In conversation with... Danny McMahon
I hope you've all had a good week; mine has been another busy one, when does it ever let up? Work is hectic in the build up to Christmas and this weekend was busy with family duties and rescuing a hedgehog! I know, so rock and roll. Last weekend was great though as I was invited to meet Danny McMahon at his studio in Bristol.
I've never been to a studio before so it was exciting to go behind-the-scenes and chat with Danny about all things music. Bristol is my local city and is great for country music, Danny is also born and bred here so it was interesting to find out more about him and his work as a songwriter, artist, manager and producer.
Danny has been working in music professionally since the age of sixteen and I was really impressed about the path he is forging for himself by making and producing music that is dynamic and truly has roots in country music, grown and produced as it is in Nashville. Danny has had an amazing year after winning UK Country Artist of the Year and two-time UK Male Country Singer of the Year at the UK Country Music Awards.
He explained to me about producing music and keeping it true to Nashville sound. For those that don't know what that means (I didn't have a solid understanding), it's a complex process and is a production hybrid between classic and modern country music. It originated in Nashville in the mid-1950's and replaced the dominance of the popular rougher honky-tonk music with smooth strings and choruses, sophisticated background vocal and smooth tempos. To put it very simply, it's about having the right sort of mix of vocals and authentic instruments in the production stage of making a record but it's the vocals always dominate the music.
Check out my interview with Danny below;
Follow Your Arrow: How did you get into country music? Was there anyone that influenced your love of country?
Danny McMahon: Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts were the two artists that really got me interested. 'Letter To Me' by Brad Paisley is as close to perfect as a song gets and it’s that song that really got me into all things country.
FYA: As a songwriter and an artist, do you write alone or with other people? What's your songwriting method?
DM: Songwriting is my bread and butter. I’ve worked as a commercial writer since the age of 19 in some form or another. As a result, I’ve always co-written and written by myself. I don’t have a preferred method. It’s the same as anything, some people you really click with when it comes to writing and others not so much. It’s all about creating the right relationships and the right vibe in the room!
FYA: I've really enjoyed your new single 'Lonely', especially as it has an upbeat vibe but a serious meaning behind it. What's the story behind it?
DM: Thanks so much! It is about exploring contrast musically versus lyrically. Musically it’s really upbeat and almost seems quite light hearted but the meaning is much deeper than that. This guy knows this girl is so bad for him, but no matter how much he tries to reason with himself he keeps falling back into the trap of being in a toxic relationship that there seems to be no escaping from.
FYA: What does 2020 hold for you? What would you like to achieve this year?
DM: I loved touring abroad in 2019, so that’s another big goal for 2020. We had some amazing responses in The States and Europe so I’m keen to get back there. We start with Germany in February.
FYA: If you could record any song, what would it be and why?
DM: I’m not sure recording covers is really my thing, it tends to work better in a love setting for me. However in country music there’s a lot of songs I wish I’d written.
'Don’t Close Your Eyes' by Keith Whitley and 'House Party' by Sam Hunt would probably be my top two!
FYA: Talking about the growth of the UK country scene, what changes have you noticed as an artist the last few years? How much does this differ to the US/ Nashville music scene?
DM: Great question and I could probably write an essay about this in itself!
For me, the most noticeable thing has been the standard of British artists. It’s constantly getting better which is exactly what we need if we’re going to compete with Nashville. Also the charts a year ago had songs from decades ago on there. Right now it’s all active major label artists on the whole which means British people are going out and actively buying new country music which is really exciting.
Nashville is totally different, I do love it over there because the kind of country I make is really embraced as a whole and it is really exciting that I can pick up fans half way around the world.
The tempo of writing and studio work is much quicker out there, but I think that comes down to it being more commercialised so people expect more at a faster pace as far as the industry is concerned.
Also the grassroots culture of embracing and supporting in Nashville is really inspiring! I’d recommend going and doing writers nights out there anyone.
A big thank you to Danny for hosting me, I found meeting and chatting with him and his team fascinating. Danny's new single 'Lonely' is out now.
Hope you all have a great December.