Alone, Together is the extraordinary third album from singer-songwriter Daniel Pearson and will be released on August 21 (album pre-orders began June 15). The new collection of songs follow the stunning Satellites and Mercury State albums, which earned the versatile indie troubadour international press praise in 2012/2013 and built a large and loyal grassroots fanbase around the world.
The nine songs on Alone, Together channel the last two years of the talented musician’s life into an album of beautiful contradictions. Pearson got married, left his English teaching job to succeed as an independent musician, saw word-of-mouth power his music to countless new fans on social media, became a father and celebrated the birth of his first child, and battled against a rare and lethal form of eye cancer. The resulting album explores these varying experiences and is at once joyous and melancholic, communal and solitary, uplifting and reflective.
Rather than playing it safe and sticking to a formula, Pearson has followed a singular vision for each album. After the hooky, pop-fuelled Americana of his debut Satellites saw him gain glowing press reviews and enthusiastic radio support, he made a stark, bleak and recession-tackling album of folk ballads and scathing electric blues on Mercury State that reflected the voices of the community around him at the time. The decision to change things up again on Alone, Together to incorporate lush orchestral sounds and handle the bulk of the instrumental performances himself has created another distinctive set of timeless songs that are the work of a mature artist confidently forging his own path.
At a time when anyone with an acoustic guitar and a YouTube cover version can call themselves a singer-songwriter, it’s refreshing to discover the real deal in a gifted songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. A world away from the machinations of global music corporations and their market-tested artist launches, Daniel Pearson embodies the independent spirit and the enduring power of great songs in a changing music industry.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with him to discuss the album and this is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for Alone, Together?
Most of the songs on the record were written over six months during the back end of 2014. I used to write a lot and knock out five or six fully finished songs in a week alongside a lots more unfinished ideas, but lots of them never made it albums. Now I try to refine it down and focus more on producing less stuff but having songs that are of a higher quality. I always try to have a theme running through an album, and that often comes pretty quickly. With Mercury State, as soon as I started writing about the recession, those songs all came inside a month and were all very specific to that topic. For this new album, the strokes are broader and it’s about a wider range of things in life so the songs took a little longer to come together – but it still has that thematic core of living through adversity.
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song?
“War Stories” is the most different. It started out as this big anthemic rock song with a great drummer playing on it, but when I listened to it alongside the other songs it just sounded too bombastic, too stadium rock. I thought it would jar and affect the coherency of the finished album. And with most of my live shows being solo acoustic, I wouldn’t have been able to reproduce it well enough. So we re-recorded it with just my guitar parts and vocals, and then added the strings afterwards. I think the final version is a lot more subtle and textured and sits better alongside the rest of the record.
You re-recorded “I Still Believe” from Mercury State. What was the reasoning behind the re-do?
It’s the song that means the most to my fans, and probably the most to me too, and I felt that the Mercury State version is very specific to me and my personal experiences. I wanted to open it up a little and make it a more universal sentiment. I was also playing it live on the guitar instead of the piano, and I think it adds a whole new dynamic to the song. With the strings and the new arrangement, it sounds grander and more communal. It was going to be a fan-only thing for the mailing list and wasn’t originally going to go on the album – but it came out so well I wanted more people to hear it.
How has married life and fatherhood changed your thoughts on the music industry?
Well, kids change everything in your life in general! Sleep is a thing of the past for sure. I guess the biggest effect on me from becoming a father was a drive to be better at the things I’m involved in, to be a better person in pretty much every way. You really want to be the best role model you can be and for me that means following your passions and creating a body of work that you can be proud of. I’ve always tried to be honest and treat people well, so being a Dad kind of amplifies that. It’s a shame that the music industry doesn’t really value that approach any more – it’s more about the quick profits and the easy sell, and it’s a very duplicitous beast. But I think people are smarter than a lot of the big labels give them credit for, and they’re working out that if Rihanna or George Ezra or whoever need a team of songwriters with them then they’re not the talents that they’re being sold as. A lot of people seem happy to listen to independent music alongside the major label products. So I’m hoping that when my daughter hits her teenage years there’ll be a more level playing field for artists and smaller labels. Or maybe she’ll just love Harry Styles…who knows!
What are your touring plans for summer or fall? Is there any possibility of you playing stateside?
I’m playing some UK dates in September and October and we’re working hard to make some U.S. dates happen in early 2016. I haven’t played in the States for a while now and I’m itching to get back. It always feels like very comfortable, very familiar when I’m there – a lot of my friends joke that I should’ve been born in America and I’d be happier living there! So we’ll see what comes together.
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