Daniel Leigh has been performing since the age of fourteen and during this time has branched out to many diverse paths within music. As well as being known as the lead vocalist for bands NEW DEVICE and JORDAN RED, he is also know for his solo music. He is due to release his debut album Any Other Name ten years after the release of his debut EP My Little Eye. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to Daniel about this new record, his new song English Rose, mental health and who would be in his dream workout team.
I’d like to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to those who might not know New Device or Jordan Red, as well as your solo music.
I’m a singer and have been for many years now. I’ve always enjoyed being in bands but I also like to go my own way too. The freedom aspect of doing solo music is important to me. I work with New Device which are a hard rock band and have been for many years. Jordan Red, we got a debut album coming out hopefully later this year. With Jordan Red, I work with a guy called Dan Baker and we have worked on this for about two years, we were prepping everything but then the pandemic hit. So we’ve released a bunch of stuff during the pandemic and then because we released so much of it now to keep us going, we went in and recorded some new music. I like to give things that are different to what I have done before, Jordan Red isn’t the same as New Device by any stretch of the imagination. My solo record is very different to the first EP I released ten years ago.
So, you are due to release your debut album Any Other Name. When can we expect that?
It’s probably going to be around September/October when the fall comes around. I have released the initial single English Rose which is being pushed out to radio now. The thing is with the solo record is that it wasn’t something I had thought about doing, I was writing a tonne of songs during lockdown and then I asked people if they would be interested in another solo record. The response was quite overwhelming so I thought I should do this as the only other two things are my other two bands and a whole heap of live streams every single night. Against my better judgement, I pushed ahead with this record.
Did you manage to record it during the pandemic? A lot of the studios shut during lockdown.
The thing is with the pandemic is that throughout I thought whatever was being taken away from me, I was going to find a way to do it in some form. I sort of levelled up everything; I’m not really a tech person, sound guy or anything like that, I kind of had to make myself be that person. I have always recorded demos but nothing of a studio quality, so I had to think what I had to do to make sure that everything I am doing now is of a level where I can hand it to a mixing engineer and it be useable.
I have some good microphones and in my little flat, I made sound boards so I can make a sanctuary in my place and made a vocal den. I recorded everything in there myself and working with Phil Kinman who was the original guitarist for New Device. We’re working on a heap of music for a project together, it’s funny because it’s what it would sound like if he had stayed in New Device. I was able to record the music and he was able to mix it from home, we also get together and work on things in a very laid back environment.
Were a lot of the songs on the album written due to how you were feeling during the pandemic?
I think I tried to avoid that and anything to do with lockdowns. We talk about connections with people and certain character types. I also didn’t write about certain things I found to be traumatic one or two years ago as I wasn’t in the right head space to confront some of these things. Even talking about them can be difficult. So to write about these times and sing about to people listening and/or watching is a daunting process.
Fast forward to now, I felt compelled to bring these to surface and write about them. I don’t feel comfortable talking to people about what they’re exactly about, I think people listen to it and think “Dan’s been through something there”. It’s very therapeutic and cathartic to talk and sing about these things finally.
People talk about writer’s block, I had writer’s fear. I knew I had a lot to write about, I was in fear of writing about these songs. It’s a coping mechanism to compartmentalise something and lock it up. However; unless you actually confront them, not all at once as that can lead to horrible behaviours, but if you can unpack it piece by piece which is what I had to do outside of something that was so public. Especially if you write how I write, which is metaphorically but you spill it all out then it’s all there, you then figure out what works and then make sense of it putting into a song that people can sing along to.
You have been doing your live streams during lockdown, which is a good comfort for fans going through tough times.
With livestreaming, it was always what can I do to keep working and doing my job which is primarily to be an entertainer. At the end of the day, my job is to lower the cortisol that people have in their system and to make them feel better. I’m an entertainer ultimately and it’s mutually beneficial because I love singing and playing music so having an outlet where I can play to people around the world, keep playing and my voice has gone from strength to strength. My guitar playing has definitely gotten better and my songwriting has become very prolific now.
We had five songs that didn’t quite make it and seventeen songs that were in contention for my solo record. I was able to put it to a vote with everyone watching my live stream, the supporters of that got involved. I chose six and they chose the final four.
Are some of the songs from My Little Eye on the album? I notice some bands put some songs from EPs on their upcoming albums.
I had too much music to rehash anything. I had over twenty songs I was working on. Here’s the thing as a solo artist, for me anyway; I find that I can write very quickly as I am only pleasing myself whereas in a band you’re asking the others “do you like this?” and one person might say yes, the other might say if you dare write anymore I am leaving this band.
I can hear that your guitar playing and singing has come along way in your single English Rose.
I appreciate that a lot. The song is a very delicate piece because there’s nothing too complicated about it. I’ve had people come forward and say “put some piano in there, we could use a good back beat there and do some lead guitars” but I said “you know what, I just want it to be vocals and rhythm guitars. I don’t need it to be too complicated, I know this is going to sound cheesy but it needs it be about love.”
It’s more than just about love, it’s about what I think it means to be in love and to find a soulmate. That no-one is perfect, as a non-perfect individual your soulmate can hold up the mirror to you and say “look, I’m going to challenge you on this one because I love you.” We have this ability to go off into weird places and it takes someone that gives a monkeys about us to say “stop right there because you’re better than this, let’s get you back on the path.” It’s a two way street; it’s not looking for someone to save you, it’s looking for someone to work with you.
It’s no secret that lockdown and Covid has effected people’s mental health negatively, is there anything you think we can do as individuals so people feel more comfortable talking about their mental health?
I think speaking about mental health is good, I really do encourage people to speak out if they are having a hard time. For me, I think I tend to take a step further back than that. If it’s management by crisis where you go in telling them you’re having a hard time, you’re going in asking for solutions to deal with that. What I would like to do is to take a step back from that say we should have prevention measures rather than crisis management measures.
At the end of my live streams, I say as a sign off “take care of yourselves, eat well, exercise, take care of those around you and stay frosty” Stay frosty means “stay alert, stay awake”. When I say eat well, your diet is so important; if you’re fogged with high fructose corn syrup from too much sugars and other negative foods, it’s going make you feel worse. Pay attention to what your body needs and what foods help you feel awake, feel bright and breezy.
Do some exercise, get your body flowing. Within all this, we have had things removed from us; if you pick some weights up and if you say to yourself you are going to do five reps today great. Then the next time you do six, the suddenly you are doing ten, then you’re doing sets and then you become a person who can do things. Then the things you were nervous to do before, suddenly your brain has got into this state of I can lift 500lbs in an hour, I can do it. Then you become someone who is a doer. When you’re taking care of those around you, you are giving and you have a purpose. You are someone who watches over people and can take care of people, that brings a sense of community where you can give others strength and love that you receive at the same time.
When we’re told to shut yourselves away and not to connect as your breath will infect others, this whole thing is weird to comprehend as humans. To be told you are a super spreader, even if you have been vaccinated, it’s this strange this that is tearing us apart. So taking care of yourself is very important; eating well primarily, exercising and checking in on other people.
Is there anything you like to do stay grounded when things get overwhelming?
I think surround yourself with very real people, people who are around you for who you really are and really care about you. Not because of what you can give them but because they can see what you bring to their lives and what you bring to the world at large. Make sure that you’re not surrounded by yes people, if you’re being told that everything that comes out of your mouth is great I hate to tell you it’s not, you’re a human being. So, it’s good to have people in your life that challenge you and ask “are you sure about that?”
Taking care of other people gives you humility and keeps you humble. It keeps you really in check with knowing that the more you live life, it’s not about you it’s about what you can do for the world at large and then gives you a sense a purpose and meaning to life. It brings up your value and giving is receiving. Also living in the space of gratitude, find things that you can be grateful for on a daily basis. I’m grateful I can still play music, I’m grateful for every meal I have, I’m grateful I can breath in deeply and sing, exercise and have a roof over my head.
I go out for walks with my dad every week and every person I walk past I smile at them and nod and say hello to. He asks “is there anyone you won’t say hello to today”. It costs nothing and for that person, it might be the only connection that have all day.
Given you like to work out, which five people would like to be in a work out team with? It can be anyone, dead or alive, fiction or non-fiction.
I think I would like to work out with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger because there is that rivalry between theme. I think six time Mr Olympia Jake Cutler and I think I’m going to choose everyone from The Expendables movie. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as well. Jillian Michaels, she does Amercia’s Biggest Looser. She changed my life in some serious ways five years ago, I did her work out routines with Roz [Ison] the drummer of New Device. I had so much energy throughout that time.
Do you have a message for fans and readers?
Thank you for supporting what you do and rock music in general. If there is an artist that you really care about and want to keep creating music, support them and reach out to them. Let them know you are still listening, if they have anything like patreon subscribe to that and buy their CDs. Just support it, if you don’t keep supporting it the light will go dark and I have seen happen. People have just stopped working; they can’t afford to keep it going, they want to but it costs money. It’s a business model that’s pretty bad, in general we’re not business people, we’re musicians and we have bills to pay. If we got bands, there’s band vehicles. I just thank you and keep supporting what you love because we love doing it.
Thank you Dan for talking to Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album release.