In an interview first published in Issue X of HRH Mag (August 2019) Danny Vaughn of Tyketto talks with HRH Radio DJ Alan Savill…
Hi Danny – firstly congratulations on another successful solo tour and a very exciting new album release. I guess life is good for you at the moment?
Life is challenging and exciting. I’m fortunate to be working at the thing I love the most to do.
You were one of the unfortunate artists embroiled in the Pledge Music fiasco. How tough was it to go public at an early stage in their demise? Did you receive any flak asking fans to get refunds from them and to pay you directly?
No, they never challenged me on my move to get people their money back. In truth, I think they had a lot bigger concerns than our small campaign. When you look at all of the artists that got shafted by Pledge Music the numbers start to get staggering.
Going public with the truth seemed the obvious choice to me. I have always taken my fans and supporters with me on every journey I’ve taken and it would be disingenuous to put on a smiley face and pretend like all was well when it was coming apart at the seams. I’m so happy that I did because, once again, it was the fans that made this new album possible.
I’m glad you managed to get Myths, Legends and Lies out there. You promised it was never in jeopardy. However, do you think the public still perceives the life of a musician to be one of massive advances and an easy lifestyle?
I hope not. I’m not fond of the idea of trying to convince people that my line of work is particularly hard either. It just happens to be a profession that people take for granted. Nobody ever goes to their doctor and challenges them for how much they are charging for their services. People love music but are generally unaware of the time, effort and expense that goes into making music happen. That’s just the way of things.
So going back to the album – reviewed elsewhere in this issue – for me it was full of surprises from the start and it all made more sense hearing you talk about the tracks on your tour. Did the album simply evolve into one full of different influences from jazz, blues, country and folk or was it a conscious decision on your part to show us your roots and passions outside of rock?
It definitely wasn’t a conscious plan. As I wrote in my original blurb about it, “This is the music I make when no one is looking”. Sometimes songs come to me that have no obvious place amongst the projects that I am working on. Those songs get put away in a warm, safe place until I need them. It came to me a few years ago that I had amassed quite a few of these tunes with no home so it was time to build them one. The variety on the album turns out to be a positive rather than a negative point for most of the people I have talked with.
You have an obvious ability to take a story and near enough make it into a four-minute cinematic experience. We get characters, plots and descriptive narratives in songs such as Kelly’s Gone and The Missouri Kid. How tough is this type of songwriting to do?
It’s tougher than it looks. You usually have to write everything you feel that you want to say and then pare it down. It’s never easy getting the red pen out and deciding that something you’ve worked hard on is actually “dead weight”. Film editors must go through such heartache. There was one time on this album that I made the conscious choice to keep a song its full length and that was “Seven Bells.” It was the right decision.
I’ve heard that Leonard Cohen writes dozens of verses for his songs and it took him a long time to choose which ones make the final recording. The coolest thing though is that when he played live he would sometimes bring out the lesser-known verses and switch them all around.
You described “Point The Way” as “ the weird song” can you let the readers know more about the song, what it is about and how it came out how it did?
It’s weird for my audience only because I combine singing and spoken narration to tell the story. I think it really works and has already become a live favourite. Several different sources of inspiration conspired to help me create this song. One of them was the John Travolta movie, “Michael”. What if you met an actual angel? What would you say? You would have a million questions. And then the mischievous side of myself asked, “What if you only got to ask him one”?
I noticed that at the end of playing “Seven Bells” live you appeared to be quite emotional. Was this because of the songs subject matter of sailors going to church to give thanks for their safe return or was this because of how the audience lapped it up?
It was the audience. It started almost at the first solo gig. They came in singing on the chorus without any prompting. Suddenly it sounded like an old, traditional song that has been around forever, or maybe even “Mull Of Kintyre”. It was something they all decided spontaneously and it was absolutely magic for me.
You mentioned being influenced by Sting’s stories about his hometown in the North East. Who else influences you as a musician?
The list is endless! But for this album, I wanted to step into the same arena as some of my songwriting heroes. So getting prepped for ML&L I listened to a lot of Bruce Hornsby, John Hiatt, Don Henley, Sting, Tom Waits, Bernie Taupin and Lyle Lovett, to name but a few.
Can I take this moment to send my condolences on the loss of your mother in the past year. You referenced her both on the album on the last track “What You Left Behind” and on the recent tour with Dan Reed. I take it that she was a massive influence on your life outside of music. How long did it take you to get the words perfect for her tribute song?
Thank you. Believe it or not it only a couple of hours. I was walking along the beach the day after she died and I wasn’t thinking about songs, or albums or anything. I was trying to get straight in my mind how to deal with her belongings, insurance, credit cards, bank accounts, etc. But the voices in my head wanted to say something. As often happens, it started with a question. “If you could talk with your Mom one more time, what would you say?” The song is the answer. She prepared me for life in the world and I wanted to let her know that I was ready and that I would be okay so she shouldn’t ever worry. As with so many people, my Mom was my biggest supporter. She took endless pride in telling people about me and was always there when I needed her the most.
I mentioned Dan Reed. I was one of the intrepid explorers who braved the snows to get to your gig in Bedford last year. I was struck by the chemistry between the two of you and by what great friends you are. Is there going to be a collaboration album in the future and how did you first meet?
We are working on the songs for an album right now! Hopefully to be released in time for our 2020 Snake Oil tour in March. Dan and I met at Download in 2014. I had been looking to find the right person to attempt a singer/songwriter duet kind of tour with and he jumped at the idea.
A simple question, but one I feel might take a while to answer. What went wrong in Nashville?
It just wasn’t the place for me. Nashville has its own version of the music business. They work in a different way than New York or Los Angeles. And they were getting smothered with old rock and rollers coming down there to write country-pop songs for them because there is still some money in that. Consequently, whenever I presented myself to a studio, a producer or a songwriter I was often greeted with “Oh, you’re a rock guy”. Once I was even referred to as a “northern agitator”. It’s a good old boys gang down there and if you aren’t in the gang it’s tougher than hell to get a look in.
These last dates are just you and a guitar. Do you enjoy these intimate gigs more than larger rock gigs with Tyketto? Would you agree that it is a reflection on the songs if they stand up to being stripped down to just vocals and acoustic guitar?
I wouldn’t say I enjoy them more but certainly, I enjoy them just as much. In many ways, these acoustic shows feel the most natural to me. I am a capable rock frontman and I know how to turn on that larger than life persona required to get a crowd of thousands to emotionally invest themselves in you. But the acoustic approach is a much more gentle, intimate coaxing approach. It’s also more nerve-wracking as you can see everyone’s faces and immediate reactions to everything that you do. I like it. It’s a trapeze without a net.
I absolutely agree that if a song can move people in it’s most stripped-down form then it proves the worth of that song.
Is there anyone out there who you would like to see do the same solo gigs who might not have done so?
Well I got the idea for Snake Oil & Harmony because of the tours John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett did together. Dan has seen them and I am so envious. Billy Joel has done it as well and I would love to have seen one of those. It would be interesting to see Don Henley try this with some of his songs.
You provided vocals for Burning Kingdom on their 2013 album Simplified. This is a classic melodic metal album. A track you sang on the Snake Oil and Harmony tour was I Will Fight No More Forever. When I first heard it I got tears in my eyes such was the powerful story. I encourage everyone to listen to the song. Can you tell us what it was about?
The title of the song and some of the lyrics are directly quoted from the speech given by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Native American tribe when he finally surrendered to the US cavalry that had pursued them for months in the heavy winter of the Dakotas. Chief Joseph was a leader of the same calibre as Lincoln, Churchill or Gandhi. But because he is a Native American he doesn’t often receive the same recognition.
Tyketto release a live album soon and are coming over to the UK to celebrate this. Can we expect any studio material anytime soon as well?
Not yet. As soon as they find a way to place more hours into the day I will be ready to write another Tyketto album J
You mention that if pushed Traveller would be your favourite album, why this one?
That was once upon a time. I’m not so sure I feel that way these days. Writer’s prerogative. I changed my mind.
What’s next for you, and is there anything left which you’d like to achieve in the future?
I would like to keep doing what I’m doing. Walking this world under my own power, paying the bills with my voice and my guitar, bringing people together for short periods of time where we can create emotion and magic and get some stuff out of our systems.
Lastly is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
Just that I am happy and I am grateful. Their caring, interest and support continues to help me find my way around in this world. It’s never simple, but they are the light in the tunnel.
Can I take this opportunity to thank you for answering my questions so openly and honestly, and from all involved with Hard Rock Hell all the very best for the future.
Thank you very much!