Interview With Singer-Songwriter, Daniel C

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We got the chance to get chart topping singer-songwriter Daniel C in the studio for an un-stripped & honest interview to learn about how he became a singer-songwriter, his creative process and how he got signed by Tonium UK.

Watch his interview or if you prefer, read the interview instead below.



 

Tell us about how you got signed?

I had a partial contract with Tonium where I did my recordings in Clarion Studios in Penang. That took up to a year, however in the midst of the recording, someone from the studio heard my music and found it interesting. That led me to Hybrid, the management where they helped me put my music on the radio, creating my presence.

Daniel Chan Performing

Okay let’s go back. What influenced you to be a singer-songwriter?

There were some influences, the people & their music I listened too. Back then I found all of these very interesting. It’s also a gap I wanted to fill for myself. I’m kind of a melody candy addict and I love catchy tunes.

Questions like ‘Why can’t they do that’? ‘That could have sounded better with this or that’ comes into my mind when I listen to songs on the radio. It’s like eating food. Sometimes you have the urge to add a bit of more spice to the food for it to reach it’s spot.

Songwriting to me is like being a chef. You try something, you add on a little of that, experiment, add a few melody lines and all of that. So that’s where I really started to go into songwriting. It was me having strong urges to fill those gaps.

You’re not a science or law person?

I wish I could, well ‘If I Could’ you know? I love science fiction movies and love all these things. If I can be part of it, I’ll choose to be an astronaut and work for the NASA, but apparently that is not what I’m engineered to be. *laughs*

 

Who inspires your playing style? Which artists can we refer to?

There are many artists who inspired my playing style. The artistd that really laid the foundation in my music was a gospel pop band, Jars Of Clay and also Goo Goo Dolls. They shaped my music making foundations in terms of the singing style and how they write their music.

In the later stages I was inspired by people like Keith Urban, Coldplay & many more great artists, mixed and matched to form my music style today. I’m more towards the pop kind of person like John Mayer and Jason Mraz.

 

What is your creative process like? How do you start writing a music piece? How do you begin your creative process?

I’d just tell myself, okay, I wanna write a song. Make a point to write a song, make sure I sit down, squeeze out some melodies and crunch some chord progressions.

These days however I find it to be less fulfilling to write it music that way. That’s because if I write it that way, songs are just songs with melodies. They are just skeletons and frames. Nowadays I find myself writing songs with a story and meaning or message with it.

We all go through experiences in life. I go through experiences in my life. For instance there was this time when I was working and everyone threw their workloads on me, leaving me the only one to finish of the workload. I get inspirations from my everyday experience, bad, good, sweet or sour. You get writing inspirations to write a song that coincides with experiences like this. I sit down and start shaping the words together with the melodies.

One of my songs, ‘Wednesdays’ came from a dream! I was having an afternoon nap I think and I dreamt of being this guy who was working in the army. So I only have my Wednesdays off where I can go out and just do anything I wanted to do. So on Wednesday I went to this diner and saw this girl. That’s how the song ‘Wednesday’ came about, from a dream.

 

How long does it take for you to write a song?

It depends. Some takes years. Some songs took 1 or 2 years because I wrote only the chorus or Verse and then come back at a later time to revise and add the missing parts. At times it takes me just an hour to write a song. So it really depends.

 

Do you find recording to be a challenge that you enjoy?

It was definitely a challenge as I was doing most of the recordings myself. I mean some of the instruments like the drums was done by my sound engineer but I had to do most of them. I had to arrange each instrument on my own and I find myself spending half a day at the studio just to figure out the sounds that I really like.

Sometimes I go into the studio, record something I thought was great, then only to come back the next day and totally change my mind. So the process of re-recording a lot of things took a lot of time and that is why I took about near a year to finish my album.

 

Do you do any demo recordings at home by yourself? 

Not really. Because the things you do at home cam sound very different in the studio. There are times where I’ve laid the arrangements but when I entered the studio, I found that the arrangement clashes with the other arrangements like my vocals. So I do most of my recordings at the studio at one go, really.

 

Mind telling us about the people who played in your album?

Kelvyn Yeang played the lead guitar for ‘If I Could’ and you can definitely hear his signature leads there. Mei Yoke played the strings for four of my songs ‘Drifter’, ‘Remnants’, ‘Silence’ & ‘Wednesdays’. Jeremy who was my mentor’s son did the string arrangements for those songs. Colin did the drums for all the songs.

Were the drums in your songs sampled or played live? 

Only two songs were sampled and the rest was real recordings played by Colin.

If I Could by Daniel C

If I Could by Daniel C

How do you feel about you album?

As a songwriter and a father to your own album/product, you are always not satisfied with your son’s progress. Why can’t you score higher? Why can’t you do better?

It’s the same feeling I get with my album. It could have been done this or that way, it could have been better with an extra instrument and such thoughts come into my mind. I’ll never be satisfied because after you achieved something, you’ll always review back and feel that you could have done better. Most songwriters will feel this way. There is always this urge to want to temper with your finished product. Perhaps that is why most artists keep coming out with albums after albums. *laughs*

Musicians are very fickle people who are also perfectionists at heart as well. You get into lots of trouble when you mix the two traits together. So you have to draw a line and say this is it and accept it. You have to put a full stop and just start working on the next album.

By the way, my next album would be in a different direction than this one. I’m sure you heard of Bon Iver. He recorded his whole album with just a SM57 microphone! To give you a clue, my next album would be recorded in a more ‘raw-er’ approach. A very personal, down to earth and well a ‘just me’ album.

 

Why did you choose ‘If I Could’ to be on the radio?

The guy in management thought If I Could was catchy and radio-friendly. So I guessed he want that song up there. It wasn’t my decision.

 

You became a full time musician not very long ago. What are the challenges you faced?

I felt lost. I felt like I got fired. You know you get so used to the 9 to 5 working time and you have a steady income every month. Becoming a full time musician is much more adventurous. You don’t know when the next gig is going to come and the transition was pretty scary to be honest.

I thank God however that I’m was able to pull through with enough gigs to play at. There has always been enough for me. So far it has been good. There was never a day that I have to eat bread 3 times a day. *laughs*

 

Do you have any favorite instrument or gears you’re using right now? Something you cannot live without?

My staple would be my Martin guitar. It’s my signature sound and is my favorite guitar among the rest. It sounds warm and has that mellow ring to it.

That guitar is heard in most of my songs if not all of them. You can hear the Martin guitar in all my songs.

For live playing I do have a harmonizer that I constantly use.

 

What tips would you give to aspiring musicians and artists? You know, those kids that are planning to go all musician. 

I would advice them to keep writing if they want to be a songwriter. I wouldn’t say don’t listen to music but I urge most songwriters to be their own. Most of us start off like that. Well I did. We mimic and emulate other artists when we start off.

It’s best to be inspired by your own voice and style. But how do you know what your own style is? You’ll have to explore and discover your own style as you progress on. As I started, I listened to lots of music but I started to mature as I went on. I tried to find my own voice, style and own functions. I believe that’s the best way to go as no one will be able to take away your unique style. There can be 100 Taylor Swifts impersonators out there but there is only one original you. If you can find your own voice, your own style and uniqueness, you’ll be the unique you and nobody.. not one artist can steal your musical style.

So keep on writing and keep on discovering. Even as off today, I cannot say that I’ve discovered my style completely. I probably just discover about 30 – 40%  of myself. We’re so bombarded with music these days. You touch a note and you sound like an artist. Touch a few more chords and you sound like another artist. So, it’s good if you can find your own uniqueness in your songwriting. That would be the ideal road. It might be a challenge to find your sound and style but it’ll be worth it.

Daniel C

So if I’m a young guy, 16 year old and I want to do music. What would you tell me?

Go overseas…*laughs*. I’m just kidding.

Malaysian music is growing but it’s not growing as well and as fast as we want it to be. That is partly because of the listeners, the population in Malaysia. We are so used to be pampered with music from outside of Malaysia. Whenever we hear local music we normally shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves that it must be some sub-par standard.

So I believe you should tap the power of the internet and social media. Things like YouTube and all of those. The internet is such a wonderful thing that it breaks all borders. You’re not known as which country you are from anymore, well at least that is not their main concern now. You’re known as who you are and what you do. Put yourself out there on the internet and keep getting to know as many people as you can.

It all comes back to networking and creating presence not only in Malaysia but throughout the world as well. Even though if you’re a shy person, you have to come to that and open yourself up. How good can it be if you’re in a room and you can’t bring yourself up. Nobody knows you. You’re just going to be there standing there alone, unnoticed no matter how good you are. What are the chances of people noticing you and your music? The chances are very rare so you have to push yourself out there and be as loud as possible.

Even I’m not pushing myself out there as much as I want to. So that’s a note to myself as well. 🙂

 

As you go on in your musicianship, do you fall into the hazards of comparing yourself with other people? 

Of course! As musicians we are very insecure people. We like to compare not only our music but our skills as well. Whether we like to say it or not, it’s a natural thing. As musicians we capture and put all these things into memory.

I sometimes see my friends who doctors and go like ‘wow, this people are so established!’ and wished I could be like that, however I’ve never once regretted my decision to come into this line. It’s a passion. I’m just following my passion.

And I’m really contented when these people whom I thought was so established came to me and tell me that I’m doing a great job, doing what I like and that I was inspiring them. When I hear this coming from them I feel like I have no regrets and I’m doing what I really like. What’s more is that these people also support and believe in what I do.

I’ll be honest I felt a little low compared to people like them. They have such high qualifications as compared to someone like me, a growing musician. But no. They were really supportive and they thought my lifestyle was glamorous. I guess on their end of their spectrum I must have a glamorous life getting into fame and such. They’ll have a different perspective of what I do the same way  I have my perspective on them. At the end of the day as long as we follow our passion and do what you want to do, I guess we’ll have no regrets.

 

What are your plans for the future?

I have plans to travel the world with my music. I’d go to UK and tour around. Because traveling changes a person’s perspective. Not only towards your work but also towards your soul. When you go out and when you look at other people, you see things you have not seen before. It creates different experiences and different music as well in your head. Sight has a lot to do with the music you create. So when I travel and see different things, I create different music with that.


 

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