Mike Dawes is the newest guitarist on the Candyrat roster and he’s already made a pretty big splash. His debut single, a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” has almost gotten a million views on YouTube, and has also gotten a lot of great feedback, even from Gotye himself. Mike shared with us some details about arranging the song, and also talks about his upcoming single “The Impossible.”
Tell us a bit about your background as a guitarist and how you ended up playing solo acoustic guitar.
I have been into music for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 12. Before that it was keyboard and trumpet. I started out in a band at school and caught the ‘rock’ bug after repeatedly watching the ‘No easy way out’ montage in Rocky 4.
I spent school and college working on my electric guitar chops whilst listening to Pierre Bensusan and Iron Maiden. Some family members worked with Pierre and I was given the Intuite tab book as a gift.
I had always dabbled in fingerstyle but didn’t start to seriously adopt it until around 2007/8 when I left an old Les Paul in DADGAD tuning. I know, not the ideal instrument, so I went shopping.
I did the open mic thing for about a year and a half before starting a guitar and concert harp duo at University. We gigged a silly amount over 3 years and had the privilege of meeting and working with some fantastic musicians. The project fell apart at the end of last year and I’ve since rekindled my love for solo instrumental music.
Your cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know” is your first release on Candyrat, and it’s almost gotten a million views on YouTube already, how has that experience been?
It’s been mad really. I was out at a gig when it was uploaded, and when I got back my inbox was overloaded with the most bizarre emails. The craziest thing in terms of numbers was when It made the front page of MSN news, next to an article about the Queen meeting with the ex-IRA chief. Pretty strange.
It was a huge honour to have Gotye say some very nice things about it, as well as many other lovely people. I’m just very humbled and extremely grateful that people have taken the time to watch and share the video. Thank you!
I became completely involved in the song and had a lot of personal stuff go into it, I mean it’s got to be one of the most universally relatable songs in the world right?
You’re releasing your music as a series of singles rather than releasing an album right way. What’s made you decide to do it that way?
Numerous reasons. The music industry has changed so much over recent years as I’m sure people are aware. For me it’s all about experimentation, it’s an exciting time, I want to try new methods of releasing music, bring singles back. CandyRat have been very cool about this.
I will be releasing an album, but I will also be releasing a collaborative EP with some fantastic guest musicians from a variety of genres. I have always loved working with other people, so I suppose I will be doing the solo and ensemble thing side by side. People can expect a few more singles before the full length releases.
Tell us about your upcoming single “The Impossible.”
The song itself was written in December 2011 at a very strange and confusing time, and that really comes across. It is easily the most personal song I have written. Not a typical second single, but that’s the point I suppose.
The song itself is very rhythmic, lots of polyrhythms and mechanical effects. Someone described it as sounding like ‘The last working human-run factory after the machines take over’. I am unsure as to how accurate that is, but sure why not?
The interesting thing about this release, is that It will not just be the one track. CandyRat will release ‘The Impossible’ with guitar tab, but at the same time, at www.youtube.com/
This features incredible Helsinki-based additions from Petteri Sariola, as well as a fantastic ‘Beck meets Gilmour’ guitar solo by Nolly from the band Periphery.
This will be available from my website as ‘Pay what you want’ with a percentage going to the FAB project in Kenya, a great volunteer project set up by an old chum. Please visit www.facebook.com/fabmenengai for more information about their work and plans for next year.
What else can we expect in the coming months?
Mostly I’ll be composing, recording and releasing more music. I enjoy teaching people from all over the world on Skype and I have the pleasure of teaching a large selection of incredibly keen, diverse and talented students once a week. I’ll be doing plenty of masterclasses, the London Acoustic Guitar Show is coming up which will also feature Newton Faulkner, Andy Mckee, Jon Gomm, Thomas Leeb and many more, that will be a lot of fun. I’ll be playing with Thomas on November 2nd in Hampshire, UK.
Once the album is released I will be touring all over the place, more details of that during the remainder of 2012.
Getting back to “Somebody That I Used To Know”, what I really like about your arrangement is how you add a lot of variety to keep it interesting. I know it’s a pretty open-ended question, but could you give us a general idea of your thought process while you were building the arrangement? Any particular challenges? Any cool moments you’re particularly proud of?
Ha, lots to talk about there.
The variety exists in the arrangement because I wanted it to be as true to the original as possible, and the original is a very progressive pop song with plenty of layers. The idea for the arrangement came in early April from my sister who showed me the Walk Off The Earth video.
I took the Easter break off, so I thought it would be great to try and write and complete something within that time frame. I became completely involved in the song and had a lot of personal stuff go into it, I mean it’s got to be one of the most universally relatable songs in the world right? This gave me a crazy amount of drive to spend all day every day writing it, and figuring out how I was going to achieve certain nuances.
The most challenging part was the very start, when the ‘drums’ come in, because that was where I had to figure out how the arrangement was going to work, how the ‘snare drums’ were going to work with very specific chords. There is also a tricky bit near the end which features a simultaneous right hand bass note, right hand harmonic and right hand third finger snare drum on the body. This will probably sound like nonsense to most people but hopefully it will make sense to the folks with the tab!
‘Cool moments’? Ha, I’m not sure. I am proud of the arrangement as people seem to be enjoying it, that’s what music is about right? Connecting and all that.
What guitar(s) are you currently using and what pickups do you use? Any other gear?
My main guitar is Nick Benjamin’s #100. It’s an Alpine Spruce/Cocobolo midi-jumbo. I’m currently using the K&K Trinity at the moment, a mic/pickup combo.
I have plenty of pedals, a preamp, looper, volume pedal, delay and reverb unit. I’m thinking of getting something truly bizarre. Like a wah. That would probably sound awful.
And finally, your 3 favorite fingerstyle songs:
A tricky question, my favourite fingerstyle song has always been “So Long Michael” by Pierre, a great tribute to Michael Hedges and an astoundingly brilliant piece of music.
Petteri Sariola has a great song (well, many great songs) called “Sailing”. It definitely makes me wish I could sing.
“Spare Change” by Michael Hedges is another favourite, I’ve been listening to that a lot recently. That album needs no introduction.