Talk of the Town - Living the dream January 06 2005

In Cabbagetown, David Railey is in his element

For David Railey, the American dream is an ever-changing notion of happiness that is achieved by means outside of the acquisition of wealth and 2.5 kids. For the thirtysomething songwriter and former frontman for indie-rock outfit American Dream, the intangibles of the American dream change like the seasons.

Holed up in a shotgun shack in Cabbagetown, U.S.A, Railey’s rented house is a hidden hideaway in one of Atlanta’s rapidly gentrifying and much eulogized neighborhoods. A bastion of old Atlanta, the former cotton mill community has long given refuge to a mix of descendents of the original Appalachian work force imported to staff the towering cotton mill that is now a high-rent loft complex. A rugged artists’ community has also sprouted in Cabbagetown’s tiny streets, pollinating a crop of defiant townies and characters drawn to the neighborhood.

For Railey, his sparsely decorated one-level house is the perfect environment in which to live, love and write songs under his new moniker, Day Mars Ray. Tucked away inside with his two dogs, Dweezil and Ursula, cat Vespa and an arsenal of guitars, tape machines and various bottles of wine, home is safe haven.

Creative Loafing: Is it expensive to rent a house in this neighborhood?

Railey: It’s expensive for one person, but I call Cabbagetown New York’s waiting room. My neighbor across the street just moved to New York. Another [neighbor] two doors down just moved there and a couple of people I work with just moved there. It’s like New York is the next step up from here.

You have high ceilings.

Yeah, for a shotgun, it has high ceilings. It must have been built for someone higher up than just an average mill worker. The houses that were built for the mill workers are really small and the houses for the bosses are much bigger. This one must have been for a floor supervisor, or someone just a little bit higher on the chain, but not too high.

Do you like the neighborhood?

I love it. Fifteen years ago, you could give the property away. Now it’s the place to be. I’ve met some really cool people here, it’s a nice mix of artists, people that have grown up here, then of course, there’s the yuppies, but the yuppies in Cabbagetown seem to have more heart than the average Atlanta hierarchy of yuppies.

I’m sure this neighborhood doesn’t take too kindly to strangers.

Nope. Cabbagetown is the last piece of what the city used to be like, before the carpetbaggers, before the Olympics. It’s just a city within a city with no pressure to be the New York of the South.

What’s the crime like here?

I’ve had people go through my truck at night.

Do you keep the doors locked?

Sometimes, but I have a rifle and two dogs.

I mean the doors on the truck.

No, but there’s nothing in there worth stealing, just pennies.