Over the course of two albums, UK-based Daniel Pearson has established himself as a singular talent in the indie landscape, equally capable of crafting beautiful acoustic laments and hook-laden rock n’ roll anthems. The albums ‘Satellites’ and ‘Mercury State’ have received national and international praise for his songwriting ability and vocal talent, and he has drawn many comparisons to a young Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. However, he has many country influences, ranging from Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash, to Steve Earl, John Denver and Ryan Adams. I interviewed him to delve into his wide variety of influences, new music and visiting Music City.
Your current project is your album ‘Mercury State’ and your single ‘Long Way Round’. Tell me a little about them both.
‘Mercury State’ is my second album, and it’s a record centered around working life and relationships, growing up and growing apart. I’d like to think it could sit alongside some Springsteen albums as a document of those kinds of themes and it’s a more mature record than my first album ‘Satellites’, which was influenced more by classic rock n’ roll. ‘Long Way Round’ is a song we recorded for the new record, but it didn’t really fit thematically – it was just too upbeat and summer-sounding! So it became a stand-alone single. I was going to leave it on the shelf, but people kept saying how catchy it was and how I shouldn’t waste it, so now it’s out there.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
I think ‘Old Friends’ is one of the warmest songs on there – it’s a very hopeful and optimistic bright spot on a record where a lot of the lyrics are quite bleak. It’s also one of the easiest songs I’ve written, but often the best ones are the simplest.
What are your musical influences, and what made you include elements of country in there, amongst the indie, rock and folk?
I grew up on punk and rock n’ roll and that was the music of my first bands, and I got into country later just as I was starting doing things solo with acoustic guitars are the forefront of the songs. I’d always liked rootsy stuff like Counting Crows and The Jayhawks, but it was Bob Dylan that really turned me onto country – he’s not regarded as a country artist, but Nashville Skyline is still one of my favourite Dylan records and through ‘Girl From The North Country’ I discovered Johnny Cash. Then it was straight onto Gram Parsons, Steve Earle and John Denver – they’re all songwriters I really admire. Ryan Adams and the stuff he did with Whiskeytown is also a big influence, he’s so talented.
Have you ever been to Nashville or the South?
I was in Nashville and Memphis last year and I loved every moment of it. My friends always joke that I was born in the wrong country and I think it’s true! You really feel like you’re tracing the starting point of the songs you love when you’re in places like The Ryman or Sun Studios – they’re so inspiring and you can feel the legacy of what’s gone before. What I loved the most about Nashville was that making music isn’t something underground or hobbyist there – it’s a way of life and an expectation. Most people you meet are connected with it in some way and I’d love to come back and spend more time there.
What are your personal influences? A family member or certain situation that inspired you?
My parents were huge Springsteen fans and when I was a kid they played a lot of that. I was indoctrinated into the cult of The Boss at an early age and I’ve never left! I think that growing up in East Yorkshire also left a mark on my songs – it’s kind of a backwater without a real musical identity. I think that led to me looking elsewhere for inspiration, being open to lots of different musical genres and always writing about real lives and relationships.
What would you say your music sounds like?
I’m not reinventing the wheel but it’s more diverse than the ‘singer-songwriter’ tag often means. The songs are all honest and melodic, there are elements of country, blues, folk, garage rock and pop. I’ve written enough songs over the years to get a good idea of the music that stays true to who I am and I always aim for that ideal.
Why should people (and particularly country fans) be listening to Daniel Pearson?
Well the best country music for me has always been the music of everyday people – there’s no pretence in it, it’s about what the audience is experiencing and there’s no need for hype or gimmicks. I always try to represent those ideas in my songs and create something honest that will last. Good music sells itself and people will respond to it if you’re working hard making songs people will connect with.
What are your goals for both the near and distant future? Plans you’re putting into motion and big dreams?
I do most things independently of any outside industry team, so it would be great to continue in that way and keep on growing my fanbase. I had some pretty bad experiences earlier in my career with labels and managers so I’ve always tried to stay in control of things since. I’d love to play live more, but without financial backing it’s hard – you often end up losing money on tour and I don’t have the luxury of a big label who’ll bail me out. But that being said, I wouldn’t change the way I do things and I like being the captain of my own ship. If people keep responding to what I do then I’ll keep on making more records! Ideally I’ll have another set of songs recorded in the studio and ready for mid-2014 – an album a year is what I’m aiming for. Life is short and I want to get as much good music out there as I can.
You can find Daniel on his website, where there are links to all his social media profiles.
You can listen to ‘Old Friends’ here: