Daniel Meade released his self-recorded debut solo album in 2013 to critical acclaim. Since then he has travelled far and wide, working with and opening for acts such as Old Crow Medicine Show, The Proclaimers, Pokey Lafarge, Willie Watson, Diana Jones, Vikesh Kapoor and Sturgill Simpson.
In February 2014 he was invited to Nashville by Morgan Jahnig of Old Crow Medicine Show who offered to engineer and produce a new album with a band comprising some of Meade’s favourite musicians, including Cory Younts, Chance Mccoy, Joshua Hedley, Chris Scruggs and Morgan himself. Guest spots were filled by Diana Jones, Shelly Colvin and Critter From Old Crow. The result was Keep Right Away, an exciting, diverse and self assured album that draws on the ghosts of all of his influences, from Hank Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Kris Kristofferson and Jerry Lee Lewis through to the more contemporary throes of Old Crow Medicine Show and Justin Townes Earle.
Meade’s new album Let Me Off At The Bottom features 11 new meade originals. It is the first record he has made with The Flying Mules (Lloyd Reid - guitar, Mark Ferrie - double bass, Thomas Sutherland - drums). It was recorded live (for the most part) at the legendary Cava Studios in Glasgow and mixed by Morgan Jahnig in Tennessee.
Can you give me some idea of how music became such a big part of your life growing up in Glasgow?
I'd say there were a few factors involved. My big brother Raymond has always been music mad, he started playing guitar around the age of 7 so growing up I'd say he was the main influence on me. He got me into the likes of Guns 'n' Roses and what have you at an early age and although I didn't show an interest in playing until I was about 12, his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I also have a couple of uncles who fed my earliest interests. Ian is a great guitarist who was right into his blues and would always indulge our young ears when we visited. He actually took me to my first gig, which was to see BB King in Edinburgh and at 11 years old that blew my mind. My other uncle Vincent was mad on The Beatles and used to make me tapes of all their albums and I'd listen to them until they wore out. So I'd probably have to blame them! It really wasn't until my early teens that it became a big part of my life but when it did that was it, and thankfully it's never left.
What music originally made you decide to pursue making it as a full time artist?
That would have to be the old rock 'n' roll stuff, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. I was lucky enough to see the three of them on the same bill in London when I was around 14 or 15 and after that I wasn't interested in doing or being anything else. I loved the Blues and The Beatles before then but it was those guys that made me want to pursue it.
At what point did the music that inspires you now become a part of your conscious listening?
I'm not entirely certain. One thing always just bleeds into another and I'm never really aware of shifts in my own taste, or indeed inspiration. I think any writer should be influenced and inspired by everything and anything they hear, whether it's their cup of tea or not. Take the parts that are useful to you and throw the rest away.
Your new album was recorded locally in Glasgow as opposed to the previous album being tracked in Nashville. What were the differences in the two experiences?
To be honest, for me the only difference was the location. Both times I had the songs I wanted ready and the musicians that I wanted in place to perform them, and that's all you need. Both were cut for the most part live in great studios, both were a lot of work and fun, and both came out sounding better than I'd imagined going in. Obviously it was a dream come true going over to Nashville and having that experience with Morgan and all those guys who's records I love, but finally getting to make this album in Glasgow, with the band who I've played with for years was just as exciting for me. I'm equally proud of both.
How much do the economics of the situation effect the way you produce your music?
Money is always going to be a problem at any level but you can't let it get in the way of what you ultimately want to produce. We initially tried to cut a couple of corners financially with this record and just weren't happy so ended up digging deeper and doing it right, and it's a much better record for it. I'll always look into cost beforehand so I can try to plan accordingly. If I need to take on some extra shifts a week that I don't particularly enjoy then so be it, or if I need to sell some stuff to get the money then I will, and I have done many times. If you really believe in what you're making there is always a way. It might not be your first choice or even your second, but if it needs done you'll do it.
How long have you and Lloyd worked together? He seems a perfect foil for what you do?
Around 7 or 8 years now. He's my favourite person to play with by a long way and anyone who's heard him won't need telling why. He is without doubt the most natural guitarist I've ever met and still constantly surprises me with what he hits out with on stage. He has a wonderful ear and always plays for the song, never to show off, and that for me is the difference between the good and the great, and he's definitely great. His harmony singing is spot on as well which appeals to me no end. We both have the same love for the music we play and approach it with the same mentality, which is why I think we go so well together, it's never in all these years felt like work. I think there's definitely a mutual respect between us, we've been through a lot together and, where other relationships have suffered and fallen apart, we're still tight. Plus his beard is lovely
Are you a prolific writer or is the process a slower one?
I've been called prolific but I don't really see it that way, it's just what I do and the way I work. If you call yourself a writer then boy you'd better write! I always write something down every day, be it a song, a line or even just an unusual word, anything at all. You can never have enough words or ideas and, even if they come to nothing, it had you thinking for a while so that can't be a bad thing.
Live you cover some classic and some obscure songs. How do you choose these?
No rhyme or reason to be honest, if we hear something we like enough to learn then we will and throw it in the set from time to time, keeps us on our toes.
Another thing about your live show that sometimes doesn’t come across on record his how good a piano player you are. Do you have a preference for the piano over guitar or vice versa?
Why thank you. I would have to say piano is my first love. I can sit playing nothing in particular and be lost for hours. The guitar I also love but in a different way. I mainly write on the guitar, I play it more, certainly live, but it doesn't come as naturally to me. I have to really work at guitar whereas piano is always play. I'm definitely more at home in front of a piano.
There has long been a predjuice against “country” music from these Isles even though a large part of there music originated here. Have you found that?
I wouldn't call it a prejudice against country music, I just don't think people over here have ever been particularly arsed with it. It never seems to have properly taken off here for one reason or the other, maybe that's why it left in the first place! I do think there's a level of ignorance involved, a willingness to believe that it's all rhinestones, line dancing and Garth Brooks or whatever, which couldn't be further from the truth. But these kind of attitudes are slowly shifting but I think it'll always be a bit of a niche market over here.
In that light how does location effect perception?
I don't really know in all honesty, I think that changes from person to person. I've come across people that are more willing to appreciate homegrown talent and others who would rather their country singers to be American, some find that to be more genuine or something. It's never been an issue with me ... a good song, singer or band is always going to be a good song, singer or band, wherever it originates. It shouldn't matter.
You will be doubtless touring Let Me Off At The Bottom for awhile. What are your plans in that respect?
We have several shows and festivals lined up for the next few months already, you can see them at the website www.danielmeademusic.com. And then we're working on a more substantial tour in support of the album come September, more news on that soon.
How difficult is it for an independent musician to sustain a career these days?
As difficult as any other profession it seems, it's a hard time for a lot of people now. I'm fortunate enough to be doing what I love, a lot of people aren't. I don't make a lot of money and what I do make goes back into the next record or tour but I wouldn't change it for anything. I think to make it work you have to be flexible with what you will and won't do, I never turn anything down out of hand. Everyone has to make ends meet somehow and if you think your above doing certain things then you'll not last long.
The subject matter of many of the songs deals with the downside of relationships and a drift toward anaesthetising the pain. Have you done a lot of research in that area?
Ha ha, 'research', that's exactly how I like to look at it now. I have yes, a little too much truth be told but I can't grumble, everyone goes through their own shit, it's all part of growing up and becoming who you are. I didn't so much drift toward it as jump head first into it so I do know I'm lucky to be out the other end relatively unscathed, some people aren't so lucky. It's certainly given me a lot to consider, ponder and write about the last few years so I guess it wasn't all bad. The quiet life suits me now though.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To keep breathing, moving and playing, keep it simple.
Interview by Stephen Rapid