With the independent release of National Throat, Will Dailey has proven that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Dailey’s latest album makes it clear that good songwriting isn’t a matter of hiding behind shiny production or an over-stylized persona. His music doesn’t contain a note of pretense. If anything, it is committed to the beauty of simplicity.
National Throat is a statement about the value of creativity and the survival of art. Dailey believes the truth will find its way out, that what is real and beautiful will rise to the top. His songs prove that when art strives to be the best it can be, it will find its audience – as Dailey has found his.
NYMM: You’ve just released a Deluxe Edition of National Throat. What was behind that decision?
WD: By the time I had National Throat finished, I had recorded most of my cover of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire. I just hadn’t finished it. It’s a song that spiritually guided the record and guided my exodus from the major label system. It gave me the courage to look at this change as a beginning, and that’s why I wanted to release it.
NYMM: There’s been a lot of talk about “300 Dollar Man.” Tell me a little about that song.
WD: We had been playing that song live for a while. I wrote it in literally five minutes. I learned that during the Civil War you could get out of serving in the Union Army for $300. It makes you realize that some things never change.
If you have the resources, you can get out of getting involved, or getting your hands dirty. I wrote it around the time I was getting involved in Farm Aid and I was around a lot of farmers, many of whom had been forced out of farming. A lot of those themes meshed together for me, and the song got a good response so we finally recorded it.
NYMM: Is it normal for you to write a song that quickly?
WD: I may work on a song for five years or for five minutes, but I don’t really have a preference. I have melodies, lyrics, and production ideas and I try to work on them at all times. Stephen King said it best: there is inspiration, but you have to have a toolbox.
It’s really fun filling up that toolbox by listening to music, watching films, or songwriting. It’s the one thing I’ve found in my life that I don’t mind doing over and over again. I’ve gotten sick of pretty much everything else [laughs].
NYMM: How much of the songwriting actually takes place in the studio, while recording?
WD: In the studio, I surround myself with a lot of incredible musicians. I want to be the worst person in the room. I love knowing ahead of time what I want to accomplish in the studio, cutting it live with a band, and then molding it into one cohesive storyline as an album. I don’t want to get stuck on too many rules. I want to be able to move as Bruce Lee said: like water.
NYMM: You open the album with “Sunken Ship.” What importance does that song hold for you?
WD: I can sit and ask myself which guy am I: the guy who stays on the ship or the one who is jumping out? That’s helpful for me to be able to explore both sides, because I’m not the same person I was when I wrote it. I was on the biggest label in the world and I was miserable.
I remember being on a phone call with my manager saying, “You have to get me out of this deal.” I know everybody wanted me to write more songs and hand them over, but I felt like I’m didn’t want to give them any of my good ones anymore. I felt like everyone was on this boat that’s half sunk and they were acting like it was still sailing along smoothly. That song immediately defined how I felt in that situation, which is why it kicks off the record.
NYMM: What’s the significance of the title, National Throat?
WD: I was reading an essay by John Phillip Sousa from 1910, and he was decrying te presence of the gramophone. He said that it would take the place of the piano and our collective musical experience and it was going to ruin our “national throat.” My first thought was how people have been upset about technology in music since day one.
I came up in a music industry that has fallen apart and is redefining itself, where everyone is freaking out about downloads, CD sales, streaming, and how much money an artist makes. Art is going to happen no matter what. Artists will create no matter what. And it will define its own economy based on what artists decide to do. The national throat will survive.
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