Interview: Daniel Pearson

By on Tuesday, 8th April 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Singer/songwriter Daniel Pearson is a true “indie” artist, releasing music on his own record label and promoting his work on the Internet via social media. His most recent studio project is an EP titled ‘Escape Acts’, due for release on the 14th of April. His previous albums ‘Satellites’ and ‘Mercury State’ both received positive critical reviews and earned him more than a few fans along the way. Following the release of ‘Escape Acts’, Pearson is scheduled to appear at Leeds music venue Milo as part of this year’s Live at Leeds Festival on the 3rd of May. We caught up with him for an e-mail interview before that flurry of activity, and he was kind enough to share with us his down-to-earth perspective on the past, present, and future of his music career.

You’re a new artist to TGTF, but you’re not new to the music business. Could you give us a little background on your career? (Have you played in other bands? What kinds of music have you played previously?)
I’ve been a solo artist for the last few years and have released two albums, ‘Satellites’ and ‘Mercury State’. I’m a fairly prolific writer so I wanted to get music out there quickly – I don’t really need a year to write and record an album and like to keep momentum building. I try to keep things independent and honest and people respond to that. Before going solo I was playing in different rock ‘n’ roll and punk-type bands and that taught me a lot about songwriting and performing. I did that as soon as I started playing guitar as a 15-year old – no YouTube covers, no talent shows. Just straight into writing songs and playing them in bands at gigs. It wasn’t all good stuff! But you learn what works and what you want to say in your music.

As far as genre is concerned, I find it increasingly difficult to put artists into neat little boxes. As one of those genre-bending types yourself, how would you classify your own music?
It falls under the singer-songwriter bracket for sure, but that’s such a strange term that it can be a good or a bad thing. It can mean anything from James Blake to a kid uploading ukulele Ed Sheeran covers in his bedroom. I love guitars and melodies, so that’s always going to be a big part of what I do. There are rock n’ roll, grunge, country, folk and pop influences, but I think it all comes out sounding like me in the end.

Your new EP ‘Escape Acts’ contains four new recordings, two of which are new songs and two of which are reworkings of songs you’ve already released, is that correct? How did you decide which songs to include, and what was the reason for reworking the two older tunes?
At the moment I’m kind of in between albums; ‘Satellites’ established me as a solo act, which was the first step, and that was very much a relationships album. It got some good press and radio support and built a small fan base. ‘Mercury State’ was a more serious record about the recession and hard times, and was much more sparse and downbeat. The reviews I had for that were great and I felt like it was much more of a statement piece.

Since then, I’ve been working hard to expand my audience, and ‘Escape Acts’ is a natural part of that. I’ve got songs for the next album, but there’s no theme connecting them yet, so it made sense to put a couple of the new songs out there for people. I want to wait a while before I put out another full album – three inside 3 years might be overkill! The re-recorded songs were done because I felt like I hadn’t done them justice the first time around, that there was more to be done with them. The arrangement on ‘Promises Promises’ is much bigger, and the version of ‘Satellite Town’ is the way I’ve been playing it live, which I think is much more subtle than the originally recorded song.

On first listen, the ‘Escape Acts’ EP is quite eclectic, in that each of the four songs has its own unique flavor. (‘Lost My Way’ has a kind of pop sense to it, ‘Promises Promises’ is more of a blues rock, ‘Satellite Town’ is acoustic folkish, and ‘I Dug Myself a Hole’ feels almost like a country song.) What is the common thread that unifies them on the EP?
They’re all diverse songs, which I think reflects the different aspects of my songwriting. I like to change things up a little and keep it interesting. Lyrically, they’re all about escaping or wanting to escape from a situation in your life, so that’s why I think they hang together as an EP. I think everyone experiences those feelings at points in your life.

The most obvious common feature among these three recordings is your lyrics. I would describe your lyrical style as very straightforward and uncomplicated, occasionally elegant, but always emotional. Would you say that’s a fair assessment? Is that the effect you’re going for, or do you have an intended effect at all?
I’ve been going through a process of refining my lyrics and trying to distill them down to something universal and simple. It can be really easy to write overly complex lyrics and get too sophisticated – but in most cases you can say what you want in less words. I love poetry and the work that speaks to me the most is the most emotionally direct, the stuff without pretension. So I’m going for that rather than trying to cram in sophisticated words and too many syllables. I actually like repetition in writing – that idea of repeating the key message, or making subtle changes to a lyric as a song progresses to change the meaning. The audience is so eager to move on to the next song, the next band, the next thing, so you’ve gotta get your point across quickly and in a memorable way.

I understand that all of your records are released on your own label, Saint In The City Records. Would you like to tell us a little bit about how that came about?
When I recorded ‘Satellites’, I spent a while shopping it around labels looking for distribution but the whole process was kind of self-defeating. You get into discussions about how they think it should sound or find yourself waiting to hear back a lot. You end up looking for validation from others too much, and I’ve seen bands chewed up and spat out by the industry and how it works. So I got sick of waiting around and decided to put it out myself. I figured that I knew enough about it to at least have a go, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. It’s very hard as an independent artist, as people judge you against X or Y band who might have a million dollar recording, marketing and touring budget from a label. I think that in the mind of some people, they can’t see past what’s on Radio 1 or MTV and assume because you’re not on there, you can’t be any good. But it feels great to be in control and know that any success that comes my way has been earned and not bought. There are more and more indie success stories coming through and it’s awesome to be a part of that.

You’ve mentioned on Twitter several people who worked with you on the ‘Escape Acts’ EP. Would you like to give us a little more information about them here as well?
I’m lucky in that I have talented friends who’ll work with me on my projects. Ed Heaton is a great producer who worked on ‘Escape Acts’ and ‘Satellites’, and he really knows how to get the best out of me. He works out of Eiger Studios in Leeds, it’s a great set up and he’s worked on a lot of good records. He’s just set up his own label too called All My Friends. I’d recommend him to anyone looking for a studio and producer. Jeremy Platt is a longtime friend of mine, and he’s played on most of my records – he’s so talented, it makes you sick! He can play piano, organ, bass and it all sounds great. He’s put out his own album and it’s good stuff. Ed Fielding is another guy I mentioned on Twitter – he’s a really cool photographer who’s worked with Florence and the Machine and Paloma Faith. It’s nice to have people you can call on, good people you can trust and it’s nice to give them some support back.

Speaking of Twitter, that is how you and I came into acquaintance. You seem to be quite active on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Have you found social media to be a good way to reach out to new fans?
I think it’s the future, but it’s already here! If I want to tell my fans about a release, or show them a video, I can let them know there and then it removes the middle man. I’m a big believer in interacting with people; after all, these are the people buying your records and tickets, so I’m amazed when bands think they’re too cool to do all that.

Twitter’s been an invaluable tool for me in building and interacting with my audience, and I think its part of our lives now. Facebook is the biggest fish in the sea, but it’s gotten greedy – now I have to pay so that my fans can see my posts easily, so I’m not so crazy about that platform right now. Of course, when you level the playing field it means everyone can join in – and that means people are bombarded with a lot of bad music too. I think key to using it well is being yourself and not having a superiority complex. The folks you’re interacting with are usually pretty smart, so if you’re a good, interesting person with something of value to offer they’ll get on board with what you’re doing. Just like you did!

Cheers Daniel for answering our questions! Stay tuned for his answers to our Quickfire Questions to post tomorrow, as well as a review of ‘Escape Acts’. In the meantime, you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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3 Responses

5:25 pm
8th April 2014

Enjoyed the interview & look forward to “Quickfire Questions” I found Daniel on Twitter about 9 months ago and he has become my most listened to artist.

[…] Indie English singer/songwriter Daniel Pearson is busy preparing for the upcoming release of his EP ‘Escape Acts’ on the 14th of April and a scheduled performance at Live at Leeds on the 3rd of May. He took the time to answer our Quickfire Questions as part of an e-mail interview, which you can read here. […]

[…] released a new EP, ‘Escape Acts’, leading into his appearance at Live at Leeds next month. In his recent interview with us, Pearson described ‘Escape Acts’ as an intermediate step between albums and an opportunity to […]

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