Were you exposed to a lot of music while growing up? What kind of music did you listen to?
Yes I was constantly exposed to music because not only was my mother a piano teacher and teaching from our home but my parents also performed at events, playing blues and rock n’ roll. I heard classical music from my mum’s piano lessons and my dad would play Elvis on repeat because he sounded just like him! My mother was also a big jazz and big band fan so I would dance to this music all the time as a child.
When did you decide to start a career in music, and how?
When I was 18 I applied to many universities most of which were performing arts and acting but only one was dedicated to music and songwriting. I ended up being accepted to all of them so in that moment I had to decide if I was going down and acting path or music and I’m sure you can guess which way I went. When I met other songwriters at university I became so inspired to be as good as them. I wrote my first songs including ‘Caroline’ and ‘London’s Rose’ when I was 20 in the university studios, I left for London hopping to find a record label and I did. These songs ended up on my first
album ‘Whelm’ and the rest is history.
Your latest album, “Milkteeth”, describes your childhood in the English countryside. How did the proximity to nature inspire you?
Living amongst nature was all I knew as I child, just the fields and cows and the sea. I think living like this meant a certain amount of freedom as a child but it also left a lot to the imagination – I spent a lot of time on my own, playing and making up characters and make-believe friends [listen to my song ‘Silly Games’].
Your album conveys a feeling of spatial remoteness, but also of existential isolation. Has it been a cathartic process to write music and lyrics about this feeling?
Writing the album in general was a hugely cathartic experience! It saved a lot of money on therapy sessions! I was able to write down the simple feelings I had as a child and look at them and realise they were complex in their own way because that’s all you know as a child. A friend of mine (ERRA) who writes as well used to have a song called ‘Child’ and the chorus lyric was, ‘it was easy to be a child, you had no worries except you lost your balloon one time.’ This idea played around in my head as I wrote the album – the balloon is trivial to us now as adults but that balloon is everything to the child. I tried to explore this in my song ‘The Playground’.
What inspired you to play both guitar and autoharp on this album, in addition to piano?
Playing new instruments is a way for me to write in a different way. I am used to the piano, it is my first language and I will often go to the same familiar places on it. I had to learn the guitar for this album and the harp has a child-like quality that I think works so well for the album.
In 2018 Robert Smith invited you to play at Meltdown Festival in London. Could you tell us something about this experience?
I was so honoured to be selected by Robert for his festival, it was a great feeling of acknowledgement to be included amongst so many great artists. My favourite memory is actually my emails with Robert that he would send in ALL CAPITALS! They seemed so loud yet he’d be so sweet.
How are you going through the pandemic? Has it been a creative period for you so far?
I was very luck that my fans supported a fund to buy me a new piano over the lockdown. I had only been using a keyboard in my house before that. Since getting the piano I have been playing and writing every day. The best part is that whilst I have written new songs I have also just been playing for pleasure and I’ve reminded now why I fell in love with this instrument.
Douglas Dare plays at Studio Foce on 11.03 at 21:30.
More information: foce.ch