Interview: Five minutes with Drew Davies
Creating genre-bending and timeless sound, Drew Davies emerges with his latest single, ‘Mrs Taylor’ via AD1. The track is due for official release on the 1st of November and combines energetic instrumentals with colourful lyrics as the alt-rock soloist takes a step back in time in memory of an old friends’ mother.
Davies, having opened for Biohazard at the sold-out London’s Scala show, is no stranger to the festival scene. The London-based rock soloist has played Bloodstock, Download Festival, El Kanina Rock Festival (Spain) and London’s Troubadour as well as working in musical collaborations.
We decided to sit down with the enigmatic Drew Davies and learn about some of the successes and setbacks that have made him the man he is today.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I was always attracted to the idea of adventure and being able to travel, I guess it was a romantic notion but music always represented that to me in the beginning. Later, I’ve found it to be a liberating feeling to express creatively what I’m experiencing in my life and I think anything creative expression that gives a person that feeling is vital.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
The song always comes first for me. You can dress a song in a multitude of different fashions, RnB, pop, rock and roll or heavy metal… But the song should always remain, the rest is window dressing.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
On the songs I am releasing currently no; mainly because I wrote them all at home. But in the future, yes it’s something I’m thinking about.
What’s on your current playlist?
I’m listening to quite a bit of Talk Talk, Nick Cave, The Blue Nile, The War On Drugs and Sharon Van Etten, Sam Fender too.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
It’s a sharing experience so hopefully, there’s some give and take. I like to give everything I have to the crowd and if I get something back, that just sends everything the vibe higher and higher. So I guess it’s all about synergy.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I guess I started off merging a lot of vintage synthesizer sounds with classic Spector era production on the guitars and vocals. It’s an era I love and something I haven’t heard in modern music for a while. Most of the songs I’ve been releasing have that classic sound but I’ve got some in the locker that will show my more electronic/ambient influences as well. For me, it’s always good to understand where the greats were coming from, and then trying to harness and play with that.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
It depends on what I might be doing on a given day. Often there is a lot of setup time involved in Day 1, getting the right mic placements and sound for what is being recorded. Hopefully, you have a great engineer who gets that all set up for you and understands the vision for the song – being self-funded, I didn’t want to scrimp on quality at all and wanted to make a classic sounding record. When the guys and I recorded these songs, we tried to keep an old school approach of using whole takes rather than heavily edited takes; this requires a focused approach from experienced hands for sure. Most of these songs are one whole vocal take and then we just dropped in edits where the wheels fell off. Thankfully, I was working with great musicians so everything came together really well.
Time is also a factor in the studio and trying your best to not feel the pressure of it, over the years I’ve learnt the art of letting go, though and letting a song be what comes from the studio. It’s very very easy to be too rigid and often the best ideas come during downtime with a cup of tea. But if I had my way I’d spend all my time in the studio writing and recording as it’s one of my favourite parts of the process.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I remember seeing footage of Queen live in Budapest as a child and being totally in awe of the band, especially the performance of Freddie Mercury. That would have to have been a decisive moment (as it probably was for most people!). But over the years I’ve had many moments of great clarity with music where I’ve felt like – ‘This is what I want to do’.
Making music has been the one great consistent in my life despite any ups and downs. I’ve always loved writing and capturing feelings and giving those songs and ideas the chance to breathe through a performance or a recording which will last forever has always given me the biggest buzz.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Batteries and a backup guitar because you never know!
Any emerging artists on your radar?
I saw a great band called Actors recently, not so ’emerging’ as they have a great underground following but I loved their set. Kind of Gary Numan meets Queens of the Stone Age. There are so many great artists out in the dark corners of the internet though now – whilst it makes it harder for people to be heard it’s an exciting time to seek out new music.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
It’s such a cliche but life is a major inspiration, it’s always the great incidents in life that bring about songs. They also tend to be the easiest songs to write. Years ago I read about Hemingway’s process and I noticed a lot of similarities between many writers…They wake early (maybe 6am) and then write until maybe noon, this flexes the creative muscles; but after noon, Hemingway and others would insist on ‘living life’ as that was where they would pull their experiences and inspiration from. Living in a city like London it’s easy to get bogged down but whenever I engage in that process it bears fruit.
I also sometimes find I will write down lines from books I’m reading, or keep a diary of interesting signs I read or people I meet, this is useful for recall later on and can inspire songs.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I’m loving the Dave Smith Prophet Synth I’ve currently been loaned; I use Apogee preamps at home which I like due to their natural colour. I have a few keyboards which I write on and I also use my Epiphone Casino a lot and various acoustics; I have an old Takamine that I am very fond of and also my mother’s 1960 classic Spanish Seville Guitar- many songs have been written on that. Electronically I’ve also been loving the Arturia Soft synth collections which feature a lot in some songs I’ll be releasing soon; they really captured the vintage John Carpenter vibes I was after in their emulations.
Any side projects you’re working on?
I’ve got my eye on a few things but I’m very focused on writing a second record and promoting these releases at the minute.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Honestly, it’s all practice, lots and lots of practice and I’ve still got tons to learn. I’d say one of my biggest lessons was learning to not overdo it as a singer… I find over singing is a big thing these days on account of TV shows like X-Factor and The Voice, so I welcome someone who tries to approach singing with authenticity.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
It’s been a hectic year; I’ll be releasing Mrs Taylor on November 1st and I have a very special EP in the works. Then the plan is to release my full debut album in the springtime next year.
Famous last words?
This is just the beginning.
Follow Drew Davies: