veteran Dave Shaarda. In 2018, Heimann and Brown attended a Project DREW workshop, a program that pairs war veterans with songwriters. They spent the afternoon with Dave Shaarda, who shared recollections of his time spent serving in Vietnam, and his feelings about the lasting impact and emotional scars carried by many veterans.
Project DREW, an acronym for “Delivering Restorative Energy to our Warriors, was named for Captain Drew Ferguson, a Special Forces leader who served four tours of duty. After his service, Drew struggled with the transition, and eventually took his own life. Drew’s cousin Mike Winnen, deeply impacted by his Drew’s death, co-founded Project DREW with the organization Music on A Mission as a way to turn his grief into positive action.
Mike contacted his high school friend Angie Heimann and asked her to participate in a workshop. The two had shared the hometown of Kent, OH, (the scene of the May 4, 1970 National Guard shootings of four students protesting US involvement in Vietnam) as well as an awareness of the historical significance of their town’s place in the saga of history.
Angie and her band mate, seasoned legacy songwriter Jay Brown, were paired up with Dave Shaarda to spend a long afternoon at a shaded picnic table as Dave told stories of his days in the war and his life after. That night, Angie and Jay took their notes and wrote the lyrics and music for “Dave’s Song.”
Their lyrics include direct phrases from Dave, like the line “there’s a hole in my sunshine that won’t go away,” a refrain he says has run often through his mind, as he recounts the isolation and inner turmoil many veterans have found difficult to overcome.
The Appalucians are Jay Brown, his wife Aditi Sethi, Angie Heimann and her husband Cas Sochacki. They recorded “Dave’s Song” at Farmstead Studios, tracking vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, bass and harmonium. It was engineered and mixed by Cas Sochacki. The band recorded the song three times before settling on a final version, knowing it would be a cornerstone for their upcoming album and knowing they wanted to emphasize the somber effects of war on our collective psyche while honoring those who have served. In addition to the band, the track includes guest musicians Cynthia McDermott on mandolin and world-renowned percussionist River Guerguerian (Free Planet Radio) on drums.
The video for “Dave’s Song” includes poignant portraits and public domain footage from the National Archives, as well as photographs from Vietnam Veterans Dave Shaarda and Jim Heimann.
Although “Dave’s Song” names and tells the story of one veteran, the Appalucians intend it to honor all who carry the psychological burdens of war, in hopes of finding a more peaceful path forward.