Meet The Artist: Dan Whitehouse

An original take on modern folk /Americana, Dan Whitehouse’s music consists of observational lyrics and imagined stories and could be defined as Black Country Soul.

Following the release of his Introducing EP back in January, Dan has been working on the new album as well as touring with Eddi Reader and Kris Drever.

Following the release of Dan’s debut album, That’s Where I Belong, he is now out on tour supporting Boo Hewerdine, in which they will play St Donat’s Tythe Barn, this evening.

 Andy Howells recently put questions to Dan.

How did you first start out in music?
My Dad was a radio DJ so there were a lot of records about. I played piano from around 6 years old, we had an old Murdoch upright that used to be in a pub, it had a honky tonk kinda sound.

I had a great teacher called Jill who always told me ‘lightly, lightly’ – she told me to imagine a tiny little mouse running under the palm of my hand, to keep my hand arched to allow the mouse to run freely up and down the keys – and enforcing a delicate touch – this was great advice and I still follow it.

Kris Drever reminds me of this approach too – I toured with Lau last year and was knocked out by how gently his right hand is at times – this is key to opening up the drama and the dynamic range.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
As a kid I had a VHS tape of Neil Young MTV Unplugged – the song Needle and The Damage Done had a big impact on me – it that this really cool guitar riff but it was a story with a strong statement too – and Neil seemed to really feel it when he played it. That resonated with me and still does. I also have a strong memory of watching Chuck Berry play at Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1990, he was 66 years old and he absolutely smashed it, sweat dripping from him and he gave it all he’s got.

Can you give us some background about your latest album?
Most of the songs were written either on piano or guitar in an old industrial factory building, part of Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter.
The lyric to the title track That’s Where I Belong refers to the higher places we are able to take each other within our conversations. the song talks about feeling really together with the right person, how the small details of expression are magnified, and how we can comfort or disarm one another easily and swiftly, with a mere glance, light touch, or tone of voice.

Being with the right people is magical, a truth not only reserved for partners/lovers or friends, as I discovered when collaborating with many of the great musicians on the record. Pedal steel legend BJ Cole played with deep musical expression on The Places We Have Been whilst drummer Steve Brookes (Danny The Champs) helped me realise my rhythmical vision and create music you can really move to, dubbed in the studio by producers Danny Wilson and Chris Clarke (The Rockingbirds) as ‘Black Country Soul’.

The songs come steeped in new found positivity, dealing with emotional well being or anxiety and mental health (CCC, Little Left Unsaid) issues.

Political stories of displacement and refuge (Close Up) sit beside more personal reflections and universal themes such as family and love,loss and compassion. The lyric to his song Work speaks about the daily grind of brick building within relationships – being prepared to sit and listen to the words of your other, giving them the time and respect they truly deserve

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Yes I’m looking forward to meeting lots of lovely audiences at the gigs. I am honoured to be supporting Boo Hewerdine on tour, a songwriter I have admired and enjoyed for many years.
I have recorded an album of his songs in tribute and it will be released to coincide with this tour Have you ever heard Boo’s song ‘t’s a Beautiful Night – that’s my current favourite and I love my version of it!

What can people expect from your forthcoming St Donats gig?
I aim to be present and to donate every ounce of energy I can muster into the performance. I am very much looking forward to visiting Wales – it is a beautiful country.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
It’s Too Late To Stop Now – Van Morrison (live double LP)
The new record from William Bell – particularly the amazing song ‘the three of me’
Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I’ve got some lyrical ideas for new songs that I’m enjoying working on on my days off. One of them is called Lightly, Lightly and is inspired by an Aldous Huxley writing (and the words of my first piano teacher as mentioned earlier!)

In addition to the album release I’m releasing 3 EPs and planning a big end of year show at St Pauls Church in Birmingham Dec 10th