Daniel Merriweather is the quintessential music creative. As one of Australia’s most elusive soul exports, Merriweather is forever pushing the envelope when it comes to the creation and delivery of a sound that encompasses his musical journey in this thing called life. This ridiculously talented singer / songwriter proudly hailing from Melbourne has been carving out a very successful, celebrated and respected career in the music communities of England and America, collaborating with some of the biggest producers, artist and record labels in the world, all clamouring for that Merriweather Magic.
Magic that comes in the form of one of the most soulfully emotive voices that has emerged out of the Australian music industry over the last decade, Daniel Merriweather is the truth. With a successful album, countless hit singles, industry awards and local and international touring under his belt plus a slew of guest appearances and collaborations, Merriweather has leveraged himself into a unique hybrid of creative artistry. His early days as a breakout artist signed to local Melbourne label ‘Marlin Records’ back in 2003 into what was still quite an infantile urban music industry in Australia was faced with the industry’s misconception of how to market an artist that couldn’t be packaged or pigeonholed into any one genre. A combination of soul, funk, hip hop and adult contemporary Daniel Merriweather defied definition then as he continues to defy it today. What did define his journey at that confusing and frustrating time for the artist was being discovered by UK DJ/ Producer Mark Ronson and taking a leap of faith that has now solidified the nomadic singer into the focussed and grounded artist we see evolving before us. The time spent on the Merriweather / Ronson magic machine fine-tuned the genius we all knew existed within and cultivated his lyrical wings so he could indeed soar into the British and US charts with his 2009 album release “Love and War”. His hit singles ranging from his early triumphs of “City Rules”, She Got Me” and “Red” to name a few have cemented the singers sustainability in an era where computer generation voices are the stars of today. Merriweather’s sound is raw and true, much like the artist himself as you will read in the interview below.
Life has been a constant ebb of up and down for Daniel. He never stands still too long, preferring to go with the flow of life wherever it may take him. What’s always nice to know is that his love for his hometown and country always ring true and he is always collaborating with his musical peers in Australia ( he co-wrote most Phrase’ debut album Talk with Force) , helping them and they have helped him. You can take the man out of Melbourne but you can’t take Melbourne out of the man or so the saying goes. In Merriweather’s case, Melbourne and his humble roots are ingrained with him whether he be on stage supporting Kanye West in concert or in a recording booth in New York City! Attaining this interview took some time (only due to timing and travel conflicts on Daniels part) but I am so blessed and grateful that my old friend has made time to share his thoughts and words on his brilliant existence thus far. I was one the first journalists in Australia to interview him all those years ago and I am elated our time has come full circle for the second instalment. Back home in Melbourne and in the studio recording, creating and performing on various stages in his hometown, Daniel Merriweather’s evolution is a constant work in motion!
Hey Dan, man it’s been a minute since we last spoke – I think close to 10 years since our last interview!! How are you? Where are you? ;o)
Yes, it’s been a while, I am great, never better actually, I’m in Melbourne right now.
I have to congratulate you on your amazing success achieved over this last decade, especially with your time in both the US and eventually the UK – you have covered some great ground in sharing your music on an international scale. Has it all happened relatively quickly for you as the artist or is it something that, after a while, you just get used to and get on with the territory that the music industry brings?
Thank you. As an Australian in the naughties I never thought I would ever be successful, fame was out of the question, but I was quickly proven wrong after having two #2 hits in the UK you start to realise what’s going on, but I was definitely under prepared for it all at the time.
Around the time we were first introduced to each other your sound was quintessentially rnb / soul / funk and with your distinctive voice, you were scratching at the surface of a music sound Australia had never experienced before. Before we knew it you were poached by DJ/ producer Marc Ronson and the rest they say is history. In a nutshell, how would you best describe those heady days of your beginnings, how you best describe Daniel Merriweather’s sound and what you would do differently know if you had to do it all over again?
I’m only in the place I am because I am a fraction of a whole, I was influenced by others and carried on traditions accordingly adding my own flavour to the mix. Maybe if I could have changed one thing it would be to give my old self the work ethic I have now.
I still have a copy of your first EP that I got given at a listening party back in 2003 – City Rules, Crimson Stone, those were the tracks that made me sit up and realise what pure Gold our urban music industry had in you. As an artist, especially from Australia, it is very easy to be pigeonholed into a niche or genre that may not necessarily suit the sound or vision the artist has – would you agree with that and how have you ensured you avoided the pigeon hole trap throughout your career?
I always remember doing interviews in Australia early on and people just didn’t get the culture, I would mention my teenage years around graffiti writers and they would label me a criminal, I would mention ‘the streets’ and they would think it was a fabricated Americanisation. Now with people like Omar Musa writing Penguin published books about the culture, it comes to light that these experiences I had were legitimately Australian, and also for me very specific to Melbourne and as real as it gets. I try not to really think about how people pigeon hole me, I’m too busy trying to make something new and fresh to worry about public perception.
Hailing from Melbourne and a humble and hardworking Australian family, had you always been the musical one in your family? What was the music you grew up listening to that helped shaped your soul flow?
My story at every point makes no sense, everything is an oxymoron. Both my parent have been teachers for most of their lives and are still together, I grew up going to a non-denominational church called ‘Truth and Liberation concern’ on the outskirts of Melbourne’s east. The church was set up by ex-bikies who had found God in the 70’s and set up the church as a place they could go to without all the judgement they might find at a traditional church, they preached the exact same message though nothing different to any other non-denominational church just a lot more beards and tattoos. My folks left religion behind eventually, but my earliest memories were of my pasta who hailed from the West Indies playing the conga’s, that inspired me to be involved in music publicly. But while all that was going on my mother was taking me to violin lessons which I think hugely affected me early on. Classical music still grabs me like nothing else. So as you can see I was exposed to music in so many different ways I never really categorised it or the people making it. It was either good music or not.
You have been blessed to work in both the US and UK gaining much acclaim for what you fostered back here in Australia ….. How do you feel Australia’s music community differs from that of other global communities? The beauty of Australian music is that no one expects to get rich and famous here, so the music is raw and experimental.
You go to other parts of the world and people know the recipe for fame so they follow the guide lines. Here in Melbourne you can go out to any number of venues and see indie bands that would never dream of being successful and I think that’s what ends up setting our music apart when it does get recognised, that’s how you get people like Hiatus Kaiyote or Sia who just don’t really give a fuck doing what they love and getting paid well for it.
What would you say have been some truly ground-breaking moments for you in your record career thus far and how has that changed your artistry if anything?
There have been so many ‘wow’ moments in my career and I could use this opportunity to drop a bunch of names. But really I think my struggle with alcoholism and addiction really changed the core of who I am for the better, I don’t drink anymore and I associate with people with a similar story. when I OD’d and was given my life back to me I decided I want to do all I can to help other people not have to go through what I went through, I think if anything has changed it is a genuine goal to try and help other people however that may be.
What are you currently working on Daniel – any new music, projects in the works you can share with us?
I am currently putting the start of an album together, I was just in LA writing with some really talented people, and I’m doing the same here in Melbourne, so hopefully I will have an album for you real soon.
5 albums you would take with you into the afterlife and why?
‘Talking Book’ – Stevie Wonder, ‘Voodoo’ – D’angelo, ‘Reasonable Doubt’ – Jay Z, ‘The White Album’ – The Beatles and some Vivaldi
What do you want your legacy to be one day when this is all said and done?
I want to be remembered as someone who was always doing good for others. I want to be the kind of artist that is still making successful music when I am old. And want to eventually write a bestseller… I better get to work!
For more information on Daniel Merriweather visit: www.danielmerriweather.com