Steve Holley had the chance to chat with Dan Glover. You can see Dan at Jam Sandwich’s Old Church Sessions in Stoke Newington, on 10 December. See here for further details.
SH: Hi Dan, it’s a pleasure to be able to ask some questions. I’m lucky enough to have seen you perform on a few occasions and have been blown away by the honesty of your music and the lyrics you write. For those out there yet to discover you, how would you describe your music?
DG: I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to think of a description, and most descriptions I’ve given in the past are quite genre specific, like a nonchalant throwaway genre or something. When I write though, I find my flow through writing about something I’m passionate about, which is quite typical I find in writers, however I think it’s more important than ever to be uncompromising and to be as real as possible and I think music and all art should reflect how the world is at that current time.
SH: The Blues music blog compared you to an “early Bob Dylan”, does comparison to other singers flatter you or put pressure on how you develop your sound?
DG: There’s no pressure, I can’t be doing with anything like that. I just take it on board and put it on the shelf as something I should listen to if I haven’t already, I’m not actively looking for music to influence me, but I am definitely looking for great music to listen too and I’m really fussy by the way. The other thing about being compared to Bob Dylan however, is that I’ve never rated him as a favourite songwriter of mine. It proves his arc of material has influenced so many, even the golden oldies that I do love, so don’t get me wrong, I take it as a humongous compliment but leaves me secretly re-evaluating.
SH: With that in mind, I recently saw you play this year’s Harvest Festival in Kent and you covered ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. It’s no mean feat to tackle Johnny Cash but you nailed it. Your voice has an authenticity that seems to come from life experience. Have you ever considered country music as a direction?
DG: Johnny Cash is my favourite songwriter ever. When I was growing up, it felt like he wrote the soundtrack to my life, and only as I started to write and perform myself I realised he had the ability to even pen the words to the dawn of the universe and in such a poignant way too. Yeah, he is the King to me. I’m like a crazy Elvis fan, but Cash is the man. So, in answer to your question regarding writing country music, yeah, I consider writing country all the time and I’m doing so currently, albeit, not the typical country. I like to think I can keep it real like so many in Cash’s era could, and I’ve taken that aspect of country and it echoes through my writing, whatever genre I write for.
SH: Dan, I reviewed your EP ‘What Happened Last Week’ in December of last year and you had a live EP this year. It was great to hear you in a produced format with a band and I’m keen to hear more? What are your plans for releasing new music, perhaps an album?
DG: I’ve got no plans to make anything at the moment. I’ve got a simple four track though, which is perfect for making some homegrown kitchen-percussion demos. I suspect I’ll release something from the collection I’m building, within the first few months of 2017.
SH: This Friday sees you play the second Mic & Fork session. I saw the first in September and you received a standing ovation from the sell out crowd. What are your plans for the second of these gigs? Will you play a new set or stick to what you know was a winning formula?
DG: I’m always trying to write something better than what I wrote yesterday, and I play them at shows fervently. So the set-lists are always evolving, and that is exciting for me, but I tend to introduce songs in the right environments, e.g. a Mic & Fork gig.
SH: Going forward are you planning to play more festivals next year. Your voice live is outstanding and I’m sure you would quickly build up a following on the festival circuit?
DG: I’ve been quite unlucky reaching out to festivals, hopefully there will be more festivals inviting me to play this year but I doubt it, I really pine for a long list of festivals to play so c’mon festivals. We try, they don’t reply, start replying.
SH: Do you write all your music yourself or do you collaborate at all. Do you think collaboration might dilute the raw emotion in some of your lyrics?
DG: I write my songs, I think lyrics is what I’m good at and I’d love to collaborate, but with the right people. My Mum use to tell me when something was crap, and she’d say I need to rewrite some of it, I appreciated that more than someone telling me everything was good and that’s probably the most collaborative I’ve ever been with the exception of a few fantastic producers who’ve helped me refocus my direction.
SH: You have spoken in the past of “chasing happiness” and finding someone to chase the dream with you. Do you still feel that you are chasing happiness ? How does that pursuit flavour your music and would it’s realisation remove inspiration?
DG: I’m a strong believer in happiness being a thing that must be maintained, and continually must be chased. You have to be fluid, moving forward always, yet more often than that I’m reminding myself what makes me happy, and at the moment I am happy, but, my writing has leaned more towards expressing distaste with what’s going on in the world. I became a man as the world fell into recession, as wars were waging, as the whole world started to question the status quo. Unemployment, housing, many people close to me succumbed to addiction, my own Mother’s plight of illness would have me spiral into depression – it made me wonder why there wasn’t anyone reaching out to people like me – and I felt if I was to continue writing, then I must be honest with myself and by doing so, maybe my writing could reflect, become a social narrative addressing these problems we face.
SH: One of your songs, ‘Heavy Mind’, is about the chasm between outward confidence and expression. You have said that this is about a friend but, having met you, is it not slightly autobiographical? I am always amazed by the dichotomy of the lovely warm guy offstage and the tortured soul of a hopeless romantic when you have a guitar in your hand.
DG: ‘Heavy Mind’ has been with me for so long, it’s meaning to me has evolved over the years. At the time of writing the song, I felt betrayed and let down by a close family member. He was heavily involved in hard drugs, was in a very desperate state and had stolen from my Mum, and we all trusted him and he lied about this whole thing. The words of heavy mind flowed like a river of tears from my mind (hence the name), and I felt empathetic to his addiction and depression and how it had spiralled into a severely dark episode. The biggest upset for me, I knew there was a good man in there and he didn’t prevail through the darkness. Heavy Mind has always been that first and foremost, but I’ve drawn other meanings from it over time, as if analysing my thought process. Like looking at an old picture of yourself and thinking those trainers… wow?!
SH: Your musicianship is always stunning and, like the best performers, must be seen live to truly appreciate. Where did you learn to play and who inspires you?
DG: My cousin Rich inspired me, he played in bands for a few years, and they were awesome, coming from that golden era of myspace magic. I started buying guitar magazines and more often than not, they came with a free playlist of tracks. I’d listen to Motörhead and Wolfmother and couldn’t get over the buzz. I got a mint green Stratocaster for Christmas one year, my Mum had saved up some money, which included her birthday money from her father and she bought it for me with the condition that if it was wasted she would probably kill me. So, I got stuck in, and would bounce between friends and magazines teaching me stuff. At about 16, I’d take a ¾ sized, pink-bodied, nylon string guitar to parties and I’d sing when drunk enough. From there, I eventually started penning my own songs to perform at this one open mic bar called the Cellar Bar, found in my hometown.
SH: Finally Dan, thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you still want to be writing songs that the audience can drift off to? Are you still writing the soundtrack to people’s memories?
DG: I want to write songs that will captivate imagination and inspire, and for it to be quite simply honest. If I can do that, I’ll be happy.