Dan Tyminski

The American singer-songwriter is in London for the promo on his dark artefact of a new album. We meet Dan to get the lowdown on the project and he answers all queries in this conversation hinging on how songs communicate. Thanks, Mr T…

Supplied By Record Label

JLTT: Welcome to London.

DT: So happy to be here. Thank you.

We going to see you on the Sunday evening of Nashville Meets London 2018. How will you approach that? Will it be solo or will you have somebody with you?

No it will be a full band. There are five guys and myself that make up the music. We’ve done the best to recreate, to the best of our ability the spirit of the ‘Southern Gothic’ record. There’s a lot going on if you’re familiar with the record?

If you look at our site there’s a full review on there.

We’ve managed to recreate… it was a difficult task to play that music because a lot of it was automatic tracks, not all of it was human beings.

I’d describe it as a dense, saturnite sound.

It IS very dense. It is a very thick, multi-influenced.

A lot of it is fully-realised and cinematic.

(Sighs) It is theatrical.

But there’s not a great distance between the listener and what you’re singing. Which is a bit of an alchemical thing…connecting

(Laughs) Right.

Maybe it’s what you’re good at.

Well I don’t know. I’ll credit my producer with making it and tying it together. First of all let’s start with this – I wasn’t aware that I was making a record when I was writing these songs. I did not write these songs for me, in the beginning.

(Intrigued) Okay…

These were all songs that were written just for the sake of pitching them to other artists. I remember the day writing ‘Southern Gothic’ when I was driving home from that particular write and I remember listening to the song and for the first time I had a feeling of jealousy that I was having to let this song go to someone else. I said a little prayer – “God, find it a good home. I know I have to give it up. But please let it go to a place where it can do the most good. I want it to” I really cared for that song so much. A few weeks later however it made its way back to me and I was offered a record deal to do this. So I looked at a body of work and all these songs that were not really written for me but it turns out that they had a common thread between most of this set of songs. So I was able to write a record for me without the pressure of knowing that I was gonna have to sing it.

Two weeks ago my friend, we were having this conversation with Eric Paslay. Very much the same thing…

Really?

He writes for Lady Antebellum and various others and he was saying that when the song reverts to you the originator and you’re doing it yourself it tends to go from black and white to colour.

It means something different when you know you’re writing for yourself. My filter is different and I tend to not be as free. I was able to write without having to worry at all about how the song was gonna come out. I just wrote the song for the song. To be able to do this record and play this type of music live was a big decision for me. I’ve had decades of playing of playing very traditional, acoustic type of music that the fanbase that I do have expects a certain type of music.

(Holds CD up) But this…

This is different.

This verges occasionally on acts like The Afghan Whigs. With that very dense voodoo sound like Greg Dulli.

(Laughs) I see!

(Laughs) I’m very old and I know all of these! Also the production, every now and again it kind of reeks of Van Dyke Parks.

Right. So Jesse Frasure who was one of the guys who I wrote a lot of this music with, I chose him to produce because I felt like he was able to go places musically that I would never, ever, ever think of. I don’t wanna compare this to the Avicii stuff.

My son wanted me to mention Avicii  yeah.

Well what I discovered through the Avicii project was first and foremost that I felt like my voice did work in other forms/styles of music so I felt like it translated. But I think hearing how crazy that song was compared to what I’ve done it gave me courage to step outside the box and make this other music.

What is vital in making music, I’ve been playing since 66’ – Miles Davis used to say to his musicians “Don’t play what you know. Play what you don’t know.” Get into that place where you are here and there live onstage. He wanted them to do that to exorcise himself onstage. I saw him do it when I took my entire band to see him play. When you think of someone great like Iggy Pop – his voice will travel into those places and you think “Jesus – there’s a Moroccan beat going on here!”

(Laughs)

That’s the stage that stuff that can just …happens

It evolves and it didn’t what kind of life would we have? We’d have no Tom Waits, no Ry Cooder, no Van Morrison, no Bonnie Raitt, no Kate Bush, and no Dan Tyminski!

(Warmly) I mean you could’ve left me out of that but yeah absolutely. That was the most exciting part of making this record for me. I almost didn’t do it because I thought it could be so confusing to a fanbase that is expecting bluegrass. But I’m at the stage in my life… it was a challenge and it was something that ultimately, I believed in the body of work. I believed in the music.

The subtitle of this should be ‘dark travels’

(Laughs)

Respect and admiration.

Thank you. Again, I’m still being surprised by it. There was a lot of self-discovery in the process of writing this record. First of all, I didn’t know that I was such a dark person. I thought I was a little lighter! A lighter human being.

What made Bowie great – he doesn’t grab a ukulele and say “Come on everybody and sing along!” He takes you to dark places.

(Laughs)

Like ‘Station To Station’.

For me, here – I had Jesse Frasure who was able to inspire me into directions I could’ve never gone.

So without that visionary thing you would’ve been more in your comfort zone?

I probably wouldn’t have done a record. It wasn’t my ambition to do a solo record. I mean if you don’t know anything about my career – I’ve done two records in my career before this.

(Pete shows Dan our CD copy of the ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ Soundtrack)

My mate recommended this film and he said “Go and see this film you’ll love it. You’ll love the music.” So we went and we came out smiling. Let’s take this somewhere different – I’m just going to throw some names at you and I just want you to react please.

Okay.

Ernest Hemingway.

Before my time.

Randy Newman.

Vaguely familiar. A little before my time. I can remember him growing up and the song ‘Short People’.

Arlo Guthrie.

Influenced. His influence still surprises me how many people he’s touched. When I think of Arlo, everyone I know… He means the world to everybody.

He did some fabulous work with Clarence White of The Byrds. But White’s guitar is now in the hands of Marty Stuart … he’s got the B-Fender Telecaster. He’s just been out on the road with Roger McGuinn doing the ‘Sweetheart of The Rodeo’ Byrds’ album live.

It’s the next incarnation. For me, it’s hard to compare because I had three projects; ‘Carry Me Across The Mountain’, ‘Wheels’ and this. They were done for such completely different reasons. The first record I did, my friend had a record label and he begged me to do it I didn’t wanna do a solo record. I said “If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna get my heroes and my friends.” I got people that meant a lot to me to play on the record. So that was like my own little passion.

Then I did ‘Wheels’ and again, I wasn’t really trying to make a record but I found myself with some time off so I said “I’m gonna play some shows.” But if I’m gonna play some shows, it is pretty common that people at the bluegrass festivals in the States they wanna be able to buy the CD that they see the guys playing. They wanna be able to purchase a CD with the people they are looking at onstage. So I made ‘Wheels’ for the sole purpose of taking the band I was traveling with and showcasing what the band could do.

Now THIS (points to ‘Southern Gothic’ CD) I didn’t set out to make this record but when it was offered and I saw the opportunity… I sensed immediately that it was gonna cause trouble. I sensed immediately it was gonna confuse people and I’ve seen it. What’s fun for me, looking back at this as nervous as I was going in and that when I still see a room full of people who I can tell are expecting bluegrass music and they see the drum set, the electric stuff and amps. You can see the worry in their face.

It happens. (Bob) Dylan got shouted at for going electric.

The best part of this, at our last show we played the show that I could tell was my bluegrass crow and I could tell they were tolerating it. By the end of the show, a standing up across the board. The music is… you can be a bluegrass man and enjoy this music and you can be a country man and enjoy this music.

All music is just like painting – communication. We were at Rodney Crowell last night and it was an hour and three quarters. And I got him to sign my Cicadas album which is one of my favourite albums. He just made sure that the audience were with him all the way and appreciating his players and it is a simple thing like a recipe. I grew up listening to a band called Spirit and they taught me how to play. I interviewed Ed Cassidy their drummer once and he said “How are you doing?” and I replied “Yeah we had a good show last week but the audience wasn’t great.” He then replied “There’s no such thing as a bad audience. There’s an audience you’re getting through too and an audience you’re not getting through too. What’s your job as the entertainment?” I responded “To get through to the audience.” Every time I go onstage now two things are in my head; firstly, it’s my job to get through to the audience and secondly that these cats could be anywhere else.

Oh absolutely!

There’s a song on here called ‘Bloodline’ which I think you should do a duet with Lucinda Williams. How do we do this?

How do we do this? Well first hope that she likes it! (Laughs)

(Laughs) I’m serious.

I wouldn’t turn it down. She’s great. That’s interesting. ‘Bloodline’ …of all the songs!

I hear a female voice in there and not a corny harmony one.

That’s funny. There’s more truth in that song. I mean I remember the song writing process and we were talking about how we all grew up and it was like “My parents used to take me to country bars” and then I’d go “Dude, I grew up in country bars at like five, six years old when you could take a child into a bar.” I say in the song – “My dad was really my mom.” Every bit of that was truth to me.

Before that finished, I was at home playing it through (and if you read my review I listen close) I had a harmonica out and I was playing along.

(Laughs)

Really?

Whilst that was on before it finished because I love playing harmonica. With my band, I sing and play twelve-string, baritone, slide and mandolin.

(Laughs)

But I had a harmonica out and I was playing along. The octave above! (Laughs) It takes someone outside of your music to talk like this about it because I can only go by what you record and then what I hear what goes through my ears, my brain and out to my fingers. But the reason I love doing this, is very often the artists are THAT close to the music that they are yet to step back!

I’m guilty of that. I’m guilty of that sometimes. It’s easy to get caught up in the music. Sometimes you can get a little bit close to it and part of learning for me and how to get away from that is when I’m writing songs. When you’re writing a song you have to understand that the person listening to that song has no backstory going in. They have to develop the whole story.

Like a painting.

Exactly. I write with some people who go “But it’s not doing that” and I’m like “Wait a second. The listener has no idea what it’s doing. They’ve got their own whole story. Let’s look at some of the words.” So I revert to the first lines of the song as this is ‘our hello’ and the only thing that the stranger knows of the song. It makes you step back and take a perspective which you can easily lose when you get too close to it.

It’s the same thing with performing to people; you get too close to the music you need to remember that they don’t know your history. They are learning everything for the first time and if someone walks into a show and they don’t know you, they’re learning about you from just what they see. And hear! It’s no good you being good last night.

That’s what I’m saying! But you can say “Yeah I’m a nice guy!” but they don’t know that. You can’t take for granted what people see in their first show. What you’re saying absolutely true, but even being aware of it I can still find myself making that mistake.

I was talking to Joan Armatrading and she is a major songwriter in the UK and she does tours in America. She won’t talk about her private life but I said “You’ve made thirty albums; your songs are like pages from a diary and about love and the human condition. Either some of it is autobiographical OR you’re greatest writer of romantic fiction!”

(Laughs) Right!

(Laughs) She goes “Yeah you’ve got it!” The greatest artists to me create an atmosphere in every song and the king of this is Robin Trower. He can take you to a desert, to Venice, to a wild rock n’ roll party and he has that signature guitar style to be able to do that. Great voices can take you on a journey like Joe Cocker and Joni Mitchell. I interview a lot of female stars who are over 25 who adore Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell.

They’re awesome.

Yeah but they won’t make the same album over and over again.

Sure.

Which is why I enjoyed this album. What’s the key track on this?

The key track? I’m gonna have to say ‘Southern Gothic’ because I think that is more than any… In my opinion, that is just a mirror to society. I mean I tried very hard not to make it ‘judgy.’

Like Rodney Crowell’s ‘Our Little Town’. A sinister place…

But it’s everywhere. So you know what ‘Southern Gothic’ was? It was a joke. It was said in jest and I was writing with Jesse (Frasure) and Josh Kear and we worked from about 11am until 1.30 in the afternoon and we decided to evaluate. So we looked at where were at and everything we had done for the past two hours and we decided to go home. As we’re packing our stuff up, Jesse said “Do you wanna hear one more groove just in case?” and he tapped on his computer and the bones of what is no ‘Southern Gothic’ came up. He just had a couple of basic tracks which sounded really dark. I made the comment “Yeah it’s kinda Goth. Like it has a Goth feel to it” and Josh goes “Totally Gothic yeah” and then joking Jesse said “Well if Dan’s gonna sing it, it has to be Southern Gothic.”

(Laughs)

… and the three of us all went Huh”. We all did the same thing when we came up with the title; we all grabbed our phones and googled ‘Southern Gothic’. Ultimately, what we discovered was that first of all it was a good platform to write from but we had so much to choose from that it blew us away. Now this song, that you hear on the record we started at 1.30 and at 4.30 (three hours later) everything you hear on the record; the tacks, the harmonies and every bell and whistle was done in that three hour session. It was one of those things where the label said “Don’t change it. We love the demo.” Four of the songs on the record were complete demos that we did that day. I never expected for that to be on there. Then I was trying to imagine how to re-record it and we never re-recorded it. It is just how it is written.

That song was such a gift so I think that’s the song that really is the key one on the record. It was definitely the one that the label was most interested in but they heard three tracks early on; ‘Temporary Love’, Perfect Poison’ and ‘Southern Gothic’. They were so different from each other that it gave them enough to offer me a record deal based on those three and then let me do whatever I wanted on the rest.

How excited are you to be playing this live?

I’m thrilled because the whole thing with this record before I agreed to do it, in my mind the only way I can do it is that I’ve gotta be able to play it. If I make this record I’ve gotta be able to tour this record. I can’t make a record like this and not play it. I didn’t expect to be able to recreate it as closely as we can. When we play live the songs sound like the record. It is impressive that we can make that happen because there’s a lot going on. I’m more than excited to play it live. With that being said, this is by far the hardest show I’ve ever done. When I play this show live for starters, I didn’t write all this music for me and I made them all as demos. When you’re making demos, you pitch them up high, hard and try to make them as exciting as you possibly can. So now it is just like one long vocal so it is the hardest show I’ve done.

I did notice that you don’t hear many solos on the record.

(Nods ) It is my criticism too. When I play this music it is like one vocal and didn’t realise until we played the set that I don’t get to rest and let someone else play. It is serious and heavy. When I had my first full play of the record it never dawned on me that there was a lack of solos. But when I played the first show, it was the most apparent thing that stuck out to me. I have brilliant players and guys who are just great soloists you could wanna hear. We talked about this as a band with where we at right now and yes, we are gonna mix it up.

Thanks for your time Dan.

My pleasure, Pete. Do come see us play, both of you

Pete Sargeant



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(Many thanks to Dan for his time and all of the help from Jo and Ian at Humphead Country Records)

Avicci and Dan Tyminski Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2DTHrKh

Dan Tyminski Live Photo Credit: Drew Burnett Photography

All Other Photos Supplied By Record Label

You can listen to ‘Devil Is Downtown’ in this article.

Dan Tyminski’s new album ‘Southern Gothic’ is out now on Humphead Country Records.

You can read our full album review here: http://bit.ly/2NtX3EV

For more information visit is official website here: http://bit.ly/2zUk9mk