interview: David James Herbert: singer/songwriter from Edinburgh

David James Herbert lives in Edinburgh, Scotland and after fronting some bands and being a DJ he now plies the trade of singer/songwriter. Here we talk to him about that genre, roots, and taking tea in a gaff.

For many people the term "singer/songwriter" conjures up visions of a person with a guitar and a repertoire of sad songs. Would you like to update the image?

I don't think people James Blunt, despite his success, has done the image any favours! I think it's a hard image to escape from. There's only so much that you can do with a guitar and vocal on stage, which makes it hard to grab peoples attention. Why should people listen to you when there's 50,000 other "singer/songwriters" grinding out the same old shit. Which is why I can't wait to get the band on stage, cause I've got some really fucking great musicians working with me now. For me, the deal is to try and make every song sound different. Every song has to be the best song i've ever written. Yeah, there's melancholy in there, but there's also songs to have a bounce to, with your arm around your best mate, and songs to have a bit of a laugh or a dance to.

What gets you started in the songwriting process?

I suppose like anybody else, it happens in different ways. I hope now that I've got away from the verse,chorus,verse,chorus - shit, better write a middle 8! way of writing, where you can see the guitar solo coming from a hundred miles. I'm not great at sitting down to write lyrics, it's best if I'm walking around or taking a shower or something, and it just comes into my head! But usually I'll get an idea for a title, and the song will roll on from there.

Edinburgh has a rich cultural mix as well as a sizable student population. Does this end up helping towards having a reasonable number of venues to play? Care to mention some?

Edinburgh's a strange old town. Considering it's home to the biggest international arts festival in the world, outside of that, there's not many venues to go and see a decent band. There's some great small venues, but not many that are the right size for bigger bands on tour, so in a sense we miss out to Glasgow for a lot of them. Saying that, I went home at Christmas, and one of the bigger clubs had been taken over and converted into a venue called "Gig", so maybe that will help. What will be sad is when "The Venue" in Edinburgh closes down, as this has long been a supporter of both signed and unsigned bands, and is one of the few more infamous venues in Edinburgh. The great thing about the City though is that, because there is quite a diverse mix of people and tastes, if you want to go to a rockabilly or northern soul club night on a friday, you can, then go to a eastern european hard house night the next! You can find pretty much anything you're into on some scale, which is great!

Mstation was told a joke to differentiate between Glasgow and Edinburgh people (don't know where they were from!) that goes like this ... 'Glasgow people will say "You'll stay for tea then?" whereas in Edinburgh they'll say "You'll have had your tea then". Would you care to deny this?!

I'd imagine that was someone from glasgow that made that joke, and they may be right! I dunno, in some sense maybe people from the west are a little warmer towards people, but that just depends where you go. There's two halves to Edinburgh. There's the upper class crowd who live in the New Town or Morningside or somewhere, and then there's the rest who are just genuine, salt of the earth people. Feels like home to me anyway. You can come round to my gaff for tea any time you like!

You said that your first musical inspiration was Oasis, and you traced back from them to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and on back to the Blues and pop-offshoots. Do you consider that what you do now is any kind of synthesis of these things?

I think the spirit of the songs still lie somewhere in what I first listened to, with bands like Oasis. Just the sense of getting off your arse and doing something for yourself. But there's definitely been a lot of other influences in my stuff. But I am not much of a singer/songwriter person, with a few notible exceptions. Most of the stuff I listen to is bands, and I think when I write, I hear the rest of the parts in my head, which hopefully has helped it stand out.

Are you still DJing as well? If so what's your tune of the day? Well, what's your tune of the day, even if you're not?

I haven't had the chance to do any Djing for a while, and I really miss it. I really loved running the clubnight back home. There's not many places you can go and hear Back in Black by AC/DC, Superstition by Stevie Wonder, and then something by Mahalia Jackson or some blue grass from the 30's! I'm listening to the Arcade fire album at the moment, so I think rebellion will have to go down as my tune of the day! I think that track is fucking great, it just keeps grinding along. Might have to nick it , no one will notice.

Thanks a lot Dave

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