A year on since Draper’s last release we caught up with the singer/songwriter to talk about his latest body of work and what has changed since his last release.
For those fans out there and for people who don’t know you, I’d basically like to start at the beginning with your first single ‘Zero-Sum’ and where you were at that point personally and as an artist?
Before Zero-Sum, I’d done a lot of collaborating and tried writing for other people. I’d been doing a few random shows with no real direction, performing solo without a band. As a songwriter/arranger who doesn’t produce, I found in collaborating I was constantly butting up against people’s schedules, and projects I’d been working on wouldn’t get finished. Whilst writing for other people, it was a toss of a coin whether songs I spent time writing would ever get to an audience. I’d had a few big show opportunities cancelled and was feeling pretty deflated and not being a good person to people close to me. I was starting to think that to truly realise my ambition I’d have to learn to produce my own music (something I’m still considering) but I knew it’d be a very long process and I was becoming so frustrated. A small miracle occurred when a guy Henry Prince came across some music I had online and put me together with Ed Tullett for a writing session. Although the music I made with Ed were cowrites I felt very much that they represented me as an artist. Zero-Sum started with a simple piano part I brought in and the rough idea of a beat and it became something really experimental and satisfying sonically. Although it’s been called ‘chill’ and been playlisted as such, it was a song about the period of disillusionment and unhappiness that preceded its recording. I’ve never really known what ‘chill’ meant…
Later came Gwythian, which for me represented a development in songwriting and production – is that something you challenged yourself with?
Gwythian was the 3rd or 4th song that Ed and I made. As ever, it started with me fiddling with a guitar and coming up with that strange little part you hear at the start of the song. I remember we made the entire structure of the song very quickly, as is often the case, and I went to bed and wrote the lyrics and they stuck. I’d had a super weird experience on Gwythian beach in Cornwall with a thick mist, and the whole song reflects the weird and wonderful reality of that. I think when you say it’s a development, you’re probably hearing that I’d become comfortable with Ed, trusted his production and music making, and had something to describe that had occurred very shortly before we sat down to write it. There’s an immediacy to it
I’m really excited to announce that you’ve got some new music in the pipeline, what has the recording process been like compared to your previous tracks?
This last batch of recording has been dreamy, for lack of a better word. You have conversations about what an ideal recording situation would be like – homely, lots of time, lots of musicians, live instruments, experimentation, working with singular vision – and it seems a sort of impossible thing to achieve. Working with Ed was amazing and we experimented sonically a lot, but there’s something holy about working with lots of instrumentalists, as oppose to just two guys making a track. I wanted whatever I worked on next to include everyone that I work with on my live show, to sound very ‘live’ and for it to be reproducible live without use of sampling etc. Sure, we weren’t recording at Abbey Road for two months but Joey Walker is a stupidly talented producer and engineer (he’s like 21 years old!? Disgusting) and the house is filled with other musicians, a ton of amazing gear and has a lovely atmosphere. Everybody was onboard with what I wanted to do and it was an absolute privilege.
Did you set out to make each song cohesive in an instrumental and lyrical sense, or are they mainly just stories from your life?
I think because I’ve been bringing songs I’ve written into a band rehearsal room and arranging for months prior, everything has naturally moved into a coherent instrumental space together. There are themes running through all the work but I didn’t set out to write an album ‘about one thing’ or a concept piece at all, mostly they’re just stories or imaginings yeah. I’ve just tried to keep in mind whilst making everything what it is I really want to listen to and not be diverted by things that sound “cool”. If you start fiddling with too many synths and electronic stuff you can make things that sound amazing…but is it what I want to listen to? Generally not
Who would you cite as your influences?
In terms of early memories I remember sitting in my dad’s car listening to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, Beach Boys and God knows an absolute tonne of stuff growing up. In my teens I went through a Rufus Wainwright phase, a Jeff Buckley phase, a Bon Iver phase… I mean, INTENSE phases! Now, the last few years I’ve noticed I lean so much toward stuff that sounds live and has that odd, melancholic beauty. My favourite band are Big Thief, I think – Adrianne Lenker is some sort of songwriting spirit and those records sound amazing, basically a brilliant 4 piece band recorded so well. I still go back to Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco (particularly a Ghost is Born, one of the best albums ever), Talk Talk’s ‘Spirit of Eden’ album, Neil Young. Todd Rundgren’s ‘Can we still be friends?’ – don’t, I’ll cry! I’m not someone who is constantly on the hunt for new music at all. Far from it.