(Photo courtesy of brisbanepowerhouse.org)
“So when I told you I was afraid to fall / Really I was afraid to fly / When I told you I was afraid to fall / Really I was afraid to fly at all.”
Those are the words from Daniel Champagne’s song, The Nightingale, which he performed during his first show in Los Angeles at Hotel Café in Hollywood.
This Australian Edgar Allan Faux singer-songwriter, put together an incredible acoustic one-man show. While watching Daniel Champagne play his music, it’s easy to fantasize about what it would be like if he played a private show for you at home, while you’re sitting on the floor, next to a fireplace, chills running up and down your spine.
We had the opportunity to talk to Daniel Champagne backstage after his show. He shared with us how influential it was to watch his father play the guitar (yes, they’ve written songs together), what he’s hoping to do in the U.S. now that he lives in Nashville, and why he likes the L.A. dating vibe.
Labeling Men: Great performance tonight! That truly was amazing. How long have you been playing music?
Daniel Champagne: Thank you very much, that was a lot of fun. I’ve been playing guitar since I was, like, five years old. My dad was a guitar player and so that’s how I started off.
L.M: How old were you when you started recording your music and putting out albums?
D.C: Well… I tried to record my first song when I was 16. The first thing I ever released, I was 18, and went on my first tour and put out a little EP. It’s been a gradual process of doing different EPs and live things. There’s three main albums that I’ve released in the last four years.
L.M: You mentioned that your dad was a musician; what inspired you to pick up the guitar and play as well?
D.C: My first memories were of him practicing with his band in the backyard. At five or six [years old] we got asked if we wanted to learn how to play an instrument, what would that be? I just naturally said guitar because I thought it was the coolest instrument to play. I still think that.
L.M: That’s so cool. So, that is what inspired you to become a musician?
D.C: Yeah, initially.
L.M: What is it now?
D.C: I mean, now it’s just that I love playing, that’s the main thing. I love traveling and I love the people that I’m connected to from playing. All my friends now have, basically, come out of music. It’s also my job now, which is really cool.
L.M: Who would you say are some of the musicians that inspire you or your music?
D.C: There’s so many different people, but there’s three main ones that I like to mention. It’s two American guys, one is called Chris Whitley. He was a singer-songwriter from Texas who also played the guitar. Another guy is Kelly Joe Phelps, who’s from Portland. There’s another guy from Australia named Jeff Lang that I really love. Outside of that, it’s a lot of guitar players… a lot of rock and roll guys.
L.M: How old were you when you started writing your own songs?
D.C: I think I was about 12 or 13, but they were not very good. I mean, I couldn’t remember them, but it was a gradual process of turning them into something that I was proud to perform… I guess you have to write a lot of bad songs to get the good ones.
L.M: Haha, that makes sense. Do your songs have a general theme?
D.C: I mean, I don’t try to, but I think there is. There’s traveling, you know [the] transient lifestyle, people. It’s also biographical and personal.
L.M: That’s a great and interesting theme. Why did you choose to play acoustic music?
D.C: I think it was because I played classical guitar for a long time, like 10 years. But acoustic, you can feel it while you’re playing it. You feel more connected and it’s easy to put emotion. For me, the electric guitar was always harder to channel all the feelings into sound. Also, I like being solo. I mean, acoustic works a lot better for that.
L.M: Is there a reason in particular as to why you chose to be a one-man band on stage?
D.C: There’s a few reasons. First of all, I kind of like being by myself a lot of the time. Secondly, I like being in control of the situation on stage, like if I feel like playing something [I don’t have] to check-in with other people. If I work with other musicians, I’d have to write differently. I do write softer stuff and other strings come in, or whatever, but a lot of the really busy guitar stuff is not enough room. If other people would play it, it would be taken away from that. I just like doing all that.
L.M: You do an amazing job as a one-man band. I love how you can easily switch back and forth from playing the guitar and tapping on it, or doing it together. How long did it take you to master that?
D.C: I’m still learning. I probably started doing it in late high school and it’s really a collection of different techniques and then you can do with them what you will. A lot of guitar players do it in their own way. So, yeah, I’m still learning about it and trying new things, which is exciting. Guitar is an instrument, you know, it’s like traditional form. There’s been so much done on it, it’s hard to find new things, so it’s fun to step to the left of that.
L.M: That’s awesome and you make it sounds amazing. What has been one of your favorite moments since you started touring?
D.C: Gee, there’s a lot. It’s all pretty cool. Some of the really big festivals are good, you know, in Australia there’s some pretty big ones I play every year. Bob Dylan played at the last one and then Neil Young played at the one before that. It’s always good to be on the same stage as those guys.
L.M: Yeah, that’s awesome!
D.C: I think the biggest thing is having played with the three artists that I mentioned before, [Chris Whitley, Kelly Joe Phelps and Jeff Lang]. I’ve played with all of those guys. That’s a really cool moment when you realize that you’re sitting next to the person that you listen to a lot.
L.M: That’s great! How many festivals and shows have you been part of?
D.C: I’ve done over a thousands shows now, which is a lot. Festivals… I’ve got no idea, maybe like 15 a year.
L.M: Is that including all over the country? The world?
D.C: Basically, Canada, which has a lot of great festivals. And Australia.
L.M: Which song are you the most proud of?
D.C: It would have to be The Nightingale [Listen to it here], the first song I played tonight, or Heart Like This [Listen to it here]. Those two are the two that I really like.
L.M: Why is that?
D.C: The Nightingale, I never used to like it, but it was the one that connected the most with people. Like, you don’t have control over what songs people would like you to play in shows, but that’s that’s the one that people want to hear from me. There’s been a lot of cool stories of people playing that song at their wedding.
L.M: That’s really sweet.
D.C: So, because of that, I kind of just like playing it. And Heart Like This, I guess I just feel like I really like it.
L.M: They’re both beautiful songs.
D.C: Thank you so much.
L.M: As you know, our website is called Labeling Men, so moving a little bit towards fashion, would you say that your music inspires your fashion or vise versa?
D.C: Haha, I would say that, I mean, my fashion style is pretty much this… I just wear a shirt, jeans, and I get a different pair of shoes every month because I kick them in and so they get holes in them.
L.M: I really like those shoes. What brand are they?
D.C: I have no idea. I think they were like, 30 dollars.. Then, I just wear these button up shirts that I can just shove it in my bag like that and then pull them out. This you can pull out and can’t tell, really, [if that’s its style]. I don’t think it has much to do with the music.
L.M: What is your favorite staple in your wardrobe?
D.C: Ha, denim. I really like denim [and] button ups. Most of my shirts are from my grandmother, or stolen from my friend.
L.M: Vintage…Wait, you just steal your grandmother’s shirts?
D.C: No, no, no… Haha. I don’t steal them from my grandmother. I give her money and she goes to buy them for me.
L.M: Haha, really? That’s super sweet and hilarious.
D.C: Haha. She’s got really good taste and I’m really bad at shopping.
L.M: How will she shop for you now that you’re in Nashville if she’s in Australia?
D.C: I guess I just won’t be getting any new clothes for a long time. But I will be going back to Australia in January.
L.M: So, she’ll probably have clothes for you.
D.C: Haha, yeah. Fingers crossed.
L.M: Fingers crossed. Labeling Men also has a dating section and we were wondering if you have any funny dating stories that you’d like to share with us?
D.C: This isn’t really a dating story, for me, but I had this old lady seriously stalking me a few years ago.
L.M: Wow. Was that here or in Australia?
D.C: This was in Australia. What happened was that she was following me around in festivals and coming to all the shows and she’d always come up to me and hug me and cover me in her sweat and kisses. She’d come to all these shows, like 5 different shows, and during the last one, she got there an hour before I did and she’d always come and sit right in the front. I finished my last song, put my guitar and its case and ran out. This lady, with incredible speed for a woman her age, just ran after me and caught up with me and was like, “If you don’t have to go to the mainlands right away” - because I was playing on an island - [and she was like], “You should come and play a private show for me at my house.”
L.M: Wow. Very forward.
D.C: Yeah. I played house concerts and people usually invite other people as well. But, I showed up and it was just me and her. She cooked herself a massive meal and didn’t offer me any.
L.M: What? You actually went and she didn’t even offer you dinner?
D.C: She just got me to play her songs all night from the other side of the table.
L.M: That’s really funny. On that note, do you have any relationship advice for our readers?
D.C: I think, in American, people are a bit more forward and I kind of like that. People are more honest and forward. In Australia, it’s a little bit like childish. Like, some guys and girls can’t talk unless they’re at a club with really loud music and they’re really drunk. Over here’s a bit more normal to be confident. But I don’t really have advice.
L.M: Haha, you just like the L.A. vibe. So, what’s next for you?
D.C: Living in America is a new thing, so it’s basically playing as much as I can in America. I’ve been touring in Australia and Europe and Canada for a long time… but in America, it’s just starting by playing for the first time everywhere. Just going around and around and around everywhere and getting in front of people, which is good.
L.M: That’s exciting.
D.C: Yeah, so that’s basically what the next few years are going to be, mostly. I’ll be going touring to these other places, but I’ll come back.
L.M: Are you putting out a new album any time soon?
D.C: There’s going to be another one next year, but probably the end of next year. It’s not in the works at the moment.
L.M: That’s great. We’re totally looking forward to it. Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention?
D.C: I’d like to get your feedback on my fashion style.
L.M: Haha, it’s a great look! It’s very L.A. and we would never know you weren’t from here.
You can listen to the beautiful songs written and performed by Daniel Champagne on his Soundcloud page here
Find out when he’ll be performing in a city near you by following his Facebook Page or website www.danielchampagnemusic.com
Photos by Amelia Williams. Interview by Karen M. Guzelian
This interview has been edited and condensed