Roots-rock artist Will Dailey talks about his new album, Golden Walker, available now.
We know what a hot walker is. And a speed walker. But a “golden walker”? That’s the name of indie artist Will Dailey’s new album, his sixth.
A chance encounter with a sculptor in France who had heard and been moved by Dailey’s music inspired the Boston-born artist to produce an album emphasizing the importance of authentic communication.
Sonically impressive and musically engaging, Golden Walker debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Northeast Heatseekers. The Boston Herald called the record “a new peak” for Dailey.
Comprised of 11 tracks with a ’70s vibe for a modern age — gliding synths, amusing instrumentation, and enthralling lyrics — the record entices listeners to engage with the individual lesson of each song.
The sweeping opener, “The Submariner,” has Dailey on a personal journey that travels from start to finish. Other album highlights include the dark and moody “Today Is Crushing Me,” the inspiring “When It Dies,” the witty “Middle Child,” the bluesy “Everybody Wants You For an Angel,” and the rock-anthem-y “Up to Your Heart.”
Recently we caught up with Dailey to talk about the new record and what it means to be a golden walker.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope your fans will get out of Golden Walker?
Will Dailey: Connection. I hope Golden Walker forces someone to stop and listen or just lets them move on. We don’t need music only to be a soundtrack playing in the background of our busy lives. Sometimes we need to stop and engage. I arranged this one to lean or to just let you go.
C&I: What are some memorable stories along the way of getting the album from concept to actual release?
Dailey: “Bad Behavior” was a finger-picking folk tune. Two weeks before going into the studio I had a falling out with it. I already had songs like the “The Submariner” and I don’t like repeating myself. I sat down at the Rhodes and all of a sudden … That, and we had a pig as a studio guest.
C&I: Where did you get inspiration for the album?
Dailey: A few years ago, I was playing a small town in a smaller club, on my first tour in France. It was after the show, while standing at the merchandise table meeting people, when a gentleman, half in the bag and anywhere from 40 to 70 years of age, grabbed my shoulder and told me I needed to come with him. He looked like a hipster Gandalf in a rainy noir film. Naturally, I had to follow him. I grabbed a friend who knew French, and would be good in an emergency, to come with me. We were led out of the club and down a dark alley into a century-old forgotten apartment.
Inside it looked like the place was hit once with a wrecking ball and overtaken by iron sculptures. Miniature ones, giant ones, pieces of metal scattered in an uncleansed space but for the carved-out paths through the garden of metal. Some rusted, some shining and some too delicate or dangerous to touch. There was no place to move. Our guide immediately disappeared upstairs.
He came back with a piece of metal to declare, in slurred, broken English, that my music, which he had heard from his workshop, had guided him to this item and he told me to turn around as he took out a welder and began welding it to a base. The blue light threw our shadows onto the 200-year-old stone walls. He propped the piece up on a log balanced on top of a folding chair in the doorway looking out over a surreal midnight valley. Then from two giant gas tanks by the door he ignited a torch. Gloveless and without eye protection, our midnight chaperone began carving into the metal.
Sparks were flying haphazardly in every direction into the night as I contemplated the safety of the gas tanks, how flammable hair is, and what corner of the room I would dive to in an emergency. With this fresh sculpture now before us still molten red, he disappeared upstairs. The sound of frantically rummaged workshop piles banged above our heads as my friend and I used eye language to rate the madness and joy of our adventure. The artist returned to stand before me with his hand in a fist.
“All the gold is being take from our world. They take it all to use in technological devises that are supposed to help us communicate,” the sculptor said. “The gold is disappearing, hidden in phones and computers that only leave us feeling more alone, separated and disconnected. When I heard you tonight through the walls of my workshop, I heard real communication. I heard you. You are a communicator.”
Opening his hand, he revealed a small nugget of gold. He brought it over to the cooled sculpture that now revealed a man walking forward out of the metal. He used the torch to melt a small amount of gold onto his foot.
“You have to keep communicating like that. Carry the gold, protect it. Be a golden walker.”
We then sat, sipped coffee, and talked till 3 in the morning — a conversation I am still processing.
We are told we are disconnected. Maybe we are overconnected in the wrong ways? Since that midnight meeting in France, when I find myself lying awake at night wondering what I’ve done with my life or think there is nobody in the world who needs to hear one of my songs, I think of his call for true connection. The great human payoff of being in a live concert venue, a recording studio full of people engaging in one moment together, or just seeing a face right in front of you!
C&I: Who are some of the singers and songwriters that have inspired your creative development and made you want to become artist?
Dailey: Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Bjork, David Bowie, Buddy Holly, Neil Young … and that’s it.
C&I: What’s your writing process like? Do you start with the lyrics or the music first?
Dailey: I start with nothing and use everything at my disposal. Respect the world of boxes and that you’ve developed skills with boxes, but at the same time try to create not just outside of the box but outside the very idea of boxes. I have no idea if I can achieve that with any purity, but it is the process I pursue. Everything is happening at the same time.
C&I: Golden Walker is a follow-up to your acclaimed album National Throat, which won numerous awards and debuted in the Top 20 on Billboard’s Heatseekers. How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist since the release of National Throat?
Dailey: I am more comfortable with having nothing to lose. I don’t want to be something that you put on in the background that pops up on playlists because of an algorithm that preys upon your predictability. I want it to be found through actual digging and confrontation. You should be a little winded and have dirt under your nails when the songs connect with you.
C&I: Do you have a favorite song or track you’re most proud of?
Dailey: “It Already Would Have Not Worked Out by Now” feels like everything came together perfectly and I only could have come upon it at this very moment in my life. “Ultimate Companion” I feel has a joy while balancing the simple and complex. But it’s “When It Dies” that gives me the most satisfaction. It is hard to put into words (because it’s music), but I suppose it is because it sounds most like the inside when everything else is quiet.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make it on the album that we can expect later on down the road?
Dailey: I always have songs left over. Some are recorded and some just didn’t pass the start line. There are three though from Golden Walker that we tracked. One is coming out later on a deluxe version, and I’m trying to figure out if the other two make it on or are saved for something else. I’ll see how I feel about them in a month or two.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Dailey: I plan on celebrating Golden Walker for at least a year and a half. As an independent artist it can take that long to make the connections that need to happen. I am going down the East Coast in the fall. Colorado, West Coast, United Kingdom, France. I’ll go where I’m asked. It’s a big world and I want to go where I’m wanted. Send an evite or save the date and I’ll be there.
C&I: What is something that fans might now know about you?
Dailey: I’m only doing this so I can go make more records — and by “this” I mean all of it.
For more information on Will Dailey, the new album, and upcoming tour dates, visit his website. Photography: Courtesy Michael Spencer.