After writing and producing for bands like Little Mix and singing in The Parades, Dan Bartlett has changed his tune. Following the release of his solo debut, ‘Give What You Take’, we sat down with the Reading-born musician for a chat. Showing introspect, Dan spoke about the importance of good timing in music and avoiding the pressures of social media.
Honest, reflective and eclectically-inspired, meet Dan D’Lion…
When did it get serious for you as a solo artist?
I started off producing and co-writing for other artists and by about January this year, I was sitting on this collection of songs that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with.
It was music coming from my experiences and it definitely meant something to me, so I started to think about putting together the Dan D’Lion project.
Is there a story behind the name Dan D’Lion?
I’m obsessed with mixing up words and trying to make new things out of them. Dan D’Lion is a combination of my sense of humour and my character being quite shy and sensitive at times but then also outrageous and fast-paced like a Lion.
You recently released your debut single ‘Give You What You Take’. Tell me about the lead up to that moment?
The whole of this year I’ve been working towards putting music out. It’s been a long process of writing in the studio, producing it and then dripping it out to a few people before getting the confidence to put it out.
I feel like I’ve been writing music my whole life but this is the first track I’ve ever put out on my own. It’s been daunting but extremely exciting.
You’ve produced and written music for a lot of different artists. When it came to your own music, did you prefer to keep production to yourself or collaborate with other producers?
When it comes to speaking about my own feelings I can be quite private. I didn’t realise that until I started putting this project together, but ‘Give What You Take’ is about finding that balance between being an introverted person in some senses and extroverted in others.
I’ve always wanted to put my own music out but I guess I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes down to it. I definitely wanted to make a mark on my own, initially anyway.
How would you describe your sound and do you think it differs from other pop music right now?
I keep my sound as naturally expressive as I can and a lot of the sounds I’ve used are inspired by trips I’ve taken around the world. I went to India at the beginning of this year and I loved the way that they use their melodies and how different sounds wind around each other. I’ve tried to re-create something similar in some of the productions of these tracks.
I’d like my sound to sit in between the accessible, relatable and popular side of music and more alternative stuff.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Did those early influences have an impact on your current sound?
Growing up it was a mixed bag. My dad played a lot of jazz music so there was a lot of Herbie Hancock and Weather Report whereas my mum was into Pink Floyd and Jamiroquai.
As a teenager, I went through the phases of going through heavy rock, acoustic guitar music and folk. The music I listen to now that inspires me create is bands like Tame Impala, with their outrageous use of synth. Or people like Sampha, who just have a way of getting down to the core of a beautiful song and decorating it with interesting production.
Moving away from production, to think more about the lyrics. Do you have a specific creative process when it comes to writing?
To be honest, it’s always different. I’m releasing an EP early next year and there’s a song on there that I wrote by sitting down with a bottle of wine at a piano. That came out in 30-40 minutes. ‘Give What You Take’ for example took me a couple of months to create a beat then find a melody which sat best on it.
I’m a big believer in the fact that you can’t just sit down and force yourself to be creative. It can come at any time. Which is the most exciting thing about it! So if it takes me 3/4 months to write a song then that’s cool.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt since working in the music industry?
Time is the most valuable thing. A lot of people – myself included – will try and rush things out to get the result as quickly as possible but if the right music and the right message is being created then you can give it as much time as it needs to fully form.
I can imagine social media really adding to the pressure of that?
Absolutely. It’s hard not to look at social media and think “wow everyone is being so creative the whole time and putting out so much music”. That definitely puts pressure on a lot of artists to keep on creating, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In some cases, it’s how the best kind of music can be created.
I think social media has negative and positive sides to it but it definitely hasn’t affected how I’ve wanted to do things. I’ve sat back and waited for the right time to put out my music.
You’ve produced and written music for a lot of different artists. Who’s been your favourite to work with and why?
There’s an artist that I always talk about called Zilo. My friend Tay, Zilo and myself used to get out of the city and go to my parent’s house in Reading to write music. There was something about it that just didn’t feel like we were writing for writing’s sake. We were creating real music that we loved.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2019?
I’m going to put out two more tracks early on next year. Then, there’ll be a 5 track EP and more music that summer.
Listen to ‘Give What You Take’: