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Daniel Johns - Surrender
Mar 11, 2015
Total plays:
208 times
Sounds like: The Weeknd, Frank Ocean
Why do we like this?

Indie Shuffle got a double win here – being granted the rare prize of doing an interview with Daniel Johns and being given the world exclusive premiere of his latest single release from the his solo debut EP Aerial Love.

In this interview, Johns surprises us with the depth of his candor, his clarity, and willingness to speak about his past, present, and future. He describes in detail about how and why he transitioned to his new electronic sound and what fans should expect from his solo work.

More than that, Johns goes into detail about a range of topics – from his influencers, collaborators, and what the spotlight is like this time around. Most excitingly, Johns gives us details about an upcoming full-length album and more. I take particular note in his comment about his solo work being "a ticket to freedom," and it’s clear from this interview that Johns is fully exploring and enjoying that freedom.

Congratulations Daniel on your first ever solo release. How would you describe your sound on this EP and what did you use for its inspiration?
It's hard for me to describe what the sound is, to be honest. It wasn't a really conscious effort to go in a certain direction. After leaving Silverchair I spent about four years just experimenting with music -- mostly with drum machines and synthesizers. I was moving away from singing anything stupidly loud or anything rock and roll. I knew I wanted to move in a different direction and away from a rock and roll sound. I'd done the orchestral thing and I was trying to find a new palette to work with. I ended up landing in an electronic space and I guess in slightly R&B territory.

So I started making more electronic music. I didn't really want to go in a kind of ‘house’ direction and the sound I went for ended up being quite slow and mid-tempo. It took me awhile to figure out how to make my vocals stand out over that kind of electronic sound because I'd never really sung that way before. For my solo work I ended up doing most of the vocals in my lounge room at home. My vocals ended up coming out quite gently and softly because I felt comfortable in my home environment.

There have been many influencers. As a mentioned, I'd been listening to a lot of electronic stuff over the years and couldn't really figure out how to incorporate it into my old band. So I roughly knew that electronic was where I wanted to start.

A lot of producers over the years would come in and hear what I was working on and then say to me ‘if you're kinda into this, you'll like this also’ and then they'd throw me stuff I hadn't heard before. I really like the work of SBTRKT and James Blake I really, really love. I gravitated to lot of the slower, more ambient stuff. I’ve always had a thing for 90s R&B as well.

Despite this being a solo release, it's also a collaboration. On this EP you worked with Joel Little, a producer who worked with Lorde on her first album. Can you describe the collaboration process and what it brings to your solo work?
It’s kind of a strange dichotomy. All through Silverchair's career, I'd written everything and then when it came time to write things under my name, I really felt that after writing for so many years alone that I'd like to start sharing the experience with other people.

The experience with Joel himself came about kinda early in to process. I think I had about three tracks that I really liked that I knew would be featured somewhere. Joel had his finger on exactly what I wanted to do. The first track we wrote together we didn't really love but it was a good start. He came up to my house and the next track that we wrote was "Aerial Love" and from then on we had a really great connection. From there we just kept writing tracks and then we ended up with like five or six tracks in total together.

Let's talk about this track called "Surrender" from your new EP. It's down-tempo, vocally rich and with a definite R&B finish. What else would you like to tell us about it?
I can't even put my finger on exactly what a lot of my tracks are about because I have tended to write more about a feeling rather than an actual subject. But "Surrender" is about letting go of the pressures of everyday life.

I was feeling particularly pressured at the time when I wrote "Surrender". I just wanted to write something to live by for the rest of the solo process which was to surrender and to let the process just take care of itself. Also, I was trying to write nice things for my girlfriend at that time. I was all into myself and otherwise quite dark and moody at the time so I was trying to add an element of romance by writing this for her as well!

Releasing solo work means that the spotlight is once again on you Daniel. How are you handling it? And how is it different this time?
Well so far I'm handling it really well but all I've really done so far is write new stuff. I almost feel like there's less pressure on this release than if this was a Silverchair record.

I think Silverchair came with a lot of expectations. It had to be a certain thing and once it was released it has to do really well and once it did really well we would have to go on the road and do 50,000 shows a day. In that respect it feels a lot less pressure. With this release it felt like I'd been given a ticket to freedom and that I could write whatever the fuck I wanted.

What can we expect from Daniel Johns in 2015 and beyond? What else are you doing to support this EP release?
At the moment we're just taking it day by day. I have a lot of material and full-length record is in the pipeline. Actually instead of an EP I wanted to do a double record but instead we decided to split it into an EP Aerial Love and a full length. There's track on the EP that I would have loved to been on the record but there was just too much material already. The plan is to just release this EP first and eventually the record will drop..

Also there's a band I've been talking to - just a group of likeminded musicians and we're trying to figure out how to do something live. We'll do some rehearsals and then see how that goes and if that all goes well then we'll potentially do some shows.

Finally Daniel, if there was one thing you would like to tell your fans at Indie Shuffle about this EP and your solo work, what might it be?
That's kind of a hard question! To anyone that expects anything, I'd say just to let those expectations go because it's probably not what you'll think it's going to be. "Aerial Love" and "Surrender" are indications of where the upcoming record goes but it is also a broad record with lots of different things going on and different experimental stuff.

But at the core of it all, my main aim is just to make sure they're good songs with really great production so you can put it on, it sounds great and there's always a song to latch on to.


The debut solo EP from Daniel Johns is called Aerial Love and it’s out today. All the details are available from Daniel’s website.

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