Music Q&A:
Dan Walsh

Touted as one of the finest banjo players in the UK, the singer-songwriter is heading out on tour in support of his new album
Verging on the Perpendicular

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Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences
I don’t think describing what I do is that easy but the main strand is mixing together Scottish and Irish folk with American bluegrass. It’s all built on my clawhammer banjo style and my voice. I’m influenced by so many different genres and I think that probably comes through in my music. My first love was Paul Simon, then Irish folk like Horslips and Four Men And A Dog followed. Then I was into a lot of rock and pop like the Beatles, the Stones, Oasis and then into bluegrass like Alison Krauss and Nickel Creek. So it’s pretty broad really!

What informs your music and songwriting?

Just about anything! My lyrics are often influenced directly by my life on the road – what I love about it, what I hate about it, the people I meet, the places I like and of course my hometown and the people in it. Musically, I’m influenced by anything I ever listen to. I’m a firm believer that you should soak up something from every piece of music you ever listen to.

How have you evolved as an artist evolved over the years?

I think and hope that one of the main things is learning to play less! I think in my early years I figured more fast notes was always a good thing and I’ve learned that that’s not the case! Musically, I think my influences have broadened and the songs have become a big part of it.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?

It’s great having the new album out and touring that is a big part of everything at the moment, with a big UK tour and trips to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I’m already thinking of future work too. The new album has a lot of my Irish and Scottish folk influences that first got me to play the banjo so I’m really enjoying playing lots of that.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?

It’s hard of course but I think uniqueness is on my side. The way I play the banjo is quite different as I play what is traditionally an Appalachian style but I use it to play funk, bluegrass, Celtic and a few other things. There aren’t all that many solo banjoists-singers outside the Appalachian field, I guess.

What’s on your rider?

I don’t really have one, to be honest! I’ve been told many times I ought to be more demanding but I’m not really a great one for that – if people feed me and give me drinks it’s lovely but I don’t really demand it.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.

Ah, so many to choose from. Recently, I rather impatiently and in a hurry asked someone to move out the way and it turned out to be Robert Plant.

Tell us about your worst live show.

Well, I’d rather tell you about some of the best! But I suppose when I think back to my early years of gigging in pubs I had some amazing times but I also played some horrible places. I played in Glasgow once and was threatened with an empty pint glass for having an English accent.

What song do you wish you’d written?

Hmm, most songs by Jez Lowe or Paul Simon! But actually the one I often wish I’d written is Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. It manages to have all the qualities of a catchy, memorable and universal pop song but musically it’s so clever, with the 7/4 time signature and the riffs.

What’s your worst lyric?

Ah I’ve written plenty in my time.

Dan Walsh plays 7 June, Nether Edge Folk Club, Sheffield; 8 June, Brewery Tap, Doncaster; and 28 July, Touchstones, Rochdale

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Dan Walsh

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