Daniel Powter has had a few years away from the music industry and now he is back with his great new album Turn On The Lights.
I caught up with him to talk about his time away, the troubles that he faced and what it's like to be back.
- You are back with your new album Turn On The Lights so what can we expect from the record this time around?
I think it’s probably a little bit more grown up - you have your whole life to write your first record don’t you? And so I think that the first record dealt with things that were like… I don’t know I just guessed.
But now I feel like I have some balance in my life because I have a family and I have dogs and a house and these are all things that I have never had before. So I think that the record is just a bit of a diary and I think that I have reflected back on the five years that I have spent taking time off.
I went through things that were a little bit dark for me as I had a two and half year divorce and I had addiction problems. So I really did spiral down and when I came out of it I was so depleted.
But I took it on as my responsibility to come back and sort of turn on the lights and I started writing about things that I really wanted in my life; I really wanted to have that relationship with someone again as I was very lonely.
So I started writing songs like Cupid about loving people even though you may have all these character defects, which I have a lot of by the way, and then Coming Home because I spend so much time on the road. Then I wrote songs like Crazy and that was about having a crazy relationship with someone and that was my ex-wife.
So I think the new record is just a lot more songs about looking for that balance in your life and growing up a little bit - I was such an immature little brat when I came out with the first record.
All I did was work and I resented everyone around me but now I have established the boundaries that everyone needs in their lives - I don’t let people tell me what to do anymore and push me around all of the time.
When you have that feeling of balance in you life you start to write songs that are a little more positive and that is what the record is it’s just a lot of positivity.
- As you say you have been away from the music industry for some time and faced some personal problems along the way but how great is it to be back and having another chance to make music?
It’s amazing (laughs) it’s amazing. I am so blessed to have that second chance because so many of us don’t get that second chance.
I burnt a lot of bridges and to be allowed to come back, especially to the UK which has welcomed me back with open arms; I didn’t know what to expect and it has just be so lovely being here. The things that I use to take for granted I realise ‘oh my god this is such a lovely thing’.
I am lucky and blessed that I get to talk to you and I really take that seriously. I don’t say things like ‘I have to talk to you’ I say things like ‘I get to talk to you’ and it has made my life so much… it is really how you look at things and for me the glass is really half full.
- How much did music play a part in pulling you through your problems?
Music has always allowed me to escape. That serenity that I have by writing and being in a song I really start to lose everything around me and all of my problems go away and I am really in this very meditative and blissful state.
So when you look at if from that place, people do yoga to meditate and people meditate to meditate, I play music to meditate and so I am getting a form of meditation.
It is so cathartic to be able to write and to be able to put down your feelings on paper and put them into a song - I can’t even begin to explain how enjoyable that is for me. So yes it has been extremely cathartic and helpful for me.
- This album mixes pop tracks with great ballads so how would you describe the sound of the album and how does it compare to previous records?
I think it is simplified. When I sat down with Howard Benson and we went through the songs that we had chosen for the album and when we started recording we would look at the song and analyse it and say ‘lets take away these instruments as there is no necessity for them’.
Sometimes songs are clouded with so much information that you lose the sentiment of the lyrics and so what I would do is I would listen to a song and I would be like ‘this is great but we don’t need all of this other stuff in there to bunch it up with information’.
So I think this time I have really been concise at keeping the instrumentation on the tracks to a minimum and only allowing the instruments to be there if it needed to be there.
There are a lot of times when I would put the instrument on and I would ask ‘does this make it better or different?’ and more often than not it just makes it different and if something makes the track different but not better I would take it off.
- And how have you found the response to the album so far?
Well I haven’t sensed the response just yet as I have just got here. Most of the people that I have spoken to so far seem to like it but we will just have to wait and see what Joe public says.
I have been really lucky and I have had a lot of people wanting to talk to me - sometimes when you go to a city or a country for promotion and there are a lot of people who want to talk to you usually it’s because it is a good thing.
- Howard Benson has produced the record so how did you end up collaborating with him?
It kind of fell into our laps because Bob Rock was going to produce the record and he has done a lot of rock records but he had some personal issues at home and so Howard was next in line and he agreed to do it.
It was amazing working with him because he is very quick and that is not my style, my style it to totally drag things out and procrastinate and not make any decisions.
Howard was just like ‘we don’t need that let’s go with that’, ‘put the guitar on it we will sing the vocal tomorrow and we are done’ and I am like 'errrrr'.
So I had to learn to let go of things very quickly as I am real holder on and so Howard was incredible at helping to let go and he was like ‘let that go, let that go, let that go move onto the next song’.
And more often than not I wasn’t even sure of the last three songs that we had gone through and he was on to the fourth song - not because he likes to work quickly but he knows how to make records.
The way that he makes records is you don’t sit around and contemplate whether it is right or wrong he says ‘if it feels right then it is right and move on’. So I think he was really helpful that way.
- And you recorded in his Bay 7 Studios in Los Angeles so how was that?
Working at Bay 7 was phenomenal and especially the people that I got to work with like Tom Pearson - there was nothing but the best players in the world playing on this record so I was really lucky.
- How do you find collaborating with the musicians that play on the record?
I am very much one of these people that has the mindset…when I show up with the songs and demo the songs I am very particular about the song and when I bring it in it almost sounds like it is done.
So when the musicians that are hired, who I love and respect so much, they listen to the demo and then they play the songs I really step back and let them do what they want to do because that is so important - I mean why do you hire them if you think you could do it better?
So I had very little to say when they started recording and sometimes I would be like ‘that’s different, I never thought of that’.
But that is what I did I trusted them to make the record that they felt was the right record to make. So I can’t take any responsibility for the way that the record sounds I really can’t because it was all them.
- How do you feel that you have developed as an artist and a song-writer between your first record and now?
That I just don’t take it seriously - music isn’t something that isn’t tangible you can’t hold it or feel it so there’s no right way of doing it. The minute that I think I have figured out the formula it changes and I think I have had to accept that.
I have also had to accept that when I walk into the studio or when I write a song I am powerless over the result and I think when I started writing I didn’t know that I always thought that I could control that and I can’t.
That is a really good lesson to learn, that there is no right way to do it, it saves a lot of time and heartache and disappointment when you can look at it that way and be very free of it.
- You mentioned earlier that you are a parent as well so how do you find juggling your music career with your commitments at home?
It’s funny because I have just done a whole bunch of promo then I went upstairs in the hotel and changed my daughter’s dyper - so if you ever wanted a definition of humility then that is it.
I love being a daddy and I took her to the park yesterday and fed the ducks with her and played with her - she is only four and a half months old but she smiles at me and it melts my heart. That is the kind of balance that I have longed for in my life and now I get to do both.
And you have to count your lucky stars when you can go and do the music and pretend you are a rock star and then go home and be with your daughter and play and be back in the real world.
- Finally what's coming up for you for the rest of the year - are we going to be seeing any live shows here in the UK?
I hope so I might come and do some show casing in September/October for people. But I don’t think that I will be touring in the UK until January or February as I have to go back to the U.S. and continue the promotion there. Then I am in Japan and France in a couple of weeks to start there.
I can’t wait to come back here because it is my favourite country to tour and I hope to be back here very soon.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw