It’s January in Bristol. It’s the bluest of Blue Mondays, the day when the cost of Christmas hits home. Suicide week and the weather outside is as cold as the chill that runs down your spine when you glimpse the balance at the bottom of the credit card statement. The audience is sparse, diehards to a man and woman. Daniel Meade is lauded, people who know rate him incredibly highly. He came through the city of Bristol as tour support to Alt-Country’s bright new hope, Sturgill Simpson, last year. But this is a Monday in January the terms are very different today.
Not that any of this affects the show. It’s as rollicking a ride as you could hope for. Fast-paced, direct Honky-Tonk that grabs you, suspends you in time and makes you forget the money and the weather.
Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules are on their first Headline tour and anyone who has had the privilege to see them this time around will surely remember it, for the size of venue they will be playing will be significantly larger in the very near future. The debut album ‘Keep Right Away’ boasts a plethora of country music names on it. Produced by Morgan Jahnig of the OCMS, and featuring Chance McCoy and Cory Younts from OMCS, BR549’s Chris Scruggs and Justin Townes Earle’s Fiddler Joshua Hedley. Daniel also duets with both Shelly Colvin and Diana Jones for good measure. The real stars are the tunes, however. All of them are on show tonight and they sparkle.
Meade plays a brand of tight, hard Honky-Tonk that has its roots firmly in the 1950’s and back. Ably aided by Lloyd Reid on Lead Guitar, the tunes have a slickness about them that reminds you of the Opry before all the rhinestones took over. These are men’s songs, played by men, about men (and women) and they don’t have any of simpering wistfulness of modern ‘Americana’. Maybe it’s Scotland, where they hail from, despite there being plenty of heartache in these songs and bucketloads of subtly, you know there is a hardness lurking not far under the surface. Besides, there is a great big dollop of Hank and George in the songs as well as a knowing nod to current luminaries such as Pokey La Farge. And girls love all that ‘tough but sensitive’ malarky don’t they?
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Daniel for a quick chat about ‘Keep Right Away’ and life in a Honky-Tonk band.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from? how did you get to this point in your music career? Have you always played Roots/country music? Influences?
Hi, I’m Daniel Meade, from Glasgow, Scotland, I’m 5’10, have brown hair and enjoy a good spaghetti, Bolognese…
Music-wise, I’ve been playing live for the best part of 13 years now. I used to play in a rock n roll band called The Ronelles way back when but always had some sort of affinity with country, ol’ time and early blues and boogie-woogie music since hearing Jerry Lee Lewis for the first time when I was around 14 years old or thereabouts. From there it kinda snowballed, I found artists such as Hank Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Casey Bill Weldon, Amos Milburn, Fats Domino, the list could go on. Being so young I guess I didn’t really have a clue what any of them were singing about but it hit the spot for whatever reason.. And as you live a little yourself and go through the trials and experiences of growing up, then the content all starts making a lot more sense and you grow closer to the songs and artists. Then when I heard Old Crow Medicine Show for the first time and that changed everything for me. I thought that all that ol’ time roots music was a thing of the past, best left untouched but they blew the whole thing wide open. Covering obscure songs from the ’20s and ’30s and writing their own stuff, in that style, and they were all only a few years older than me, it blew my mind. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do.
Is this the first headline tour for you and the Flying Mules? I know you went out on tour with Sturgill Simpson in 2014 was that different to touring your own band?
Yeah, this was the first headline tour and it’s been great. We’ve had a lot of folk coming out to see us which is nice. It’s always a little gamble going out on your own for the first time, not knowing if anyone will turn up at the shows, or if anyone is even interested, so it was a huge thing for us that the dates were so well attended, we even had a sell-out which was really cool. Touring with Sturgill was great, we did it a couple of times last year, once just myself and Lloyd Reid (our guitarist) opening and backing him up on stage, and the next he brought his band over and we, The Flying Mules, were invited along for the tour. It was a real eye-opener working with him as he was literally getting bigger and more well known every day and it was interesting to see him deal with it. He’s a complete professional, a helluva songwriter, works his arse off and he deserves everything he has worked so hard to achieve. An inspiring guy.
You were part of highly acclaimed Glasgow Rock n roll outfit The Ronelles, how did that experience shape your own work with the Flying Mules?
I think everything you do in the past affects what you do now. With The Ronelles I learned a lot about playing live through countless shows and opening for the likes of The Proclaimers, The Kings Of Leon, The Zutons etc.. at big venues. That kind of experience is invaluable, especially with acts as established as these guys. I think I learned a lot about songwriting from my brother Raymond, he was prolific in those early days and wrote some crackers. still does. I guess I also learned to be a little less naïve and more wary around certain types of people in ‘the industry’. Lot of self-serving bastards out there that try to take advantage of young bands, and they tend to succeed. You see it every day and it does my nut in. We weren’t the worst off in that sense, I’ve heard some real horror stories, but due to some encounters and certain people, I’d like to think that I’m a little more business-savvy in that respect.
Glasgow is not known as a hub for Country or Roots music, is it an underground thing? Is there an audience for what you do? Or are you finding you have to travel to find your audience?
There is and there isn’t I guess, it’s like anywhere. You get little groups of folk that have their idea of what Country or Roots should be and that’s cool but I wouldn’t even go so far as to class it as an underground thing. All the big artists that come over, your Willie Nelsons, Dolly Partons, Kris Kristofferson, Old Crow Medicine Show‘s, these guys will sell out huge venues no bother so I know that there is an audience for it over here but it’s making that crowd aware of you that’s proving difficult.
I’ve tried countless times to open for the likes of Willie, Kris, Dolly, etc.. and they won’t have it, they don’t even have any support at all! I think if any local artists are to build a proper following within these genres then the promoters have to start cutting us some slack and helping out, offering a deserving local act 20 minutes or so before these big acts. It benefits everyone, the act, the crowd, the promoters, etc. I’ve been incredibly fortunate last year to have opened for Sturgill, Old Crow, Diana Jones, Willie Watson, etc.. and these gigs have really helped raise my profile. I’ve worked very hard to create these opportunities for myself and I think we need more things like that for all the hard workers out there.
I’ve found on the tour there that most cities we played are just like Glasgow. There are wee club nights that work tirelessly to get this music to people that want to hear it. You have The Fallen Angels Club in Glasgow, The Stag and Hounds in Bristol, The Deep River Revue in Nottingham, What’s Cookin’ in London, Teapad Presents at The Cumberland Arms in Newcastle and many, many, more. With the utter shite that’s flooding the charts these days, I think it’s unsurprising that more young people are, slowly, turning to this kind of music because it has substance, it’s real, they can relate to it and when it’s done right, it can be a helluva lot of fun! And anyone can play it, couple of chords and you’re away. It will be interesting to see how the audience progresses over the next few years, I think now is a pivotal time for us all.
Do you think Country, Honky Tonk, and roots music, in general, is an easier ‘sell’ these days? That is, people’s perceptions have changed and they don’t just see rhinestones and schmaltz when they see ‘Country’ in the description of a band?
Unfortunately, I don’t. Not yet anyway. I think country will always be associated with rhinestones and schmaltz, regardless of what great music is made under the COUNTRY banner, and I genuinely believe that’s a factor in it being a tough sell over here. That image has never been and never will be ‘cool’… Besides, ‘real’ country music, honky-tonk, etc.. has now been rebranded as Americana, possibly the widest spanning genre in history. These days it seems if you play an acoustic guitar, it’s Americana. For me that’s a lot of bollocks and I think a lot of great artists are being wrongly labeled due to this. I mean look at Sturgill Simpson, up for the Americana Grammy award for an album entitled ‘Metamodern Sounds in COUNTRY Music’… Strange days indeed. I can’t really get my head around it and I don’t bother trying to be honest, it’s all music at the end of the day, who cares what it’s called! If you like it, listen to it, buy it, go to a show, if you don’t then don’t, it’s simple.
Do you think Online Jukebox and streaming services like Spotify have helped people discover your music?
Yes, I think streaming services have helped people discover the music, I don’t really have an opinion on the whole ‘is Spotify the devil’ debate as it doesn’t really affect me currently. The ones mainly moaning about it are the huge artists who already have a shit-ton of money and want more, which is fair enough if its due. But like I say, when it starts to affect my paying the bills and making the choice between shopping at Lidl or Sainsburys, we’ll see what I think.
Where was the album recorded and how did that come about?
It was recorded in Hendersonville Tennessee, and I basically got some material to Morgan Jahnig of Old Crow Medicine Show who liked what he heard and invited me over to record my new album. It was and still is, a bit surreal, working with the guys who inspired you to do what you do, it was wonderful. And Morgan did so much for me, he produced, played on a track, assembled a band full of some of my favourite musicians in the world, let me stay at his house, he’s a proper gent and I’ll be forever indebted to him, he’s one of the good guys, one of the best.
How did it feel to be recording ‘Keep Right Away’ with such a Stella cast? Morgan Jahnig, Chance McCoy and Cory Younts from OMCS, BR549’s Chris Scruggs and Joshua Hedley. Or to have Shelly Colvin and Diana Jones singing your tunes? Were you able to take the tunes in the direction you wanted or did it all fall together naturally?
It was amazing. I was very much shitting myself before I went but after a couple of run-throughs of the songs, it was plain sailing. These guys are the very top of their games and made it so easy. It was a total education for me. They all liked the songs we had chosen as well which helped so it was very natural and despite my earlier worries, I didn’t feel out my depth at all, which was a relief! We had ten days of studio time booked and ended up only using 7 or 8. Morgan shaped the sound of it, I told him what I was ideally after and he more than conjured and captured it, a top notch producer. To also have done duets with Diana and Shelly for it, I’m just thankful they agreed now, I can’t imagine the songs without them. Both are such different and great singers and as songwriters and performers they’re just something else, I’m a lucky man. I still look at the back of the CD credits and can’t believe these people are on my record, it’s bizarre!
Tell us what 2015 has in store for you? Festivals? Touring? Recording? Resting?
Well, we’ve just finished a very successful first headline tour of the UK and signed with Owlsworld booking agents so I expect to be on the road a lot this year. I’m flying over to Europe to open for and back up Diana Jones in The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium this February, ten dates, so that’s going to be great. I hope to record another album or two if I can get the money together and I’ve also just signed my first publishing deal with WipeOut Music Publishing so it’s been a great start to the year, I can only hope we can keep the momentum going now.
[11. February 2015]
KEEP RIGHT AWAY / THESE THINGS HAPPEN
“Following BBC Radio support from Bob Harris, Ricky Ross and Roddy Hart and widespread press acclaim for his previous releases, Glasgow singer-songwriter Daniel Meade returns today with his new single These Things Happen – the first taster of his upcoming new album Rust. Rust highlights Meade’s confident command of classic country songwriting, bar-room rock n’roll, and folk introspection – all delivered for the first time in his earthy Scottish brogue – and will be released on 4th October. These Things Happen is an upbeat, power-pop-goes-country intro to the new record and is on streaming and download platforms now. “ – Saint In The City PR