The Melbourne singer-songwriter is on his way back home after years abroad. He talked to ALEX HARMON about ‘clicking’ with Mark Ronson, messing with Smiths fans and fighting with security…
Hey Dan, where are you at the moment?
I’m in New York City, the rotten apple. I’ve been here for a while now, it’s like a second home.
You’ve also spent a while in the UK?
Yeah I did. I went over there to promote my record when it came out and I was on the road there for months. I was there a lot with Mark Ronson, touring with him on and off for about 18 months and then I put my album out, Love and War, and went on the road with that.
How did you meet Mark Ronson?
I was 19 and made a demo. My manager at the time sent the demo to a bunch of record companies and I guess someone gave it to Mark. He was just a DJ at the time, trying to sort of make it himself. He flew me over and we just got along really well. Musically we saw eye to eye, so it basically went from there.
You covered The Smiths song “Stop Me”. Were you a big fan of theirs?
Oh no, not at all. It’s not that I didn’t like them, it’s just that I didn’t really grow up listening to their music. But when I first heard that song I was just instantly drawn to it. I’m a lyrics guys, I love poetry and lyrics and the lyrics to that song just hit me, so it was a no-brainer to do it. Mark’s album Version is basically an album of his favourite songs growing up. He just got all of his friends who were singers to play his favourite songs and one of those songs was “Stop Me”.
How did Smiths fans take it?
Well, Smiths fans are probably like the most die-hard of all fans, you know, you don’t mess with Smiths fans. And I didn’t know this at the time of course. So Smiths fans were coming up to me in the street or on blogs and giving me or Mark idle threats like, “when I see you next I’m going to stab you in the face with a daffodil”.
So, what music did you grow up with?
Well the first CD I ever bought when I was 10 was Boys II Men. You know, so I listened to super cheesy R&B as a child, but then, as you do, you go backwards. I was then listening to Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and a lot of 70s soul music. It was very varied. I also played the violin from the age of four. I’d be walking down the street whistling “Concerto in A minor” by Vivaldi, then the next second whistling Radiohead.
If you weren’t a musician, then…
Well, the last job I had was at KFC, cooking in the kitchen. And I used to do a bit of graffiti art, so who knows… But in all honesty, if I hadn’t dropped out of high school then I probably would have followed my passion, philosophy.
You’ve toured with some big names. Who’s been the highlight for you?
Oh, I mean Jay-Z pretty much takes the cake. He’s an enigma and a visionary. Last time I saw him he dragged me into his office to play me this Bob Dylan song. He was like: “Dan, you’ve gotta cover this song.” I can’t remember what it was, but it was just weird, it was like ultra-modernism: this rapper is asking me to sing a Dylan song. It’s not to say that rappers don’t know folk music, but it was just kind of like, whoa, you’re Jay-Z.
Ever met a celebrity that you had a crush on?
Natalie Imbruglia. I met her one day and I was so nervous because she’s really hot. And she was super friendly and sexy and I was like, “oh my God, what’s going on here?”. And I didn’t have my game on. Normally I got them lines you know, but that day I was off.
Who’s your celebrity double?
Well not any more, I guess my jaw grew or something, but I used to get Ryan Phillippe when I was about 18.
How’d you get the scar on your cheek?
It was security at Metro nightclub in Melbourne, not the Sydney one, I don’t wanna diss them. The security team dragged me out the side door and beat me unconscious. I think they thought I was involved in something but I wasn’t. Normally I am that guy but this time I actually wasn’t. I think one of them had a ring on, I don’t remember it. I had temporary amnesia.
Excited about the Homebake festival?
Yeah I’m super excited. It’s kind of perfect timing because I’m about to put out a mix tape and then follow it up with an album and get back on the road, so it’s a good warm up show. I played Homebake last year and
loved it. There’s nothing like coming back to home ground.
Daniel Merriweather plays Homebake Festival, Saturday, December 3, The Domain, Sydney. http://www.homebake.com.au[homebake.com.au]