Having recently sold out his first ever headline Liverpool show, we caught up with the latest Merseyrail Sound Station prizewinner: Daniel Astles, aka ASTLES. The show at the Small Cinema served to launch the artists’ debut EP – Live At The Nordic – recorded with Michael Johnson as part of Astle’s prize and the success of both seem like a sign to comee for the Southport teenager.
As another jam-packed summer for the Sound Station approaches, we found out from Dan what he’s currently up to and what we might expect from him over the coming months.
Dan is currently partway through his 12-month period of mentoring and management from industry figures, as he looks closely at his artist profile, expanding on his established sound, as well as working on developing his own live show.
Merseyrail Sound Station: What are you hoping to achieve over the 12 months of mentorship and assistance from the music industry experts/advisors that accompany winning the Merseyrail Sound Station prize? Is there anything that you are looking to focus on specifically, within that?
ASTLES: Over the next year the main aim is to use the industry support to raise my profile, grow and expand as an artist. This was the idea behind ‘Live at The Nordic’, which offers an introduction to those who may not be aware of my music. I’ve got so many ideas and songs, and it’s about starting to realise these in the way that I think works. By the end of the year I’m hoping to have a set of music out which shows the diversity of my sound and influences, and then expand on this live with a band. Having the support around me has been fantastic, as those involved really seem to get the sound I want to achieve and have ideas about how I can expand my music. It’s been great so far.
MSS: Can you tell us a bit about your musical journey up to now? Does ‘Astles’ mark something of a new chapter for yourself as a musician, or not?
A: I’ve been playing music since I was 13 and I’m now 18, so a lot of things have changed for both my music and I. I think playing for that long has helped me improve, through seeing so many people play live and take influence from them. The Open Mic scene in Liverpool is vital for this. It’s so important to just get out there and learn. I started playing under just ‘Astles’ around a year ago. The idea behind it was because I want to start playing with different musicians live, and so having just Astles as my name means that I can perform as a band as well as a solo act. It’s slightly ambiguous, but also really simple.
MSS: What is important to you when composing your music?
A: When writing music and creating anything the most important thing to me is honesty. You have to paint a picture that other people can invest in; I like to think that people can relate more to someone who is honest. Especially when playing live, you can really tell whether the songs mean something to someone or not. I think that if the songs didn’t mean anything to me then it would start to not make sense, which would definitely affect my performance. Not much comes into it other than that. You can over complicate the process very easily.
MSS: What can we expect from you over the next few months, in terms of live performances?
A: Having just recently played my first Liverpool headline show at the Small Cinema (which I am over the moon to say sold out!), I’m now looking forward to playing a few festivals such as Smithdown Road festival and Liverpool International Music Festival. I’ve got a few trips out of town planned too. They’re going to be really fun and interesting; I’m already working on expanding my live show, which I can talk about more soon.
MSS: ‘Live At The Nordic’ is simply stunning. Are you pleased with how it turned out? Can you tell our readers a bit more about the recording process, and anything else that influenced the sounds that we’re hearing on the record?
A: The idea behind Live At The Nordic was create something that is both honest and raw, completely about the songs and the different stories they are trying to tell. I wanted this EP to act as an introduction for people who have never heard my music before, or don’t know much about me. It gives me a platform to build upon, because it’s so stripped back and live, anything else I do can only be bigger and more extensively produced. I want to show a growth in my music, an evolution, and so this is a great place to start. I wrote these songs over the ages of 16 to 18; they tell a story and act as a soundtrack to that period of my life. A lot of things have changed through this time, both in myself and in the world. I look forward to having my music public for the first time, especially in this format and I hope that people can appreciate it for what it is.
MSS: What do you spend time doing outside of ‘Astles’ and music?
A: Not much to be honest! I like to travel and spend time in different cities and places. I really like to read; my favourite books are On the Road (Jack Kerouac), To Kill and Mocking Bird (Harper Lee) and Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger). I also like to make small films and clips, which is something I’ve been creating and working on to accompany my live show. So far it’s worked out a bit like a home movie, featuring just some of the places that have influenced both the music and myself.
MSS: If there were one thing you could achieve over the next 12 months, what would it be?
A: Hard to say really. A lot of the great things that happen often aren’t planned and just occur naturally. I’d say I want to get a full studio project out. It’s important to show the expansive side of my music and show people what I can do and what I want to do.
MSS: What would you say to anyone thinking of getting involved with MSS this year?
A: Do it. It’s a fantastic competition run by people who really love and really invest in new talent. The opportunities to work with people like Michael Johnson and the guys at Bido Lito! magazine is amazing and I am very thankful for the chance.
Catch ASTLES at Buyers Club, Liverpool w/ Cattle & Cane on 2nd May
Photos by Keith Ainsworth