Thursday, July 26, 2012

Daniel Pearson Spins Around Satellites

Singer-songwriter Daniel Pearson might have grown up near the banks of the Hull River in the United Kingdom, but his soul can be found in the heartland of America. His music, much like the American landscape that characterizes the region, rolls along for miles with equal parts pain and hope.

"When you grow up in a place without much of a musical identity, you end up looking elsewhere for inspiration," says Pearson. "I've always been drawn to American music and bands, which I think gives me a sense of escapism."

Kingston upon Hull (Hull) in East Yorkshire shares some similarities with the heartland. The economy struggled for decades, the land feels flat and unchanging, and the people are weathered but resilient. Singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young were easy for Pearson to gravitate toward, especially after his parents introduced him to Bruce Springsteen.

"Even in the mid 90s, the biggest bands were all in the U.S. — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, REM, Green Day,  and Weezer," he said. "It was only through Britpop a few years later that I got into The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But I think us Brits have always been a little in love with America."

Satellites captures the spirit of temperate American folk rock.

Although Pearson says the iconic images and ideas transfer pretty effortlessly into his culture and psyche, it doesn't always mean that record labels are willing to take a chance. After shopping his first set of songs around, he learned it's easier to be a boy band, dance act, or female soul singer nowadays.

Undeterred, Pearson started his own label. He oversees everything from finance and distribution to promotion and bookings. All of it comes back to him with a handful of people who help out a little where it counts.

"It was a blessing in disguise really. I've learned an incredible amount about how everything works while managing to stay totally in control of the ship," he said. "I'm also ultra-prepared when in the studio — the record was done and mixed inside a week and a lot of the songs are first and second takes."

There is perhaps no better place to hear his conviction than his second track, Wishing Well. The steady but brilliantly composed song about overcoming adversity underscores Pearson's desire to retain the purity of folk rock without being overblown.

"It reminds me that life is short and I need to keep working away on things that I believe in and strive for," he says. "When I listen to it now, it's as much for me as anyone else."

Waves In The Sea, with its haunting and darkly mortal undertones, is different. While the track is obviously a love song, its inspiration came from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The book, he said, set him off thinking about the end of the world and the last fragments of humanity being tested. Although he admits it might sound hokey to some, he sincerely hopes love can survive it.

While his brooding arrangements capture more attention, Pearson is not confined to the pace. His straightforward and upbeat 4th July, full on with a harmonic backing, is a quick fire pop song played in under three minutes. It almost didn't make the album, but goes a great distance in lending more texture.

Civilians too, although familiar in its pacing, offers up an unexpected twist that might make some early reviewers blush. Although the song has some of the daydream qualities of Pearson's serious prose, the song is a response to the celebrity and talent show culture that has become so influential in society.

"A lot of the reviews in the U.K. actually misunderstood that song and took it literally, like I was the one wanting a magazine deal and all those things," laughs Pearson. "Next time, I need satire stickers for those kinds of songs!"

While no artist would necessarily pass on the rush of being discovered, Pearson is more practiced in patience. Even when he composes music, he invests more of his time in building a couple of lines of melody around a phrase or two. Sometime after settling on a chord progression or sound, he fleshes it out and starts writing draft lyrics.

Sometimes he even records a demo straight into his phone, just to listen to it a few days later. Most of the songs, he says, are scrapped before anyone else can ever hear them. The ones people do hear are often play tested live before he steps into a studio.

Satellites By Daniel Pearson Rolls Over 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Incidentally, the song that Pearson most relates to on the album also touches on the connection between East Yorkshire and the American Midwest, Satellite Town. The relaxed acoustic captures the passage of time in one of those hundreds of towns in the shadow of a city.

Pearson, who has been stateside several times, will be visiting Los Angeles this August after the release of his next single in the U.K. (yesterday). The better songs, however, are all on Satellites, which was put out by his Saint In The City Records (SIC Records) label. Satellites is also available on Amazon. You can keep up with his career on Facebook. He's one to watch.
blog comments powered by Disqus