The following is an Independent Spotlight exclusive interview with the up and coming singer songwriter, Dean Eggleston.
Several years ago, a change in your life happened that made you want to revisit music. What was that? It seems like you had previously written off the art form almost entirely before that.
I had been running a publishing business. When that ended, followed shortly after by the end of a long term relationship with my childrens' mother, I really was searching for some direction in life. Playing music had really just been fun before then and with all the other responsibilities it had taken a back seat. I had always had little melody ideas popping into my head so I thought I would take some time out to pursue these ideas and see what came of it.
You’ve remarked there was a point where you were writing in your voice instead of someone else’s. What voices were you writing in? Who inspired you, and whose lyrics were you studying when crafting your own songwriting style?
The ideas I had were all very “pretty' - very melodic and sounded like they would be best sung by a female singer. I really couldn't imagine me singing them. I also had no idea of what to write songs about so I thought I'd find a female singer/lyricist. Obviously that didn't work out on either score.
I would spend all day watching song videos on the internet. Anything really, just continuously clicking on suggested videos. Because I don't tend to listen to lyrics when I'm listening to music I also started to read lyrics. I was also analysing song structures, chord changes, etc. One song that particularly stands out to me was 'Come to My Window,' Melissa Etheridge. I could clearly see the structure there... I learnt so much from that song. It also helped me from then on when looking at other songs.
I read an interview with Swedish songwriter/producer Max Martin. He wrote something about not being a poet but just writing what sounded right. That really resonated with me. I knew I wasn't a poet, so I was halfway there.
You seemed to be fairly adverse to poetry and the idea that songwriting was poetic. Do you still feel that way? Or are there songs of yours that you feel comfortable calling poetry in one form or another?
Yup. Obviously there needs to be some meaning there, but I still write what sounds good to me. I can go lines without any rhyme and there might seem to be a point in the song where everything should rhyme. There are definitely some lines I'm proud of. I’ll let others decide if it’s poetry or not.
When you went to record ‘Take Me Home,’ you wanted to get the best recording you possibly could. How did you go about doing that? What was the process like? Were you in studio, or in a home studio of some sort, for example?
I found a local producer with his own studio. He's very much on my wavelength and fills in all the gaps in my knowledge. I wanted the song to be whatever it could be, a modern southern rock classic sound in the mold of 'Sweet Home Alabama.' I always play acoustic guitar live and it's ended up almost non-existent in recording. I knew the guitarist, but the other musicians were session musicians. I really enjoyed the process of working with other musicians on the song. They might be given a bit of a brief, but would generally provide us with a demo of their part. Then they'd come into the studio, make a first recording, and then go through section by section taking direction from the producer and myself.
‘Take Me Home’ is a song about cleaning up the mess of the past and moving forward - moving home. Did you learn anything about yourself writing the song? You sing about how you were “full of desire” and “poisoned by snakes.” Have you become a wiser person from those experiences?
I’m not sure if I learned anything about myself when I wrote the song but I am constantly surprised in how many others relate to it and all my songs. I let people make up their own minds on what the songs mean to them. I tend to write from a strong hook idea and then fill in the gaps from there. It's always interesting to see what direction the lyrics take me once I start writing the verses
Life would be a lot easier if “desire” was enough, but unfortunately others have it, too, and that can impact on your own experience. Snakes freak me out a bit. There aren’t any in New Zealand. I like to keep well away from them.
You describe yourself as a “lover of American rock music” and you certainly have Americana influences strung throughout your music. How did you come about being exposed to this, being from New Zealand? Is Americana music prevalent in your country?
I think that because New Zealand is a smaller country we get exposed to a range of overseas influences, more so than people living in a larger country like the USA. Also New Zealand bands don’t tend to produce music in this genre so I was always looking to North America (I love Rush and Neil Young, so I have to include Canada here.) Growing up I listened a lot to Joe Walsh, Neil Young, ZZ Top, Tom Petty, James Taylor... I was always drawn to songs with strong melodies and it never bothered me if it really rocked or not.
Now that you’ve dabbled into the recording process, what do you prefer: working in the studio or on the stage? Is there something you can do in one situation but can’t in the other?
My favourite part is the songwriting. I never had any intentions of playing live. It was really just a necessity so that people could hear my songs. I really enjoy both aspects. I really enjoy getting a reaction to my songs. The reason I chose 'Take Me Home' to record is because it consistently got the best reaction live. I really didn’t think that much of it when I wrote it. Playing live with other musicians gives me the chance to experiment with songs.
What is the timeline like for your upcoming debut EP? Do you have songs already written for it? Is there a theme or style you’re looking to incorporate?
I am about to start recording the EP. It will be finished later on in the year. I have the songs written. I have well over 100 songs I would be happy to put on the EP. I feel like I’ve made my mark in the sand with 'Take Me Home' and the songs on the EP should just branch out from there. The production will be simpler this time round. 'Take Me Home' always felt like an “all the bells and whistles” kind of song. I have an upbeat, easy-to-sing-along-with-the-chorus type song, a rock song, a slow ballad, and a more country song that I’m thinking of going with at this stage.
Later on I plan to branch out some more but I want to keep things moving along a similar track at this stage.
Where do you see your music five years from now? Do you want to continue recording and performing, or perhaps make a leap toward making it a career of some sort?
I want to be making money from music. I’d be happy to be writing for others, but I’d be most happy performing my own songs... I’m just going to dip my toes in the water and see what happens.
Finally, here on the Independent Spotlight we always love to dig into artists not just as music creators, but consumers and fans. If we were to take your iTunes or Spotify and hit “shuffle,” what five songs may pop up?
Years ago I would have had the answer to this question a lot easier, although these services obviously didn’t exist back then. Nowadays I don’t tend to listen to music for pleasure so much. I also don’t tend to just randomly start singing someone else’s song. It’s either one of mine or something completely new that could be the start of another song.
I also don’t tend to be into particular bands or musicians these days. To me, it's all about the song. I’m not that bothered by genre and I can quite easily like just the one song from a band and nothing else.