“I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”
As I’d wager few of us in The States know, Blackburn is a large industrial town in Lancashire, England, and is perhaps most notable for the words above. These of course being the infamous lyrics of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band track “A Day in the Life.” You don’t have to like the The Beatles, but damn it you have to respect them. And for what it’s worth, John Lennon recently had what would have been his 80th birthday on October 9th. If only he could write songs and share his two cents with the world today.
Blackburn also happens to be the hometown of another songwriter, a much more modern one, though perhaps a name a bit less recognized.
Dan Ferguson is a folk and country singer-songwriter who caught our ear with his latest single, “Disguise,” which is a whimsical and enchanting track that lures the listener in with a dream-like lap steel and a catchy, singable chorus.
Ferguson covers a vast musical spectrum, spanning from country to ambient music. He started as a singer, guitarist and fiddle player from the North West of England, and has been writing music for the past ten years. He cut his teeth in London performing in various groups whilst developing his own solo work. He’s now based back in his native area of Lancashire working on an eclectic mixture of projects.
Ferguson, a Spiritual Records affiliated artist, has been very creatively active this year, pumping out a handful of EPs and singles, and “Disguise” might be the cap for his 2020 releases.
We had a chance to chat with him to learn more.
So where did you grow up, and what got you into playing and writing music?
I grew up on the edge of Blackburn, Lancashire, so I experienced some beautiful countryside, which was then contrasted by a pretty typical post-industrial town atmosphere. I started playing music at 10 years old when I started to learn the violin. Writing music came much later, when I was about 20 (I’m 30 now). My good friend and bandmate Joe got me into writing songs because he had been doing it for a while. He inspired me to give it a go.
Would you say your geography has influenced your sound?
Yes. It’s definitely influenced my general outlook at least. A lot of the time I write the words of a song before the music so I feel like it all links together.
Who are some local artists that you look up to and inspire you?
My grandad is Irish and lives and breathes Irish folk music. When I was growing up, I’d always be brought to watch the pub sessions, and I’m now even lucky enough to play in some of them. These were the local musicians I looked up to when growing up. Whilst living in London, I saw so much good stuff. I remember seeing Olivia Chaney and being really impressed. London expanded my musical horizons beyond belief.
So your new single, “Disguise,” was just released. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this track?
I’ve recently been writing songs about dreams, fantasies and memories etc. I feel like these things sustain us, disappear and then are replaced without us really noticing. I also feel like country music and folk music in general has a strong way of representing these ideas. The disguise part is questioning how real or unreal all of these things are, but not in a very serious way.
Can fans expect to see it on an EP or LP, or is it a standalone single for now?
This is just a standalone single. I’ve already released three EP’s plus another single in 2020. This has all mostly come out of experimenting and collaborating with a few different people. It’s all quite varied and it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had whilst writing music. Now I’m thinking I need to take a step back and have a good think before releasing anything else. “Disguise” will take some beating because everything seemed to come together in a very special way.
Where was it recorded and who was involved in its production?
It was recorded in two bedrooms. I bought some home recording gear during the first lockdown, and sent the track over to my good pal Cyrus to add some lap steel. He’d only been playing the thing for a few months, but he just bonded with that instrument like nothing I’d ever seen before. Holy matrimony. He produced the whole thing and did such a fantastic job. We played in a country band together, and he showed me a lot about country music. He knows his stuff.
The track is quite whimsical and enchanting both lyrically and instrumentally. What songwriters have had the most profound effect on your own writing?
I like Kate Bush and how she delivers her words. I like how Townes Van Zandt blends poetry and country music. I know that Buck Owens has definitely had an influence on the production from Cyrus’ point of view. Ambient music has recently changed my musical outlook even though it hardly ever deals with songs as a genre. I feel it has led me to the idea of writing a country song with this theme though.
How did you get hooked up with Spiritual Records?
When I became a solo artist, The Spiritual Bar (home of Spiritual Records) in Camden became my favourite place to play. This is because they only seemed to care about my music. They liked my stuff, so they let me perform as much as I wanted. I ended playing some of my best gigs there. All the regulars recorded live tracks for Spiritual Records to be released as a compilation album. I was involved with this. Everyone at Spiritual Records has given me so much encouragement. I said that when the right song comes along, we should release it as a single – so here we are.
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process?
It’s helped me overall. I’ve never been in a position to support myself financially from my music, so it’s always been a balancing act. I was furloughed from my full-time job at the beginning of March, which gave me a lot of time to work on my music. It turned out to be a very creative five months for me. I was eventually made redundant, and now I have a new job, so the writing process has become much slower again.
What does a dream gig look like for you?
Playing at The Spiritual Bar on a Thursday night when it’s not too busy and everyone’s chilled and just enjoying being there. Large venues are overrated in my opinion.
In the realm of reason, what do you hope 2021 brings for Dan Ferguson’s music career?
My only real hope is that I can keep on being creative in a way that excites me. I’d happily take how it was before the pandemic in exchange for anything new.