Singer-songwriter Daniel Wylie, who was formerly frontman of Glasgow jangle-popsters Cosmic Rough Riders, has recently released a vinyl-only compilation album, Best of The Solo Years (2004-2014), on Spanish label You Are The Cosmos.
As the title suggests, it brings together some of the highlights from his solo career, including the irresistible, Byrds-like Consoling The Girl, the gorgeous, unabashed love song That Was The Day, the folky strummer Brighton Beach, uptempo space-rocker Unwind and the jaunty Car Guitar Star, on which Daniel takes a swipe at those people who steal music rather than pay for it…
It’s a superb collection that is soaked in ’60s California [melodic] sunshine pop and recalls the chiming, 12-string sound of R.E.M, Teenage Fanclub and, of course, Cosmic Rough Riders – some of the tracks were penned for Daniel’s old band, but ended up on his first solo album, 2004’s Ramshackle Beauty.
I spoke to Daniel, who’s off to record his brand new studio album, Scenery For Dreamers, this month, to find out the stories behind some of the songs…
Why did the time feel right to put out a new solo compilation album?
Daniel Wylie: It was the label’s idea [You Are The Cosmos]. They wanted to release a compilation focusing on the albums I released under my own name, rather than my Cosmic Rough Riders releases.
I hadn’t released a compilation album for eight years, so it felt like a good time to remind people that I’m still recording and releasing albums on a regular basis.
This Best Of… is my twelfth album release, counting Cosmic Rough Riders and solo records, since 1999. That’s a lot of music…
How hard was it to choose which songs went on the record?
DW: Pedro Vizcaino, who owns You Are The Cosmos, presented me with a track listing of his choice. I had a look at it and pretty much agreed with the songs he’d chosen…although I did insist on The Cello Player and Everything I Give You being on there.
When I released the last compilation, I got some interesting feedback from fans who were disappointed that I left off one of their personal favourites. I’m getting some similar feedback again with this new compilation, but you can’t please everyone.
The album is available on vinyl only. Why did you choose to release it in that format?
DW: I’m a big fan of vinyl, but because of the dominance of the CD era, much of my music never got a vinyl release. This was a good way for me to get more of my music out on vinyl. The artwork’s bigger and more aesthetically pleasing. I’m getting old and I can’t read the tiny text on CDs now…
The album has been released under license by Spanish label, You Are The Cosmos. Why have you teamed up with them?
DW: I own the rights to all my own music, which means I get to choose whom I do deals with. It’s a good position to be in.
You Are The Cosmos released my last studio album, Chrome Cassettes, and they did a great job, so when they approached me with the compilation idea, I was happy to get involved with them again.
The label is a labour of love and Pedro Vizcaino is passionate about music. His enthusiasm rubs off on you and you want to be a part of what he’s doing. It’s a very cool label with a growing reputation for releasing quality music.
Let’s talk about some of the songs on the album. Opener, Consoling The Girl, is one of my favourite tracks. What’s the story behind it? It’s classic jangle-pop / country-rock and it’s very Byrds-like…
DW: That song is partly about the trials of separation – having to go away on tour and leave behind the ones you love.
Cosmic Rough Riders toured constantly. In fact, one year I was only home for 16 days and I really missed my wife and children.
I wrote Consoling The Girl for what was to be the follow-up to Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine [Cosmic Rough Riders’ third album]. When we were in Japan on tour, I played a bundle of my new songs to the Sony Music execs and they were all saying that Consoling The Girl sounded like a single – that and Unwind.
Car Guitar Star is a message song – it deals with the subject of people stealing music and ripping off musicians. What’s your current view on that issue? You’re not a fan of Spotify, are you?
DW: I would prefer people to buy records and CDs. As a music fanatic, I want the lot – the great music, the beautiful artwork… I want to read who produced, engineered and mixed the album and who wrote the songs. I want to read the lyrics of the songs while I listen – it’s a whole experience that shouldn’t be allowed to die out. A file is nothing and MP3 sounds terrible, too.
I’m not a fan of streaming. I understand that it makes it easier for people to listen to music on the move, but until it pays artists and songwriters a proper royalty rate, then it’s not something I would promote as a good idea.
It might be that one day, streaming services will offer good financial rewards for the music they use, but, at the moment, they’re giving your music away for free in the hope that someone might turn up at your gig, or buy a T-shirt.
Another one of my favourite tracks on your new album is Brighton Beach. Funnily enough, I saw Cosmic Rough Riders play in Brighton – on the beach – at The Concorde 2, back in 2000. If I remember correctly, you played the song Brighton Beach in your set that night. It eventually came out on your 2004 debut solo album, Ramshackle Beauty. What can you tell me about that song?
DW: I wrote Brighton Beach as a B-side for The Pain Inside single [by Cosmic Rough Riders], but decided it deserved better than B-side status.
To be honest, I think the tune is great and the harmonies in the end section are maybe the best I’ve done in any song, but there’s only one line of the lyric that actually says anything… “everybody wants something – that’s the way of the world.” The rest of the lyrics are just rubbish.
That gig you speak of at Brighton Concorde 2…That day I had planned to take a guitar on to the beach and sing the song to the first pretty girl I saw…that was until we stepped out of the tour bus and felt how cold it was outside. There was no one on the beach…
Let’s talk about something happier. That Was The Day, which is on your new album, is a very pretty love song and the lyric mentions ‘that record by January’ – [I Heard Myself In You]. January were label mates of Cosmic Rough Riders when you signed to Alan McGee’s Poptones, weren’t they?
DW: I love that January album. It was my chill-out album on tour. I used to listen to it in the dark in my hotel room every night before going to sleep.
I intentionally wrote a song where I could fit that into the lyrics – that song was That Was The Day. There’s a funny thing about That Was The Day – four different couples have used it as their wedding song, but the song is about meeting my wife. It’s sentimental, I know, but what can I say – the day I met her was the single greatest day of my life.
January made a second album called Motion Sickness. It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as their first…
How do you feel about those days when you were signed to Poptones? Looking back on them now, do you have good or bad memories?
DW: Poptones was a great label and it was amazing to be a part of it. There were some great people involved in that label and of course working with Alan McGee and Joe Foster is as good as it gets. It’s just a shame it didn’t last longer.
Maybe if I’d stayed in Cosmic Rough Riders and we’d released the follow-up to Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, things could have been different, as we were definitely on the rise.
We were the second biggest selling act on the label after The Hives and there was a big interest in what we would do next…then I left the band. A lot of people were angry with me and I can see why, but it’s never been about money for me.
I knew I would be selling less records and making music on a low budget and with a much lower profile, but at least it would be on my own terms without interference from people I couldn’t connect with musically – not the folk at the label, they were all great.
I’m proud of every album I’ve released since. I also loved some other bands on Poptones – Arnold were great and so were Oranger and Captain Soul.
Your latest studio album, Chrome Cassettes, came out in 2015. Are you working on a new record? What can we expect and when will it be out? Have you written any new songs recently?
DW: I begin recording a new album on February 9 – it’s going to be called Scenery For Dreamers.
There will be 10 songs on the album – seven full band tunes and three acoustic-based songs. Once I’ve got that album out there, I will be recording an acoustic album called I Am A Golden God.
I have 22 songs almost written for the acoustic record. I’m hoping that 14 or 15 of them will make it on to the album. By then I’ll be 60 years old and thinking about retiring, at which point my wife starts laughing…
Will you be playing any live shows this year?
DW: I get offered gigs a lot, but to be honest, I can’t be bothered. I’ve toured the world and it kind of wears you down after thousands of gigs. If I got offered enough money to make it worthwhile, then I would tour, but I think that ship has sailed.
Finally, what music – new and old – are you currently enjoying? What can we find on your hi-fi?
I listen to music every day – it’s my one and only drug. I’m teetotal, so I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs… and I’m a better person for all of that.
Redspencer’s Perks is an album I’ve been listening to a lot recently. They’re from Melbourne in Australia and they remind me of Real Estate meets Blur – when Blur were great. I also love a guy called Bibio – his A Mineral Love album and his Green EP are so beautiful and melodic – it’s shimmering music.
I also love The Goon Sax album – they’re Australian and include the son of The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster in their line-up. They sound like early Orange Juice meets The Go-Betweens. I like Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe – they sing in German and have bits of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! in their music, but they’re so tuneful and edgy, too…
I also love the latest Black Mountain album, Black Mountain IV, and American band Astronauts, etc – their Mind Out Wandering album is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.
Other stuff: case/lang/veirs – beautiful country/folk-tinged music that’s ultra-melodic and mellow, Heron Oblivion, Bryan Estepa, The Junipers, Radiohead, Gregory Porter, Murals, Lou Rhodes – great acoustic folk, like Joni Mitchell with a deeper voice – and C Duncan. Both his albums are beautiful.
Daniel Wylie’s new album, Best of the Solo Years (2004-2014) is out now on You Are The Cosmos .