One For The Road

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Q: How would you describe your music?

A: Difficult to say really. So far it’s had tinges of rock, blues, even some folk stuff in there. Most likely things in there I’ve not even considered. I love that about music. It’s completely open to interpretation. Someone will hear it and get a different meaning to the next person, which will be wildly different to what it’s actually saying. I like that duality. There’s no right or wrong interpretation.

Q: What sets your music apart? What is unique, or at least uncommon?

A: The fact that it’s unquestionably mine. Of course there can be subconscious influences or even emulation to a point which realistically can only be picked up on when the track is finished – once that final picture comes in to view and you step back and look at what you’ve done. However, they never really are complete. There’s always something I want to go back and revisit, especially as I become more proficient in a technique, such as mixing or mastering the track. If I ever got round to doing another album, I’m sure it would sound night and day to this one. There could easily be tens of versions of the songs and I’d still be looking to improve. I’m not looking for perfection – that doesn’t exist. I am looking to be happy or content with what I’ve produced. That is all I can ask of myself.

Q: Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction, or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?

A: My approach certainly couldn’t be looked on as deliberate or even having a direction! I don’t doubt there is some method hidden in it somewhere, but it’s always found it’s own way out. I haven’t ever really sat down to write a song as such (from scratch) where I write the lyrics and then move on to the music or vice versa. It doesn’t happen like that for me. It’s not a formal process.That’s too big of a mountain to climb for me in one chunk. There is an evolution which usually stems from an idea, thought or even a conversation, but it can still twist in any direction.It’s like you’re a few days away from pay day and you look at what there is to eat. There are some random ingredients in the pantry and that’s all you have. It’s about making the best meal you can with what you have.My process is really no different to that – musically it’s always a few days away from pay day!

Q: Who are your main musical influences?

A: There are many, many influences. Certainly far too many to namecheck here. As a kid I’d listen as most kids did at the time to whatever my parents had on the radio. That said, I’d always shrink away from the majority of the stuff on there, but there would be some crossover where my ears would perk up and I’d stop doing whatever it was I was doing at the time.I grew up in the mid 70’s through the 80’s. There was a lot of new interesting music at the time. Disco was dying, punk rock came and went. Enter the age of the synthesiser and well produced and polished stadium rock. The reason for picking up a guitar in the first place was probably Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. The music resonated with me even as a 10 year old going in to my teens and still sticks with me today. I remember saving up and buying a cheap Walkman from the local Town Hall market. Anything to listen to the music I wanted to listen to.Then, crossover people like Eric Clapton. I say crossover as my Dad in particular always liked Eric, which is where that shared admiration for a musician came from, but there was a lot of stuff that never really stuck. I never got in to things like Motown or Disco, so tended to avoid that pretty actively. I’ve developed more of a tolerance to it now and listen to the production rather than the song itself. There’s more to listen to in a song than words and music.Always loved finding artists on my own. As I got older, Gary Moore was exploring his blues side, and that hit me like a bus. I was equally fascinated and hooked in equal measure. From that point onward I became probably what can only be described as a musical sponge. David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Pink Floyd as a whole have been another enormous influence. Their body of work is so diverse and deep, that’s an influence all of it’s own, and very difficult not to be influenced or changed by it. I’ve been very lucky to live through some of the best artists ever. I certainly can’t see some of the acts around today having anywhere near as much longevity as the old guard. Like many of the buildings standing in Rome, they have proved the test of time, regardless of how time has altered them.

Q: What is your top five favourite albums of all time? Why those albums and what influence have they had on your own material?

A: I knew something like this would come up! Really difficult to pinpoint just 5. They have all had some influence in what I do and have all been landmarks in my life for one reason or another, so I’ll leave the specific influences there.

However, in no specific order……….1 Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd2 After Hours – Gary Moore3 361 Ocean Boulevard – Eric Clapton4 On Every Street – Dire Straits5 These Days – Bon Jovi

Q: Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song / performance that made you say “That’s what I want to do”?

A: Not a particular song, no. I think that’s a good thing too. Not before I started playing anyway. Since becoming more proficient on the instrument, absolutely. That can be from hearing a chord change, a lick, a phrase. It really doesn’t take much to make me want to pick up a guitar and do my bit. Vocationally? No. It’s always been for fun or pleasure, not profit.I’ve always had a fascination with music. Although I never learned to read or write it. Thinking about it, I could read bass clef at Primary School as I did learn how to play double bass and tried violin.It was my 1st encounter with a stringed instrument (I think!). After that, nothing. I write using paper and pen now, or an app on my phone (Songbook Pro) before I bring it to the computer and fire up the DAW.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

A: Freedom. It’s been fun exploring what I can achieve, given my relatively limited palette. I’ve learnt a great deal too which for me is what it’s all about. Not just on the technical side, but to push myself to commit my voice to a recording and put it out there.It’s hugely liberating, but at the same time you’re exposing yourself, all your weaknesses to the entire global population, leaving you wide open to criticism. Complete ying and yang I suppose. Criticism from people I don’t know, I can shrug off. I’m more in fear of my peers.I’ve taught myself bass and a few chords on the piano too along the way, so it’s not all guitar. It’s all about getting a feeling across, conveying a story which means one thing to one listener but 100 different things to the next 100 people who hear it, an as I’ve said before, something else to me.There are lines or ideas in there which I think can be pretty universal and people can find some common ground in there. I like to think that they would connect with some people at some level.

Q: What does your music say about you?

A: I’d like to imagine that it could make people think. I’d hope that people can see some honesty and authenticity there I suppose. In these songs I’ve been brutally honest with myself in many of them. There may be just 1 or 2 lines which I want to get off my chest. Some songs have been built up around those, or the idea of those lines.Only I will know which ones they are of course. It’s cathartic. I’m giving pieces of me away, but also giving nothing away at the same time. I love that duality. I’m also still on this great learning curve, so I’d hope that they are improving with each release too.

Q: Music or lyrics? Which usually comes first?

A: I haven’t found a particular formula for it – and I hope I never do to be perfectly honest. For me, it’s more a case of marrying up a tune or a chord sequence to a lyric, then take it from there.The hardest ones are the situations where they both come at the same time. Thankfully that is very rare! Compromises have to be made for one to fit the other. It’s quite dangerous also because those compromises are equally significant to pull the track in one way or another, which may well not be the direction I was thinking of or hoping for. That has happened a couple of times and instead of pulling it together, the music gets used for another project or goes in to the melting pot for another day, or even abandoned.It tends to start with an idea, be it a thought (lots of times thinking of lines commuting to and from work) or something you hear. Then it builds. As it builds it takes a particular direction, which means nothing until there’s music for it as it can still go in so many different directions. If it works, it’s quite a natural process, shaving words down or adding in. If it gets to the point that it becomes that you’re not shaving down but lopping chunks out of it, it’s probably not right and time to move on and revisit, or pick lines off it to fit in to other tracks.

Q: Of your own music, do you have a favourite? If so, can you pin down why it is your favourite?

A: Not really. I’m proud of them on the whole, they are landmarks in my life, but I haven’t written enough yet to have a favourite. I’m mainly just happy they are out there, being listened to, and hopefully enjoyed.

Q: What are your musical plans for the next 12 months or so?

A: Like most other musicians, get back to some semblance of normality. It will be nice to get back on a stage again with the band and play a few tunes in front of people. I’m one of the rare few that genuinely actually enjoyed the hiatus that the pandemic inadvertently brought with it. It gave me time to re-focus on a lot of things and take stock of where things were going, or where I thought they were going. Main plan is get everyone back together and practice for the charity gig in October.

Q: What can we expect from you within the next 6 months? Any releases planned? Future gigs?

A: Future gigs, absolutely. Future lockdowns pending of course. We will be out somewhere playing I’m sure (Dates will appear in the tour dates section of the site). As far as my stuff is concerned, the album is almost finished, just a couple of songs to go, so that should be done pretty soon and hopefully coincide with everything coming back online (as opposed to playing online!)

Q: When did you start writing music?

A: High School, so maybe 14 or 15 years old. All that stuff is lost in the sands of time. Would have been fun to record something from back then.

Q: Was anyone else involved in writing, recording or producing the songs?

A: No, just me. It’s equally daunting as it is exciting. Mainly! My main battle is that I’m the only one who knows how I want the song to come out, so it’s about me getting it out of my head and in to the computer. I’ve been quite lucky so far as the majority of my work probably resembles maybe 80% of how I heard it before I recorded.That is of course also where the limitations of my own abilities come heavily in to play. On everything, I play guitar, bass, keyboard and score strings (thank goodness for MIDI) The vocal is usually the last to go on, although i do require digital assistance from time to time.The hardest thing is to open a new project and it’s blank. You have just a few words or at best a verse and an idea for a chorus or bridge, but then, nothing. At that point it’s the best thing to walk away until an idea kickstarts it. Go have a beer.

Q: Do you enjoy recording and production?

A: Very much. It’s where the song comes to life. It lives or dies there and it’s obvious quite quickly when tracking begins if it will sink or swim.There are loads of techniques I’ve learned over the last 12 months. Also how to avoid some of those costly (time wise) mistakes also. I’ve also found that when mixing the song, if you’re not thoroughly bored of it by the time of the final mix because you’ve subjected yourself to it so much, then you must be doing something right.After the album is done and out there, I’ll take a break before doing anything else. There will always be more songs, but which ones will see the light of day going forward is anyone’s guess.

Q: How proud are you of your productions?

A: Being totally honest, it changes like the breeze. I can revisit something I’ve done (like I have to put together this album) and can be incredibly proud of myself. It is after all a one man production, playing all instruments, writing, composing, arranging. 12 months ago, I didn’t think I would be published and out there on Spotify / Amazon / Apple. It just wasn’t on my radar in the slightest.On the next breath I feel extremely embarrassed. It’s not an easy one to explain. However, I guess the fact that the music is out there now, open for global ridicule or praise took me quite a while to get my head around.Whenever you do something like this which is so personal and in some instances you’ve left your heart on the page when I’ve been writing, only I know where it came from or what it means. I suppose to answer the question, probably equal pride and embarrassment, but could swing either way depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Q: Will we be able to hear the songs live? Will you be playing any of them when live music returns?

A: It would be fun to do, but I’d say it’s unlikely at this stage. Some of the stuff would need to be rewritten for a 4 piece band, no drums, no strings etc. I certainly would not sing them live. That is a promise!Right now that would be a step too far with other projects which are coming up, but you never know. One day it may happen……Interview ©2021 Darren Wileman