RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW SOLO ARTIST S J DENNEY
Hiya S J. Thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Thanks for having me. Mine’s a chai latte. Let’s go!
What made you decide to become a soloist?
I’ve been in bands/duets previously and there are strengths and weaknesses of collaborating versus being a solo artist. Although I miss sharing unique experiences, such as that post-gig or post-recording feeling, I’ve found being a solo artist works for me.
I’m quite a quick writer. I’ll churn out an EP in 1-2 weeks. That’s kind of what makes me tick. Every experience, observation or conversation usually creeps into a song for me. So being in control of that creative process means I can hit the ground running.
Introduce usto you and your musical history?
I’m S J Denney and I’m a singer songwriter from Essex, England. I started out as a choir boy and played the clarinet. A few years later, I literally stumbled upon a copy of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ and The Beatles’ ‘White Album’. From that point, my world changed. I fell in love with guitar music…
As previously mentioned, I’ve been in various projects, but now I’ve settled down as a solo artist. Over the last few years, my music has really evolved and I’m brave with my chords, song structures and arrangements. I’m always pushing my creative boundaries, which is something you’ll hear over 2022 and 2023, as I’ve got lots of releases lined up!
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
Is this a trick question? Are you going to ask me it later on? Erm… probably being asked about how technology has changed music. Either the release side of things or the creative side of things. I’m all about an organic approach to music. I hate things like autotune and I’d rather listen to music from the 60s/70s. It’s just got that human groove.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Not really. Social media seems to be the driving force behind a lot of conspiracy theories. Whilst these platforms give people like me the opportunity to share their craft, they also give a lot of people a voice to talk about stuff they know nothing about, but pretend that they do. I’m fairly pragmatic and I’d always put my trust in someone who knows more about a particular subject than me.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
I just bought a lot of instruments and recording equipment, as travelling into London to record wasn’t really an option. I’d never consider anything musical wasted money.
What useless party trick do you have?
I’m not really convinced I have one. Whenever I go to a party, I’m camped out at the bar or talking to people about the music that’s playing. One of my friends did used to drink spirit through their eyeball until they passed out! I probably should have pretended that was me.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
When I was in a duo, we did a record industry gig in Maida Hill, London. A lot of the big labels were there and we killed it. The sound was great. People ran on and tweaked things, if they weren’t ‘on the money’. It felt like we’d arrived, and I think that improved our performance.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I remember being hired out to play a new venue by our (then) manager. It was supposed to be a good gig and the pay was pretty good too. When we got on stage, we were told we were playing covers. We blagged the first part of the set with the songs we knew well. Then, as people got more drunk, we started to pretend our originals were covers. I ended up in an altercation with someone who tried to get up on the stage.
Tell us something about yourself that you think people would be surprised about?
I only have one kidney. Several years ago, I had to have one removed after getting seriously ill. It had been an ongoing thing and the doctors realised that I’d been born with one kidney upside-down.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
I hit things with my hands and make noises with my mouth. This makes a sound that I enjoy. Sometimes it ends up being something that other people can relate to. Do you have a market for that kind of thing back home?
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
My music isn’t edited to be perfectly in tune and perfectly in time. I think this alone is refreshing these days and those little nuances get people’s attention. The songs that I write usually have a lot of harmonies. That’s something that I don’t hear all that often in mainstream music anymore, which is disappointing, but I guess tuning one voice is enough work for producers! I consciously avoid conventional chord sequences. My song structures are also unusual, but I try to do it in such a way that it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. In addition to that, I tend to include instruments that you wouldn’t always find in my genre.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
The general lack of customer service and respect for other human beings. I guess the two are linked!
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
Probably my new single, as it holds up really well acoustically. This gives it a different dimension to the studio version.
I hear you have a new single/album/ep, what can you tell us about it?
My new single is called ‘All I’ve Ever Known’. It’s a realisation that when everything around you is falling down, you can’t always fix it by yourself. You need to accept help from those standing by your side.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album/ep?
The song came pretty quickly. I knew it was a single straight away. These things are usually gut instinct. It was the first song that I wrote for my forthcoming EP and it seemed to set the scene for everything that’s followed.
What was the recording process like?
It was great to be honest. I’ve loved recording my latest material. It’s only recently that I’ve got into drums. I spent a good couple of weeks laying down the drums for the entire EP. I’ve finally learnt that the foundation is so important. After this, I did acoustic guitar and vocals. The song then went over to an old friend, who was actually the bassist in my first band. He did his thing and then I added some baritone electric guitar. Once the foundations were in place, I got various session musicians to do their parts remotely. This included harmonica and hammered dulcimer. After the whole EP was nailed down, I went to The Animal Farm in London. They did a great job of mixing the material. It was then time to master the record at Lowland Masters.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album/ep?
The pandemic forced me into home production. I hadn’t done that for quite a while. My main learning curve has been to apply all of the things I’ve observed from professional producers. I feel like I’m getting there now.
Would you change anything now its finished?
For the first time ever, there is nothing I would change. I poured my heart and soul into these songs.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I’ve got several releases scheduled. My focus is to market those as best as I can and build a brand. It’s also time to get back on the road!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?