Scottish author Danny Gillan—Today is more precious than tomorrow Special
Danny Gillan, award-winning Scottish writer, musician and author of 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow', 'Scratch' and 'A selection of Meats and Cheeses' rounds up his conversation with a chat about his music and a band named after a dog.
about Danny Gillan
focused on health issues
and showed this talented artist’s tendency to lean towards ‘making idiotically bad decisions’. So, has Danny continued along this path or is he now making idiotically not so bad decisions? Is he taking the advice that he offered in the previous article
“Don’t be afraid to make changes. If you can identify areas of your life that are causing or triggering the problem, then change them
As Danny discusses openly his other 'hobby' - being a musician and playing in bands, let’s see.
You say you are concentrating more on music these days than writing. What are your specific musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of rock and roll and soul, before discovering punk in my teens and then moving onto being a massive blues snob for a few years. I’ll listen to most things with a guitar now, apart from jazz. Too many chords. My personal musical heroes include Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Clash, Jimi Hendrix and my dad.
Most of the bands I played in when I was younger were blues-based – it’s great music for a guitarist to show off, plus you rarely have to learn more than three chords at a time. Coincidentally also why punk is so good.
What inspired / inspires you to write lyrics?
At the time I was far more concerned with the music than I was with lyrics, to be honest. They tended to be functional at best. I was never very good at traditional boy/girl love songs though, so tended to write about people who didn’t like one another much.
What kind of music do you write and play?
I wrote a lot of songs in my twenties. The vast majority of them were terrible, obviously. There are maybe a dozen or so I’m not too ashamed of.
I originally used some of my own music and lyrics in my book 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' and attributed them to the protagonist, Bryan Rivers.
Here are some examples of me pretending to be Bryan:
- The Best of Everything
- Use Your Voice
Do you play any instruments besides guitar?
I can pick out chords on a piano if you force me, but guitar has always been the focus.
How did you form a band and what type of music do you play?
Having spent the bulk of my thirties focusing on fiction writing, I had sadly neglected my guitars. They both spent the majority of their time hunched in the corner of my living room giving me dirty looks for abandoning them.
About eighteen months ago an old friend of mine, Karen Fraser, decided she wanted to have a go at singing (she’s an actress by profession) and basically bullied me into providing musical accompaniment. Grudgingly I agreed to her proposal and Tales of Jake was born. We named ourselves after my dog, Jake, who also used to be Karen’s dog at one point (we have a complicated history).
I live in the Southside of Glasgow, and there has been a major resurgence in live music over the past couple of years here. Acoustic music especially has come to the fore, mainly because it’s cheaper and quieter to put on and doesn’t annoy the neighbours as much as thrash metal bands.
Shortly after we began rehearsals, we decided to attempt a song which normally included a harmonica solo (Long Train Running by The Doobie Brothers). When, having never played one before, Karen bought herself a harmonica and learned the solo perfectly within a week, I decided we might be onto a winner and started to actually put some effort into the act.
Since then we’ve been steadily building our reputation locally and have now played in almost every venue within walking distance of our homes!
As Tales of Jake we mainly play covers like 'A Change is Going to Come' and 'Long Train Running' though more recently, Karen and I have written a few original songs. These have been mainly blues-flavoured numbers suited to acoustic guitar and harmonica. We’re both huge blues and soul fans and we seem to instinctively head in that direction when we write.
Often when people think of acoustic music they have visions of meaningful, slow, frankly depressing stuff that, while often worthy and artistically valid, can be hard to take in anything but smallish doses. We’ve decided not to bother with all that and only play songs that the audience have a fair to middling chance of actually enjoying. I tend to only suggest songs originally sung by men, just to annoy Karen.
How is it going so far?
We now gig at least once or twice most weeks. As there are only two of us, we can occasionally make a wee bit of money, which is always nice. Last November we were chosen as the best acoustic covers act in Glasgow in a competition, which was also nice. The prize money allowed us to buy our own PA, making us self-sufficient and allows us to play a wider range of venues.
We now have a regular coterie of ‘Jakeys’ who follow us around from gig to gig and shout at us, as well as a number of other local musicians who guest with us as and when they can.
I’ve yet to achieve my ambition of getting every member of an audience to buy me a drink, but I’m getting closer.
You are also a member of Not Dead Yet
Yes, as well as Tales of Jake, Karen and I have joined up with some other friends and formed a full, electric band called Not Dead Yet. We’ve only had one gig so far. Mainly due to an ever- revolving cast of bass players (similar to Spinal Tap’s drummers, but without the horrific deaths). Our drummer also has an infuriating habit of falling off bikes and breaking bits of himself, which has caused some delays.
Danny, back to you. What does being in a band give you that writing doesn’t?
Unlike writing, music is all about collaboration, and that’s where the real pleasure lies. Also, it’s much louder than writing, and everyone needs something loud in their life now and then.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer or musician?
Probably all the things I do now apart from the music and the writing.
Any advice for ‘wanna be’ musicians and rock stars – like you were back as a teenager?
Same as for writers, really. Do it if you love it, get as good at it as you can, and expect never to make a penny.
What do you for a ‘day job’ in between rehearsing and gigging?
I still work in social care, supporting adults with learning disabilities, just no longer in a management role and only part- time. I also give guitar lessons, play with the band and occasionally act as a scribe for students with communication difficulties.
I’m also midway through training to become an instructor in crisis and aggression limitation and management (CALM), which will then allow me to train other staff in the field.
Any secret skills?
I’m getting pretty good at this Candy Crush thing.
Favourite place on the planet?
The 24 hour shop just down from my house.
‘Alcohol – the cause of and solution to all of our problems’- Homer Simpson
You said your friends would call you a stupid, lucky idiot, would you describe yourself in the same way?
I’d add a few swear words.
So, Danny Gillan, what have you learned overall from the last 18 months?
… that today is more precious than tomorrow.
Are you going to look after yourself now you stupid, lucky idiot?
Never make a promise you can’t keep.
Thanks To Danny Gillan
for being so open and spending time chatting with Digital Journal.