Daryl Bean – Mr. Strangelove (Q&A)

Daryl Bean had almost given up making music; he didn’t feel like playing covers at weddings and was convinced no one wanted to hear his self-written songs.

Last year Mr. Strangelove was released, an EP with four of Daryl Bean’s own songs. You can hear the pleasant influences that Squeeze and Pugwash have had on his writing style.

How did this record come together?

I’ve been writing songs for over 20 years, but I’m not very prolific – in fact, it took me 15 years to write the four songs on this EP! I had a period where I was very depressed and dissatisfied with being a musician and almost stopped entirely. I owe it to Andy Reed, who mixed the EP, for talking me “off the ledge” so to speak, and encouraging me to take the time and effort to fully realize these songs I’d written. Prior to this, they had been pretty rough home-recorded demos.

So, I did a Christmas single in November 2020 called “Holidaze” as a beta test; I’d written it over a decade ago but never recorded it, so I decided to try it as a beta test. It came out so well and was so much fun to do that I decided to take more of my songs, record them properly, and release them as an EP.

So, I spent the first few months of 2021 recording at home and Andy Reed’s studio in Bay City, MI. Andy mixed it, and by May, it was all done. I’m really happy with it.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

I actually quite deliberately *didn’t* ask for opinions! I wanted to lean on my instincts and ideas, sort of as an exercise, because I sometimes let my need for external validation get in the way of doing what my instincts tell me to do. I wanted to make songs that I liked in a way that pleased me, so I didn’t ask anyone else. Andy and I would sometimes discuss arrangements, and he had excellent ideas that helped the songs a lot, but I didn’t want to make a record by committee. I wanted it to represent the best playing and producing I could do.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

You know, I feel like the record has already achieved success beyond what I ever imagined. When I decided to do this, I steeled myself to the idea that I was making it for myself and that no one else would probably like it or care about it. So, it’s a fantastic thing when people who I’ve never met buy it and tell me that they enjoy it. And I’m always chuffed when I get an order to send a CD to another country – so far, I’ve shipped them to France, England, and Japan, and it just blows my mind that music I recorded in my living room in Michigan is going all over the world. I feel so appreciative that people like it.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I think that it’s a challenge, like it is for many people. Nothing is more exciting than having the tiny spark of an idea, playing around with it, and turning it into a real thing. But, I also have a job, and daughters, and all the other stuff in life that I want and need to be present for.

And also, those sparks of ideas can be hard to come by sometimes. So it’s a balance for me to make the time to be creative and pursue those little sparks while also being present and available in my life. Hopefully, it won’t take me another 15 years to write four songs for another EP!

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

Definitely not. Another exercise for me in the writing and production of this EP was to let my guard down a little and talk honestly about myself in the songs. So you have songs like “Keeping Me Alive” and “Be Careful” which were about some very personal events in my life, and it felt very vulnerable to open up a little.

And although “Phoebe Waller Bridge” was written with tongue firmly in cheek, there was a little bit of hopefulness, like “but what if she *did* hear it and found it charming and maybe wanted to meet me?” I felt like it made the songs more satisfying for me to play and sing, and hopefully for the listener too.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Thomas Walsh, Mike Viola, and Taylor Swift. Thomas records under the name Pugwash, and I just love his music to death. Mike because his writing is always so surprising and yet still so melodic and satisfying, plus I really want to be friends with him because he seems like the nicest, coolest guy.

Finally, Taylor because I loved Folklore. According to Spotify, it was my most listened to album the year it came out. I think of her like an early 70’s Joni Mitchell – her writing is so confessional and real, and I wonder if working with her would give me the courage to be more vulnerable in my own writing.

I’m going to cheat and throw Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge on this list as well – I wouldn’t be writing or recording without XTC.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

Not to beat on how important Andy Reed was on the existence of this EP, but when I almost quit music in 2020, we had just started to get to know one another through our mutual friend Amy Petty. He had a discussion thread on his Facebook wall about things that frustrated people about making music, and someone had mentioned how they felt like quitting music. I agreed and said I was thinking about selling everything and getting out. Andy messaged me and said, “what are you talking about?”. So I replied that I didn’t like playing covers at weddings and bars, and I didn’t see any point in doing original material because who would want to listen to a 47-year-old guy sing his dumb songs.

Andy asked me to send him some of my songs, and we barely knew each other at the time. But I did, a week or so went by, and when he replied, he said, “I’m not going to tell you what I think you should do, but I think these songs are worthwhile, and you should make them the best they can be”.

I deeply respected his opinion, and the word “worthwhile” really stuck in my head. So, I think that’s the nicest compliment I can think of, for someone whose work you respect and admire to say that your work is worthwhile.

Those magical moments when you’re working in the studio. Which moment was the most magical?

Recording “Phoebe Waller Bridge” with Andy and Donny Brown in Bay City. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted the song to sound like, but Andy and Donny are such good musicians they took it a step beyond that. Hearing the first rough mix of it was a really lovely moment. I couldn’t believe that we got *that* in like 4 hours. Play with the best people you can, folks; you’ll never regret it.

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