I caught up with Danny Mortimer ahead of the release of his double sided single “Just like Before” and “Another Light” to ask some questions and find out how Danny has been spending his time during lock down and his plans for the future, here’s what he had to say…
Danny Mortimer- Interview – By Marc Davidson
Danny, as always, great to catch up with yourself, especially with exciting news in the form of not just one but two new singles and I believe we will see both released with music videos?
Right back at you. Hope your doing fine? I’m really excited to finally be releasing some new music, it feels like is has been way too long since I have released something new. So on 14th of August, I will be releasing my first double sided Single, “Just like before” and “Another Light”. Both have there own corresponding music videos too, which will be released on the same day.
Before we delve into your new music can you tell everyone how you have been spending your time during lockdown, what kept you sane and did you pick up any new hobbies or interests as a result of all the unexpected spare time?
Put it this way, the list of DIY projects that needed done round our house have definitely gotten smaller. I kept myself busy with writing/recording new music, collecting ideas for future releases and working on a few collaborations that are yet to be released. We were also busy building things round the house, including cabinets, units, a boiler cupboard and a huge tree planter out the front of the house. Having next to no experience with tools, I’m glad to say I still have all my fingers!
I also teamed up with M:ADE and PB Audio to record a special rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes”. I then invited the public to send in footage of what they had got up to during lockdown, and used that for that music Video. That was a really great experience and the response was incredible. I even had an interview on BBC Scotland’s TV show “The Nine” about the track and process, where the video was showcased. That was a real “pinch yourself moment” as I’ve never been interviewed for TV before. I always think it’s good to try and stay busy. Plus, we did binge-watch Game of Thrones for the second time!
Right onto the music, first let’s talk about “Just like before”, a big guitar driven number which sees you using a lot of dynamics transitioning from calm verses into a big backs to the wall chorus. Can you tell us about the songwriting process on this track, were you conscious in writing in the song dynamics or is this just part of your songwriting evolution?
For that, we will have to go back a few years. Towards the end of 2017, Alan (Greer) invited me to be part of his band he was putting together for the Stardust gig, so we started meeting up together and practising. I’ve known Alan for a few years now and the idea of sharing a stage with him for a charity gig seemed like fun. Through that, he introduced me to Ken (Allardyce). After meeting up a few times, both Alan and Ken offered me some great advice on my last album (Anything But Silent) and what I could do in moving forward from it. The main thing that I learned from meeting with them both was not to be afraid to experiment more with sounds, using “light and shade” (loud/quiet dynamics) and letting the song tell me where it wants to go, rather than forcing it the way I think it should go.
So after that, I began my approach to writing differently. The songwriting for “Just like before” started off as the majority of my music does, with me in a room with a guitar. The song had been kicking about for a while, in fact I think it was not long after the Anything But Silent Tour finished, I had this demo of the song. I can’t remember how it came about, but Alan agreed to help me record the track and we took it from there. I wrote the majority of it at home, all the while thinking of Ken and Alan’s advice
“Just like before” was recorded with Alan Greer from Intime records, how was the recording process, how did this differ, if at all, from your previous studio experiences?
It was an incredible learning experience and I can’t thank Alan enough for the time he took in helping me record it. My drummer Dave (Simpson) and I headed through to Alan’s last year and began working on the track. I came in with that demo that I mentioned, and Alan could see the route I wanted to go with it. Usually when I have headed into a studio in the past, it was to record a full album or EP, so you would work through all the drum tracks at once. This was the first time that we went in to work on a Single, so it was much easier to focus on just the one song. You’re not kinda worrying about the other tracks etc.
With my music, I try to do something different with every release. “Headlights at Midnight” (by Christie Row) was to record an album with myself stepping up to the microphone, “Out of The Blue” was to see if I could release a record as a solo act, “Anything But Silent” was to see if I could produce an album by myself, where I basically threw myself into the deep end with the recording process.
With the “Just like before” sessions, Alan would take the time and walk me through the process, showing me not only the correct way to do things, but also more importantly WHY. So in a way, I was expanding my knowledge on the recording process with this release, with everything I had already learned through the Anything But Silent sessions.
As the producer, he wasn’t shy of making suggestions to make the song better, suggesting different guitar parts, sounds and instruments. In the past, I have been guilty on being “fixed” on an idea of where the song should go, so I did have to let down my own barrier and be able to listen to someone else’s ideas and experiment more. If an idea came about and it worked to improve the song, great. If it didn’t, well at least we had tried it. The ending of the song completely changed to what I originally had. After coming down to the studio, Ken suggested it needed a solo at the end of the track. It wasn’t something I had immediately thought of but kinda thought, go with it and see what happens. And right enough, it worked within the context of the song. The ending sounds huge because of that solo.
Alan also showed me the proper way to use ProTools aswell, which has been a massive game changer for me. Everything I learned from those sessions, I would then put into practice with the new music I was writing and recording at home.
You recorded your second single “Another Light” at home, playing all instrumentation yourself, how does the experience of recording at home in your own time compare to recording in a studio, is there added pressure to get it right when you are on the clock or is it the complete opposite where having all the time in the world can cause you to procrastinate?
Yeah I think the pressure of being in the studio and being “on the clock” can sometimes be daunting. In my experience, I sometimes find it hard to relax if I know that there is that added pressure or a looming deadline. In saying that though, it’s good to have someone (e.g. a Producer/Sound Engineer) to ask an opinion on parts while in a studio. Does that part need re-doing? What do you think of this lick? Having that second opinion can be very useful and reassuring. Deadlines could be useful, or they can be a pain.
With the home recording, there definitely can be a more laid back approach but there is also that danger of “I’ll do it later on”. I reckon as long as you have some sort of routine in a relaxed atmosphere, that’s when the best results will happen. If you’re buzzing about the work your creating, you can stay locked away until you physically can’t give any more. Your ears will soon tell you when it’s time to call it a day!
In my experience, knowing when a track is “finished” is the hardest part of home recording. Over analysing every single part to the stage where it will never be finished. Knowing when to leave and walk away from a track is important.
“Another Light” sees a more mature side of your song writing and recording process with multi layered guitars and vocals, where does the song rank in your favourites in terms of craftsmanship?
Thanks a lot. This song was me trying to implement what I had learned from the “Just Like Before” sessions with Alan. It has a very different sound to anything in my back catalogue, which hopefully shows that I am willing to grow, or as you say, mature. In terms of craftsmanship, I am pretty proud of it. This was a track where I let it show me where it wanted to go. I’m a big fan of simple songs with a strong message. If you take away all the layers of that song in particular now, it really is just a handful of chords on an acoustic guitar, which was originally what I thought it was going to be.
It wasn’t until I was recording all these extra elements that it started growing (little parts of bass, the simple Floor Tom beat, the Ebow, the electronic sounds etc.). I showed it to my trusted friend Phil (of PB Audio – who mixed the track) and he offered his input on it. He came up with the “heartbeat kick drum” at the start and the higher vocal parts towards the end of the track. He heard parts in the song as to where it should go and wasn’t shy in making suggestions to make the song better either. It is definitely the most experimental release I have to date.
Your listeners will almost instantly hear the polar opposite in styles between “Just like before” and “Another Light” was it your intention to release two very opposite sounding singles or was it a case of these being your favourite sounding songs of the moment?
It didn’t start out as intentional to be honest. When we went in to record “Just like before” it had always been the plan to release it as part of a double sided single, so my heart was kinda set on that. The song that I had originally planned to be the B-side is (currently known as) “All I Can Be”, and was very similar in tempo, style and sound to “Just like before”. As the sessions went on, I was becoming less enthusiastic about having two singles both so similar in style on opposing sides of this release. “Another Light” appeared at the right time and as it would happen, seemed like the logical fit to release alongside “Just like before”. I class myself as a solo act, but I do perform gigs with a full backing band, as well as acoustic shows. So it kind of felt right to showcase both sides of what I do at gigs with this release. So I ran with that concept.
Still with so much uncertainty in the world right now and in particular the future of music very much unknown have you give much thought to your musical plans going forward?
With everything going on it’s kinda hard to plan any live outings for the foreseeable future, which is a real shame. I really have missed playing with my band in-front of an audience. However, being able to carry on writing music is never in doubt. Recording demos for future releases is always one way to stay creative and is something I try to do as often as possible, or as often as the ideas appear.
I’m already planning releasing some more music towards the end of the year. There are also a few collaborations in the pipeline I’m working on with other Musicians, but it’s not my place to divulge on them just yet. Like I say, it’s always good to stay busy.
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Thanks Danny, we wish you all the best with your up coming releases.
INTERVIEW BY – MARC DAVIDSON