Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Daniel Merriweather: Red Alert

Daniel Merriweather
Daniel Merriweather Daniel Merriweather Daniel Merriweather Daniel Merriweather

At a time when some established artists are struggling to sell more than 100,000 units, it could be said that international newcomer Daniel Merriweather has had a very good year so far...

Since the beginning of 2009, the Australian Soul/Pop singer has released a top 10 debut album, and three consecutive singles which have now placed him on the global music map. I catch up with Daniel Merriweather to recap the last six months and talk Melbourne, Mark Ronson, and Mexican food.

LG: So Daniel, what have you been up to lately - I hear you've just landed in London.

DM: I've been in between London, my home New York and Brussels over the last couple of weeks. I've kind of been everywhere and nowhere.

LG: How has this year been for you so far - February saw the release of your debut single Change which got a great response. I can only imagine how different life's been for you since.

DM: Everything's been cool. It was just such a surprise when the album did really well. I wasn't expecting it because when you're an artist you make your music in your own little world and never know how people are going to react to it. But a whole bunch of people went out and bought it. So...erm... that was really cool!

DM: Are you and Wale still good friends - How often do you see each other?

LG: We were together the other week in fact. We did the Jimmy Falon Show and got to play with The Roots who are my like dream band. So yeah, we still hook up.

LG: A few years ago you made the move from your original home in Melbourne, Australia to Manhatten, New York. What's the main difference you've found between your two homes as it were?

DM: Well, I live in East Harlem and I've never eaten so much Mexican food before I moved there. It's just a lot of Toccos, all the time! [laughs]. New York's amazing because it's kind of like every city rolled into one. You walk five blocks in any direction and it's completely different. What I miss about Melbourne though is the live music scene. The concentration of live venues, and the amount of musicians and bands that have played down there... it really is like nowhere else in the world.

LG: Lets talk about the album 'Love And War', which I think woke a lot of people up to the fact that you're not just a featuring artist, and that you've got more than enough soul to carry your own weight and establish yourself. That's my opinion, but how do you feel the rest of the world took to your sound?

DM: To be honest I'm never really sure exactly why people like it or maybe why they don't like it. It was really liberating after being in the studio for about 8 years, and having not released anything with my stamp on it, to finally put my album out. It was a good feeling for me because I think you can talk about it all you want until it happens.

LG: So what's Daniel's favourite track from the album?

DM: My favourite track is probably... 'Cigarettes' or For 'Your Money.'

LG: I hear you're a great fan of simplicity when it comes to music. Do you feel like emotions have been sucked out of music due to the need to overcomplicate things?

DM: I think a lot has been taken out of music since the invention of the computer. [People] have been trying sap every ounce of soul and meaning out of music. And now we're listening to autotune on every song on the radio. To be fair sometimes these things have an arch to them and when it reaches saturation point it disappears completely. I'm hoping there will be some sort of turn around so we can hear real artists and real music again.

LG: Well, give us an example of a track from the album which expresses simplicity in it's finest.

DM: 'Cigarettes' is quite a simple song. The whole story is about saying you're going to do one thing, and doing the complete opposite and constantly screwing up until she leaves you.

LG: I guess that's something a lot of people can relate to. Mark Ronson produced the entire LP am I right. You guys must be sick of each other by now, spending countless hours in the studio together!?

DM: Yeah. He's an ar**hole. [Laughs]

LG: How do you guys settle your differences... Set up the stools for an arm wrestle?!

DM: When working in the studio we sort of drew a line in the sand where I made it clear I wanted to write the songs and be the artist, and I wanted him to produce and we avoided a lot disputes that way.

LG: Your second single 'Red' is incredible. I think it touched people in different parts of the world and really cemented your position as an international artist. Where do you find the inspiration to write music which evokes such emotion?

DM: For me 'Red' is about a bunch of things. Whenever I'm writing songs it always comes from a part of me which is very personal, like experiences I've had, but I always try to leave 30% open to the imagination. So the majority of it is real but there's a small part of it which is fiction.

LG: Third single is called 'Impossible', is it about how impossible it is for people to dislike your music! Am I right?

DM: [Laughs] If only it was! 'Impossible' is actually another really simple song from the album. It's a song about wanting to do anything you can for that girl to keep her or to get her attention. I'll often over think things and there's a couple of songs which are quite heavy and scattered in terms of what I'm trying to express, but 'Impossible' is one of those songs that's straight down the line and you know exactly what it's about.

LG: I have to ask; in between recording in the studio, touring, writing and flying do you have time for the relationships that you sing about with that special girl?

DM: It's hard being on the road constantly but at the moment it seems to be working auk. She lives in New York so when I'm back there we try to spend as much time as we can together.

LG: Thats cool. Let's do a little quick-fire round. Favourite colour?


LG: Favourite film?

DM: Into The Wild

LG: Last song you listened to?

DM: A cover of 'Hurt' by Johnny Cash

LG: Nice. So give us the low-down on what you've got lined up for the rest of the year.

DM: For the rest of the year I'll be on the road. I'm doing a small tour around England in early October and a few dates in Europe straight after that. I really want to get back in the studio soon but no confirmed ideas for a second LP yet though. I'm just the type to write a bunch of songs and see how it goes from there.

LG: With a minimal number of features on 'Love And War', do you feel now you're ready to combine your art with some other music artists?

DM: It's possible, but on the other hand many of my favourite albums had little or no features on them. For example Jay-Z's 'Reasonable Doubt' and 'Talking Book' by Stevie Wonder were very light on features. So maybe I will, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll work with someone on every track! Nah, probably not! [laughs]

Daniel Merriweather's duet with Adele 'Water And A Flame' is released on November 2nd.
Words Lawrence Gichigi

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