THERE is so much to talk about…
when it comes to the awesome songwriter that is Luke Daniels. His album, Singing Ways to Feel More Junior, is an intriguing concept - and one I was eager to discover more about. Daniels explains its prerogative and stories to me. I ask him why he chose to cover the Stevie Wonder classic, Don’t You Worry 'bout a Thing; whether there is going to be any fresh material next year; if the current reign of President Trump is a topic he has been compelled to address – and what tour dates he has approaching.
Daniels tells me about the music he is inspired by and what the future might hold; some classic albums that are dear to his heart; how this Christmas is looking for him – and what exactly an ‘Electrophon’ is!
Hi, Luke. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m on the third day of a seventeen-date Christmas tour with the Cara Dillon band - something I also did last year. For me, it’s a chance to spend time with a group of friends that I’ve been working with for almost a decade now. So; something to look forward to.
The shows are selling well - and I’m feeling quite festive as a result
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a songwriter and composer with a background in Folk and traditional music. I’ve enjoyed a long career as an instrumental player but embarked on a solo career in 2012 playing guitar, piano and melodeon.
Your album, Singing Ways to Feel More Junior, is out. It is already picking up positive reviews! Does it feel quite humbling hearing people react to it in a pleasing way?
It’s humbling to get any attention, given the breadth and quality of acoustic music currently out there. I’m lucky also to have had such a talented bunch of musicians who helped create the album’s unique sound.
What were the events and themes that inspired the record? Is there a narrative that runs through it?
Singing Ways to Feel More Junior is an album for grownups everywhere whose songs make use of children’s rhymes and female allegory to explore adult themes - which range from child consumerism, addiction; gender inequality to Donald Trump’s childhood.
Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing sees you tackle a Stevie Wonder classic! What is it about that song that resonates inside you?
I’ve always really liked the song - but the ‘light bulb moment’ came when I realised I could create a solo guitar part for it with a folky feel.
How important are artists like Stevie Wonder to you? Was it challenging converting a Soul song?
It’s quite high in pitch and I had work to add the extra notes to my vocal range. Combining this with the Nic Jones-inspired guitar part took time, also.
There are grown-up rhymes and female allegories on the record – the title kind of nods to that, I guess. How much of the album’s title refers to the world’s need to grow up – how much of it concerns a desire to revert to childhood and shelter from the universal storm?
Neither of these...
Children’s songs are like memes that have survived for centuries because they hold eternal truths that many people today - particularly those in a position of authority should understand. I like the idea that we can be ‘told off’ by the smaller people for whom we have a responsibility to protect and preserve our world.
The album looks at issues like consumerism, President Trump and gender equality. How important was it to address these concerns? Do you think the world has reached a stage where it needs a serious sobering-up?!
A second strand is that of motherhood, femininity and misogyny - and I’m interested in the idea that, if women and children had, perhaps, not been sorely underrepresented throughout history our male leaders would not have got us to where we find ourselves today.
Your music mixes tradition Folk - but is rooted in the modern time. Can you tell me the artists who have inspired you?
Some of my favourite artists include John Martyn, Nick Drake; Anais Mitchell, Joni Mitchell and Tony Rice.
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Anais Mitchell – Hadestown; Valentin Clastrier - Les Buches Des Silences and Brad Mehldau – Live at the Village Vanguard: The Art of the Trio Volume Two are all wonderful recordings that have inspired me over the years.
Can we see you perform anywhere soon? What gigs do you have lined-up?
I have a bunch of dates coming up - all on lukedanielsmusic.com/gigs...
But, an upcoming highlight, I’d say, is Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with Brothers of the Free Reed on 31st Jan.
You have performed a U.K. tour. How much fun was that? Do you think the best crowds reside over here?
Yes, definitely. English audiences are the hugely supportive, yet reassuringly discerning.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Don’t be afraid to include meaningful content and complex ideas on your songs. Real fans will thank you for it.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I’m off from 20th Dec and will be mainly wearing slippers until the start of January...
Before wrapping up; can you talk to me about your ‘Electrophon’. What exactly is it and how integral is it to your live show?
It’s a self-built mechanical musical instrument that performs my own compositions ‘programmed’; 20” steel discs, via technology, that was used in the late-nineteenth century. Its comb and bed plate was made in 1880 - which now work via syncing with an Arduino computer and digital samples.
It sounds and looks like a 6ft-high music box.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
The opening track from Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown. Thank you.
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