Taite Music Prize finalist Delaney Davidson discusses his nominated album Swim Down Low.
The winner of the Taite Music Prize, which aims to award the best album from a New Zealand artist over a calendar year, will be announced on April 15 at a media event in Auckland. Named after renowned local journalist Dylan Taite, the award comes with $10,000 in prize money for one of the 10 shortlisted nominees.
Lyttleton's Delaney Davdison is no stranger to critical praise - he won the award for APRA's Best Country Song three years in a row, most recently for his collaborations with Tami Nielson and Marlon Williams, while he also scooped up the prize for Best Country Album in 2013 for his and Williams' Sad but True – The Secret History of Country Music Songwriting Vol. 1. His latest album Swim Down Low, released last year but recorded back in 2011, is up for the Taite Music Prize. He chats about the nightmares he had with the album, vocal-a-phobia and asking 'what would Bowie do?'
Can you tell us a little about the songwriting process for the Swim Down Low?
The songs were all written in different places at different times, so it was always going to have some sort of thrown together feeling. I was hoping the recording would unite the songs. There was songs I wasn’t sure were typical for me, there was songs I was a bit cagey about, there were songs I had already recorded and they had grown into new songs.
Did you go into the studio with a vision for how you wanted the record to sound?
Not really, I just knew I could trust the engineer, Matt, as we had worked a lot together. I can go into his studio and we know a lot of the spaces in-between when it comes to language and communication. Just being together for two albums already gives you a huge foot up when it comes to the dangers of miscommunication and lost time in a studio.
Was there a message you were trying to get across with the album?
No message as such, just a fresher feeling than I was used to. Trying some of the more glam style songs and the 70s rock ballads was tricky because I’m used to adding lots of incidental noise and this was more a case of refraining from that sort of treatment. [I was] often thinking what would Bowie do?
What sort of challenges did you face with the album?
Fear of getting stuck in a rut, fear of influences being too obvious, nightmares about cover art, money worries, how it was going to be released, rhyme problems, crisis of lyrical intent, tuning problems, vocal-a-phobia, limited ability on the keyboard, emotional pain at the loss of my grandmother and not being there for the funeral, language barriers, housework resentment, and timing.
What music or influences helped to shape the sound of Swim Down Low?
My dad’s record collection from when I was a child, lots of Bowie and Lou Reed, Kinks, Beatles and Stones records, old blues albums from Chess in Chicago, Ry Cooder etc. Also, the recording desk had a big part to play - Matts STUDER A827 - 24 track 2" tape recorder. It was a huge chunk of our choice process, both influencing decisions about what to keep and also how to play.
Do you have a favourite song from the album?
I always have trouble finding a favourite. I think my brain is wired different or something. I have a problem with categorical answers … it gets me into trouble sometimes. Let’s just say I really enjoyed working on ‘Poison Song’ with Davide Zolli. We worked on a feel and really nailed it. We also really enjoyed the Wurlitzer piano work on it too. Towards the end it got confusing because we were trying trumpets with Chris Winter who was in Wellington, while I was in Christchurch and the studio was in Italy. Then Matt Bordin wanted to try violins, but I was in Christchurch and he was in Italy, so it started to get tricky. We made it through in the end and I love that version of the song.
LISTEN: Delaney Davidson discusses Swim Down Low and performs live in session.