Having just released ‘Delicious‘ (his first new single in around four years) and featuring as the 2nd most successful single of all time, on German TV show, Die Ultimative Chart Show, we got the opportunity to do a phone interview with the legendary Daniel Powter. Daniel took the time to chat about how his new single came about, what he’s been up to since he’s been away and who he’s been working with. It’s all here…
Hey Matt, how are you?
Hi, I’m very well thanks, how are you?
I’m good, thanks for taking the time out of your, I guess it’s your evening there isn’t it?
Well I appreciate you taking an interest.
No, honestly, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
Oh, it’s my pleasure.
So, how’s it all going?
It seems to be going well. You know, I kinda woke up this morning and people were saying, “Hey, it’s great!” Yeah, it’s going great. I’m really grateful that the song finally came out, you know?
Yeah, I was going to say, your new single, ‘Delicious’, seems to be getting a huge reception online, so how did the single come about?
Oddly enough I was writing with a guy named John Fields, who’s produced the track, and ended up spending a lot of time in Minneapolis and being inspired by a lot of the music there. We just started listening to old music, you know, a lot of old Prince and a lot of old…just old funk, and I was such a big fan that the next thing I know, in the studio, here comes a couple of guys from The New Power Generation, you know Prince‘s band, and Tommy Barbarella’s in the studio, just playing along and it’s like, “Oh my God!” and the song just kind of came out of nowhere.
I mean again, that’s always been my biggest goal, not to think about it too much; just to play something and just to sing and do what you do and not worry what’s trending. “Oh man, the beat’s not quite hip enough.” You know, it’s such nonsense. The further I removed myself from writing music, I realised that the only thing that made me happy was just to do what I do best and do what I know and not worry so much about what works and what trends. I don’t know. So the next thing I know, I’m in the studio with these phenomenal players and the song just kind of, you know, developed on its own.
(Laughs) You know, it’s always those songs, the songs that I struggle with, that I want people to like, you know, recognise me for, but you know what, they never do. (Laughs) It’s always the ones that write themselves in 5 minutes that everybody loves.
I don’t know, there’s something about that. There’s something about the energy of Minneapolis. There’s something about the energy of John Fields and those people that just make you shift to the left and write songs that are fun. Well, it’s not rocket science, it’s just supposed to be for fun.
That’s cool! So it was just quite organic and just kind of grew.
Yeah. I mean I had a melody in my head and just whistling it but then when you get players of that magnitude it’s phenomenal because I think a lot of times when I sit down and I write something, I’ll write something but it’ll be very industrial, it’s very easy and there’s no energy to it because people are playing on the block; they’re playing on the 1, 2 and 4, they’re not playing in between. When you get guys that play in between those notes, then you can start seeing this shift, and I know that doesn’t make much sense, but the music starts to come alive; it just breathes. And that’s why, when I record on my own, it never comes out very well (laughs) but if I record the song and then I write with some guys that can play and who have the ability to just kind of like mess around with it, then you have a great experience.
I understand you recently did a TV show in Germany; what was that about and how did it happen?
Right, so I’ve kind of been away and sort of doing my own thing. I’ve been writing for a lot of other people and the show in Germany, called Die Ultimative Chart Show, they just reached out and said, “Listen, you know, ‘Bad Day’ was a big song here in Germany, and we’d love you to come and play.” I was like, “Oh well, OK, I guess I could do that. You know, I’ve sort of done ‘Bad Day’ about a billion times, I might as well do it a billion and one more times.” And then they actually, I really have to hand it to them, they really…we just emailed them the song and they listen to it and said, “Would you be interested in playing this song on the show as well?” and I said, “ABSOLUTELY!” So I really do have to hand it to them; they were the ones that really broke it and just kind of like said, “We wanna do both.” Now I’m really…yes, now I’m excited. So I played a really edited version of it.
That’s awesome! So obviously a new single often signals a new album; is there one in the pipeline? If so, when can we expect it? Or is it just a single?
I think I’ve written so many songs in the last few years, that I haven’t thought about putting an album out but maybe? You know, I definitely put a lot of work into trying different things and doing some exploration, so maybe…I always feel like it’s really up to the people. If they want me to come back with some more music, then I’m only happy to do it, I just haven’t really thought about it.
I definitely put a lot of songs together but whether or not…I don’t know if they’re any good. (Laughs) To be honest with you, I always tell people that most of the songs I write are awful! So, we’ll see…(Laughs).
You’ve said that you were writing for other people, is there anyone that you’ve really enjoyed writing for?
No. No, I actually didn’t enjoy any of it. I just found it to be incredibly difficult identify with what a lot of the artists want, which is whatever’s on the radio. I always find that to be incredibly discouraging. I always sort of say to them, “Well why do you want to write something that’s on like that because by the time we get there, that’s not going to be there any more.”
So, I struggled with that. Did a lot of sessions for other people, but I really found, I’m not very good at it. I’m not capable of writing pop music the way that a lot of people hear pop music. I like to write songs that have a verse and a bridge and a chorus and I grew up listening to Elton John, Billy Joel and Bowie and all these people, and the way they built pop and they wrote and that’s so inside of me and ingrained in me that I can’t write a song that just starts at one place and doesn’t change, other than the kick drum. I try! It’s so odd.
A lot of times people that were in the session, you know, ended up writing the song after I left for lunch. “Let’s wait for Daniel to leave.” (Laughs).
(Laughs) Where do you often end up taking the inspiration for your songs from?
You know, I think most of the stuff that I write is really about the people that I meet; it’s just the relationship and what makes you tick.
Most of what I write isn’t autobiographical. I find that there’s so much inspiration in other people. I know that sounds kind of cheesy but it’s true. There’s always a story in everybody I meet and sometimes they really pop out and I get a song from that.
I don’t get a lot material from my own feelings, you know, “How I’m doing.” But really sometimes someone will sit down with me and just share something with me, you know a stranger or a fan or something and I really draw from that.
I really like that; that’s cool.
Yeah! I think writing songs from your own perspective can be a little bit boring, you know. I find that the more people I meet, and the more people that really inspire me are just everyday, regular people.
It’s funny, the most uninspiring people I’ve met are famous people. (Laughs) It could be just a girl at a coffee shop, it could be plumber working on your toilet; there’s stories in those people, if people just give them the space and time to let you know about them.
I like that, that’s really cool.
You know, there’s something there.
Lastly, I’ve often wondered, if you could collaborate with anyone (having just said that obviously celebrities can be quite boring – laughs), who would it be?
(Laughs) Obviously, most of the people that I’m still really fond of have all passed away. You know, it was interesting, I was listening to SiriusXM the other day, and they had Billy Joel on. I just thought to myself, “If I could just write one song that was just, maybe 20% as good as that, I would retire.” You know, ‘She’s Always A Woman’, all these songs one after the other…I don’t even think I could collaborate with him because he’s just so phenomenal but he’s probably right now, the person I’m listening to the most. Old school!
Sure, well thank you so, so much! Honestly, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you and good luck with the single.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you calling and I hope I get to meet you when you come to the UK.
I’d love that – are there any plans to tour here or anything?
I don’t know right now. I’ll have to see if something comes about. I just finished a show in Jakarta and I think I’m going to go back there. And over to South East Asia sometime in Spring and do a lot more shows. And then, we’ll see. Let’s just see what happens.
Thanks very much again.
It was lovely talking to you.
A massive thanks go to Daniel for taking the time to talk to me on the phone and to Nancy, his manager, for arranging the interview. It was an honour to speak to him and I wish him the best of luck with his new single, ‘Delicious‘, and upcoming shows…fingers crossed for a UK tour!
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