Audiovisual Cultures episode 90 – Just Keep Going with Dan Hughes automated transcript

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this is audiovisual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and cultural production with me paula blair visit forward slash av cultures to find out more and to join the pod well hello i hope everybody is doing well out there we’re having a bit of a music theme this april it turns out on audiovisual cultures i’d like to extend a really warm welcome to my guest this time dan hughes dan would you like to say hi and tell us a little bit about yourself hi there uh thank you very much for having me come on i’m a professional musician i’ve been doing it for 10 about 10 years maybe maybe a bit more than that and i’m i’m in a musical project called dht and i compose music and i tour and gig and do different kind of stuff and work based on a working musician whereabouts do we find you today dan i am in sunny northamptonshire which is about an hour outside of london between birmingham and london sort of east midlands yeah so we’ve got quite a lot we can get into you’ve given us a little bit of an instruction there to the different you’ve got quite a few different areas of your practice so we might take some of those and have a deeper look at them and then we might get into well the big issue of our times the enforced lockdown and how that’s impacted you and that sort of thing i think before we do that if we just get a bigger picture of your work so you’re singer-songwriter guitarist and your composer would you like to tell us a bit about your singing and the live aspect of your work sure so i started um playing my father played guitar so yeah i still played the guitars through that and as a teenager and then my late teens i started playing in bands and then um i went to study music in brighton when i was 16 and i was lucky enough to audition and get into a place called bim uh which is uh now scattered all around europe and i’m lucky enough to be taught by and some fantastic guitar players and then sort of since then i left when i was about 20 21 and then literally i’ve just gigged as much as i could uh within that time and making records and sometimes doing teaching and touring and just collectively lots of different stuff how would you describe the music that you would play or write that’s a good question i’d say like very rhythmic and melody driven stuff usually quite soul-driven maybe and euphoric so quite like positive stuff with a groove base and try and add some maybe some humor into it as well there’s lots of dots it’s very difficult to describe your own music i don’t know it’s like um very sort of maybe um kind of earnest in some respects and the fact that it’s just um i just try to try and write honestly yeah well i suppose then you know in your songwriting what would you write about you know what kind of topics what kind of themes come up life really things that happened maybe when i’ve been traveling gigging or some things that pop up in a conversation or um for instance i’m working on something at the moment called joanna which i found the inspiration for that after um connecting was with somebody from linkedin i just thought that name’s unusual so i thought i’ll write a song about it and and you do songwriting for a band is very different songwriting for a project where someone commissions you to write like they set you a narrative that you have to write towards whereas when you write for yourself you write because you feel maybe a bit more emotionally connected to it so would you say there was an element of storytelling do you think you get an idea for a story sparked by something and does it take you that way or is it emotion based is that what lead you when you’re writing songs for yourself i think it’s very melody driven my music as opposed to lyrics lyrics are important obviously but um very rarely do i write the words and then write the music it’s usually the music and then the words fall into the melody if that makes sense yeah no i think that’s useful do you think then the the music the sound of the music the melody do you think then that’s evoking feelings that would maybe stir something is that or the idea yeah like so i i i always think i come from a place where the melody is more important like i’m not necessarily like a bob dylan kind of writer where i write lots of verses and fit as many words in like i’m more about the melody like i want the listener to be walking down the street or driving in the car and then all of a sudden that melody hits their head as opposed to um i don’t know i i always think there’s a lot there’s too much depression stuff in the world already it’s like that no one needs to hear negativity in songs i like people to feel happy when they listen to this stuff all right i think that’s a really nice answer so the aim is to try and make something that can draw a smile or just distract somebody from a problem for a moment or something like that yeah like like i have a sort of euphoric feeling my favorite artist have the ability to when you listen to their music almost take you away to a different world which i would like to always like to try and capture that makes sense i think so yeah and maybe that helps us move into then more of the composition side and perhaps the projects that you were talking about because you you know your profile says that you you also compose for likes of film television and podcasts and other media there must be a real difference for you between you getting an idea for a melody and you being maybe commissioned to do something and tools okay so i want the listener to maybe feel oh this is inquisitive or this is a sad one or this is happy but not kitsch you know like how does that work for you i think in some ways um when you get commissioned for stuff it’s a lot difficult because uh it’s like you’re trying to get in the mind of the person that you’re being commissioned for to try and figure out what they want so it’s like trying to find out what somebody wants in their mind is very difficult like it’s hard enough trying to get songs out your own mind but it’s harder to get songs out of other people’s minds that you never even met so it can be a challenge at times but it’s really enjoyable i like it and i really enjoy like hearing my music on different projects it gives me a sense of um pride that something i’ve written has been used for different things do you have any examples you know do you get commissioned to do maybe adverts or is it maybe the likes of someone one day it might be a jingle the next day it might be music that’s designed to go underneath the voice or you know how what kind of thing would it would you be doing exactly it can be literally anything from doing like a video for an independent film or a podcast or working for ecologists or lots of different avenues predominantly it’s been podcast really it seems to be there but i think podcasts are so in vogue there’s a lot of them and um there seems to be a bit more work doing that kind of thing and also obviously film it’s a lot of it’s budget dependent so lots of people write films but they don’t necessarily come out especially in california there’s a lot of wannabe film directors that want to are trying to crack it and um don’t so you end up writing for projects and they don’t necessarily come out whereas podcasts tend to all get used eventually yeah i think they’re probably more avenues for being able to put our stuff out when it’s audio at the moment how do those commissions work do people get in touch with you or is it a mixture do you have to hustle very much or are you how is it working at the moment i would like to tell you that i just sit there and the emails flood in but really they do not so i have to email every day every day contacts and um sometimes contact them again and again and um um it’s like selling anything it’s a massive game of rejection almost all the time you get it like basically if you don’t like rejection don’t bother doing that job because almost all the time you’ll get rejected most people will say no but it’s that five percent that make it worth it you know you only need that um five ten percent of people just to like what you’re doing then you’re successful at it i think that’s an important area actually because we don’t talk enough about rejection and i think i’ve seen more actors including quite famous people talking about this more recently where actually most of what they do is getting rejected even people you’d be surprised at you know we only talk about our successes really and those are measured in quite arbitrary ways if you do anything that’s worthwhile then rejection’s almost a natural part of it if you’re putting yourself out there to try and succeed at something then rejection is almost sort of like the main ingredient of success because success is something you learn from not something that you that defeats you you have to get up and just fight again really yes and it could be many different factors involved in either a success or a rejection as well it’s not necessarily something personal and it’s quite easy to take it personal i think so i think i think certainly on early on when i was doing what i was doing i take it very personally and get upset about it but the more the longer i’ve been doing it the less i sort of get phased by it really do you find it easier to just go oh okay that’s fine file it move on to the next thing yeah i think i think you have to otherwise you just be like a blubbering mess that you love you have to just get on with it but you’ve tried out so many different things as a musician you know as a jobbing musician as well as you say can you give us any examples of any other things you’ve done you know when you’ve been able to gig around and things you told me before that you were flat out before everything went into lockdown so you must have been doing a lot of traveling and lots of different venues and i mean is there anything sort of weird and wonderful you can tell us about well yeah definitely well the past sort of like nine ten months before the lockdown um i was just digging around the midlands area really and that sort of become very tiresome in places because he was doing it a lot so in a way the lockdown was quite a blessing because it made me have a bit of a break but before then the year before that i gigged in the i had a residency in hull to belgium on a ferry for about three months um which was interesting and then i after that i went to the caribbean for six months and did a residency there and then um for the past four years five years i’ve been gigging out in the far east so i’ve been going to south korea and japan and um touring the records i make out there what’s reception like in these different areas you know hire your live audiences or um if you’re touring with a record that you’ve made you an album or something you know how do you find from place to place it’s how you received i mean the far east is amazing some of the best gigs i’ve ever done have been out there and the crowds are so good so good so kind and generous and nice and um just fantastic really there’s an amazing part of the world that holds a special place in my heart for sure the audiences there are amazing some of the gigs i’ve done have been insane like i’ve done a lot of major festivals out there and i’ve played um i did i guess one gig in front of a thousand people in this small village for the government and it was like insane it was just amazing yeah it’s wow so good i’m quite curious about the residency on on a ferry so was it transit so it wasn’t you know how long was it was it sort of eight hours or something like that and you were entertainment it was overnight ferry from hull to amsterdam and held to belgium okay i don’t think it’s there anymore actually i think it’s they’ve stopped it but um yeah i mean what what kind of things you want to know about about him what did they expect from you i mean were you doing were you doing your own music or were you having to do covers and things you know how did it work that kind of gig is predominantly covers sometimes you’ll do stuff i’d want to maybe throw some my own stuff in there when nobody else is there maybe or less people there those kind of jobs are very corporate to us yeah it was all right it wasn’t great it was okay it was experience and it was going from doing your own thing and being freelanced to being strictly employed and especially in a situation where you don’t like it’s not like a nine to five like you get to end your day and then go home you spend 24 hours on a boat so you’re working all the time it can be intense there’s a lot of real sort of bitter uh musicians that get on that boat that gets stuck in that gig forever and um that can be quite a negative experience to hang out with people that are sort of disillusioned by that kind of life i think i think those kind of things that are better to kind of dip your toe in when you need money and then try and leave as quick as you can you know don’t make it a lifestyle make it something you use for yourself i think yeah yeah i mean is it something you do they tell you what songs their audiences you or their passengers might want or that they like themselves or do you get to choose what you think you’re comfortable with you know is it an opportunity for you to play songs you really love and really inspire you for example i always try and play songs that are even the covers i do like their songs that i feel connected to because if i don’t then i’m just lying i think it’s a balancing act from making them do what you want so sort of doing enough to get them off your back but then also doing your own thing as well like a balancing knack between the two like you can’t go and play avant-garde jazz or play being pro rock or or heavy rock or anything like that but you sort of like play the game enough for them to sort of amaze your player top 40 hit and then go and play something you want you like contrast it a little bit going from something like that i mean you mentioned that actually being enforced to stay at home and and not be able to have a choice to do that sort of work anymore and the gigs have stopped certainly in in an in-person sense what has your lock zone experience been as a musician well initially panic because i was like my money’s gone what am i gonna do probably like most the world and then i still got into a new routine so i i thought well this is a fun i kind of looked and looked upon it as that um i have the rest of my life to gig and perform and um you know i’ll probably be doing it when i’m 80 they’ll be wheeling me out to the local pub or something and i’ll be playing a gig so taking two years out three years out even hopefully not but in the grand scheme of things it’s not nothing too big so i thought well i might as well try and utilize the time i have to try and be as productive as i can be and um flex new muscles really when you do lots of gigs you end up you end up just being on autopilot and sort of um doing the same thing all the time it’s this sort of can be very relentless from 23 i’ve done like 200 gigs a year pretty much so for the past 10 years so that’s very tiring um so it’s good to kind of step away from that really and be creative and write music and talk to people like you on podcasts and creating new people is good yeah it’s strange that um we were speaking earlier certainly me making this it’s opened up a lot of the world to me and as you say just this ability to make new connections and to after that initial panic to be forced to go okay well look there are creative solutions that are possible here there are things we can do that opportunity that the circumstances have enforced but in a way gifted to us it’s that chance to okay i mean what if you were on the verge of a burn out or something because as you say you’ve been grafting away and pushing yourself maybe and when you are freelance and you just have to take a gig a gig is a gig and you’re you’re just taking it when it comes you know there’s not really much time to to stop and have a rest have a holiday that sort of stuff so you know it’s good that you’ve had a positive response at least to try and use the time really well well i i think um you know above you know people kind of put themselves in a frame of being like either a musician or a filmmaker or podcast social media person or really above all those things with creative people they’re just vehicles for what you do above that you you should be creative and try and like for me i play music but actually above that it really is is for me to be creative and to pursue like a free lifestyle like and navigate myself that’s more important to me than actually playing music as much as i love playing music like i want a lifestyle that i can control and be the king maker of basically and i think most creative people strive for that because they’re like there’s a little point being in i’ve had jobs playing music where um on paper they sound amazing but at the end of the day you’re working for somebody else and you’re in a controlled environment which isn’t always good yeah not creativity it’s not always something that can be forced um you know if somebody’s arched over you you know saying right come on write this or it has to be nurtured it has to come from somewhere and sometimes you just actually need to procrastinate or rest or think about something entirely different for a while and then it’ll come to you you know and i think if you have a sensibility where you don’t work you can’t maybe work you might not be wired to work in a uniform nine to five way but if you have that space you might actually produce something i mean has this been a time where you’ve been able to reflect and maybe do writing or maybe try different things yes i’ll compose like um before gigging i found very difficult to find time to flex the right in muscle because it’s a different muscle when you’re performing it’s a different outlook on your performance whereas if you’re creative it’s a different muscle so like going from one another it can be very distracting because you you aren’t sort of in that vein of creativity whereas a lot down has sort of provided that kind of chance to be more creative i think sure sure there are a lot of musicians who’ve still managed to find online platforms for doing live work i mean have you been able to pick up any teaching or any live stuff yes i’ve been really fortunate to have a few students before lockdown came down like a handful of them and touched what they’ve stayed throughout they’ve been fantastic it’s been an absolute blessing for them to be still coming to lessons and i really enjoy teaching them so i’ve been doing that and obviously been doing my composition side of things so those two things have been the two main things really i think um i’ve done some like livestream stuff for other bands that i’ve played for but i haven’t really gone out the way to to do live stream stuff really because um i don’t know it’s kind of like a force side to i think as much as anyone can do you have any ideas for the future for when we might begin to emerge from all of this or are you taking it as it comes and you’re you’re still just concentrating on unnourishing that creativity at the moment well regarding gates i think it still hasn’t opened up yet enough to see where the land lies within it’s a good question some days you feel like i suppose like anybody sometimes you feel like one thing and the other day to feel like another i think i i think it’s still element of it happens to be a waiting game to see where the land lies and see where you can kind of um if you can carve out a living again and hopefully live music will return and come back stronger i hope i hope i really hope i think so i think there’s a i think there’s definitely a hunger for it but probably the likes of singing isn’t the safest thing at the moment so maybe hoping for good weather and do some outdoor stuff where people can spread out yeah like i have a few gigs in the summer books and stuff like that so that’s that’s all good but i think it’s just a case of just continuing on what i’m doing really and see where that takes me and and then um just wait for just keep keep hustling and reaching out to people and seeing where things lead everything changes with a phone call in an email when you’re freelance like that you’ve got to have that mentality that all it takes is for one phone call to turn up and then that will change that can change your life mm-hmm yeah definitely so dan i was wondering as well because we before we started recording we got into this a little bit but i was wondering if you wanted to we don’t have to but if you wanted to maybe speak to we were talking about you know just the landscape for freelance creatives at the moment in the uk and um if you had anything you’d like to say because i mean this podcast it’s about the work and it’s about practice and practitioners but i mean it’s also about well the other factors involved with that is what are the things that enable that creativity and it is things like um you know funding structures and distribution platforms and things i think you know we were talking a bit as well but you know maybe our audiences are different kinds of audiences they might have some preconceptions about what it is that we do and how we get paid and things and that we get paid at all it can be a misconception you know i just wondered if you had anything you would like to say about you know free or cheap labor or the support or lack thereof that people like us have had or you know if there’s anything at all you’d want to speak to because i think it’s all relevant and important and people really need to know well i think it’s massively important to make people aware of that situation because i don’t think it’s made aware enough really creative people provide opportunities and provide jobs and provide avenues for people to be able to create a life i think the way that a society treats creative people is a reflection on how they treat people in society in general so if the powers that be treat creative people or uh people that um try and push the boundaries badly then it’s just a reflection on how they how they end up treating everybody else really and i think like in britain there’s kind of an attitude of a lot of the time when it’s well i’m all right jack so it doesn’t matter about you and that’s not really the truth because everybody needs to succeed it’s not just about certain sections of society succeeding everybody has to have the opportunity to better themselves i think and i feel like that it’s getting harder to do that in the uk and i think the self-employment help has been really bad like i’ve known people that are whom who are self-employed i haven’t had a penny of help throughout the whole time which is awful i’m really quite passionate about the way seven more people have been treated yeah i feel the same so many of us just didn’t qualify at all for the self-employed scheme and even this latest round of it i think there there’s a massive delay in even releasing it for this lockdown that we’re in at the moment in spring 2021 yeah it’s been like a month and a half isn’t it yeah which is insane even the amount of money that you even even like i’ve been lucky enough to qualify for it but even the money that you get for the qualification of it is pathetic compared to how people have that have been followed they’re getting basically full 80 to full pay and we’re getting i think the average person that gets self-employment help check is around 1400 quid for three months it’s crap it’s not good you can’t live off that can you no no no so i mean i think that again that’s important for people to be aware of because we’ve all been consuming culture so much throughout lockedown especially people where maybe they haven’t been continuing to work if they have been furloughed so many people have gone to streaming sites or youtube and you know the content providers are um still beavering away working at everything and trying to put stuff out there for people i think there’s just an assumption that you’re recompensed for that or you do it for the love of it and that’s enough nourishment for you but it doesn’t pay rent yeah yeah like exposure plays the bills doesn’t it apparently yeah so it’s been a really tough climate i think and i’ve been really lucky on making the podcast where you know i’ve had a lot of people who are maybe at a point in their careers where they’re relatively successful and they’ve reached out to me and said oh i’ll be a guest on your podcast and that’s been a huge help to me actually because that’s exposed me to people who know them and like their work so then i’ve had some more lessons because of that and that’s been really kind i think certainly in the podcasting worlds where there’s so many of us who are indie podcasters we’ve been trying to help each other out a little bit more by guessing on each other’s podcasts and we’re all doing this for free nobody’s getting paid for it well i think um independent and alternate alternative culture is where the real art is made it’s where the real music is where the real podcast is where the real creativity comes from like all the best bands and all the best movements that have come from independent or alternative avenues so that needs to be protected otherwise we’re going to get a world of justin bieber’s and corporate rock no absolutely so i mean it’s just this constant battle to survive you know so i just think it’s it was important really to say something about that and i’m a real yeah i think there needs to be a a a conversation with about how the streaming platforms work if we’re heading towards more of an automated world then we need to have a fairer chunk of the pie really and that’s not being greedy like something you create you know because i don’t know how much the stream earns you like naught point naught naught naught naught naught one pi one p or something ridiculous like it needs to be more than that if we’re living in more of a content driven society well then content needs to be valued more not being devalued well it is valued but it it reaches the wrong people’s pockets it hits you know they’ve got the ceo of spotify and far too much money for what he gets and i think there’s an element of creative people are obsessed about numbers and views on facebook and likes and stuff like that it’s more of an ego thing like i i would rather us get better paid than have to than have a hundred thousand views on on youtube yeah totally agree completely um yeah because there’s some there’s something visible and performative almost about the likes so that’s something i try not to worry about is uh oh nobody’s paid attention to this in social media well actually maybe lots maybe hundreds thousands of people have seen this but they’re just not hitting that button you know and it’s the quality of the engagement i think from your viewers your listeners that sort of stuff isn’t it rather than the in mind yeah and all all it takes is one person to listen to your podcast to listen to your music that gets affected by it then you know if you’re making something but then that one person is affected by it that’s a huge thing that may not translate to money but if people are uh moved by it and they love it and then that’s isn’t that the ultimate kind of compliment yeah and i think it’s nice as well if when we are moved by something we’ve spent some time with it’s really nice to let that person know you know the person who made it recently i’ve had just some really really lovely encouraging feedback from the odd person and you think oh gosh that’s just made my day that’s made that whole thing worthwhile yes okay so it’s not going to pay any bills it’s not going to buy me food but it makes me want to keep going which is really important i think just because you are being creative doesn’t mean you’re not necessarily desperate for downloads or you want to be massively like i certainly didn’t get into music because i thought i’d want to be famous but i am famous but i would do it because i’m looking to be famous i’m doing it because i love music like somebody loves fixing cars or i think if you do something you love then eventually things do work out i hope that’s it you just have to keep plugging away and hopefully it does work out for us a previous guest i’ve had on said just do good work just make sure your work is really good and it will come right that was somebody who had struggled in audio drama body fiction for about 14 years before it’s finally just clicked and he was getting requests that he couldn’t even keep up with and finally start to get money for projects and stuff yeah like you hit veins of success do you know what i mean like um before locked out i had a vein of success gigging like i was and indeed but there was periods of times before then when it was like a desert and there was nothing or very struggling normal i think the key to success is just keep going and sometimes success isn’t what you think it is so in your mind you think there’s a destination that you can arrive one day and be like yeah i’ve made it i said i’m done i’m finished but like even when you arrive at that point you just keep wanting other things so like i remember when i came back from brighton and i didn’t have any gigs i was thinking oh man if i didn’t if i could get one gig a week and then like five years down the line i was getting like seven days a week and then you think if only i had a night off you know i mean you never kind of win you it’s like a feast of famine i think yeah

dan is there anything we haven’t chatted about so far today that you you really wanted to get into that you really wanted to talk about i just released a new uh ep well collaborated with a girl from taiwan well she’s an artist and she’s called sea drop we met online and we did a remote ep it’s the first time i did a remote ep we both sort of composed the tracks together some of the tracks are in uh cantonese some of them are in english and it’s like almost like a concept album about um wake up in the morning to going to bed at night we both sing on it so it’s like uh conversations it’s almost like a conversation between the two of us and it’s it’s i’m really proud of it it’s a good uh record that sounds brilliant and where abouts can people find that uh you can find it um through my uh website but you can also find it on my own facebook which you can find it through my website which is dan hughes music and spotify it’s dht and the record’s called breaking the day brilliant sounds great that international collaboration that’s been made possible from your house has just been amazing i think this past while yeah it’s a crazy concept that you get to be able to collaborate with people that you never gonna meet also also i’m working on um i’m helping translate at the moment um a beatles book from english to korean and hopefully that’s going to come out at some point too do you speak korean then not very well that you can help with the meanings of things i can help with the meanings yeah i i can speak a little bit not loads enough to get by you kind of need to when you when you go out that part of the world because some places you go there’s no english excellent stuff yeah so you’ve told us about your website that’s brilliant and um do you have any other socials or anything you want to point people towards all the socials are on my website anyway but facebook is probably my main and youtuber my main two social media platforms well dan hughes thank you so much it’s been a really lovely conversation i hope you’ve had something out of it as well yeah thank you very much for um having me um as a guest yeah you’ve been most welcome thank you so um i’ll put your website that’ll be in the show notes wherever this is going out so people can have no excuse but to go and look at your work fantastic thank you so much for having me

this has been a cozy peapod production with me paula blair the music is common ground by airton used under a non-commercial 3.0 creative commons license and is available at we are av culturespod on facebook instagram and twitter and you can also join the conversation on discord if you’ve enjoyed this episode be sure to subscribe and your favorite podcast app including youtube if you find auto captions useful and please share with your networks you’ll find links and ways to contact us at we’re always really happy to hear from potential guests and ways to improve the show as well as supporting the pod and receiving member benefits over on patreon you can also help at forward slash p e a blair thanks so much for listening catch you next time


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