Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1086

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Feature

db Clifford: World Get Ready

dbClifford @bluesandsoul.com
dbClifford @bluesandsoul.com dbClifford @bluesandsoul.com dbClifford @bluesandsoul.com dbClifford @bluesandsoul.com

This month finds award-winning soulful singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist dbClifford returning to the marketplace via the independent Samadhi Music label with his third studio album “Lucky Me”. Which, written and recorded over a six-month period at Abbey Road Studios and Metropolis Studios in London as well as Baker Studios in British Columbia, Canada, marks Clifford’s first release since 2011’s “Feet Above The Ground” which prestigiously saw the now-London-based artist receive the John Lennon Award for Best Pop Song Of The Year for his song “New State Of Mind”.

Indeed, featuring the talents of world-class session musicians like bassist Rick May (Michael Jackson/Depeche Mode) and a killer horn section who between them have played on such classic albums as Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” and Jamiroquai’s “Emergency On Planet Earth”, “Lucky Me” boasts musical moods ranging from the pushing soul/jazz groove of its first single “Away” and the brassy, shuffling funk of “Break Out” to the blues-tinged Southern soul sway of “Looking For No One” and the chunky, pounding drive of its insistent upbeat title-track. All of which is in turn overseen by the production skills of Clifford himself alongside co-producers Joby Baker and John Cartwright.

Born Daniel Clifford in Bergerac, Dordogne, France in 1979 to an English mother from Brighton and a French/Tunisian musician father, Clifford would spend his formative years growing up in the South of France surrounded by music before at 18 (having already mastered piano by the age of five and drums, bass, guitar and sax by eleven!) attending the prestigious CIAM School Of Music in Bordeaux. Following which in 2002 he would end up moving to Los Angeles, California to sign briefly with NuAmerica/Interscope as one half of a short-lived pop/soul duo named Supernova before in 2003 being forced to return to France following the death of his mother.

Nevertheless, early 2006 would find Clifford - by now based in Victoria, British Columbia - signing a solo deal with Sony BMG Music (Canada) Inc, through whom in 2007 he would release his debut album “Recyclable”. Which - written at his home studio in South West France and entirely played, sung, written and produced by Clifford himself - would impressively spawn the Japanese Number One single “Simple Things” as well as the international radio hit “Don’t Wanna”. After which 2011 would see Clifford, while remaining true to the soul/jazz/pop roots that were so prevalent on his debut, additionally giving a firm nod to his rock influences for his harder, darker aforementioned sophomore set “Feet Above Ground” which would again find him writing, recording and producing all the songs himself at his own studio as well as playing all the instruments.

Meanwhile, despite his overseas success having initially led to high-profile tours across North American and Europe with such big-name acts as James Blunt, Counting Crows and festival headliners like Amy Winehouse, Clifford’s next move - following a painful divorce - would unexpectedly find him making “a challenging relocation” to London to “start again from scratch”... Which in turn brings us neatly back to today and this month’s release of the primarily-London-recorded, aforementioned “Lucky Me”. As an upbeat Mr Clifford joins “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for early-afternoon drinks at Central London’s fifteenth-floor bar/restaurant The Heights for a bright’n’breezy, yet in-depth, interview.

Let’s discuss the background to your titling your new, third album “Lucky Me”

“Well, while I’m not gonna go too far into detail, the guy I co-wrote a lotta the songs on this album with was John Cartwright. Who, while I guess he’s not that well-known, used to be signed to EMI in New York and wrote a lotta songs for (English rock singer-songwriter) Jess Rhoden back in the Seventies. Plus on a more personal level, he was also kind of my mentor. Because with him being in France at the time, when I was 18 he was the one who actually put me in his band and taught me a lot as a new musician starting out. But then what happened was, a few weeks after writing the songs for this album, he died of a heart attack literally four days after the last day of recording. So with it in my mind being kind of dedicated to him, when I was looking for a title I just thought ‘Well, the one song he actually came up with a title for was “Lucky Me” - so with it basically being a break-up album that I wrote about one of the hardest times in my life following my divorce, why not call the whole thing “Lucky Me” and why not emphasise the fact that yeah, shit happens but at the end of the day how lucky am I that I’m alive and that I’m in this town and I’m healthy and I can play music and I’ve got friends?’…So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s how “Lucky Me” became the title.”

So what did you primarily want to achieve lyrically and musically this time around?

“Well, as far as I’m concerned this is almost like my first proper album! Because with my previous two albums, whilst I’m very proud of them what I basically did was do everything by myself with a very low budget and just write songs about things that I thought at the time were relevant. Whereas of course now that I’ve gone through actual life crises and divorce and heartbreak and all that stuff this time round I really wanted to dive into the emotion of just being super-honest with what I’m talking about. You know, I wanted to deal with stuff that really has touched me, as opposed to maybe the songs I’d written before which were a bit more ethereal. So whereas previously I’d talked about stuff like war when I’d never actually grown up in a war-torn country, on the lyrical side of things this time it was all about personal questions that I’d been asking myself about stuff that I’d genuinely experienced… Then musically I really just wanted this album to be THE shit, sonically. You know, I really wanted it to sound awesome. Which is why I wanted to record at Abbey Road, why I wanted to get the horn section from Jamiroquai and Amy Winehouse… You know, I just wanted to make a really, really good record that could compete with any artist out there, whether it be a John Mayer, a Jamie Cullum... So yeah, overall I’d say this album is just a lot more mature than my previous releases. Because I’m 38 now, I’ve lived more of life, l’ve done more gigs, I’ve worked with more people… Which in turn, I think it has enabled me to finally get to that point where you can reach the true cool essence of a song as opposed to just showing off maybe with a few fancy tricks.”

dbClifford performs at The Finsbury, London on April 9

The album “Lucky Me” is released through Samadhi Music on April 13

You can read more from exclusive interview with dbClifford, including his recollections of his first record deal as one half of pop/soul duo Supernova and his thoughts on his 2 previous albums in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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Words PETE LEWIS

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