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Interview: Danny Vaughn talks about his unique, fan-driven upcoming ‘Vaughnsday’ tour & all things Tyketto

Danny Vaughn burst onto the music scene in the mid 80s as vocalist in Waysted, a hard rock band put together by legendary bassist Pete Way but it was his own band, Tyketto, that really cemented Vaughn’s reputation as one of the genre’s best vocalists. Tyketto’s 1991 debut album, ‘Don’t Come Easy’ is regarded as being one of hard rock’s all-time great albums but commercial success eluded the band as Nirvana heralded in the arrival of Grunge. Vaughn, however, continued to make quality albums with Tyketto and also headed out on his own solo career as the 90s progressed into the new millennium.

An appearance as Lancelot in Gary Hughes 2003 opus ‘Once and Future King’ was followed by two excellent albums under the ‘From the Inside’ moniker. Tyketto tours came and went and Vaughn also did 9 years as one of the vocalists in The Ultimate Eagles, one of the most highly regarded tribute bands to ever grace a stage. A friendship with Dan Reed spawned the ‘Snake Oil and Harmony’ project whilst 2019’s ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ album saw Vaughn experiment with multiple genres, telling stories and continuing to create amazing melodies……until the pandemic hit.

On November 24th Vaughn is heading out on a UK tour taking the ‘Vaughnsday’ concept that was birthed online during the pandemic out on the road around the UK. We were thrilled to grab half an hour with him to talk all about that, the unique and compassionate fans behind an intriguing and revolutionary concept designed to ensure anyone can get to one of the shows (tickets here) and Danny’s wider career in music. There’s some good news for Tyketto fans coming at the end of the interview too.

Danny Vaughn
Credit: Linda Bodis

Great to speak to you today, Danny, thank you for your time. The Vaughnsday tour starts on November 24th. Tell us all about it and what fans can expect to see and hear.

Thank you for speaking to me. The ‘Vaughnsday’ concept was coined by one of my fans. It started during the pandemic lockdown. I’d been doing press in London for the ‘Snake Oil and Harmony’ tour when people were, like, ‘You need to go home (to Spain) because they are cancelling flights!’ The Spanish measures were pretty draconian during the lockdown, they pretty much locked us in our houses for 47 days – you couldn’t go out unless it was a medical emergency or you were buying food, and they were checking!

It didn’t take long for me and wife to start looking around and wondering what we were going to do next. We figured it was going to be a long haul, so, like lots of musicians, I started playing online shows. For the first several months of lockdown it was a weekly live show and then it became monthly and I did it just as much for myself as anyone else. We had up to 500 people watching live but then lots more after as we left the sessions up because the time zones didn’t always work out for some people and that’s the ‘Vaughnsday’ concept.

I’m sure people want to hear ‘Forever Young’ and ‘Wings’, you know (laughing), but maybe not every time so I started delving into my old back catalogue and started pulling out all sorts of old songs and that has now informed how the tour is going to work. I’ve asked the fans who have bought a ticket to tell me which show they are coming to and to name one song they want to hear – I’m going to try and get to them all if I can! (laughing) From every part of my career!

It’s going to be an intimate evening of songs and stories.

There’s also a fan initiative, I believe, started by two of your fans, Julie Bootland and Ross MacDonald, around access to the tour which is pretty unique?

Times are pretty tough for lots of people right now, right? Everybody is kinda pulling back monetarily right now and we saw a few people saying that they normally would have come out to the shows but were struggling. Julie and Ross came up with a scheme where they encouraged people to donate to a fund that would support people who couldn’t afford to come to the shows. We’ve collected over £500 from fans willing to support other fans! Isn’t that amazing?

If you can’t come to the shows and you personally message me, Julie or Ross we will set up a ticket for you to the show of your choice. Those tickets might have come from people in Europe, Australia, America or the UK but the capacity and the capability is there for those who are struggling right now. I’ve never heard of anything like that before.

Have things changed in the industry in these post – Covid days?

It’s all still very early. We can’t just pretend it didn’t happen and just revert back to how things were right now. As much as it saddens my heart I’m not going to be doing meet and greets on this tour. I’ve gotta keep my contact down to a minimum as much as I can, which is not easy. Things aren’t completely back to normal yet.

Talking to venues they are seeing people buying tickets later and later, which is not great for the artist or the venue, who have traditionally relied on pre-sales and early sales to fund certain aspects of their tours. We’re trying to encourage people to buy a ticket as early as they can, like they used to. There are also going to be people with tickets that get Covid or have family members with Covid, that can’t attend the shows too, so artists aren’t getting quite as many people out as they would normally be used to.

I’ve been a fan of yours since Tyketto’s ‘Don’t Come Easy’ album in 1991, all the way through your solo career and various projects. Have you had to work hard to keep ‘that’ voice in shape or are you just naturally blessed?

(laughing) I think it’s probably a mixture of both. There is certainly some natural genetic luck at play there but I don’t push myself too much either. Back in my ‘Waysted’ days, just to be on the team, you had to knock stuff back and party somewhat and I pretty quickly realised that things like cocaine were not good for my voice! (laughing)

As a singer you come to see quite quickly how your lifestyle can effect your voice on a daily basis. I did develop a form of acid reflux about ten years ago which gave me scare in terms of my vocal chords. I was out mid-tour with the Ultimate Eagles in Sheffield, UK, and my voice just stopped! This led to my personal decision to go vegan and that has made a huge difference to my voice, surprisingly so!

There was a gap of over a decade between ‘Traveller’ and ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ – what was stopping you recording new music during that period?

(laughing) It takes me that long to forget about how much a pain in the ass it is to make a solo album! (laughing) I was out on tour with The Ultimate Eagles for a lot of that time too and quite honestly, I’m not going to put out an album that isn’t filled with songs that I love and I wasn’t there during that time.

With ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ I felt that I was ready. Some of those songs were quite recent and some were up to 40 years old! ‘The Missouri Kid’ was the first song I ever wrote, I mean, it was a lot more simple in its original form and I tinkered with it over the years until it was ready and it fitted in with all these other little orphans that I hadn’t managed to find a home for.

Streaming also became an issue because it’s never really done that much for me. You can stream a 100,000 listens to a song and manage to maybe buy yourself a cup of coffee with the proceeds, right? I experimented a little with it but it yields no income and people aren’t buying physical products any more anywhere near as much as they used to but the cost of producing those physical products hasn’t lessened any either.

The writing on ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ occupied a slightly different place and tone to lots of your other songs. Stories, tales and drama being the order of the day in lots of places. There’s also a real mix of musical styles and genres. Did you set out to be so eclectic or did the songs just drive the project?

That latter one, the songs drove. They are all songs that didn’t quite fit in with any of the other projects I’ve done. When I write for a Tyketto album, or for something like the ‘From the Inside’ project, the parameters narrow down pretty quickly. We weren’t exactly Queen, who were able to do any kind of sound and style and it be accepted, right? If you pretend Queen never existed and you tried to sell that concept now to a record label (laughing) – they wouldn’t know what to do with it!

With ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ I was in a position with these songs where there was just nothing to lose. The album was funded by fan-driven campaigns and I just had to pray that they were going to walk with me on the journey too. There are quite a number of Tyketto songs that feature me strumming away on an acoustic guitar, like ‘Seasons’ or something like ‘Sail Away’ but then we always handed things over to Brooke and said, ‘OK, Brooke, make it a rock song now!’ (laughing) Once the Marshalls and the Les Pauls were added in that Americana vibe was soon buried but on ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’ I let that tone and sound have more room to breathe.

Which song were you most proud of on ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’?

Let’s see………I would have to say ‘Seven Bells’. My long epic! There’s an old Sting album where he wrote a lot about the sea and his roots in Newcastle and that influenced me a lot. I started writing ‘Seven Bells’ but from a boy from New York it seemed a little disingenuous but then years later a friend took me to the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool and we went to the docks and a museum about the industrial heritage of the city and I got a flavour for that. That mixture of how the sea and the church played into the influences on working people’s lives and the song started writing itself again.

The keyboard player and guy who did the orchestration on that track is a guy called Nigel Hopkins. When they choose a keyboard player for the Jon Lord tribute after he passed, they chose Nigel, that’s how good he is! (laughing) He told me during some layering of parts that he thought ‘Seven Bells’ might have been one of the best pieces of music he had ever worked on!

There’s also a Celtic feel to songs like ‘Last Ride of the Sunset Men’ and ‘The Shadow of King John’. Very eclectic for a boy from New York who lives in Spain!

(laughing) Both of those songs have a geographical theme to them. ‘…King John’ was about Limerick, in Ireland, where I lived for a few years. I was there during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ phase when everything was booming. Years later I went back to do a show after I moved to Spain and the bottom had dropped out of the markets there and the money had gone. The song is about a castle you can find at the point of the Shannon river that has been there since pre-Cromwell times, over-looking everything.

‘The Last Ride of the Sunset Men’ was written about Nashville, where I also lived for a time. It’s a little bit of a middle finger up to Nashville. I moved there at a time when all the rock guys were moving there with the idea that they could ‘write that stuff’ too. It turned out to be much harder than we all thought! (laughing) I didn’t fare well in Nashville, it wasn’t a good time for me. That song is a little bit Dylan-esque in its lyrical nonsense.

I once saw Tyketto’s farewell show at Firefest in 2007 I think it was and here we are 15 years later! What is it about this band, the music and the fans that refuses to go away or die off like so many other bands from that time?

I don’t know, it could be stupidity I guess! (laughing) You know, we first came over in 1991 opening for White Lion with no support from Geffen Records whatsoever, they tried to stop us from going because they thought there was no money to be made in us doing it! We walked out on that stage in Cardiff and the crowd knew every word to every single song! We couldn’t believe it, nobody told us that the album was selling in Europe so there was that mutual affection we had for each other from the word go.

The UK and the European audiences have long memories too. Liking a band there is not wrapped all around current trends or fashions, they are very loyal to what they like. Americans, meanwhile, when you are out, you are out, it doesn’t matter how gifted a musician you are and if you are a gifted musician with long hair from the 80s? Nobody wants to talk to you at all.

You have such a rich and prodigious back-catalogue of work. Prepping for this interview made me re-visit lots of it and I’m going to pitch to you what I think is the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of your work. Your four best pieces to carve in stone – or should that be rock – for all of the rest of time. *Tyketto ‘Don’t Come Easy’ * Vaughn ‘Fearless’ *From the Inside debut 2005 *Danny Vaughn ‘Myths, Legends and Lies’

What have I missed?

Tyketto’s ‘Reach’ album, for sure. I think ‘Reach’ is Tyketto’s best album. Magic happened when we were making that album. I feel that the songwriting and playing on that album is the best we’ve ever done.

I don’t find fault with your list at all though! (laughing) I like it!

What are the plans for next year once the ‘Vaughnsday’ tour is done?

Whilst I can’t announce dates yet Tyketto are going to be doing their longest tour in quite a while! Right after we finish on the Monsters of Rock cruise, which is April into May, we’ll be out on tour in the UK in a package of 3 bands. The other two bands are really good and we’re very excited about it. Hopefully that will be announced mid-December.

After that Tyketto will roll out on its own into Europe for a few weeks. France, Belgium, Holland, Germany – it will be the longest we’ve been out for a while. We have two new band members so there will be some young energy in the band too!

Grab your tickets to see Danny Vaughn and the ‘unique, intimate’ ‘Vaughnsday’ tour right now

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