Dan Bettridge Talks New Record, His Music Mentor, and the Welsh Music Scene
Self-proclaimed "one part artist, one part consumer," Welsh singer-songwriter Dan Bettridge knows that the sheer amount of music we get to listen to can be overwhelming. That's why he's been releasing Asking For Trouble, his debut album, in waves. By offering bite-sized chunks of the record every few months, he allows listeners the opportunity to really sit with the music and consume it thoughtfully before being gifted with another few tracks.
Now that Dan has released the first three waves (just one more left, dropping in July) of Asking For Trouble, we figured we'd chat with him about the production process, the musicians and mentors he respects, and a whole lot more. But first, we need to talk about this album.
The first wave of Asking For Trouble opens with "Old Man," a rollicking track tinged with classic rock, led by strong vocals and electric arrangements. Next is "Heavenly Father," a contemplative and bittersweet song pulsing with emotion in both Dan's voice and wailing guitar. "Legacy" creeps with deepened vocals and instrumentation, heavy in its insistent quietude. The very first wave of Asking For Trouble ends with "Destiny Row," a soulful ballad that finds Dan's vocals at their best, most aching, and matured, as percussion keeps the track steady above fervent croons.
A month later, Dan released the album's second wave, which began this time with "Some Things," boasting a spacey feel with low pumps of piano beneath quick bursts of verses. Next is "Blame," one of Dan's strongest tracks: a dark anthem with serious radio potential. Though it wasn't quite made with the typical pop-clad radio recipe, it prevails with swells of the vocal hook, heavy lyrics like "Lovin' me ain't easy / I'm only ever leavin'," and slick instrumental arrangements, ready to stun on the airwaves. "Metagirl" is next, an addictive dreamy soundscape that has Dan's voice rumbling while organic percussion shimmers in the background. Wave two ends with "i/i," an electric-folk ballad with haunting harmonies that pulls from a John F. Kennedy speech, further contributing to the eerie, brooding tones of the track.
Finally, we've reached the latest wave of Asking For Trouble, the penultimate wave that suggests even bigger, better things to come from Dan Bettridge. "17th Dream" opens the wave, another moody, dreamy track with one of his most poignant lines yet: "Now all of existence can feel kind of strange / When you can fit all you care for in a picture frame." On "Heist," slaps of steady percussion open the track as an unobtrusive guitar rhythm moves along: here, Dan's vocals have once again reached their strongest peak as he wails, croons, and tackles it all in five stretching minutes. "Undercover" takes on a minimalist approach before husky, soulful vocals merge with folk-rock rhythms, a genre-bending experiment. Asking For Trouble's third wave ends with "NYC Midnight Train," a bluesy track combining detailed narrative with woozy guitar and orchestral harmonies.
The first three-fourths of Asking For Trouble suggest that Dan Bettridge, though young, is a force on the singer-songwriter scene. Technical and thoughtful, he carries an unrivaled strength with him in his versatile voice and his arrangements. He currently retains a blended discography of radio-ready anthems, dreamy indie stunners, and classic rock bangers, proving that his talent knows no bounds.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your work?
Dan Bettridge: Hello The Music Mermaid - I’m Dan Bettridge. I come from Wales, UK. I started writing my own songs at the age of 16 (and they were terrible) but I got better. Now I write, record, and perform music for a living! I’m currently in the process of releasing my debut album, Asking For Trouble, in waves of four songs at a time which will culminate in the full album.
TMM: What is the music scene like where you’re from in Wales and how has it influenced your work?
DB: The music scene in Wales is pretty vibrant and very eclectic. I’m fairly reclusive when it comes to working which has its benefits and its shortfalls, but that’s the way I like to work. When it comes to recording, though, I love having people coming in and out and trying things out and experimenting - it’s a completely different beast to writing. As for live gigs, there are tons.
TMM: You’ve been offering installments of your debut album working up to its eventual release -- why did you choose to release Asking For Trouble like this?
DB: It’s for a handful of reasons. The way people consume music has completely changed. Even in the last four years, there’s been a sharp shift in the amount of people streaming music as opposed to buying it, which really made me think about how I want to put my music out.
I’m one part artist and one part consumer and I understand the ease and pleasure that platforms like Spotify bring, and not being a huge artist, I can also see the value in the discovery aspect of it. I find loads of new artists every week via streaming platforms simply because they are put there in front of me. Also, people are always on the move - there’s always something to do or somewhere to be or something to watch so I wanted to release something that people could easily consume, listen, and hopefully relate to in these short windows that they now have.
Each wave is about eleven minutes or so long - you could listen on the way to work, in the car, doing your shopping, whatever! Having bite size chunks helps and it makes it much more digestible too. There are very well-established artists today who are releasing albums and by the following week it’s been forgotten - I didn’t want to jump into that hole. I guess finally there’s the almost onslaught of ‘The Next Big Thing’ coming at you everyday. How are you meant to listen to it all and decipher what you want to spend some time with? I wanted people to get these songs and be uninterrupted - sixteen songs at once would have been too much but this way you can pick them up, settle in, and enjoy the ride for eleven minutes, save your favorites, and when the next wave comes, you can do the same thing.
I’m a big fan of holding a physical album so you can also pre-order the album on vinyl or CD too and totally ignore the waves if that’s your thing. I’m really happy with how it’s been going - I wanted it to be as accessible as possible and I think it’s worked.
TMM: Can you talk a little about the production process behind Asking For Trouble?
DB: The album was recorded in two places: Music Box Studios in Cardiff and my producer’s loft studio. All the noisy stuff was done at Music Box and the vocals, layers, any additions, were done in the loft. I’ve worked with Charlie Francis as a producer since 2013/14 and we immediately hit it off. It’s such a pleasure to work together and this was no exception. I’d come to Charlie’s every day at about 11 AM, he’d brew the coffee, and we’d get to it. We’d spend all day upstairs aside from a lunch break to our favorite greasy spoon [Editor's note: meaning a small, cheap restaurant or diner boasting tons of delicious fried foods... we're hoping Dan invites us next time] or Halal restaurant that does THE best paneer rolls. We did this for two or three months, more on than off, and the whole process was a joy. There’s never any ego in the room and it’s all about the songs - how the two of us can together facilitate these songs becoming the best that they can be with what we have.
TMM: What is your songwriting process like? Are there certain themes or song structures you tend to employ?
DB: Most of the time my process is solitary and that’s the only rule. I haven’t yet entered the process with any structures in mind, just vague soundscapes and some ideas of what I want to talk about. Although at the end of writing Asking For Trouble, I went away to a cabin for a little while, I never really set aside specific time to write - it’s a constant thing. I always have a small notebook on me and I’ll always be writing down ideas, words of phrases, sometimes drawings. It can be absolutely anywhere and sometimes it still surprises me where things bubble up from. It can be the smallest thing and usually is.
TMM: We know it’s a tough question but bear with us -- which song off Asking For Trouble are you most proud of and why?
DB: Oooooooh, that’s a really tough one, and I’ll tell you why. This album contains the old me, the new me, and a cross-section of the two together. I’m proud of the more traditional songs because if I listen to them I remember when, about four years ago, I was playing solo and couldn’t contemplate letting other people come in and play on my music. The idea was terrifying - seeing that evolve and change makes me proud of my hard work, if I’m honest.
The newer, more contemporary songs make me excited. They make me think about new ideas, new sounds, new stage setups for live shows, new ways of performing and even collaboration. I tried things on this album that I’d never tried before and I wasn’t scared of it which really makes me happy. Learning so much has really fueled my fire. It is the artist's responsibility to always be moving forward.
TMM: Who do you consider to be a secret “music mentor” to you in the industry?
DB: It’s without doubt and with no secrets involved that Charlie Francis has been a real mentor - inside the music world and outside. We’ve become great friends as well as great work partners and I owe him a lot.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
DB: There’s an awesome hip-hop artist called Sampa the Great - the music behind her lyrics is so different and new and refreshing - her lyrics and true and real.
A friend of mine from Australia called Calan Mai - he's about to drop a bunch of great songs that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. I respect lyrics more than anything and Calan Mai is a great storyteller.
And Phoebe Bridgers - she rocks. There’s a song I particularly love called "Motion Sickness."
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment of your career so far?
DB: There are two that jump to mind... playing Shepherd's Bush Empire in London for two nights with Band of Horses - I never doubted it but it reinforced even more how much I love playing to as many people as possible; being there together.
And of course, recording my first ever album. My producer said going in “You know this is going be really hard work.” I mean of course, more songs equals more work, right? But now I know, I have so much more respect when people say they’ve recorded albums now. Mentally, physically, it takes all of you to create something like that.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Dan Bettridge?
Dan Bettridge: I'm gearing up to release the rest of the album on July 6th and get CDs and vinyl. We’re organising a launch night and a string of shows and I want to celebrate. Sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses and I think this is a real milestone, artistically and just personally. I hope you find some joy when you check some of my stuff out - let me know if you do!