Daryl Braithwaite burst onto the music scene over 40 years ago, with a myriad of hits that have shaped and inspired many.we caught up with Daryl in the lead up to Armidale’s A Day On the Green …
We’re very excited to have you coming back to the region to play a day on the green. You’ve done some a day on the green shows in the past; have you enjoyed them? Why do you think the event is so successful?
Well, having never played at the one there in Armidale, that’ll be a first for me. I think a day on the green, like all outdoor festivals, has a great atmosphere. There’s something about them … You’ve got a lot of people together, there’s food, there’s drink, there’s the entertainment and then there are the places they’re held at; I think all of them are held in places that are just beautiful to look at, and when you fill them up with people they give off that feeling of, “We’re here to have a good time”.
It’s relaxing, it’s exciting, it’s all of those characteristics. That’s why I like it – I mean, I love playing live, but also big outdoor festivals where you have thousands of people and you can ask them to sing … I think it’s just the way it is, and if they like you, then you’re off and running!
I can understand why your set is so hugely popular with a day on the green audiences. You’ve got such a great catalogue of songs to draw from, with Sherbet and your own solo career. Is it hard to put your set list together?
No, not really. With the Sherbet material, I give at the moment three songs, and then all the rest is solo stuff. There’s a couple of covers in there, like the Kinks, and The Babies’ songs that we’ve been doing for a long, long time and also a song by James Reyne, ‘cos he’s a good friend of mine. Then there are a couple of new ones taken off the Forever the Tourist CD, which I put out two years ago. It all works … well it seems to work! So, you keep rambling songs.
The Sherbet songs still resonate with fans. They just love hearing Summer Love, Howzat and all those hits. They obviously give them such great memories. You must have sung those songs a million times … Do you have to find new ways to approach or sing them to keep them fresh for yourself, or do you just love singing them?
I think it’s really the audience that keeps them alive. We play them, and they do vary slightly, I guess, every night that we play. But it really is the audience that sparks it; if they react, and everyone reacts differently every time we play, be it so slightly, but they’re the ones who really activate the song. Whether it’s One Summer – sometimes it can have a mediocre reaction, and then other times a really exhilarating reaction … Sort of like The Horses probably wins out of all of them as far as the reaction goes. It’s strange how even Higher than Hope, in different places and with different people, they’ll react differently … but there’s no doubt there’s always enthusiasm for them.
Do they bring back great memories of that time in your own life?
I think, as you play them for years, they do take on a different meaning with myself and also an audience. I guess when they came out it was hard, because people didn’t know them, then they got airplay and one or two of them became hits, and so then they take on a different thing.
Over the years, the best example I can give is probably The Horses. When it came out, it had a lukewarm reception, and then it ended up getting airplay a lot and it went to Number One here in Australia – that was fantastic. Over the last decade I’d say it’s become more accepted in a different way again, and I do get a lot of people writing or even coming up to me saying that it’s their favourite song, ‘cos they played it at their wedding. But sometimes people also use it sadly, at funerals, and things like that.
It really strikes a chord with people for different reasons, and I guess that’s the art of being able to write such a beautiful song, which Rickie Lee Jones and Walter Becker from Steely Dan did. I don’t think they actually envisaged – I’m sure they wouldn’t have – the reaction this song has had with people here in Australia.
One thing that’s always been your trademark is your terrific voice. You tour a lot, you play a lot of shows – Have you had problems with the voice at all, or is there anything you’ve done in particular to protect it?
It does sometimes become a little rough, or a little gnarly, if you get a cold, then you’re really buggered. I think, too, as you get older you tend to look after it more – hopefully. I don’t smoke anymore. I gave up 20 years ago, I think it was, and I drink very occasionally – after a run of shows I might have a beer or something, but I basically look after it. You do worry about it as you get older, for some reason … Say if you do three or four gigs in a row, on the third or fourth one your voice is started to get a bit ‘’Hegghhhh”. I gargle salt water and also do a nasal spray with salt water, which you can buy. It just cleans out all the nasal passages and without using chemicals.
Your last album, Forever the Tourist in 2014, was your first new release for a while. I read that your son, Oscar, had something to do with encouraging you to do that. Is that right?
He more so had an effect on me maybe 10 years ago, when he gave me a Green Day DVD, Bullet in a Bible, and he said to me (he would’ve been only 17 or 18 at the time): “Dad, I think you’ll like this”. I thought, “Green Day!” I really thought they were a Folk, like Acoustic style, and then I put it on and thought, “Oh my God, they’re at this big concert in England, and it looks as though there are about 50,000 people there.!”
Billie Joe is just my idea of what should happen on stage. He doesn’t take any lip, and I think he just epitomised that this is how you react with an audience … I came away from that thinking that it was like going to a class and learning something; it was really quite effective for me.
Your career has now spanned 40 years or so, which is an amazing achievement given how fickle the music business can be. Are you still enjoying performing? I think you’re 66 now … No thoughts of retiring anytime soon?
Oh, NO! No to retiring! But I do love performing, and I love all the aspects of it. I know it sounds mundane, but even getting up in the morning, you leave home, pack the bags, get in the car, it’s dark, maybe I pick up one other guy on the way to the airport, you get in the bus to go to the airport, you catch the plane – all that stuff – then you get to the motel, you check it out and you go, “Oh God, look at the bed – it just looks great!”
Then you go to a sound check, do the gig, and you have a great time, go back to the motel, and then get up the next day and do it all again … Every aspect of it I would miss if I gave it up and retired! The only reason I’ll retire is if the throat goes funny, or if I die. The amount of gigs we’ve got now is as great as what we had 10 – 15 years ago anyway and we’re playing to a lot of people. So whatever it is, it’s working!
Catch Daryl at a day on the green, Petersons Winery, Armidale. Saturday, November 21.