The Appalachian instrumentation of Daniel Bachman is the hymn of the hills in refreshing old territory.
How has living in Virginia impacted your songwriting?
I am into the history of that place (prehistoric to present), but I think for me it's less cultural and more about the landscape and feel of it at least with what I'm getting at in my music. When I'm home, I try and get outside a lot and the songs on my records are dedications almost to specific days or moods or feelings and I do feel like they have a strong sense of place - even if it's just me that picks up on that. It's a place that's familiar to me and I think it's beautiful, diverse, and complicated. I was also around bluegrass in the town that I grew up in even though I hated that shit when I was a kid.
How did you get into playing/studying the instrumental/apocalyptic folk style?
Ever since I was a little kid, I've always been drawn more to instrumental music than any others I think - not really sure why that is. I played all sorts of instruments growing up - played trombone and bass for years and bought a banjo from a friend down the street from my folks house (thanks Ryan) and slowly started learning how to pick. I liked the records my dad had - John Hurt, Dock Boggs, Ralph Stanley, he even had a couple Sandy Bull records - but especially the bluegrass stuff for that tight finger-picking style. I was getting more and more into it and felt limited by the banjo. Maybe I was 16 when I heard a couple Fahey records and shortly there after ended up playing a gig in Philly and heard Jack Rose for the first time.
Hearing that there was a guy doing this stuff and playing all over the world gave me the confidence to really dig in. I didn't even know we were from the same place. It just stuck. I was also having a very hard time in my life at that point with severe anxiety and depression and it was something I could put my whole self into. I ended up becoming completely agoraphobic for a year and I used touring as a way to get back into the world. It's been ten years in October and it still feels good. I'm just a little tired all the time.
Lately, it seems there's an emergence of folk instrumental records. What do you think has given this style of music a sort of rebirth in the last couple of years?
To be honest I'm not really sure - it was hot as shit for a little bit.
What things motivate you creatively?
Nothing in particular I'd say. If I don't do it I don't feel right. I do kinda feel a little guilt if I'm home and not working on something because I'm home so sporadically right now. I really try and take advantage of that time with music and other things I'm interested in.
We saw you at Moogfest in 2016 perform in the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Durham - a beautiful venue to experience your music, I might add. You performed with a couple guys playing some very interesting instruments. Can you explain what they were playing and where those instruments originate? Do you often travel with that crew?
Yeah those are my friends Ian McColm and Forrest Marquisse. Ian is a fantastic percussionist and guitar player and Forrest built those octagonal instruments in his shop at home outside of Sperryville, Virginia. He calls them Octatones. It's an 8-sided instrument that you can play single strings or bow all at once. I'd love to start touring with them more and we have a tour coming in the summer in New England but we'll see. It's a whole world I'm just starting to dip my feet into and I'm really enjoying it. It's nice to be able to take a seat and be a contributing voice rather than the whole show.
You released a self-titled record on Three Lobed last year. How did that record differ from earlier releases in songwriting, recording, or production?
To be honest, not that much. We recorded it in my friend Zeke's dining room in Durham - I lived there for a couple years. Recording is something I'm not terribly excited about. Things never come out the way I'd like them to. You tour the tunes for a while and they're tighter after the fact, but the thing that was different about that record (and the one that I'm working on now) is that I'm actually starting to be able to get the sounds I want to get out of the guitar and I really just think that it's by just getting older and tighter as a player. I've been shy or hesitant to try things up to this point and I'm losing those reservations.
We first heard of your stuff around the time Seven Pines was released. How has your music developed since that point? How has your live show changed from those days?
Man, well for one thing I used to play so fast. Too fast I think. It's funny too because when I'd practice or write stuff it would sound slow and sure. Then I'd hear back and it'd be so fast and rushed. It's taken me years to calm down and I'm still working on it. I'll hear things still and think man I have to stretch that out a little. But I really do think that's just being a young player. When that was recorded I had only been playing guitar for 4 years or something like that... That's not a lot of time, I was pretty fresh.
Touring got me tight and confident. I've done a lot of touring since that record came out. In the beginning you'd be lucky to get a half hour set out of me and now I don't like to do anything under an hour. I'm more consistent than I used to be, too. I do have bad nights every now and then, and a couple years ago if I played like shit or fucked up a tune it'd kill me. Now I can brush it off. I'm not as hard on myself as I used to be. I've also gotten to the point, finally, where I can split up a set with half lap guitar and half regular guitar which I've been trying to get at since I bought that thing 4 or 5 years ago.
What things do you like to do when you put music away and try to clear your mind? How do these activities support your creativity?
When I'm home I like to cook and go on hikes or go running a lot. Those things really help me come down from some of these longer tours. It's hard to eat good or not drink too much on the road and I try hard to come back from that when I get home. I have a lot of interests outside of music though, especially in this last year or two coming home and feeling burned out from music. I've been painting a lot and taking pictures. I get the same thing out of those things that I get out of playing music. Grounded and focused energy on one thing especially after a tour like the one I was just on that was almost 2 months long coming home and spending hours and hours on one thing gets me out of the head space that traveling keeps me in. I do practice everyday but I really need time away from that thing to continue feeling excited about it.