Dave Dobbyn is said to have written the soundtrack of the country, with a list of iconic Kiwi hits to his name. Heading to Christchurch to join Bryan Adams on the stage on 17 March, we caught up with him to discuss a career of hits.
You’ve been said to have written the soundtrack of New Zealand, with some of the country’s biggest hits under your commercial belt, what have been some of your own favourites?
Well that’s always a hard one to answer because it’s my job to think of my next song as the favour-ite. For me anyway, that’s what drives me – to come up with a better song. If I didn’t believe in that, then I would just be repeating myself and that’d be fruitless and sad. So at the risk of not answering the question, I can’t have any favourites yet.
Out of all the artists and musicians you have worked with, who has had the biggest impact on your music career?
All of them. I’m serious. I have learnt so much from writers, artists and players, that my gratitude is huge. Firstly, I learned that you do not give up – that if you decide to be an artist and musician then you must commit your life to it. Otherwise it isn’t truly, authentically you. This way the art you come up with will have meaning. So collectively, all the artists I’ve worked with have had a huge impact on me.
What do you consider are some of your biggest career highlights?
Too many to list here, but a few examples: playing in prisons; singing for a dying man and his fami-ly; playing for the Hyde Park Memorial in London; playing for the Pike River Families; touring with Th’Dudes & DD Smash; touring with my band now……the highlights keep coming.
What are you most looking forward to on the Bryan Adams concerts?
Having supported Bryan before it is an exciting thing to play to his audience again. It’s a big buzz to meet him and his great band. We’ll rise to the occasion very well. I’m proud of my band and we will assuredly rock you. It’ll be grand.
Where do you draw your inspiration for songs from and how often do you put pen to paper now?
I’m always dreaming and I’ve learnt to explore them as they contain songs and a kind of deep un-knowable advice. So I listen to that in some way which drives the creativity – the need to articulate feelings and mood. It is often when you’re not looking that a song will pounce on you. The work is in finishing the jolly thing.
Out of all your hits, have there been any that surprised you with their success – and why?
Yes, I was pleasantly surprised that ‘Welcome Home’ made such a mark. I was thrilled that people responded to the kind of peacefulness that it aspired to. It was Christchurch that inspired that song. It grew into a very useful song that carves its own path now.
How does it feel both as a songwriter and as a performer, to have had such an influence over the music of a country, iconic songs that have touched lives?
It makes me feel a responsibility. It is an honour to be able to write and perform for an audience that I love in the land we all love. I’m still amazed at the freedom of that reality.
If you hadn’t found success as an artist, what do you think you would have done?
I think it would be a creative job. Probably making simple things. Two of my brothers are gifted craftsmen and make amazing wooden things with deft accuracy – so maybe I can still learn to make something cool.
How does a day in the life of Dave Dobbyn look these days?
It begins hopefully at 7:15am. Feed dog and cats, make sure dog doesn’t steal cat food by glaring at him, gently. Once the first cuppa tea has hit the spot and I hear my wife sigh happily with her tea mug at her lips, it’s into the studio for news, NYT crossword, emails and more tea (trying to quit sugar). I’m learning a lot online these days – audio production stuff especially – and political /philosophical stuff.
Play guitar and piano. Learn lap steel guitar. Mostly I’m dreaming up music and tinkering with sound. There’s always a new learning curve to take on, so now I’m learning how to use our new mixing console that sounds so darned musical I’m jumping for joy. I have a deep feeling I’ll be producing more music than ever in the next few years.
What does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?
Looking pretty good. I’ll be releasing new music later in the year so I’m working on that. There are a few surprises coming and some gigs locally and abroad. Keep an eye out for me and I’ll keep an eye on you.