Daniel, your new album is your first release since 2011’s ‘Feet Above The Ground’, which received the John Lennon Award for Best Pop Song of The Year for ‘New State Of Mind’. Why did we have to wait such a long time for new material?
I’ve never been one of those artists that write a song every day of their life and spurts a new album out every year. For me it’s all about the life you live in between albums and I write in collections. After my previous album I moved to London, had some crazy experiences and played with many people. I went through a horrible breakup and finally was ready to write new material in 2016. It took a lot of time to find investors and book studios, record, mix, arrange, I do a lot of this by myself so yeah, it takes time. But ultimately I’m proud of this album for being so honest and deeply rooted in truth and life.
‘Lucky Me’ is a positive name for an album after a critical time in your life. How personal are the songs on the album? And did music help you to find a light at the end of the tunnel?
I guess ‘Lucky Me’ is a statement. No matter how hard life gets you can alway focus on the good stuff. Lucky me that I have music in the first place to chanel my emotions after going through brutal life situations. Lucky me that I am surounded by loving people who believe in me and are willing to invest their money or time (sometimes both) to help me move forward with my art. Lucky me that I can walk ,breath, sing and dance and even though I often feel sad, depressed, lost, confused (see all the different faces on the album cover) ultimately I know I can feel happy and content if I just decide to!
Your new album impresses with a rich blend of genres and moods – connecting element is a deep understanding of Soul. How important was Soul, R&B and especially blue-eyed Soul for your musical development? Which artists influenced you?
Lewis Taylor, Jamiroquai, Harry Connick Jr, Steely Dan, a lot of white guys playing soul lol that’s who I grew up with alongside Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Michael Jackson and Prince! I learned five instruments by the age of 15 and for each I picked up very different influences from Ringo and John Bonham to Quest Love and Billy Cobham on the drums and Paul McCartney and Jaco to Stuarts Zender and Bootsy on the bass. Every instrument takes you through the story of music and the more you play the more you get it at a very fine level. That’s really where it all comes from!
Above all your album is a sonic pleasure for listeners. You worked with session cats like bassist Rick May, who played amongst others with Michael Jackson, and a sublime horn section, that already supported stars like Jamiroquai and Amy Winehouse, on that record. Was “Make it bigger” your motto this time?
It’s always my motto, haha! But yeah, this album had to mean business. I wanted to give my songwriting a proper chance to sound like the best of the best and I feel like that, at least, was accomplished on this album. As far as the business side of things goes, well I’m always working on that even though talent and recognition are sometimes so far apart you wonder if there is any link between them at all.
Daniel, not only the musicians on your album are exquisite, but also the studios you chose for the recording sessions like the Abbey Road Studios in London. This legendary studio is a special place for you. You’ve been part of the studio house band for many years. How did it happen that you became a member of the band? And do you still feel reverence for the history of this studio?
There are honestly very few places in this world where I can walk in and feel completely at home. As it happens, Abbey Road Studios is one of them. I was fortunate enough to get a first gig there in 2013 and I spend 5 months arranging the perfect set for that gig. When the concert was over the guys from Abbey Road said they loved the set and the funky/jazz aproach I took on all the Beatles/Pink Floyd/Radiohead songs we played. I was asked to play there again, and again, and again. It became one of the most brilliant musical experiences in my life and I still play there on a regular basis for various charity events, etc… It’s the best studio in the world, full stop.
You had already written, played and produced your first two albums without any help of other songwriters or producers. Why did you decide this time to get a co-producer on board with Joby Baker?
Joby is my brother from another mother! It’s not just Joby, it’s his family. His dad John Cartwright and his brother William Cartwright as well as their mum Jaki were like my second family. I started playing drums in the family band at 18 and we’ve never been far apart ever since. This album was all about growing up and letting go so it felt natural to share the experience with the best musicians I knew. Joby is an incredible producer and also he trusts me 100% which means we can work together very well and very fast, truly the most incredible experience of my life so far!
You co-wrote many songs for ‘Lucky Me’ with John Cartwright, who died unfortunately shortly after the last recording session. Tell us about his role in your musical development and your cooperation on the album.
John Cartwright was probably the biggest influence on my musicality, maybe more than Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai or Miles Davis. He taught me a lot about everything, production, playing various instruments, leaving space, words, you name it! A real wizard who unfortunately never got the recognition he deserved.
When it came to writing for this album it was clear to me that he would be the best guy to do it with. Strangely he had never really co-writen in his life so we found ourselves very humble in the process and were able to reach levels of honesty never reached before. After a few months of writing came the time to record and naturally he flew out to Canada to his son Joby’s studio with me for six weeks and we had a terrific time transforming the songs we wrote into actual records. He played a bit of everything on the album but mostly was like a beacon for us whenever we were going in the wrong direction or couldn’t figure out where to go next. He will be missed not only by me but by anyone who has had the pleasure to have known him.
Daniel, you are a stage veteran. You’ve toured North America and Europe with artists such as James Blunt, Counting Crows and Amy Winehouse over the years. What fascinates you about playing your songs live on stage? And can we expect a tour with the new album?
What I like the most on stage is putting myself and the band in danger. We have these guidelines (the songs with the chords, beat and melody) but what’s fun is pushing the boundaries of where you can take the song without losing it’s nature. A lot of improvising and a lot of very edgy playing, pushing the sound as far as it will go before breaking, soloing hard like Coltrane would and yet keeping that pop element, that’s where the fun is for me! I like to think of Weather Report playing a Beatles song with Steve Winwood leading the way, does that make sens? As far as touring goes, well again we are back on the business side of things. If I can get the right support and find the right business partners then yes, there will be touring, a lot! Until then I’m bearing my cross (it’s more like a 58 Les Paul actually) through the desert and who knows, one day I might turn around and find there are lots of people following me!
Photo: db Clifford
This interview was first published on Juni 14, 2018.