INTERVIEW: Dan Donnelly | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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If you’re a regular North East gig-goer you’ve probably encountered Dan Donnelly at least once by now. Originally from Northern Ireland, he now resides in Stockton and when he’s not playing his own gigs in Teesside he’s usually touring with someone else – be it The Wonder Stuff, the Levellers or, most recently, Celtic Social Club.

“I’ll not lie,” admits Dan, “touring life is hard on a nuclear family and I miss mine awfully when I’m away, but you need to travel as a musician and that’s it. People seem to think that music is some sort of hobby but it’s not – it’s a real job. A difficult job, but often a very rewarding one.”

Dan’s last album, Country And Northern, was released in 2011 after which he got married and had two children; releasing music has taken a back seat until now. “I wasn’t really in a position to hang out and write songs,” he says, “so this new album took a long while coming. It wasn’t that it was the right time, it was more ‘I really need to do an album now or I’m pretty much just a session musician’. Making music is what I’ve always done – there’s a need for me to get it out.”

I’d love musicians to go on strike and stop everyone listening to music for a day, then people would realise that we consume it all the time and we provide an important part of culture that not many appreciate

Dan’s fifth studio release, Are We Having Fun Yet?, covers a multitude of topics but retains the familiar ‘kooky country vibe’ he’s going for – most prevalent in first single Time Of Our Lives. The charming Son On The Horizon and the quirkily cute What If? are nods to both his children (the latter includes vocals from his young daughter who ends the song ruminating on what would happen if they swapped personalities). Meanwhile, Gypsy’s delicate, toe-tapping tune and  eloquently worded lyrics are a complete contrast to the darker Soul of Man, a song Dan wrote when Ian Brady died about the families he destroyed.

Music Is Free addresses how the advent of mp3s and streaming turned the music business on its head. “It’s a little tongue in cheek but there’s definitely some ire in there,” says Dan. “There’s a ton of great music that never gets heard or made because there’s no financial incentive for bands to stay together. I think streaming will be pretty good for music in the future but I’d hate to be a young artist starting out now. Music is a huge export for the UK that is not nurtured or invested in; I’d love musicians to go on strike and stop everyone listening to music for a day, then people would realise that we consume it all the time and we provide an important part of culture that not many appreciate. There is a whole rich industry that most people take for granted and dismiss as a bit of a laugh.”

He admits that the new LP is “angrier in places”, explaining that watching Question Time had a big influence on his writing. “I’ve always known that a good proportion of the human population are idiots, but there seems to be a real epidemic of idiocy in recent years. I blame the internet. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older but society seems to get more stupid daily. Politicians are all like clowns and the only people talking any sense are comedians. Trump and the Brexit referendum happened and to top that Bowie and Prince died – that’s when everything started to have an end of days feel on the planet. The singles from the album, Time of Our Lives and I Don’t Care, reflect my incredulity at the human race.” 

Dan Donnelly performs at Blast Studios, Newcastle on Thursday 6th December.

 

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