July 2016 Featured Artist: Rich Davies
Melting Pot puts the spotlight on artists within the community that are doing something special.
Renowned for his captivating live shows and ‘superbly crafted songs dragged up from the depths of the soul and spewed forth upon the audience’ (Desert Highways), award-winning singer-songwriter Rich Davies has established himself as one of Melbourne’s most authentic and engaging artists. Son of a folk singer, Davies spent his formative years in folk clubs, steeped in the culture, ethos and traditions of the genre. The evolution of his new sound has seen him reconnect with that world. The music echoed this journey as he peeled back the skin of rock’n’roll to expose folk, country and blues bones; his Scottish roots weaving their way through his acoustic story-songs with unmistakable passion. It’s an absolute pleasure to have Davies as Melting Pot’s Featured Artist for July – with his new album Ghosts recorded, Davies is currently embarking on a pledge campaign. Melting Pot’s Liam Dixon was lucky enough to catch up with Davies and hear what all the fuss is about from the man himself!
Liam Dixon: Thanks so much Rich for your time. There seems to be a lot of excitement around you at the moment… and for good reason! How was the crowdfunding launch on the weekend at Some Velvet Morning?
Rich Davies: It was really good, thanks mate. Some Velvet Morning is one of my favourite Melbourne venues. It was the debut Melbourne show with the new line-up, and also the first homecoming show in a while. We felt the love, and the new band did themselves proud.
LD: The album which is yet to be released, is already attracting critical acclaim such as the ABC’s Inside Sleeve with Paul Gough. Ghosts marks a departure from the colossal sound of your last album, in favour of a more intimate, stripped back approach. You’ve previously said you believe this to be your best work to date. I can tell you’re brimming with excitement… What is it about this album that sets it apart from your earlier releases?
RD: I always knew that one day I would make this album. The idea of stripping back the arrangements and letting the lyrics and stories step into the spotlight. I’d say that I have had roots in both rock’nroll and in the folk music that I grew up with. This album is a meeting of those two worlds, and a snapshot of that personal journey. I just think I was finally brave enough to make this album. I’m proud of the songwriting, and I love the sounds that my producer Myles Mumford was able to capture.
LD: What has the songwriting process been like? Have you written most of the songs on your own prior to taking them to the band or collaborated with others or ??
RD: I must say, I’ve never been fond of the idea of honing in on a formula when it comes to creating. Having said that, I think 95 percent of my writing over the past 5 years has been done at a typing keyboard with notepad open, writing the form and lyrics, obviously with an idea of how it will all sound in my head. Only the last stage has been when I finally sit down with an instrument and get some demo recordings made. I guess I just feel like there is no point in singing, unless I’ve got something to sing . So it all kind of hinges on the lyric for me.
LD: You and Ayleen O’Hanlon have toured and played countless shows together over the last few years. There must be an amazing understanding and chemistry between you. How does her music influence and inspire your own?
RD: Ayleen O’Hanlon is an amazing human; she has very much been my muse, since the day we met on stage, Valentine’s day 2014. She is a brilliant songwriter and a talented musician.
At the end of the Devil’s Union album cycle I was burnt out. She resuscitated and resurrected me with her zest and vigour for life and creativity, and reminded me just how much joy music can bring. I’ve never had that kind of chemistry with any other musician in my life. It truly is something special, I am very grateful to have her in my life, and I am wearing a huge smile on my face now that I can call myself her boyfriend.
LD: In addition to Ayleen, there’s an incredible array of talented people on the album – Stuart West (Oh Pep!, Box Rockets) on double bass, Rob McDowell (Graham Coxon, Plastic Palace Alice) on mandolin, Lauren Taffe (The Papernecks) on reed organ, Bek Chapman (The Nymphs, Anne of the Wolves) and Katie Scott (Howl at the Moon, Plague Doctor) on backing vocals, and Pepita Emmerichs (Oh Pep!) on violin, Stirling Gill-Chambers (Bon Scotts) on Violin, Kat Ogilvie (The Good Ship) on Accordion and Lagerphone. There must’ve been some amazing moment in the studio. Any stories of note?
RD: I have had the good fortune to have been surrounded by some very good friends, who are also very talented musicians. The recording sessions were a mild mannered tea drinking affair. A lot of it was recorded live with mostly minimalist arrangements. Our approach was just to attempt to capture the vibe and chemistry whilst treating the songs respectfully. Myles Mumford (Producer) was really good at holding me to my word when I inevitably had those moments where I’d get excited and want to throw the Sergeant Pepper kitchen sink at it. Adam Dempsey (Mastering engineer) who was one of the first people to hear the record, described it as a ‘delicate beasty’, and I reckon that fits well.
LD: Although it’s not the way many people operate these days, I’m a big fan of albums. I like listening to them until at the end of one song you know the album so well you can hear the start of the next song in your head before it starts. Was it hard to choose the order of the songs on the album? Or the album title? How do you decide these things?
RD: I am a big fan of the album as a medium. I’ve been through the process a small handful of times now. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned regarding track-listing is to let the album sort that out itself. I think this time I simply let instinct be the boss . I tried not to over think it and go with the flow of what the album wanted to be.
There are some songs that I really love that didn’t make it on the album, in my younger years I would have just crammed them on and the album would have suffered for it. This time I wanted to have a tight 10 track album, with a cohesive narrative arc. I think we achieved that.
LD: I won’t ruin the big biscuit story as people have to head to your pledge music page to hear it for themselves… But you’ve managed to come up with a variety of creative and enticing rewards ranging from a full blown house concert with a cooked dinner, a very reasonably priced coffee date with you (only a few left) and a mysterious album that has yet to have it’s time in the sun. Are you able / willing to elaborate on any of them?
RD: We simply just wanted to do our best to make the rewards things that would be worthwhile or at the very least entertaining. Of course it is the music related things I am most excited about, we have available my whole back catalogue, and archive of songs (featuring unreleased Spun Rivals songs and more), and an unreleased album that was recorded towards the end of the Devil’s Union backing band time. This is stuff I would have released if there had been money to do so. So I’m really excited to finally have that work be heard by the folks that have supported me all these years.
My good mate, James Grim also designed a T-shirt which I reckon looks great.
Also, the pre-order campaign means those who pledge will received the digital download of the album before anyone else, about 2 weeks before the release date.
We have tried our hardest to make it something of substance rather than just putting our hand out.
LD: I also noticed that you offer a couple of songwriting sessions as rewards as well which I suspect will be of interest to many within the Melting Pot community. Can you give us a bit of a taste of what that might involve or what you would try and nurture and encourage in budding songwriters?
RD: I’m not the kind of guy who is going to claim to be a master at anything, I am a student and avid fan of songwriting and form, and have been for many years now.
We wanted to try and make the rewards as unique and as worthwhile as we could, we are asking for help to raise money for the album, and I would just feel better about it if I feel like we are giving something worthwhile back. The main thing I have to offer the world is music, and I have this certain skill set. The songwriting sessions will be as formal or as informal as they need to be, we could have an in depth chat about approach, form, lyric writing, arrangement and /or we could get to work on workshopping a new song. Just like songwriting, it’ll be whatever feels right at the time.
LD: I heard your dad was actually a folk singer himself. What do you think you picked up as a kid surrounded by musicians and folk music that remains an important part of you as an artist today?
RD: Bruce Davies (My dad) has been a massive influence on me and my music. He has worked tirelessly for the cause his whole life. I never met anyone so utterly obsessed by music in all my travels.
He actually covered and has already released (Don’t Weep My Bonnie Lassie) one of my songs from my upcoming album. That was a significant moment for me. My dad has always championed me and my pursuit of a life full of music, but that was a gesture that really touched my heart.
To answer the question though…
I think the thing that might be the most obvious legacy of that childhood is being a student of song form and my love of storytelling in song. I think those things are often seen as ‘folky’, that stuff is just engrained in me, I have always known that love.
LD: What is the plan for following the pledge campaign? I know you’re touring with Mick Thomas and the Roving Commission for a couple of dates later in July. Is there an official launch date for the album?
RD: We have a number of fish frying , some pretty exciting things that I have to keep quiet for the meantime. We have worked hard and will continue to. Things seem to be going our way at the moment; it is always good when you hit these little bursts of momentum.
LD: I was looking back into the archives of when you last played in a Melting Pot round and I think it was September 2010! I remember you wowing the crowd with some real rock n’ roll numbers in the days of Spun Rivals / early Devils Union. What can we expect from your live show in the round on Sunday?
RD: What I like about the songwriters in the round format is the not knowing what will happen factor.
I’ll be bringing along Ayleen to accompany me, and that’s about as much as I have planned. I hope there might be a chance to bring out some less played songs from the archive, tell some stories etc… but we will just see how it flows on the day.
You can contribute to Rich Davies pledge campaign by heading to pledgemusic. He will join Lauren Glezer, J M S Harrison, Reuben Stone, Sarah-Rose and Tom Tuena on the lineup for Melting Pot’s’s Songwriters in the Round at the Wesley Anne on Sunday afternoon. You can listen to his last single “Already Dead” below:
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsLiam Dixon
Liam is the founder and director of Melting Pot. Once a regular performer at Melting Pot events as the writer / frontman for local band Creatures of Karma, these days Liam works as a commercial lawyer by day. When hes not busy doing lawyer stuff or with Melting Pot, Liam loves to write, play and record his own music and see the odd gig around town.