10 for 2012 Interview: Don Scannell

By on Tuesday, 13th December 2011 at 11:00 am

You readers voted Don Scannell into the #5 position on the 10 for 2012 poll, so we sent Don some questions that he nicely answered for us, including letting us in on how the discovery of the back catalogue of a legendary band that resurfaced this year caused him to up his game…

Congratulations on finishing #5 in our 10 of 2012 poll of bands to watch next year. Unfortunately, we don’t have a trophy or anything to give you, but please know that it was the faithful readers of TGTF that voted to give you your place on this list. Although we risk sounding like the reporters on the red carpet at the BAFTAs, we want to know, how do you feel about this achievement?
Well, I feel surprised to be honest, but very thankful to those who voted.

Who / what bands were important to you growing up? How have they / do they affect the music you make today?
I honestly think it was the first vinyls belonging to my parents that I found lying around, like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Kris Kristofferson, that laid down a real fabric. As a young teen I was into rock ‘n’ roll, 1950s/’60s, just compilation tapes at the time, and then I developed a quirky hunger for the blues. Something about it, despite being the same 12 bar patterns over and over (more or less), I can’t tire of hearing Elmore James, or B.B. King. At the age of 15 or 16 this seemed very odd to some.

In my own stuff, you can hear the harmonies of S&G and rock and roll for sure. I guess I hope to be able to produce a big sound like the old Neil Diamond or even Phil Spector classics in time. The blues, strangely, is something for future divertion me thinks, high on the wish-list for making music.

What are your biggest influences when making music?
For the few years before writing the ‘Three Silver Pieces’ album, I was listening to a lot of Elliot Smith. That probably shows in the slower paced tracks, just the intimacy and honesty. Around the same time, I was blessed with a very late discovery of the Radiohead albums, which I think made me work harder than I would have on production, not that I sound anything like them….

I think Simon and Garfunkel are an obvious influence.

I did try to keep the blinkers on and just evoke whatever would arise naturally, sitting at a piano/guitar, rather than set out to match the sound of anyone. People come back to me suggesting hugely varied ‘influence’, it’s very much a mixed bag.

I listen to all sorts of music, including classical. I really don’t have an all-time favourite musician. Strangely, at the moment, I am listening to a lot of scores for film, which I think may creep into new material. I have four pieces from Hanz Zimmer’s Thin Red Line score, which I play all the time. James Horner is excellent to at what he does.

With today’s changing music landscape, how do you define success in this business?
If you ask in terms of ‘business’, well, then if you can just survive while doing what you love, then you are very much succeeding. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

Even with the way things have changed, I think if someone focuses 100% on the music, then it should receive some kind of worthwhile platform long run.

Artistically speaking, success is about it making sure you don’t go to your grave with your music in you, and keeping it true.

I know we’ve heard it all before, and that it’s easier said than done, but that’s what you strive for…

Good music always wins, given time.

Although the cover art for ‘Three Silver Pieces’ is a strange image, I absolutely adore it. How was it conceived?
I thought it would be an hour-long exercise finding a good and apt picture for the cover. I ended up searching about 1,000 images, over weeks, until one jumped out and said “‘thar she blows'”. This is by Polish artist Silvia Skubis, who kindly agreed to me using the image for the album. I guess I knew it would cause some confusion, firstly because a solo artist usually includes themselves on the cover, and secondly it might not seem thematic to a lot of the music. But for me it totally summed up a lot about the music. The lyrics are about getting through hard times, the horse is effectively standing tall and strong after some kind of apocalyptic storm. Everyone loves this picture.

A puppeteer is referenced in ‘Three Silver Pieces’ and the ‘Mystery’ video is done with the Little Angel Theatre, are the puppet references random or purposeful?
There is no common purpose really between the puppeteer in ‘Three Silver Pieces’ and the marionettes in the music video for ‘Mystery’: that is pure accident. Individually, the first refers to someone who’s role in life is to dictate or manipulate (or so they think). The puppet concept for the video, on the other hand, was very purposeful in its own right, marionettes can be spell-binding to watch, and I thought it would convey the mood of the song, playful, moving….

What is the next step in your musical journey?
I’m looking forward to doing a lot more gigs over the coming year, and getting new material finished, both of which I am working on now. I think like anything else it is improving with time, so I just need to keep going.

What do you predict for yourself in 2012?
A lot of hard work, and a new release, either another album or an EP.

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