Dan B Patrick told David Hennessy why his debut single Waiting took four years, losing his voice and being invited onstage by his hero Foy Vance.
Dan B Patrick’s debut single Waiting is aptly named because it was four years in the making.
“I know,” said Dan when chatting to the Irish World last week. “It’s like a really terrible pun.”
Performing for a long time now, Dan played a sold-out headline show at the Bedford last week just ahead of the single’s release at the weekend.
“I’m really proud of the song. It does feel good to be releasing it.”
However, it was more than just procrastination or perfectionism that held the song up.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter was recording it all the way back in 2018 when disaster struck. He lost his voice.
Dan remembers, “I was actually in LA at the time and my voice just completely went.
“I couldn’t even speak. It was just a raspy, unintelligible sort of whisper.
“It was a very scary time. I couldn’t sing for about six months which kind of put the brakes on music for a while.
“I had this thing called muscle tension dysphonia, which is kind of like where all the muscles in and around your voice box become incredibly tense and they’re working against your voice almost.
“I had to go and see a speech therapist and a singing teacher but it made me think way more about singing not as just this innate thing you do but kind of viewing it from more of like a sports perspective.
“In the long run, it’s been great. I warm up now, I do things like steam my voice and I don’t smoke at all.”
It was when Dan had received specialist treatment and his voice was on the mend that the song finally took shape as it is now.
“I’d write a chorus and I would be like, ‘That’s not good enough’.
“Once my voice kind of settled, I changed the chorus again and was like, ‘That fits much better. That’s exactly what I’m trying to say’.
“That’s why the song took such a ridiculously, ridiculously long time.
“I don’t plan on taking four years to write another song again.”
Dan describes Waiting as a song about ‘becoming completely lost in someone’.
“It’s a love song but it’s also a song about vulnerability.
“It’s that feeling of you totally giving yourself to someone no matter what the consequences of that are.
“And sort of just being totally vulnerable to a person even if they’re careless with that vulnerability, even if it results in you maybe denigrating yourself a little bit.
“It’s just kind of this ultimate proclamation of love.
“But I suppose it comes with that darker sense that to love someone means that we are vulnerable and exposed, I suppose.
“I was kind of at a point in a relationship where I knew exactly what I wanted and they didn’t, and it was kind of me just fully putting my cards on the table and just saying, ‘This is how I feel. I don’t necessarily really care what the the outcome is. I want this and I’m willing to do anything to make it work’.”
Born in the Portsmouth/ Guildford area to a father from Belfast and a mother from Cardiff, Dan has been sure of his Irishness since his dad put him straight at the age of five.
“It’s always been really important to me.
“I remember my earliest memory of Irishness was during the 2002 World Cup.
“I think a friend of my mum’s had got me a small pair of England socks and my dad was like, ‘No son of mine will wear England socks. He’s Irish’.
“It was quite funny.
“It was like the socks were some kind of contraband or illicit substance.
“From then on It was like, ‘Okay, well, that’s what I am, I guess.”
Dan’s formative years were split between England, Ireland and Wales and when other Irish family members came to live with them, Dan says was it was like having a small part of Belfast here.
“I went to high school in Portsmouth, and when my uncle and grandmother were living with us and we had three people from Belfast, I would go to school and I was in England and then I would come home and I was in Belfast.
“If I wasn’t Irish, I don’t know that I’d still be playing music.
“It informs my sound so much that I can’t imagine what I would sound like if I wasn’t.”
Playing music from a young age, Dan’s first gig was in the well known Lavery’s venue in Belfast at the age 16.
“It was a very classic first gig pub experience.
“I was playing in a back room and my uncle was there, my cousins were there and some of my friends were there.
“I remember this guy was really p*ssed off that I was ruining his pint.
“He kept going, ‘Shut the f**k up, shut the f**k up’.
“And then I was kind of on a mission to make sure that by the end of the set, this guy was like, ‘Okay, this lad isn’t so bad’.
“And actually by the end, he was like, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry about that. You’re actually not too bad’.”
And did that ‘not too bad’ amount to high praise to Dan at the time? “Yeah, he didn’t seem like the kind of guy that would sing anyone’s praises.
“’Not too bad’ was probably the best that I was gonna get.”
When he moved to London for university, Dan spent years earning his stripes on the London gigging circuit.
It was here that he crossed paths with multiple Fleadh champion Etaoin (real name Etaoin Rowe) who is now an emerging artist who was interviewed in The Irish World in March.
Dan says of the talented singer-songwriter from Ealing: “We went to the same university in London and we met at an open mic night.
“The guy who ran the night was like, ‘There’s this one girl you need to watch out for. She has this voice that just silences the room’.
“And then I remember this tiny human being just came onto the stage wearing a really baggy hoodie.
“When you’re cutting your teeth gigging you have to play to lots of noisy rooms who aren’t particularly interested in what you have to say.
“But as soon as she opened her mouth, the whole place just immediately went quiet, and was just captured by her voice including myself.
“I’m incredibly both inspired and proud of everything she’s doing at the moment. It’s really cool.”
Someone else Dan got to see and hear before the rest of the world was a young Maisie Peters, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter who gained popularity on YouTube before getting signed to Ed Sheeran’s label.
“What she’s gone and done is just absolutely wild.
“I met her playing a small pub in the south of England and I think she was there with her dad or something.
“This was back when I would have been 19 and she’s a bit younger than me. So maybe she was 15 or something.
“She was incredible. She’s evolved a lot as an artist since then.
“You could definitely tell her future was exceptionally bright even though we were both playing this rural pub to not many people,” he says almost laughing.
Dan says the highlight of his career to date would have to be singing with Foy Vance in London in 2019. Along with other names like Hozier, Glen Hansard and Damien Rice, Foy Vance is one of his heroes.
“The Foy thing was wild.
“I got this message from a friend of my dad’s and I was in hospital at the time, I had just had knee surgery.
“He was like, ‘Hey, there’s this really small intimate almost private gig and Foy Vance is going to be there. You should come down’.
“And I was really high on pain medication. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I’m there’.
“A few weeks later I’m on crutches. It is this tiny venue downstairs in East London.
“I saw him at the bar and I made a beeline for him on my crutches.
“I kind of just wanted to sort of go up to and be like, ‘Hey, your music has made meant so much to me both as a person and as an artist. Thanks’.
“I covered his song Guiding Light a lot in my set.
“As a joke, a bit of an offhand comment, I was like, ‘Oh, if you need anyone to come up and sing Guiding Light with you, I’m more than happy’.
“I didn’t really think anything of it, just had a really good night and then towards the end of the set he was like, ‘Is Dan here? Is Dan in the audience?’
“I was like, ‘It’s definitely not me. Dan’s a very common name. He’s probably got a friend called Dan’.
“And then he’s like, ‘Dan the guy I was speaking to at the bar, he says he can sing Guiding Light’.
“And I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t’.
“Then weirdly and very awkwardly, I had to make my way through the crowd. Everyone was very nice, but I think they were they’re a bit like, ‘Who’s this?’
“And then I finally managed to negotiate my way onto the stage. I wasn’t at the point where I could actually stand so I was like, ‘Has anyone got a chair that I can sit on?’
And then he started playing and we just went for it. And I was praying to God that I didn’t f**k up any of the lyrics but it was amazing.
“It was very cool. He so didn’t have to do that and I think he definitely knew what it meant.
“I think that’s probably a cultural difference maybe between Irish artists and English artists. It seems like Irish artists are far more into their home scene. I know so many other musicians that have had similar kind of experiences with their heroes.”
Dan was playing sold-out headline shows in London before Covid-19 put a stop to it.
Booked to play a show on the night lockdown was announced, Dan describes the eeriness of playing to an empty room at a scary and uncertain time.
“I remember I did a gig in in West London, I think it was the night Boris said the pubs had to close. They had to close at midnight or something: That was the weirdest gig I’ve ever done.
“It was very, very eerie.
“Pretty much everyone I knew was like, ‘I’m not going to come’.
“I was getting messages from people, obviously very understandably saying, ‘I don’t feel safe going tonight’.
“I was contracted to do the gig so I still did it but it was pretty much an empty room.
“It was the first time I played a gig that I was glad it was an empty room as well.
“I’ve not really played at all in the last year which has been quite strange.
“But it’s given me a chance to sort of recalibrate my relationship with music and what I want from it. I think before, my whole identity would have been caught up in trying to achieve something with music whereas now I think it’s just in a far healthier place where I just want to write songs I’m proud of and see what happens really.”
Waiting will be followed in September by the EP A Streak of Light which ponders subjects such as love, loss, mortality and hope.
“I just want to release as much music as I can and just make sure it’s stuff I’m really proud of.”
And Dan is glad he played the waiting game as he is unsure if his heavy subject matter was suitable to times as heavy as a health crisis.
“I wasn’t quite sure whether to release it in the pandemic. My songs are quite sad so it just felt like adding insult to injury releasing all this music at quite a sad time,” he laughs.
Waiting is out now.
For more information, you can find Dan B Patrick on social media.