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Paving His Own Road

Paving His Own Road

Kiwi artist Danny McCrum talks to Gemma Margerison about beginning a new chapter and doing things a bit differently

It’s always a little scary for me to switch hats with people I don’t know all that well. I’d had a few casual discussions with musician and entrepreneur Danny McCrum before I went to interview him, but I wasn’t sure how the change in dynamics would affect the conversation process. However, McCrum was as affable as always and I have to admit I was a little sad to leave when my time was up. The highly respected guitarist has worked with an assortment of music greats (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Tommy Emmanuel, Jimmy Barnes, and Simple Minds to name but a few) and is also involved in a variety of projects. This October saw the release of the third album under his solo initiative and here McCrum talks about the process, story and impressions of Letters To The Future.

Why make the third album now?

There wasn’t a plan when we started it. It was almost like, for the first time, I started to work on something without an agenda. I was just getting back to the same reasons why I did things when I was a kid, which was for no good reason basically. I enjoyed that; just doing it. So I’d like to say it was a genius plan but it wasn’t.

And did not having a plan change the way that you put it all together?

Yeah, I couldn’t have imagined the process that we ended up with. I thought ‘if I’d been asked to come and record an album then what would I want, what would be interesting to me?’ And what would be interesting to me would be being allowed to play whatever I wanted; being allowed to put my own stamp on it. And I just thought ‘well I’ll give [the other musicians] what I would ask for’.

It got to a point about a third of the way into it that I started to formulate the plan more. But before that I don’t know if I would have even thought it was possible to do the album that way.

What did your musicians think of the whole idea?

Once it was complete they loved it. I think most of them, going in, were really, unsure of what we were doing. We could have taken it in all sorts of directions; I might have put a different guitar part on top if the drums had been different. So they sort of determined it as well. All of us [went in] blind so all of us were really stoked with how it came out.

Would you do an album the same way again or would you try something new?

I’ve thought about that as well; I’m not entirely sure. I’m not sure if you can repeat history; it never seems to work when you do the same thing twice. I think it’s important probably to think about some other bizarre idea. But we’re working on some interesting stuff already so watch this space.

Tell me about the release show

We decided to do the release show the same way we did the album; we ad-libbed it. It was an acoustic show and everyone seemed extremely happy. We got a really good turnout, filled the room up, and like I say everyone was really stoked and had nice things to say. It was very successful overall and I think the release night was in keeping with the spirit of the album, it was just a good honest show for a good honest album.

What was your favourite part of the process of making the album?

My favourite part was actually not knowing what the other guys were going to play. I was sitting there like an audience member wondering what they were going to do and there were times where I was completely surprised. So that was my favourite bit.

I think that the songs that you write are actually a lot vaguer than some people might think. The basic progression, the basic melody and the basic lyrics, that’s the song and what the musicians do is just treatment. These guys had freedom on the treatment; that‘s how it worked exactly. It was like I’d given them an outline and they’d coloured in between the lines and it was exciting for me to see that.

Do any of the songs on the album have a particular story?

Yeah, they all do. Through this time my career had sort of come to the end of a particular chapter and was starting a new chapter and I didn’t know this until it was sort of all done. What I did was I accidently documented the process. I started writing before it, and through it, and after it. There was no intention behind that at all and then the theme of the album became sort of about getting control of the steering wheel.

There’s a bit of a rebellious streak throughout the album. At the same time the album is very positive because the only way we could make it work was by finding solutions where there seems to be nothing but negativity.

What’s your favourite song on the album?

I like Mind Pilot because it’s bizarre and creative and completely off the wall. I think it’s one of the strangest tracks I’ve ever recorded which is cool, I really like it. And I like Monday because it’s just energetic and furious and surprising. I also like the song You Don’t Find Me Funny Anymore because it’s just got a feel about it that I’m still addicted to.

So you’ve started working on something new?

Lots of things. What happened was in this process of finding a solution you just talk to people and explain it. It’s interesting how energy spreads and enthusiasm spreads; it’s taken me by surprise. So we’re now sitting on this team of all these extremely talented and positive people, and enthusiastic people, and we’ve ended up with four or five seriously interesting projects that I can’t wait to get into. I think next year is going to be a really interesting one for our career. There’s going to be a lot of new things happening for us and they’re all to do with music, they’re all to do with different recording projects, they’re all industry related but it’s all unconventional, which is why I’m so excited about it.


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