I have a special two-part interview with my friend Daniel Palmer today and tomorrow! Daniel is a brilliant thriller writer whose new book, FORGIVE ME, came out this week. But he's also a talented musician, and I wanted to look behind the curtains with both his song writing and his book writing. Here's Part One: Daniel Palmer the musician!
Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?
Uh oh, that’s a bit of a problem. See, I needed hard disc space for my work laptop, so I had to move my iTunes library to an external device. Wait…let me back up. I first had to take all my CDs, (because my laptop doesn’t have a CD player anymore) and rip each disc to digital MP3 format. Hours of effort later, I had thousands of tracks that I had to put on an external hard drive. To add them to iTunes (so I could hear them) meant filling up my hard drive with data again. Basically I have an empty iTunes library. To get my music fix I use Spotify and Sirius XM, none of which has a good shuffle feature. I miss albums, even though you can’t shuffle those either and they get dusty and all scratched up.
Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?
I’m trying to figure out how to fit a chorus to a verse I haven’t written yet. The song, Only Making Sparks, is about managing expectations. The chorus lyrics are pretty solid I think.
On my way home from my favorite bar
Laughing with my friends the back of a car
And I’m wondering where you are
I’m wanting fire, but I’m only making sparks
The verse has been elusive for a while now. Sometimes it comes quickly, other times you just have to wait for the right words to find you.
What's your latest album about?
I’ve made two albums, ALIEN LOVE SONGS and HOME SWEET HOME. Both reflect a specific stage of my life. ALIEN is about finding love and figuring out who I am, what I have to offer a partner. In a way it’s a very robust Tinder profile. HOME is about being married, starting a family, and coming to terms with choices and tradeoffs. It’s about expectations, but also about the power of love to help overcome virtually any obstacle. One of my favorite tracks on that album is a tune called Nice to See You Smile. I wrote it when my wife and I were dealing with some difficult stuff. The song was my way of telling her that I’m there for her no matter what happens.
The times you find the most trying
Are the ones when your strength seems to fade
But from somewhere inside you
A little light guides you
And slowly it eases your pain
So, it’s nice to see you smile.
I have a third album of material ready to record. Thematically, it’s about getting older, striving, losing loved ones and trying to keep an optimistic outlook despite the pain. It’s not a depressing album, but it reflects the difficulty of forging a life and overcoming obstacles that get in our way of being happy.
Where do you write, and what tools do you use?
I write in my office. The only tool I use is my guitar. I’d love to learn how to properly record music, but that’s an art form unto itself. For now, I’m going to stick with chord patterns, lyrics, and melodies because those are my strengths.
What was the first album that struck a chord with you? (pun completely intended)
I guess it’s got to be Endless Summer by the Beach Boys. Eventually I found my way to The Beatles, but the Beach Boys showed me the way.
What’s your secret talent?
I play a mean harmonica. I’m an okay rhythm guitarist, but I can solo on the harp and turn more than a few heads.
Which album or artists have been pumping through your headphones lately?
I’ve been listening to the new Radiohead and Bowie’s last album Blackstar a bunch. Also Cautionary Tale by Dylan LeBlanc is amazing. My good buddy, Don DiLego has a new album coming out in a few weeks, Magnificent Ram A. It’s an incredible set of songs. Don produced my two albums and if I get to make a third, he’ll produce that one as well. He’s an amazing producer, musician, and songwriter.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
Never wanted to be a musician. I just was a songwriter. I did it naturally, instinctively. I tried to study piano, but instead of practicing what was on the sheet music, I spent my time writing songs. This was back when I was 10 years old. Songwriting is in my soul, it’s just a part of me, but very few people have ever heard my songs. I’m okay with it, too. I think the tunes I’ve recorded are pretty timeless. I can listen to Alien Love Songs, which I made almost sixteen years ago, and it still sounds good to me. It still sounds authentic and that’s what matters most.
Who is your music idol? Have you met him/her? If so, did you completely nerd out or keep your cool?
My idols are John Lennon, Neil Young, and David Bowie. Sadly, I’ve only got one left. Haven’t met any of them. I would LOVE for Neil to hear my tunes, just to know he listened. Probably won’t happen, but as long as he is around there’s always a chance.
What’s your favorite bit of performing advice?
Don’t do what I did when my band opened for John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. I’ll give you a hint: it involved acid washed jeans, a lot of hair gel, and different colored bandanas tied around my legs.
What do you do if your creative juices aren’t flowing?
I put the guitar down. My living doesn’t depend on getting down a tune.
Are you creatively satisfied?
I’m happy with the albums I’ve recorded. I’m happy with the songs I have to record. I would like to make a third album and for more people to hear my music, but I’m cool if neither happens so I guess the answer is yes, I’m pretty darn satisfied.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a good friend, father, and husband.
Now for the really important questions:
· Beach or mountains? Beach
· Coffee or tea? Coffee
· Skydive or bungee jump? Barf bag
· Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
· Winter or summer? Summah (that’s how we say it in Boston)
· Cake or pie? Pumpkin pie (had to be specific)
· Cats or dogs? Dogs! Mine is asleep at my feet.
· Pens or pencils? Pen, though I want to be a pencil guy
· Truth or dare? I’m a songwriter…all about the truth.
· Mp3’s or vinyl? See above. I miss my vinyl!
DANIEL PALMER is the author of four critically-acclaimed suspense novels. After receiving his master’s degree from Boston University, he spent a decade as an e-commerce pioneer. A recording artist, accomplished blues harmonica player, and lifelong Red Sox fan, Daniel lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children where he is currently at work on his next novel. Check out Daniels music by clicking on the covers below or at https://soundcloud.com/daniel-palmer-2/tracks.