Interview: Daniel Meade

Glasgow’s Daniel Meade has an old soul, an ear for a tune that you’d swear was already an old friend and a guitar that right now is screaming “I Love You”.  With a new album; playing everything himself, recorded at home this is a suite of songs that look backwards for inspiration, yet are a new, and reinvigorating experience for Meade, being in love.  Feeling warm and fuzzy, we caught him reflecting on the terrific new record, his new found domestic bliss and time spent backing Ocean Colour Scene.

So this is a Daniel Meade record without The Flying Mules?
Yeah, just a solo release this time round.

How does it differ?
The main difference is how I’m forced to approach the arranging and recording really. I’m extremely limited in ability compared to Lloyd on lead guitar, Tam on percussion and Mark on the bass, so I need to make do with what I’ve got really! It simplifies things and I think for this collection of songs it has worked really well.

Do the Flying Mules help act as a barometer, are there songs you write as Daniel Meade & the Flying Mules, and those that are Daniel Meade – is it obvious?
These songs benefit from being stripped back and a little rough. They would have been entirely different beasts had we done them as a band. These songs were all written specifically for this album which is something I’ve never done before. I never usually sit down to write a specific song for a specific band or project, just wait and see how it sounds when it’s finished, and by then it’s usually pretty obvious what’s going to happen with it.

You’re a side man for hire too? Most recently for Ocean Colour Scene, how was that?
I only do the side-man thing if it’s a band or artist with material that I really love to listen to and play, like Diana Jones, Sturgill and most recently OCS. I’ve never been able to ‘take the money and run’ if I don’t enjoy the music. The OCS tour was a wonderful experience, getting to play all those songs every night, in amazing venues, and to such an up for it crowd, it was really amazing to be part of. I can’t think of another band with such a loyal and passionate following, they absolutely love it. Such a great band, it was an honour.

What you going to be doing in 2017?  More sideman stuff or Mules?
More of the same really! Lloyd and I are off to tour the EU again for a few weeks in February, got a good bunch of shows booked over there with our friends at Lucky Dice so looking forward to that. Then we should be starting work on a new Mules record in the Spring, songs are all good to go. Got another solo project underway as well so we’ll see how that pans out the next few months. Other than that I recently got engaged so lots to get sorted personally. It won’t be a dull year!

Lets talk about the new record, it has an interesting title. Do we catch you in a reflective mood? 
Yeah. The songs were all inspired by and, I guess, written for/about my girlfriend (now fiancee). They all came from those kinda early day-late night conversations we were having about our pasts, presents and future and they all came really easily. I’d got into a bit of a mental rut last year, I wasn’t really enjoying playing or writing, wasn’t in the best of places, but that changed when I met her and I got motivated again.

It’s quite a spartan record, was it written that way, or does it come out in the recording that it suited this suite of songs?
So it basically started out as nothing more than a songwriting/recording project. I gave myself no more than an hour to write each song and no more than 4 hours to record each of them. Some came in 20 minutes, some were cut in first takes. I didn’t allow myself to read any lyrics while recording either so they changed from take to take, as did the arrangements, which made it a lot of fun and, as it turned out, really suited the songs. I put the collection together as a birthday present for her and ended up liking it so much I thought I’d just put it out on her birthday, which is 10th February. That’s got to keep me in the good books for a while!

There is an old feel to the record, old-fashioned, of a different time, you like to look back to go forward? Whose influences loom large? 
I really love the sound of the early blues/ragtime stuff, Big Bill Broonzy, Casey Bill Weldon, Tampa Red.. so I’d say it’s probably of that vein. It’s rough and ready, and probably not what you would call ‘well recorded’ by today’s standards but I think that’s also the charm of these old records.. They were often recorded in makeshift studios with background noise, mistakes, something out of tune, yet on top of and through it all they’ve captured an amazing performance that has stood the test of time. For me it’s always about how good the song and performance is first, how it’s captured or the quality is much further down the list. No point paying £150 an hour in some high-end studio if you can’t bring the goods!

Are you prolific as a writer? How about at finishing what you start?
I’m not sure what defines prolific but I do write a lot, a little something every day. I always finish what I start, it’s just good practice I think. There have been times from the opening line when I’ve known a song is going nowhere, sounds rubbish, and will never see the light of day but always persevere, as you might just stumble across a wee line or an idea that you would never have had otherwise, and something completely different can come from it.

This record’s not on At The Helm, you liked working with them? Do it again in the future?
It was alright. Like any new relationship, there’s always going to be issues and uncertainty. From an artist’s point of view you’re essentially starting to work on something very close to you with people you don’t really know anything about, so there’s a lot of sussing out initially, a fair amount of blind trust required from both sides and sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you imagine or hope. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it’s all about learning, and I took a lot from it. We put out a great record together and for that I’m happy.

Something flippant to wrap it up; I’m a big fan of male millinery, you seem a pretty cool guy. Who makes your hat? I saw you in Leeds (I think) with Sturgill Simpson, sporting a good looking number.
Why thank you..  All those hats were eBay bought, can’t remember which one I had on that particular Sturgill tour but I’m sure it was a belter! But I leave the hat wearing to Lloyd these days, he’s got it sussed.

Daniel Meade’s new record ‘Shooting Stars and Tiny Tears’ is out February 10th, on From The Top Records.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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