Interview: Dave McPherson – Pledging His Future to Music
Dave McPherson is a rare commodity in today’s music world. In 2010 alone, he clocked up 189 live performances, which were split between his established rock band InMe and his solo career, which sees him armed with only his acoustic guitar and a will to entertain.
The range of those performances span from playing cover songs at his local O’Neills pub in Brentwood, all the way up to playing in front of 1,500 fans at the Sonisphere Festival last summer. ‘Have stage, will play’ could be his personal motto, and he is now on the verge of releasing his first proper solo album. Is he the hardest working man in UK rock?
“No, I don’t think so,” McPherson laughs, “but I like to think I work as hard as I can. Look at someone like Frank Turner, who played over 200 shows last year to my knowledge. That is just so inspiring, as music is my life. I’ll get up at 9am, work on it until 8pm and then go play a gig.”
Learning the ropes
McPherson first picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and admitted that he “didn’t know what to do with it, I would play it on its back”. After some basic lessons, he discovered the sounds of Nirvana and Iron Maiden, which set him down the path of rock and roll. “I’m self-taught, which meant when I tried to play something technical I’d have to practice hard to perfect it,” he adds.
For proof that practice makes perfect, check out McPherson’s lead guitar work on ‘Cracking the Whip’ or ‘Master Storm’ by InMe. “It took me a few years to get to that standard, and I’m happier with my technique now,” says McPherson. “I would write music above my ability sometimes, but that helped me push myself to improve. I don’t like to rest on my laurels when it comes to crafting my music.”
McPherson’s first solo album, due out in March, is called The Hardship Diaries. As a prolific songwriter, he has an extensive back catalogue of songs he could have potentially chosen as album tracks. However, it is not a collection of old tunes tossed together: “I did write new songs as I’d moved on from a lot of my older stuff. But, after a lot of thought, one older song (‘Hearts Need Blood’) did make it onto the final CD.”
The loose concept of The Hardship Diaries centres on a broken-hearted magician who releases his thoughts and feelings through music. “Of course, it’s really me pouring out my personal experiences. Sometimes the lyrics came out a little too honest, but that’s just me,” he says. Musically, the album will just be McPherson on acoustic guitar, but will include some interesting backing vocals and inventive guitar work to beef up the sound.
McPherson seems influenced by the natural world as much as his own life experiences too. He has split the songs on The Hardship Diaries into sections prefixed by spring, summer, autumn and winter. “Man-made creations are nothing compared to the natural world,” he says. “It’s greater than all the bollocks that we humans worry about day-to-day and, the more I explore nature, the more it continually inspires me in many ways.”
Sharing the love
McPherson is releasing The Hardship Diaries through Pledge Music. It is a website that helps musicians design a fundraising campaign to raise the money for album production, marketing, touring costs etc, by allowing fans to pledge on a host of goodies supplied by the artist. A charity also receives ten per cent of all money raised (McPherson chose Save the Children).
“I found out about Pledge from Charlie Simpson (Fightstar, ex-Busted) and loved the concept. It gives the artist complete freedom to create their own visions, as there is no record company involved,” says McPherson. He offered fans the chance to pledge on things like original pieces of album artwork, acoustic performances at their houses and handwritten lyrics (“I keep getting cramp, I’ve not written so much in one go since school!”).
“It’s great because everyone wins,” explains McPherson. “If I’ve worked hard on my music, and it is then being downloaded for free by everyone, I’d have to get a ‘regular’ job to pay my rent and thus not have time to work on more music. To a degree I think things should be shared, but would a sculptor work on a new piece of art for a long time and then just give it away?
“Now I can give the fans some personal and rare things from me, they also get a new album and I can make a living doing what I love to do.” And McPherson’s fans are some of the most loyal around, helping to achieve 100 per cent of his pledge target within a day and a half of launching it back in January. “Some people say it’s ripping the fans off, but they can simply buy the album for a nominal price; no-one is forcing them to buy more,” he says.
“I’m so grateful to the fans that continue to support both InMe and my solo career, even after the band went through some tough times,” he continues. “I tasted major label trappings with InMe early on in my career, but you tend not to get a second chance in the music industry once you aren’t ‘flavour of the month’ anymore. But we’ve managed to keep a solid fan base on which to keep going and try new things, but on our own terms. It’s very humbling.”
Dedication and perspiration
McPherson will hit the road with The Hardship Diaries tour starting in March, he has written two full songs for the fifth InMe album (“More melodic, very hooky and stripped down compared to some of the technical, sometimes vicious, sounds of the last two InMe albums”), and will be potentially working on a six track EP re-invention of some old InMe songs. He is also laying down recordings for a side project – a metal band called Centiment – and possibly putting a second solo album out in 2012 (“With a full band sound, but I’d record the guitars, vocals and drums though”). It’s exhausting just writing it all down!
“I do it all because I’m passionate about music and it makes me happy. I don’t desire to be a millionaire. I just want to be able to keep a roof over my head, feed the dog and be comfortable doing this full-time. I just have to keep working hard,” McPherson says. There can be no doubting his commitment or sincerity on that front.
Maybe one small break in play might come in the shape of his brother Greg’s wedding later this year? “No, I’ll be playing a couple of tunes at that, but I’m more worried about having to write my best man’s speech!”
Dave McPherson: rock star, solo artist, wedding singer and all round top bloke!
By James Barrett
You can get involved in The Hardship Diaries by visiting http://www.pledgemusic.com/artists/davemcpherson
More Dave McPherson info and tour dates: http://www.myspace.com/davemcphersonsolo