The unabridged Danny Tulk interview

I really enjoy the opportunity I get, thanks to Arts Council Wood Buffalo, to write about the arts in our community and share it in the YMM Arts Column in the Saturday edition of the Fort McMurray Today.  This week features a brief excerpt of an interview with Dan Tulk about the release of his new CD "Uncovered".  Here is the complete interview, warts and all.

Q: In what ways is this album a dream come true?

Danny: I’ve been a professional musician for a long time, since I was in my teens, and I’ve always enjoyed being a songwriter as well and have been writing tunes for years. However, my comfort zone has always been playing cover songs in bar and pubs. Don’t get me wrong; I love the energy and performance aspect of music and will continue to do this, but always wanted to try and do my tunes.

When I was in university I set myself a few goals that I wanted to accomplish (or at least attempt to) and this was one of the top things on my bucket list. About 3 year ago my musical playing career was taking off and I decided that it was time is seriously think about finally recording my own music. I shopped around studios and called a few Edmonton, Calgary, and other cities before I found Creative Caffeine studios in Nashville. I Google searched and gave them a call and the Pino, Ben, and Luke were the most genuine people that I could of ever desired. These people worked in a great studio and were genuine musicians and artists first.

 Leading up to recording, I spent a considerable amount of time thumbing old notepads and reworking songs I wrote previously as well as working on a bunch of new tunes. The most extreme of these examples would be the first track on the album “Feel the Rain” which I wrote when I was 16 and the track “Thank You” which I wrote on the plane to Nashville the day prior to recording. Actually, the first time I played the song (not in my head) was in the studio.

When I was in the studio in Nashville I worked with amazing artist and producers who really opened my eyes to how my music could sound. When it was done and my week was over, I had created something far more rewarding then I had ever expected. My initial idea was a rough recording that would be essentially for a few friends, at a couple bars, and really for me. But, I ended up with a great album that is getting far more attention than I expected in a lot of different places. I have received messages from all over newfoundland and Alberta, as well as Quebec, BC, Ontario, the states, and even a few from the UK. Mostly due to the video for “Dance With Me” produced locally by Neville Productions.

All in all, This was a dream and is a dream that continues to come true.

Q: Where did you record it, who were the players, and how did you enjoy the process?

Danny: I was looking to record the album and was trying to find the studio that fit my personality when I decided, kind of as a personal joke to look in Nashville, I mean who wouldn’t want to record in Music City USA. I found a few studios and looked a reviews and pictures and found this cool studio, Ctreative Caffeine that was all about the artist and had a real cool looking environment. BTW, great acts like Taylor Swift and Peter Frampton had recorded at this place, so on a whim I called the number and spoke to Pino (my eventual producer). The guy was chill, relaxed, and knew everybody but was still do down to earth. I was expecting some absurd cost and was really not expecting to record there. But, we talked and he was easy to work with and we come to a very good agreement. Next thing I knew, I was off to Nashville to record.

This is a long process, and I was grossly underestimating my time. I thought, “Hey, I’ll show up, record my songs for a few hours a day and maybe even sightsee a little”. Boy was I wrong.

I landed in Nashville and checked into my hotel and didn’t have time to have a shower when Pino called and invited me to a showcase to meet people and see some great up and coming talent.
The next morning I went into the studio and spend 10 to 12 hours every day, sometimes working until 1 and 2 in the morning. It was an experience I can never forget and, although I saw very little of the city of Nashville, I got to experience something that was incredible and meet some of the most amazing people.

The process was rewarding and it was great to work with a producer and team of that quality. I was sometimes confused and amazed about what was happening. I would play my song and they would offer tweaks and suggestions and really transformed my songs and brought to levels I never thought possible.

I had some great musicisns help me along the way. World renowned percussionist Pino Squillace of music mafia produced the album and provided procession, Nashville recording artist Ben Strugell playing keys and bass on the album, and Dick Aven added harmonies and other instruments. Also, Luke Craig was my sound engineer who was like a young Yoda. He just has some kind of sixth sense for how to make sounds. I was just say "I want to sound like this" and give some odd obscure sound description and he was just say okay and somehow make it sound that way.

Q: In your view, as a very busy gigging musician, what is the appetite for quality live music in Fort McMurray, and what kind of support are you getting from the venues?

Danny: Fort McMurray gets a bad rap from outside for being uncultured and not the place for art. But, all I can say is that this is nowhere near the case. People love live music and that’s evident in the amount of gigs that are available, with all the venues having music and so many great acts in this town. There is currently an explosion of live music here from almost ever genre. Because of the caliber of acts like Dan Gillies, Joe Rebel, Sentimental Gentlemen, Stu Marchand, Ian McLaws, Max Noseworthy, Mychela, and Shantelle Davidson, just to name a few… people in town expect professional and high quality music. This is great because it forces all the musicians in town keep up their game and produce quality music. Gigs in this town are plentiful, but you need to make sure you bring a professional product.

The venues in this town are amazing and I’ve worked with most of them. They have all been so supportive in taking me in and working on my schedule. It also helps that I’m flexible as well, I always think about the future, you don’t want to burn bridges and you need to take pride and professionalism in what you do.

Q: What has the response been to your interesting cover art? (ha ha ha)

Danny: LOL… so good. It was done by some local artist. I can’t really remember his name; I think he might have done other stuff in town? LOL - wink emoticon. But seriously, I asked you because your art was real and really demonstrates the creative and amazing work that is coming out of this town. I love the northern lights and wilderness, but that’s not all we are. We are a diverse city with so many talented people. When I looked at your portraits, I knew it had the grit to capture what I wanted in an album cover. People love it and the graphic design team did a great job at making it into an album cover. I have seen it on phone background, desktops, and it’s even been made into mugs. I’ve been getting request to have shirts made with the image. We will have to see if that happens.

But, you really captured my essence and it’s a great cover. Once I had decided to expand what the album was going to be I knew I need something that would stand out and something that wasn’t the typical album cover. I think that’s what I got.

Q: Several of the songs come across as very personal, tributes to the important people in your life. Who are they and what did this project mean to them?

Danny: I agree the songs are sometimes very personal. I actually only seem to write in moments of polar emotion. I’m either very happy or sad. This is one of the main hurdles I had top overcome to make the album. My songs are very personal to me and usually coincide with a great time or a dark time and it’s very had to share that and let people see that vulnerability. I also wondered who I might offend and it took a long time to get past that. I have quite a few songs that didn’t make the album because I still fight with sharing them with people.

The title of the album harkens to this struggle. I decided on the title “Uncovered” as it represents me moving away from being a cover artist to playing my own material as well as the idea that your expose yourself when you perform songs that you wrote that are based on personal experiences.
Each of the songs has its own story and I’d love to tell them all, but I’ll just pick a few.

"Thank You" – This is the song I wrote on the plane to Nashville and was inspired by the three great females in my life: My mother, wife, and daughter. I played with the idea that if I was never to see them all again what would I like to tell them. What would be me last words to them. Each verse is a message to one of them, My mother first, my wife second, and finally my wife.

"Dance With Me" - This song came out of a little frustration. I was trying to write a song and had been caught in writer's block for a few weeks and always to develop deep and intellectual music. Originally, the song started with the first lyrics: “10 finger meticulously mapping out the conscious of my soul” or something meta like that. I had lost touch with the emotion of music and getting a little down on myself. On a particularly quiet Thursday gig at a local pub, I was playing this simple song that was just about having a good time, no pretence, no elaborate chords, just music and one of the patrons starting dancing all by herself on the floor. She was just having a good time and enjoying the song. The world wasn’t there; I wasn’t there, just the herself and the music. I played a few extra choruses and it dawned on me that simple music is good music, that a catch is about being happy and not all music needs to be complex. On my break that night I wrote “Dance With We” in 5 or 6 minutes. It’s a catchy tune that’s getting a lot of attention and kind of sticks in your head. (as you know).

By the way, the patron was Michelle Thorne of Arts Council of Wood Buffalo. I never told her until a few years later when I was about the release the album that she was the inspiration for the song and personally broke my writer's block.

"Sommer Day" – This is a real personal tune to me and no it’s not a spelling error. During my undergrad, I spent time in England and one day a group if us (we were history students) went to the WW1 battlefields in France where the battle of Beaumont-Hamel had been fought by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. You can read about the battle, but the German Army nearly wiped out the Newfoundlanders by machine gunning them down after they left the trench and reached a point nicknamed the Deadman’s tree, at that point they were in the middle of the field and would be unable to retreat or move forward fast enough to escape the gun. That area was given to Newfoundland after the war and is now Canadian territory called “Newfoundland Park”. The song uses east coast musical styles and I wrote it from the perspective of the men in France on the night before having a drink before going to die the next morning as well as us remembering them now by raising our glasses.

Q: You kicked things off with the release of a video for "Dance With Me" at Casman. It looks like you had a lot of people help out with that project. How did it come together?

Danny: "Dance With Me" is the most upbeat and happy song on the album and I just love playing it. I really wanted to have a video to share when the album was to come out and felt this song was the best fit. I had spoken with Jerry Neville at the Communities in Bloom celebration (He was the MC and I was the entertainment) and we spoke briefly about it. A few days weeks later we connected and began planning out the shoot. I asked for local volunteers and in Fort McMurray fashion people responded in droves. We shot over two days in my backyard and around the community. I seemed to get some funny looks playing my guitar in the middle of Franklin Ave.

Jerry and Jen did a great job and brought fantastic ideas to the project and I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception and exposure the video is getting. People tell me they love the song and that they can’t stop singing it, which is fantastic and every musicians dream. Or at least mine.

Q: Last question: what is the song on the album that you most enjoy performing? Also, what song are you most connected to emotionally?

Danny: Well, that’s a hard one. "Dance With Me" is the most gratifying. At my CD release show last week, I played that songs and was amazed how many people recognized it and moved to the dance floor and started singing along. I’ve been in many situations, where people sing along with me and its fun to have them enjoy the music and interact, but I had never experienced this with a song I wrote. It was, not exaggerating, a euphoric experience that nearly choked me up on stage. I got a call from a cousin just yesterday who I haven’t seen in many years and he told me that his daughter can’t stop watching the video and refers to me as “Daddy’s almost famous cousin”.

Every day people at school or in the community tell me how much they like the song and that is something I am so thankful.

"Abbey’s Eyes" is the song I’m most connected with; I wrote that song as a direct message to my daughter just after she was born. On the album it’s just me and a guitar. I didn’t want any production, just an honest and open message to my little girl. The most important person in my life, who inspires me, humbles me, and genuinely makes me a better human being.

ps. (from Danny)

As an aside, I would like to personally thank all the people in Fort McMurray and else where that have supported me in my music. This is an amazing town with amazing people. Without the support of my Wife, Parents, Daughter as well as my friends and family at FMPSD, the local venues, the arts community , the media, the musicians in town, and of course the people who come out a listen to my tunes. None of this would ever happen without you and I am truly thankful and grateful to you all. Thank you and Keep Rocking!


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