Will Dailey + Keaton Simons
It is cliche for a reason, life happens in mysterious ways. If not for a bout of appendicitis that left him in great debt and physically beaten and battered, Boston singer/songwriter Will Dailey might never have made the sparkling album Back Flipping Forward (which will initially be released digitally by CBS Records), a collection that demonstrates why he took home the 2006 Boston Music Award for Best Male Singer/Songwriter.
I was out in L.A. doing the whole major label showcase and power lunch hustle. Its really just a terrible experience, Dailey says laughing. You have these people taking you out to lunch, you're sitting next to all these famous faces and theyre telling you, You're going to be famous. When all you really want to do is make a great record and hit the road.
Unfortunately, just as things were picking up in the courting Dailey calls the dance, he was hospitalized with appendicitis. Imagine his surprise when he, with no insurance, came out with a $50,000 hospital bill. Anyone whos ever been sick and far from home can understand what happened next. I get [out of the hospital], limping about, and I didnt know what to do, so I thought, I gotta go home for a little while. I know how to get back on my feet there, Dailey recalls. So I come back to Boston and immediately get a phone call from my manager, Were going to make this record on our own. Originally, he wanted to meet with all these producers back in LA, people whove produced Neil Young etc. and I said, I know the perfect guy to do this album with.
That guy was Tom Polce. And in working with Polce, as well as friends, who Dailey says, Are amazing musicians who deserved a crack at it all, Dailey has come up with a collection of 10 tracks that are genuine, intelligent, and show the best of the singer/songwriter genre.
On songs such as the lovely melodic opener Boom Boom, the genteel Eliza, the infectious pop-rocker Bi Polar Baby, and the gorgeous Appalachian folk closer, Dear Grace, a number usually done a capella live, Dailey shows his eclectic influences, from Tom Waits to early Rod Stewart, while conveying a sound that is fresh and contemporary and, as one reviewer stated, You hear a long forgotten master being channeled here.
One thing Dailey knew making this record after the experience of his first album, Goodbyeredbullet, was that he wanted it to be a shared experience. And while he clearly can manage on his own, as evidenced by Dear Grace, he appreciates music as a communal art. For me I like having a group of people, an ensemble, and getting everyones energy into this thing I created, he says. Last time I was more on my own, but I didnt want this album to be that way. It is not as much of a spiritual experience. When you bring in all these different talents and personalities on something that you created and bring it to the next level together, its tremendous. I remember being in the studio thinking, this is the best thing Ive done so far.
Working with longtime friends also gave him the opportunity to continue to pay back a Boston scene he is very proud of. Thats a big part of the reason the Boston Music Award meant so much to him. Those bands and artists who win a Boston Music Award are just hard-working Boston musicians, he says. I havent seen a person win one of those awards who isnt tenacious and bringing something to the music scene here. So getting that award is a gratifying feeling of accomplishment.
He admits being a little surprised because, like a true troubadour, he took his act on the road, building up a following and dedicated fan base the old-fashioned way by traveling around the country with his guitar. Sometimes I didnt mingle as much in Boston cause I would head out and go tour the country or Id position myself on the west coast and play up and down the west coast alone for a month and then come home, play a show, then leave again, he says. So to be out and come home, put out a record, and win an award was a testament to the fact that this is home, this is my base.
Dailey says Back Flipping Forward was definitely informed by his experiences outside of his native city as well. There are a lot of characters in songs like Hollywood Hills and Eliza, talking about fleeing to Mexico, spinning the tale of something thats definitely not the true life of a guy hanging out in Boston, Dailey says. That kind of national experience and the traveling, getting your hands dirty on the road, definitely seeps back into your art without even trying.
And while there are specific characters at the heart of those songs, the themes and ideas in Daileys lyrics hold true regardless of where a track was written. Within such songs as Eliza, Good To Me, and Undone, the ideas of redemption and restlessness play out as if in an early Bruce Springsteen song. In one of the strongest lyrical passages, at the conclusion of Rise, Dailey sings, When I grow up/I hope I get the hang of this/I bleed from 6 strings/I let the truth fall from my lips.
Its that commitment to honesty that makes Daileys rise an impressive one. Here is a troubadour traveling around the country on his own, determined to reach fans through the strength of his music. And now he finds himself, and the album he made independently, signed to CBS Records. Dailey admits he hasnt let himself think too much about being on the label whose famous logo adorned albums by the likes of Springsteen and Dylan, but he does confess it has at least crossed his mind, It was the label of Paul Simon.
Dailey shares something else with those storytellers, namely an appreciation for the lost art of the album. Because even though the songs on Back Flipping Forward were written in a span covering the past three years, together they represent an album. That unifying theme was important to him. I sat down with my producer and we picked 10 that just went together seamlessly, he says. I had a lot of songs on hand and couldve thrown a lot more out there, but I wanted to make a nice cohesive record. I wanted to make sure the whole album stuck on the wall, not just a few songs.
With different radio stations around the country having already picked up five or six songs and early press response being very strong, Dailey is finding out that in this case his instincts were right on.
When considering the roll call of rocks most influential icons, those rare artists that pose a triple threat are the ones that consistently stand out, musicians that seize the spotlight through their singing, songwriting and instrumental prowess. That hallowed breed of musician has become increasingly less common in popular music, so its especially worth noting that Keaton Simons also qualifies as a triple threat, given that his multifaceted talents have garnered him a presence on radio, television, film and the concert circuit. Its an especially auspicious distinction for an artist who is only now on the cusp of releasing his debut album, the prophetically titled tour de force, Can You Hear Me, on CBS Records.
The many career accomplishments hes racked up in such a relatively short time attest to both his aptitude and his attitude. In fact, music seemed to be in his genes. He was singing from the time he started talking even before his first birthday! By the time he was two, he was entertaining his classmates in daycare. At age twelve he was already adept on guitar, and by fourteen he had decided to make music his career. That obsession carried over to college, earning him a degree in Ethnomusicology the study of World Music at The Evergreen State College in Washington State. Absorbing a varied array of classic influences Hendrix, Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Robert Johnson among them he immersed himself in all forms of music, from Rock to Jazz, Blues to Bluegrass and melded them into a mix thats timely and timeless.
Keaton played in various bands before college but his studies at Evergreen taught him about theory and technique. I was always afraid that if I learned a real regimen, I would lose my soul and spontaneity, he recalls. But when I actually started to study music and composition I began to realize that learning the discipline would actually enhance my ability.
Meanwhile, Keaton was also learning some real life lessons. A family friend, bassist Gordon Edwards of the famous funk band Stuff, invited him to come to New York and sit in on some sessions. Eventually, Keaton met Tre Slimkid Hardson of the alternative L.A. rap group The Pharcyde. He signed on as their musical director, while contributing guitar, songwriting and arranging to Hardsons subsequent solo album. From there he expanded his musical apprenticeship and began working with other notable hip-hop acts, including the Black Eyed Peas, Medusa and Snoop Dogg, with whom he performed on The Tonight Show.
Despite extensive roadwork and a growing professional pedigree, Keaton started getting restless and chose to focus on ways to move his own career forward. Eventually, he signed a deal with Maverick Records, which led, in turn, to a debut EP called Currently. The title track garnered massive airplay at several stations around the country, including L.A.s leading tastemaker station KCRW. It also achieved Top 5 rotation on MTVU, MTVs specially formatted college outlet, sharing top spins with Green Day and Eminem.
Keaton soon began garnering exposure in other media as well. His songs were tapped for several movie soundtracks while Keaton himself was recruited for guest appearances on such popular network shows as The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Malcolm in the Middle and American Dreams. He also appeared in feature films like Hollywood Dreams (from noted independent director Henry Jaglom). Meanwhile, he continued to tour, gaining exposure before increasingly larger audiences and sharing the stage with such notable names as Coldplay, Chris Isaak, Gnarls Barkley, Mike Doughty, Josh Rouse, Guster, Five For Fighting and Josh Kelley with whom he co-wrote three songs for Kelleys upcoming album. He capped his accomplishments with a second place win in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
Unfortunately, Mavericks fortunes began to falter, and when the label was absorbed by Warner Bros., Keaton became a free agent once again. Still, he remained undeterred, touring the country and keeping his contacts at radio while sustaining his airplay. The anticipation for a full-length album was always there, Keaton claims. Radio programmers kept asking when there would be more. So when I had the chance to join CBS, I knew Id finally have another opportunity to get my music back out there.
Indeed, Can You Hear Me lives up to all expectations. Produced by Dave Bianco, the album mines the classic singer/songwriter traditions spawned by greats like Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, John Hiatt and other artists known for their soulful sway.
Keatons tasteful fretwork, masterful songwriting and searing vocals bring an honesty and integrity thats instantly embracing, a warm emotional center core that reaches from the tangled vulnerability of opening track Without Your Skin and the lean, sensual drift of To Me to the spry suggestion of the title track and the playful intrigue of Misfits. Nobody Knows proves instantly infectious, its sinewy rhythms wrapping around an irresistible refrain, while Masterpiece lives up to its title through a suggestive sway certain to put its listeners in a romantic mood. I wanted to get back to honest, straight-forward expression; a purity and dynamic that relied on the strength of the songs and not the added embellishment of the arrangements, Keaton insists. I think this album represents who I am as an artist and captures the sound of my live performances authentically.
As he views his prospects going forward, Keaton maintains his main ambition is to continue to focus on his live performances, and draw more and more fans to his shows. Ive been doing this awhile, but I believe theres so much left for me to accomplish, he reflects. Theres no reason to aim low; I have confidence in my abilities and I believe that widespread success is within my grasp. Its cool to be with a company like CBS that feels the same way and believes in me so strongly. It reinforces my confidence.
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