Down To Danny’s

Hey Liam – cheers for your tweet. Happy to give feedback but any meaningful feedback will probably need more than 140 characters. So my first suggestion would be to put an email address on your Soundcloud and Facebook pages so fans, bloggers, promoters and people like me can get in touch with you more easily. Instead of messing about with Soundcloud messaging it seemed best to reply here so other members of the FOTN community can take a listen give you constructive feedback of their own. This is only one man’s opinion and could easily be wrong. But for what it’s worth…

I heard Down To Danny’s while going through to our inbox picking tracks for our Listening Post last week. As soon as the vocal came in with “Wake up in the morning with a headful of last night” I clicked the “favourite” button. I thought your performance had huge energy and potential, drawing on the same folk-punk traditions I remember from Joe Strummer and The Pogues. It did sound like quite early days in a promising career, but there was a ridiculously strong inbox last week and in the end you weren’t picked for the final 30 that were posted on the blog.

To be honest, despite the great opening line and winning attitude, it probably isn’t the greatest song you’re ever going to write. I’m quite certain your best work is yet to come: although the verses are pretty strong, the chorus isn’t to the same standard. Also the whole track does go on a bit: to be honest I started fidgeting after about two and a half minutes. Obviously this is the very last thing you want to hear about the lead track of an EP that’s already mixed and about to come out. So given that we are where we are, here are some positive suggestions:

1) Make a radio edit. At the moment the vocal doesn’t come in till 0:26 and the track could easily end where the guitar solo comes in at around 2 minutes. You could start with the jangling bell of an alarm clock and go straight into the vocal. Grab people by the throat from bar one. “White Riot” by The Clash was under two minutes. See for why – in my opinion – this was a good idea.

2) Make a video for the song. If that’s not already being done, just shoot it yourself DIY on a mobile phone and cut it together on iMovie – free on any Mac computer. If you do the radio edit first, that’ll be the perfect soundtrack, much less work to put together, and the same less is more principle applies with videos. Better to get people reaching for rewind to listen again, rather than fast forward because they’ve heard it all already.

3) Get the stems from the studio, put them up online, and challenge your followers to do remixes. Then get them to vote for the ones they like best on your Facebook.

4) Get connected: link your Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Reverbnation (and YouTube?) pages to each other so people can easily find you on all platforms wherever they start from.

5) Keep on writing. Most of us who call ourselves songwriters don’t spend anything like enough time writing songs. In most cases the key to quality is simply quantity: the more we do it the easier it gets. To develop killer choruses it’s sometimes helpful to go back & listen carefully to all your favourite tunes and work out what makes them great. When trying out your own, imagine playing your closing number on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury on a Friday night: you need the kind of lyrics, phrasing and melody that a whole audience will sing along with, right to the back of the tent, without even being asked.

6) Keep gigging – I love your vocal approach, but it’s still just a teensy bit hit and miss. The more shows you do the more your singing style will consolidate until you settle down to an approach that is 100% you every time. It took me from 1977 till 1983 before I was really happy with the way I sang. Hopefully it won’t take you anything like that long 🙂

7) Be daring. It doesn’t sound like you’re the kind of artist to try and “play it safe” and you should resist all advice to do so. For instance the girl in the song could easily scream “you’ve got to f*ck off out of here – my boyfriend wants you dead”. Obviously not on the version for radio, where F-bombs are as popular as poison. But your main career will flourish live and on record, and that’s where your priorities should lie Be more extreme lyrically and imagewise than you imagine can possibly get away with. Your audiences will want you to live up to your leery, louche hard-drinking, dont-give-a-toss image every moment you’re on stage.

On the showing of this highly promising debut, they won’t be disappointed.

Tom Robinson

London-based broadcaster & songwriter, born 1950. His best known songs are 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay and War Baby; he has also co-written songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. Read More...

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