Daniel Champaign: Nightingale
With plans already set for an extended North American tour later in the year, Daniel Champagne will be traversing Australia, far and wide, in support of his latest live release Real Live. Pearl Davies spoke with Champagne about his unique playing style.
With so many years of touring, is there a place you call home? I don’t actually ‘live’ anywhere anymore. I've just been on the road touring. I've been doing this long enough to have different families, different homes, all around the country. It’s really cool, actually, and it’s a good excuse to keep touring. You've described childhood memories of watching your father play with his band. And you picked up your first guitar at the age of five. Do you still hang out with your father and his band? He’s no longer in a band. He’s kind of put the guitar down these days and I've taken over, I guess. I used to watch my dad play when I was younger — he was a singer and songwriter and I tried to play his songs, steal his guitars [laughs]. You make playing the guitar look so easy: I guess guitar playing is one of those things where if you think about it properly you know what to work on. It doesn't actually take that long to get things down. I think a lot of guitar playing is about how you’re going to play it — much more than just practicing the simple stuff. Are there any formulas you follow when writing your lyrics? It comes out over a long time. I’ve never been able to sit and write a song during the one sitting. Because I’m touring a lot, I don’t have that much time to sit down — more a 10 minute interval between getting in the car, getting to a gig, setting up etc. Sometimes I might get a few days off where I can sit down and work on it — put it all together. If it’s something I want to play live and eventually put on a record, I feel it deserves time spent on it. Have you had singing lessons or does it just come naturally? The school I went to when I was a kid, it was kind of cool to sing, if that makes sense. The teacher that we had was really inspiring and he just got us all singing these old folk songs and I sort of worked with him a lot outside of school. I was a young soprano and I really enjoyed that. But guitar has always been my first love. The gaff tape strapped to your guitar — explain this: The gaff tape’s for my tapping — it gradually wears it away and cracks it. I’ve actually gone through quite a few guitars doing this. You recently hit up Bluesfest for the second time, your first being 2010. How did you like the crowd and the reaction they had to your music? It was great! I think in general, festival crowds are there to have a good time, unless you do something really, really bad [laughs]. I was only there a few hours because I had another gig on but it was great. You've traveled the world with your music. I know there must be many highlights but what sticks out?Well I really enjoy playing in Canada — all the festivals are really good to me over there. Also when I tour Europe. I think a highlight would have been playing at Port Fairy [and] Woodford folk festivals — you get to perform next to some of your favorite artists like Jeff Lang, John Butler... there’s so many out there. You’re more of a three-piece band in the one man. You’re the singer, guitarist and percussionist. How do you get your head around it all? It can really be quite easy. It’s like an elaborate picture made up of many triangles to make an even bigger triangle. It’s all about breaking it all down and putting it back together right. I've seen a few interviews and guitar tutorials, by you, on YouTube Are you ok with revealing your secrets? To be honest, most of it I stole off other players. They aren’t necessarily my secrets. A lot of the time with that sort of stuff, I really don’t know what I’m doing. Usually in the performance I just get really, really excited and go nuts. [But] I’ve got my heroes —most of them American and Canadian. Your new six-track EP, Real Live, was recorded at live shows across the country. I see a few songs were recorded at Lizotte’s. Yeah — four of the six tracks were recorded live there. I really like the recording and I really like Lizotte’s. Daniel Champagne performs at Lizotte’s Kincumber on Thursday May 3; Lizotte’s Lambton on Friday May 4; Harvest Cafe, Newry bar, on Sunday June 3.