“Treasure is always worthy but with treasure you have to search for it”.
If there’s a time to be in one’s organic element, for 26 year old DANIEL MARCH, that time is now. Inspired by the greats of the nostalgic music era March pays homage to the best of his yesteryear mentors in his newly released album Love Castle Dreams. PEARL DAVIES caught up with March to discuss his philosophy on the music industry, funding his new album, finding your inner treasures and how to keep them.
You have been quoted as saying, “The only way you can be original is by what you fuse together”. Can you expand on this in a way in which you feel you have fused together your music to make you original?
How I try and be original is to put all of these elements in a big pot, cook it up and serve it as it comes while personally referencing or feeling the same feeling without biting someone else’s style. I wanted my new album to sound soulful enough to be a worthy project whether on a lyrical, theme based or music level. To be able to notify the listener I was heavily inspired by Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield – yet be singer-songwriter enough to be relative to do an acoustic show. This is why we didn’t put string and horn arrangements on it [the album] and thicken up the vocals. We still wanted the singer-songwriter acoustic vibe to it, not just a predictable soul record.
For quite a reasonably young artist, your taste in musical mentors sees you as a bit of a classic. Not following trends, sticking to what you know and love (which we love too). Who have you learnt from the most and what is it that you learnt?
Reasonably young? [laughs] 26, all I see is 30. The way I see it, the further back you go listening to your heroes, their mentors and their mentor’s mentors, you get a real organic flavour. There are fewer effects, less computers, less stuffing around. That’s what I love about music. The raw organic nuts and bolts. I think Sting once said that “a good song should be able to be played acoustic, just one voice and one instrument”. I could be wrong about Sting saying it. But I believe that.
There are two things primarily that stick out from what I’ve taken on board from my heroes whether we go from Jimi Hendrix or 2pac. In Love Castle Dreams, artists like Gaye, Mayfield and even Bob Marley have taught me that it wasn’t just enough to have a cool melody or hot music. The lyrics could be positive and godly and still be cool to the public. It was like a bar I felt inside I had to reach, to be cool enough musically for the public to listen too but also be positive enough to feel as though I was planting seeds in the ears of listeners. I mean you listen to ‘People Get Ready’ by Mayfield, ‘What’s Going On’ by Gaye or ‘Jamming’ by Marley. Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’, 2pacs ‘Unconditional Love’ or Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Material’. It’s all spreading love and all a message, not just a song, it’s all real and a lot of Marley’s stuff essentially is the bible. So what I took from it was that every chance you have to tell a message, a story to make a change, then take it. It isn’t just about playing a hot progression. You can have both. Just like Stevie Wonder did with Songs in the Key Of Life.
In the last 50 years or so, through your knowledge and experience how do you feel the music scene has changed over time, from creating, composing, publicising, selling, and technology?
Do you feel this is a positive step for a musician’s future, for the listeners?Without being too negative, I’ll put it this way; if a major label offered me a deal I wouldn’t take it, let’s just say that. Treasure is always worthy right? But with treasure you have to search for it, it’s not easy to find, it’s not accessible to the general public and not everyone will find it. That’s the joys of what’s not in fashion. It is more personable and while you may feel it needs to be publicised, it can lose its treasure element. Everything I’m into now since say 2005, I have searched underground for. No major labels help it and that is where I draw my inspiration from. You can still sell shows out and create a fan base without a major label. If Hendrix came on American Idol, do you think he would win? There’s my point. Create because you want to create and see purpose in it. Don’t sell out by doing things to get fame or to fit a big wig’s mould. You’re cheating yourself from your true artistry. With musicians, it’s a whole other realm. I’m an artist, not a musician so I’ll leave that one alone.
Keeping you keen in the music scene, with the drop in support for live performance venues, artist spots are being palmed off making room for DJ’s and karaoke machines. As a live performer, how does this make you feel and would you have any suggestions to change this trend?
I see the venue’s points from a business stand as they are out to make money and we all need money. Some of my friends are DJs and a good DJ to me is someone who not only knows the crowd but knows their roots and where the music stemmed from so I got respect for a bunch of DJs. None of my friends are karaoke machines so no need to further expand there. I believe anything can be made famous or in style if you perpetuate it long enough. So [with] original music venues, eventually someone is going to catch on, you just need the balls to not cave in to the money over the music side if you can. If you make enough cash. I am not a big business man but I know the difference between society shaping someone and someone shaping society. If everyone caves in and gets karaoke machines, you know the rest. Keep in mind I’ve spent a significant amount of time in places like Melbourne and New York where you can see original music any day of the week to a good sized crowd. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Newcastle where it seems elusive a lot of the time. It can work, an example of this would be at the Lass O’Gowrie. The more karaoke machines you have, the more meat heads you have, the more fights you have, the less live music you have, the more beer is consumed, the more money you make. So you can draw your own conclusions.
Busking: a lot of musicians feel they are above it. In their defence they say that there is just no money in busking. It’s great to see you busk down by the Opera House in Sydney. What do you get out of busking and what do you feel an audience gets out of a busker?
Well to be honest, nine out of ten days, I make just as much as I would doing a covers gig but I do spontaneous covers if I feel like it. I always seem to do covers that only a handful of people know. I also mainly do originals and promote my music. That’s what I see it as, a promotional tool. I practice honing my craft. I have never been heckled or asked for a request simply because there is no alcohol being consumed. If people knew how to handle alcohol a little better, live music would be so much better received. I love busking to a degree because it’s freedom. You have potential to reach an audience that may not have come out to a show. I’ve only busked maybe five times in the last four weeks and I’ve got about ten new facebook likes, so I view that as a reward. I’ve sold about 15 CD’s doing so too. To make money doing originals is different compared to relying on my weekly cover gigs as I did in the past. There is more integrity and [more of an] ‘I’m an artist’ feeling to it.
Love Castle Dreams is your new album recorded abroad. Where was this and how long did it take? How was this adventure for you and how does it differ recording overseas to here in Australia?
It took about six months to fully start recording to the printed copy but I have worked on writing songs for this project since May 2010. It has almost taken me three years to chose nine I felt worthy of an album title. I culled down from literally 50 songs or so. But we recorded it pretty much in four sessions live. One session in Newcastle and one more vocal session. I recorded it primarily in Atlanta at a studio called 800 East with Daz-I-kue and Khari Simmons. The trip was different because we all listened to the same music so I could reference material and conversations would just seem to flow. The professionalism was incredible. The musicians heard the tracks and we recorded them live. Nothing took more than two takes, even when we did overdubs. ‘Only A Dream’ was recorded at Newcastle and ‘For Her’ was recorded in my bedroom at my parent’s place in Newcastle with Gareth Hudson and Dom Borzestowski. That was a trip too and is one of my favourites on the album. Come to think of it, it probably is my favourite song. All three of us really produced that in an hour or so and the vocals were only one take. It was like, midnight. That was a ghost track but honest enough to keep. Hudson’s upright bass was one take while Borzestowski’s drums one take and one overdub. It was kind of on the fly. I didn’t initially want it as a slow jam feel but I am over the moon with how it turned out. I was afraid of how that would turn out. That was one of the final songs I wrote for the CD, and [it's] influenced by Jeff Buckley so I am stoked it actually found a home conducive to the rest of the album’s consistency in sound.
You were able to raise funds through the crowd funding campaign, Pozible, to fund the making of your album. How was your experience using this source of funding?
Well I was overwhelmed because I didn't think I would've received five grand, only maybe two grand, especially through facebook. I think it is a good thing and a connection tool for an artist and his or her fans, but it would be cool to set up so the banks and stuff don’t get a massive cut (he laughs). It’s all good though; everyone needs to be paid for their efforts. Pozible did always answer my queries on time so I have nothing bad to say.
As part of your crowd funding rewards program you have sent all of your supporters in depth meanings to your songs on Love Castle Dreams as well as the tracks themselves. What is Love Castle Dreams?
There are three things pretty much. The theme began in 2010 somewhat inspired by John Legend and the Roots album, Wake Up. But I wanted to not make a tribute album but make an original album paying homage to that period you know, the ’60s, ’70s theme, and show that it was still relevant lyrically. I had to change as a writer because I love writers like 2pac and Hendrix, deep dudes you know, but a lot of the stuff I was channeling was simply written lyrically, with straight to the point themes that some may feel is a cop out as a creative writer. I chose to see it as a challenge and as a tool to affect the masses. I mean besides ‘Only a Dream’ the rest of the album is straight up, easy song writing lyrically. For example on ‘My Ode To Music’, I simply say “One thing I know is I can’t go on without you” – that is the truth and everyone can relate to it. Music is a necessity to life, well to my life. There was a thousand ways I could’ve written that line being creative. But that’s how I felt it would’ve been said in its straight up way, organic. So that’s the first thing I want to say is that the project really made me write a specific way. The next record will probably have a good blend between creative and straight to the point. The second thing is not only did I want it to pay homage to loving messages and also to spread the spirit of Gaye and Mayfield’s music but I wanted it to be a singer songwriter album. That was the original approach and the bringing out of my inner most artistic part. I am predominantly a singer songwriter. Not a guitarist, not a singer nor a producer. I write songs and I deliver them. So I had to bring that out in anything I did and we chose to do that by simplifying the songs production. For example, horns and strings were a big part of Gaye and Mayfield’s music, and with the homage being paid I felt it was a good balance not to put string or horn arrangements in it. Simmons concurred and stated this would bring out the singer songwriter element. Lastly, Love Castle Dreams as a title pays homage to my heroes to me in a sentence. ‘Love’ being all the positive music I listen to from gospel stuff to Stevie Wonder. ‘Castle’ makes me think of Prince as well as Hendrix, and ‘Dreams’ makes me think of what a lot of my favourites write about, so I put my spin on it. Love is god, castle is a kingdom, dreams are future realities. The kingdom of love/god ruling you know, it seems like a dream now but will one day be a reality. Love is the greatest, why not spread it. Oh and the dreams part caters for some of the women I write about on the album. But at the end of the day I want you to include this line. The beauty of the title is that the listener can think of their own meaning and interpret it to what they want it to be.
You have your launch in Newcastle coming up this Saturday which is also for your birthday celebration. What are you looking forward to showcasing to your audience?
The song – there’s no drums at the launch, which to some may be a downfall, to some a better thing but I want to deliver the song in its most organic form. How the song started, just me in my bedroom with an acoustic. For my Newcastle show, I will have two female backing vocalists Olivia Kolo and Emily Rex. It is going to sound incredible and vulnerable at the same time. Just how I like it.
And looking beyond. What do you see in the future?
Daniel March launches Love Castle Dreams at the Royal Exchange Hotel, Newcastle, on Saturday April 14, and Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle, with Power[house] the same evening following the Royal Exchange launch.