We had 10 Minutes for a Daniel Merriweather interview, so we discussed his Love & War album, along with its hit single “Red,” which has already gone platinum in the UK since its June 2009 release. As for the United States, it’s only a matter of time.
Daniel Merriweather’s Love & War drops February 23rd in the United States, and if sales in the UK are a harbinger for sales here in the US, watch your ears listeners. Be ready for Merriweather’s fusion of Hip-Hop and raw emotion to grip the citizens of the United States and drive them to buy his album by the thousands.
Parlé: Can you tell me some of your musical inspirations growing up?
Daniel: My musical background is very vast. When I was four years old, I started playing the violin and I kept playing until I was thirteen. I went by ear though, so it wasn’t the traditional way of reading music. When I was ten years old though, my dad went out and bought a little boombox and I went out to buy a CD and I bought Cooleyhighharmony by Boyz II Men and that pretty much single-handedly taught me how to sing. I learned every note and every inflection and every vocal acrobatic. I even learned every one of Mike’s spoken word sections. When I look back, it’s quite comical that a ten-year-old is trying to speak in this low voice like Mike discussing relationship turmoil, but that’s really what taught me how to sing, and from there on I guess I sort of discovered a whole bunch of music. I mean, I’m a product of the 90’s where half of the generation listened to Hip-Hop and the other half listened to Grunge music. I was somewhere in the middle and I had this love for soul music and I guess it came from a whole bunch of R & B when I was really young. It was when I discovered Stevie Wonder, I’d say it was Talking Book by Stevie Wonder and Grace by Jeff Buckley when I decided to write my first song.
Parlé: Like you said, your musical education began with violin lessons at the age of four and you have been making music ever since. Tell me what it’s like being born with that musical gene and having this passion inside of you since you were the age of kids that are usually just learning to read?
Daniel: Well, it’s really weird when people ask me, “When did you decide to become a singer?” I never really made that decision – it was just something that I always did. I guess I was lucky enough to have violin lessons when I was a kid, but apart from that it was never like I said I wanted to be a singer when I grow up. I just always sang so it was sort of a part of me. Also, watching my grandfather growing up as a child, he was a singer. He was a “man’s man,” and he was in the fire brigade and he was a boxer and he played football professionally for a while in Australia. He was the kind of guy to walk into a pub and start a fight, you know, that kind of guy. But, he would sing as well and that was my earliest memories of hearing anything that is similar to what I do now. I think that definitely rubbed off on me and my parents always listened to music in the house. I think half of it is having a musical gene and half is being around it all the time.
Parlé: Another thing I’m curious about is that you dropped out of school and focused all of your energy on music. Can you explain what it’s like to believe in yourself so much that you have the guts to put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak?
Daniel: Well I dropped out of school because I wasn’t really good at it and I was distracted by other stuff. Music took a sideline in that part of my life as well. I was getting myself into a lot of trouble and I wasn’t really concentrating in school. I was so caught up in a particular group of people and that kind of led me astray, all of which are now either in jail or in the unemployment line. It was really lucky for me to have music to finally come back around to because there was a set of a good three or four years where I forgot about it and I could have really gone off the rails there and ended up in a very undesirable situation. But, I got a record deal when I was nineteen. This guy heard me singing and gave me a record deal and that was really what pulled me back up. I was able to go into the studio whenever I wanted and write songs and express my ideas and thoughts and feelings instead of getting myself into trouble so I guess that was really a way out for me.
Parlé: Talk to me about the song “Red.” Since the song tells such an emotionally driven story, I’m curious as to whether this comes from one of your personal experiences.
Daniel: Well I wrote that song with a friend of mine, Amanda Ghost, so it was a collaborative effort. When I sing that song, it reminds me of about four different break-ups. It’s my way of expressing how when you’re in a situation that you think is perfect and then one of the people in it screws it up. That song completely tells that story, you know, being in a relationship and cheating on your girl or if she cheats on you. Then you’re kind of like, “Wow, I thought that was amazing and now you’ve gone and screwed it all up.” I think that’s really what that song is about and it’s from a collection of different experiences.
Parlé: Your songs seem to stretch very wide across the musical spectrum, from Hip-Hop like “Change” to R & B to melodic ballads like “Red.” In creating this wide array of musical styles, are you consciously trying to blaze new ground and create a new kind of sound or just doing what feels right?
Daniel: I’m always just doing what feels right and sounds right to my ears. When I was younger, I think I wore my influences on my sleeve really heavily. Like when I’d listen to a whole bunch of D’Angelo when I was seventeen or eighteen, you could hear that the songs I was writing back then were influenced by his music. I think that as you get older and get more confident with what you have to offer, you tend to make a song because you really want to. Any honest artist is probably going to travel between genres because any artist that grew up in the 90’s was exposed to every type of music. So, it’s not really me trying to carve out new ground or anything – it’s really just what I think sounds good and I want other people to hear it.
Parlé: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
Daniel: I think my biggest achievement to date is just being able to put my album out and have people go out and buy it. It just went platinum in the UK, and I think that’s my biggest achievement. I’ve been dreaming of putting out my album in America since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and tomorrow it comes out, so that’s another big achievement for me personally.
Parlé: Fast forward to five years from now and how do you see yourself, or hope to see yourself, answering that same question?
Daniel: I guess I’m not really a five-year plan kind of guy; I kind of go with the flow. I really just want to be able to keep making music and keep doing what I do without compromising on anything. That’s a really important thing for me. I’m twenty-eight years old now and if I wanted an easy route to go and sell a bunch of records, I probably could have rushed something out when I was twenty-two and had everyone tell me how it should sound. But, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make my music for my own purposes and if I can keep doing that until I’m dead I’ll be a happy man.
Parlé: You just appeared on Letterman on February 18th, will be on Jimmy Kimmel on the 26th, and I also saw on your Twitter page that you’re filming for the Carson Daly show tonight. Are there any other exciting new venues for you to break into in the near future?
Daniel: I mean it’s so much fun playing on the road. I’ve been on the road in England and I was on tour – touring and visiting countries that you would never normally think of going to on a vacation is something I’m really looking forward to doing. Really exploring America and being able to play in places I’ve never been to is really what I’m looking forward to. I’ve got the Ellen show coming up too. Being on David Letterman was pretty amazing. It was the only late-night television we had in Australia from America so I grew up watching him and to be on those kinds of TV shows is pretty fun. I also just played at The Troubadour in L.A. and that is such a historic venue, so that was amazing. So, playing venues like that is just so much fun.
Parlé: Your album Love & War has already achieved great success in the UK. The album itself, along with the single “Red” have both been certified as platinum. Love & War drops in the United States tomorrow, February 23rd, so how long have you been waiting for this, and how do you see your success abroad translating to success here in the United States?
Daniel: Putting my album out in America is something that, regardless of how many albums I’ve sold, is kind of a childhood dream. All the music I grew up listening to were all American artists so to kind of follow in their footsteps in some ways, I have to pinch myself sometimes that I get to do what I do. I think overseas it’s a different set of circumstances that you’re dealing with to get your song on the radio and get people to listen to your music. The American music industry and the climate here is a steeper mountain to climb in every sense of the term. So, as I said before, I just love what I do in every way so I’m not really focused on the first week’s sales or selling X amount of records. I really just want to be able to get on the road and I’m going on the road with Corinne Bailey Rae as well through April so that’s going to be a whole lot of fun and if I can keep playing and doing what I do I’ll be happy.
Starting February 23rd, Daniel Merriweather’s Love & War will be flying off shelves in America. Make sure you grab it as it’s packed with music that is sure to make your ears happy.
Daniel Merriweather interview images by Max Dodson
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