If they gave out prizes to the nicest guys in rock then Danny Vaughn would have a room full by now. After finding success with Waysted and Tyketto he has carved out an impressive solo career with the Vaughn band who issued the excellent Traveller via Frontiers back in 2007. At the end of 2008 Danny put together two acoustic shows for his UK fans which has now been given a CD release entitled The Road Less Travelled. Dean Pedley caught up with the man he considers to be the finest melodic rock vocalist of any era to get the lowdown on Danny's latest activities.
SoT: Hi Danny and thanks for taking some time out to chat to us about "The Road Less Travelled", a live acoustic album you've released in conjunction with www.hardrockhouse.com. Take us through the background as to how these two acoustic shows came together…
Danny: From time to time I do some acoustic shows around the UK. It's a great chance for me to play some of the songs I'm known for in a different setting. I've done them just by myself and also with a partner. For instance, Tony Marshall and I played together acoustically opening up for Journey in the UK in 2007. So whether it's in a small pub, or at the Manchester Apollo, they are always a lot of fun to do and very challenging. Last year, Steve from Hardrockhouse asked me if I would be interested in doing a couple of acoustic shows around Christmastime. He proposed that I do a solo show in Newcastle at The Cluny, a place I've played before and like very much. I wanted to do it but before long I was looking for a way to make the show different from what I have done previously. So I called some of the guys that recorded "Traveller" with me and proposed that we all try it together as an Unplugged/Live rather than a solo acoustic show. It isn't as easy as it sounds and we were all a little daunted by the idea, but once practice began everyone got very excited about the possibilities.
SoT: You chose Dudley and Newcastle for the two locations…you always seem to get such a great reaction from the crowds there..
Danny: Originally, it was just going to be the one show in Newcastle. But then the rehearsals got going and the band was very into the set list I had chosen. So we looked around to do another show for that weekend. JB's in Dudley was a natural choice because I've always had such a good relationship with the good people that run that place. It was then that Steve suggested recording the 2nd show and it all got a little crazy.
SoT: How much time did you have to rehearse with the guys in the band?
Danny: The guys did a fair amount of work without me at first because I was busy on tour with the Illegal Eagles at the time. But I did a lot of homework studying my song choices and charting out vocal and guitar parts ahead of time so there wasn't a lot of time wasted scratching our heads in the final rehearsals. I didn't get to work with the entire band until just before the shows.
SoT: Would you agree that choosing the right set list is even more important when putting together an acoustic performance? Some people might be surprised at some of your choices….you really delved deep into the back catalogue…
Danny: I have to admit that I got pretty self-indulgent when I picked the songs. I just figured that so many people have heard me sing "Forever Young" in one form or another that it would be okay to leave it out and go for some songs that were a bit more obscure. My fans have been very forgiving over the years. I chose a lot of stuff from the 2 "From The Inside" albums because I rarely play any of them live. And there were also some songs in the set that have never been performed live anywhere. Normally I don't tour with a keyboard player in my solo band so this time we got a great player in named Mike Corfield. His presence made it possible for me to choose a wider variety of songs from my previous albums.
SoT: "Forever Young" was one notable omission…have you grown tired of playing that one after all these years?
Danny: I was tired of it once and then I got back into it again several years ago. Sometimes we can get a little too up our own arses and think "Oh God, why do I have to play THAT one again?" And then some kind person will remind me that it's not really "my" song anymore. The song has a life of its own and has meaning for a number of people out there. I thought it would be okay to leave it off this one time as I had done an acoustic version of that on the "Standing Alone" re-release cd.
SoT: Did you do much additional work in the studio or is the album very much a "warts and all" live release?
Danny: Oh there are plenty of warts! "Howlers" we called them. We had a competition when listening down to see who had the most howlers, who had the least, and who had the single worst one.
Some things simply had to be fixed. When you do a live recording, there can be a lot of microphone bleed, meaning that the mics used for a backing vocal might also be picking up drums and other instruments. All that extra noise on the track made it impossible to keep the backing vocals that we had so, with a few exceptions, we had to re-do those. But we left as much of everything else as we could exactly as it was on the night.
SoT: I was in the crowd at Newcastle and it seemed like such a celebration for you and the fans of what you have achieved so far....I guess the emotion of the occasion would be hard to replicate if you embarked on a full acoustic tour?
Danny: You're absolutely right! It really did feel like a celebration. Everyone was into the spirit of the thing. At moments like that I really have to stop and catch my breath because it strikes home how many people know my songs and my lyrics. It's never stopped being an amazing experience for me when so many people sing along.
SoT: Some of the material from Traveller really stands up well on this live record. A couple of years on, what's your view on this album and how important is when taking your career as a whole?
Danny: It's hard to say. Albums are like snapshots. You can never line things up exactly the same way again. So later, when you look at them you sometimes wonder how it was that you got there in the first place. I hope that I'll look back and find the singing and the playing honest and from the heart. It's really the most you can aim for when you play live, that it's real for you and for the audience and not just another night out.
SoT: Traveller got some amazing reviews…is it frustrating that this doesn't always follow through with increased sales…
Danny: It can be very frustrating. Sadly, a label like Frontiers is very good at getting your music out to the public that they know is already in place and interested. But they don't have any sort of game plan for finding new fans out there in the world. All you can do is give it your best effort and hope it gets heard.
SoT: What's the current status of the Vaughn band…can we expect a follow up to Traveller at some point in the future?
Danny: Yes, but I have no idea when. I'm afraid that one of my faults is that I'm a very slow writer. There are some other projects in the wind right now and they are being worked on first.
SoT: And how about Tyketto…you guys can't keep touring those same two albums forever and the demand seems to be there for a new album….
Danny: You've hit it in one. We have all decided that we can't keep playing the same shows with the same songs over and over. It would get stale for the audience. But we've also had to face the fact that we aren't going to be working with Brooke St. James again soon as he is doing really well and is very involved with his band in Las Vegas. So we had to really sit and think about whether we wanted to go on at all. We had some very promising shows with the new line up of PJ Zitarosa on guitar, Bobby Lynch on keyboards, and Steve Mckenna on bass. We played a great set at Sweden Rock last summer and are hoping to get involved with some of the festivals in the States next summer. So, we think it would be really exciting to try and do all of that with a new Tyketto album under our belts. I'm beginning the writing process now and we'll see what we come up with. If we like what we are doing, we'll be in the studio over the summer of 2010. The trick is, that we want to write songs that are in keeping with the Tyketto that our fans know and love. I think it's wrong when a band keeps it's name but veers so far off the path that nobody recognizes their sound. Anyway, that's the plan. I'll let you know how we do.
SoT: You've had a lengthy and varied career so far…have you ever thought about penning an autobiography?
Danny: Yes, it would be entitled "Nobody You Know" ;-) I guess I have thought about it but the problem is that the story isn't over yet. I want to see how it ends before I write it. Don't you love it when people put out their biographies when they are still in their 20's? Do I really want to read about Britny Spears' life so far? Please.
SoT: Looking ahead what are your hopes and aspirations over the next twelve months?
Danny: I'd like to get some real song writing done. I've really not gotten back into a creative groove like I used to and it's worrying. It's never easy but I'm long overdue for some real creative work.
SoT: And the obligatory final question…anything else you wanted to add about the live album or any message to your fans?
Danny: My hopes for the new cd is to generate enough copies sold so that I have the capital to make another secret little project of mine. It's entitled "Myths, Legends, and Lies" and it would be an acoustic album of all of my "orphan" songs. These are all songs that I have written over the years that were too weird, or different, or silly to be included on a rock album of any kind, be it a solo project or a Tyketto album. I have 20 songs finished and a lot of very interesting (to me at least) arrangement ideas that I would love to get to the finish line. These days, selling albums isn't about accumulating personal wealth at all, for me, but about allowing me to keep working and creating. If I can't do that, then I'm going to take ALL the money I've made off of the live cd and buy something huge and indulgent, like an oven mitt!!
SoT: Cheers Danny and congratulations on your recent marriage
Danny: Thank you Dean, from the both of us!
Go to www.hardrockhouse.com to order The Road Less Travelled and check out some samples below:-