Reading between the lines with Danny Widdicombe

Gold Coast singer and guitarist Danny Widdicombe (The Wilson Pickers, Honey Sliders) has seen his share of adversity. In addition to battling leukaemia for the last quarter of a century, the three-time ARIA award nominee has overcome depression and not one, but two, hip replacements. Still, he has found time to collaborate with internationally renowned instrumental trio Trichotomy on a new album ‘Between The Lines’, which the quartet will be touring this July. Danny kindly took the time to answer a few questions ahead of their spot at Dust Temple, Currumbin.

Can you tell us how the collaboration with Trichotomy came about?

I’ve always been an avid listener of a wide variety of music styles. I met Sean Foran from Trichotomy through our common love of improvised music. I remember he came into a record store I was working at about 15 years ago and we bonded over our love of the Australian band The Necks. Fast forward to 2018 and I was playing pedal steel on a recording session when I met John Parker – percussionist extraordinaire. I instantly fell in love with his playing and was struck by his musicality, which flowed effortlessly out of him. We got chatting and then worked out that he was in a band called Trichotomy with my old mate Sean Foran. I’d been writing new songs and they weren’t the sort of tunes or themes that really suited my regular bands The Wilson Pickers or The Honey Sliders, so I asked Sean if Trichotomy would like to flesh out these new ideas. We booked a rehearsal and presto! It gelled immediately and all involved were excited about how this might turn out. We booked time in a studio, pressed record and recorded the songs live. In a few days we had a new album. Then I had to have a hip replacement – but that’s another story.

The project blends a multitude of styles and influences. What do you feel is the overarching musical vibe of the album?

The main idea behind collaborating with Trichotomy was based on the blueprint devised by folk musicians of the early seventies. Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’, John Martyn’s ’Solid Air’ and Nick Drake’s ‘Bryter Layter’ amongst others, are basically all albums where the songwriter plays and songs the songs, while the jazz musicians improvise around that central core. Obviously, I don’t sound like Van Morrison, but the concept is the same and it really works. Trichotomy add a level of improvisation to the songs that I could never come up with and conversely, my songs are a complete departure from anything they’ve ever done. We found ourselves meeting in musical places that were new to all of us.

What does the title ‘Between The Lines’ mean?

This is basically a breakup record. In this case, Between the Lines is a song about lovers trying to find the truth about each other’s intentions and where their hearts lie. I thought that song stood as a beacon, summing up not only the main theme running through the album but also, it captures our exact musical meeting place – our confluence of styles.

How much of the writing of the album was informed by your ongoing health struggles?

The first single is called ‘I’m Not Around’ and deals with the depression that comes from living with leukaemia I’ve been dealing with for 24 years. The hip replacement I just had was another side effect from treatment – it’s a never ending, ongoing issue. I sing in the song “The tide washed me away / the river dragged me down / now it’s better for everyone if I’m not around.” It’s a difficult issue to talk about but we balanced the weight of the subject matter by keeping the song up beat and playful – it even has pedal steel which adds a Hawaiian skirt to an otherwise sad tale. It’s an issue that is massive problem for men in this country.

Are you well at the moment?

Yes! I can walk again! I’ll never take walking for granted ever again. I’m also really excited about getting this new album out there and playing the songs live.

Is there a particular track on the album that you’re particularly excited to release or have people hear?

I love all the songs, but one that’s especially dear to me is a song called ‘Coin Drop’. My daughter India sings on it with me and it was a special moment – she’s got such a beautiful voice. She also drew the line drawing on the from to cover of the album – also painted the cover for the first single! I’m really proud of her. But like I said, I love all these songs.

What can audiences expect from your live shows?

In addition to me singing the songs and playing guitar, and Trichotomy being their virtuosic selves, we have Kristin Berardi joining us on vocals and the great Michel Rose on pedal steel. Michel is not only the most caring and thoughtful man you’ll ever meet, he’s also the finest player of the pedal steel you’ll ever see. He’s worth the price of admission alone – actually we should put up the ticket prices! Ha. We’ll be playing the album in full plus some extra songs that we can have fun with.

What does the rest of your year look like?

Busy – Trichotomy and I will be touring the new album, The Wilson Pickers are playing Gympie Muster, The Honey Sliders are putting on our annual concept show in December – we’re doing The Stones’ classic album ‘Let it Bleed’ at the Soundlounge in Currumbin with Tim Rogers doing his best Mick Jagger impersonation.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the album, collaboration, tour, or yourself?

This is by far my most accomplished solo album. The songs were captured beautifully and there’s a real mix of styles on the album, but the thread that makes it all cohesive is the underlying band playing these songs together live in a room. To release this new album, I’ve created a new label called Futurfonic. There’ll be more releases on Futurfonic coming this year too – Dana Gehrman’s new album ‘Find a Way’ which I produced and co-wrote, and The Honey Sliders will be releasing a new single to coincide with our Let it Bleed shows. I can’t get enough music!

Don’t miss Danny and Trichotomy on their ‘Between The Lines’ tour at Dust Temple, Currumbin on 11 July. If you can’t make that one, they’ll be at the Old Museum in Brisbane on 13 July and the Imperial Hotel in Eumundi on 20 July.

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