A Q&A With Will Dailey

by Emily Cassel (Journalism), published October 15th 2011

Heard one singer-songwriter, heard ‘em all, right? Not so fast. While Will Dailey is often labeled with the singer-songwriter title, the Boston-based artist identifies more strongly with rockers like John Lennon or Tom Petty. That rock and roll vibe peeks out from behind every folksy tune on Dailey’s new album Will Dailey and the Rivals, making him much more than your average singer-songwriter. Tastemakers caught up with Dailey to talk about his Boston roots, his new album, and the benefits and pitfalls of selling your car for the money to put out a record.

Tastemakers Magazine: Since you’ve played around Boston so much and you’re something of a “local legend” here, can you talk about growing as an artist in this city?

Will Dailey: A legend, eh? [Laughs] A local legend. Well, I’ve just kind of pounded the pavement here for a while. This is where I’m from, and it’s where I want to remain. I just love it here. I love the music scene, and I love the diversity of the music scene. It’s strong no matter what club you’re going to or what kind of music you’re going out to see. And I’ve also been lucky. A lot of people work hard here, and I’ve had the fortune of having great fans here that help propel this and keep this afloat.

TMM: Let’s talk about the new album, “Will Dailey and the Rivals.” It’s your fourth full-length – what are some of the things you were hoping to achieve as you worked on it?

WD: Well prior to this when I’ve done interviews, they always say “singer-songwriter Will Dailey.” And I guess it’s an appropriate way to start an article or description of somebody, but it means something different in today’s music culture than it does in my brain. [Laughs] To me, a male singer-songwriter that I admire or look up to would be John Lennon, or Tom Petty, or Elvis Costello. That, to me, is a male singer-songwriter. But you don’t call them that, they’re just musicians. They’re songwriters. They’re performers.

This time in the studio, we just made it about us as much as possible. With producer Tom Polce, we just kind of locked ourselves in there and banged it out together. I think in the past, I had done it a little more on my own. [This time] there would be more people involved in the studio process – other musicians, and they would pitch in equally – and now it’s definitely more of a democracy with the four of us. With the Rivals and myself.

TMM: And I’m guessing that’s why you decided to self-title the record?

WD: Yes, absolutely. And also because we wanted to make a rock and roll record… There’s something very special and unique about being able to take your best friends and people who you’ve created these things with, locking yourselves in a studio, and just all focusing all day and all night together. Taking that ride, and not stopping until it’s done.

TMM: You guys don’t get sick of each other?

WD: Of course we do! [Laughs] But that’s what any relationship is. You go through these things. Sometimes you rebuild, sometimes you explore deeper within yourself to find what’s bothering you. That’s when you know you have a good relationship and you work well together.

TMM: During your in-store event at Newbury Comics, you mentioned – and I forget your exact wording – but you hinted that the process of putting this record together was laborious at times. Can you expand on that?

WD: Well sometimes you’re making something and… at this point in my career, I’ve had these successes that I’m excited about. But we’re still breaking out and building a name nationally. Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re locked up away from the world and you’re making this thing. You get out and you wonder, “Okay, now what?” At the time, I wasn’t on Universal Republic. I was just making [the record]. That’s what made it hard on us. We didn’t know how we’d even put this record out, exactly. We were just making it what we wanted. So while it was cathartic, I think it was also scary.

TMM: What about the title track, “Counting on Karma?” Wasn’t it inspired by a conversation you had with a friend?

WD: Yeah, you know, you have those conversations with a friend and they’re in kind of a “woe is me” type of mind frame. They’re just letting it out, and saying how opportunities don’t come to nice people. And I have to disagree. And it was actually my friend who said, “Well, I’ll count on karma, then.” It was one of those light bulb moments, so I just wrote it down: Counting on Karma. [The song] poured out pretty quick later on. But there’s plenty of good things that come to good people.

TMM: So is that your favorite song on the new album? Do you have a favorite?

WD: Right now I’m really liking “Loved You First” and probably “Out on the Floor,” just because we’ve been playing it the past couple of events… those are my favorites right now, but I try not to play favorites at the same time. I try not to think too much about the songs as I’m performing them, I’m in the moment of each one.

TMM: What kind of music were you listening to when you put together the record?

WD: Well, it’s hard to find music that I don’t like or appreciate. Even music that the blogosphere might not deem “worthy” is good music in somebody’s life.

TMM: So you’re saying you listened to a lot of the Jonas Brothers?

WD: [Laughs] I couldn’t tell you a single tune by them, it’s not for me, but I’m glad it’s out there. Some young girl has music in her life, and later on she will discover the Beatles, you know? She’ll get into something else because she found that it’s fun to get into music. It’s an important muscle to exercise. There can really be no “bad music” if it’s filling that gap in someone’s life. If everything sounded like the cool band of the week, there would be so many left-out people. We’d be in a terrible state.

But while making this record, particularly for me, I focused on what I thought was a gap in the music world. A gap that Tom Petty filled with songs like “Into the Great Wide Open.” The way he constructed that album, where it was rock and roll but there was adventure – sonic adventure and lyrical adventure – that was kind of my focus on this album… songs that are rooted in rock and roll, but are accessible pop tracks.

TMM: One last thing: I read somewhere that you actually had to sell your car in order to be able to afford putting out your first record. Is that true?

WD: Yeah, which made touring incredibly difficult. But yeah, I did. I was out of money towards the end of it, and I sold it to finish a couple days of tracking and mixing. And I’d do it again. I might sell the car I have now, who knows. But what’s more important? There is public transportation. And I have a bike.

Check out Will Dailey & the Rivals’ self-titled album – out now on Universal Republic!

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