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Here's Five: Delaney Davidson Talks About His Favourite Collaborations

Here's Five: Delaney Davidson Talks About His Favourite Collaborations

Commentary by Delaney Davidson / Monday 5th November, 2018 4:26PM

Itinerant Lyttelton songwriter Delaney Davidson's long-awaited national release tour for his latest album Shining Day commences this coming Friday at Auckland's Wine Cellar, following an extensive run of shows in Europe including gigs alongside long-time collaborator Marlon Williams. The in-demand artist never lays his hat down for long and has worked with a raft of local talent, from such well-known musical icons as Neil Finn and Graham Brazier, to encouraging the creative spark of a fresh generation of world-class songwriters emanating from his coastal home town. Davidson generously shared a selection of collaborative highlights from his enigmatic and endlessly-expanding back catalogue, plus a bonus pick from the new album - read his words on each track below.

Co-writing is one of the most exciting, revealing and rewarding forms of songwriting I have worked with. Learning about new ways through the form, and exposing your own strengths and weaknesses can be irresistibly fascinating. Not to mention the highly addictive speed that two people can knock out an amalgam of alchemical “sum is greater than the parts” triumph. I learned about this in Wisconsin with the invisible legend Pat Macdonald at his songwriting camps in the Holiday Music Motel, and it became a staple in my toolbox of songwriting. Here are a handful of my highlights...

1. 'Running to You' – Delaney Davidson and Tami Nielson

One of my favourite co-writes ever. During the Dynamite recording sessions this song sparked off in my head walking through a room. By the time I got to the other side of the room it had formed into a feel and an idea, I showed it to Tami we set words to it and 2 hours later we were recording it. It just took off, Dave Khan adding the strings and the band picking it up like lightning. I still love to hear it because it felt so effortless. Writing with Tami often feels like being pulled down a fast river.

2. 'Bloodletter' – Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams

Writing for the Sad But True album me and Marlon pushed 'Bloodletter' through several forms until it stuck with what it is now. Marlon took it home and came back with the one it was recorded as. We had a loose guitar track and asked Shane Bollingford to come into the studio. In only one take he had the drums sitting so perfectly in the groove we couldn’t believe our ears. It was like magic. The video really took this song into another dimension. People tell me they thought it was going to be a feature film and actually pulled up a chair and a drink, getting ready for 90 minutes of viewing, they were really bummed when it finished so quick.

3. 'Billy Bold' - Graham Brazier, arrangement by Delaney Davidson and Victoria Kelly

I first heard of this song when Victoria Kelly asked me if I would play the tribute to Graham Brazier at the Silver Scroll. I listened to it and found this pulse beat that I tied to together with. As I was based in Christchurch there was no real time to rehearse it so I sent Victoria a demo of me playing it. She set her incredible string part to it and I got to hear it for the first time live on stage at the Awards. As I was playing it looking out into the dark arena I felt this spirit of music flowing through me and saw all New Zealand music as belonging to the same thing, all the divisions and genres just melted away. The words to the song say ”So they write you down on their social list” but somehow I said “Historical list”. I had spent a while learning the words so I knew them but this seemed to be what was happening to Graham with the tribute and I was totally unaware of saying it this way. It was a strange performance to be a part of and very moving. It was also the first time I met Harry Lyon.

4. 'Lackies Men' – Delaney Davidson and Eric McFadden

I am always amazed at the quick way music can come about. This co-write with Eric McFadden US guitar legend was an idea I had when we were staying in a hotel being renovated in Wisconsin for a songwriting festival. There was tension between the renovation builders and the writing musicians. I think the builders thought we were a bunch of lazy artists. We wrote all through the night so often were sleeping late in the morning. I thought it would be a great idea to write a song where the builders were heroes. This way they would see we thought they were doing a great job. The song took about an hour to write as the speed two brains work together is exponentially faster than the way brains work by themselves. It really eased the tension and they even started to come to our shows to request the song.

5. 'Shining Day' – Delaney Davidson and SJD

Sometimes writing songs you get to a point where you think: Can I really squeeze more out? On one hand you feel like anything could become a song and on the other hand you feel like you are gonna get caught with your hand in the cookie jar and maybe you should quit while you are ahead. It takes energy and focus and your brain can start to feel over taxed. I had spent two days writing with Sean Donnelly and we had 5 or 6 songs. It was a couple of hours before I had to drop him at the airport and we started tapping away on the drum kit. Before we knew it this song fell into place. It had a real feel of its own and a whole new approach to lyric writing that I loved. It was “I just want to say this, and I don’t care if it rhymes or how it sounds.” It ended up being the title track for the new album. If ever I wonder if it’s worth it to start something new I think of songs like this. It is always worth it.

Bonus song: 'Strange I Know' – Delaney Davidson and Nathaniel Rateliff

This was co written with Nathaniel Rateliff in his back yard and funny now I look back, he seemed to be trying to play my sound and I was trying to play his. This song landed somewhere between. It has a really nice succinctness to it and ties itself up so neatly, somehow it has a Randy Newman feeling in it.

Delaney Davidson is playing throughout Aotearoa in November - for tickets and more info head along here.


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Fri 9th Nov
The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Sat 10th Nov
The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Sun 11th Nov
Leigh Sawmill Cafe, Leigh
Fri 16th Nov
Kiwi Hall, Featherston
Sat 17th Nov
Meow, Wellington
Fri 23rd Nov
Grainstore Gallery, Oamaru
Sat 24th Nov
Captain Cook, Dunedin

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