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A few weeks ago a young couple approached me in the vintage shop I’m working in. They were bright eyed and bushy tailed and not just because they had the ‘we’ve only been in London for three days’ glow but because they’d heard the song I was playing. “In France”, they tell me, “there are a lot of pop synth electronic bands, but this is different”. It’s this ‘difference’ that caught the attention of BBC Radio 6 who had debuted London based musician Daniel Pickard’s single ‘Heartbeats the Flaw’ the week before.

The single reveals the artist to be as much a cynicist as he is a hopeless romantic as he uses self-deprecating humour to convey the predictable nature of human beings navigating love. Perhaps his eye for observation stems from being a shy child growing up in Coventry who was drawn to watching the world go by.

Elements of the shy child are still visible when we meet to follow Pickard for the day, although by now he’s lived in London for most of his life, developing both personally and artistically and turning life’s absurdities into something tangible. His vulnerability pierces through a world of filters and fake news and is perhaps what has French customers pricking up their ears, eager to hear more. By the end of our day together, it is obvious that the ability to remain honest with himself has sharpened his ambition. If Pickard’s heartbeat lands on the floor, you can be sure he’s picking it up, dusting it off and sticking it back on his sleeve.

Rachel Edwards: What is a typical day in the life of Daniel?

Daniel Pickard: I usually go for a walk first thing. I sometimes go straight out and do the same walk through the same park. I go to an unassuming bar that my friend works at most evenings, but during the day I’m usually by myself. Actually I used to listen to music when I walked but I don’t anymore, I quite like listening at home instead. I’ll try to have a really pictorial documentary on TV in the background if it’s a productive day.

R.E: A lot of people say they have to travel or experience new things to create but is there something inspiring in the day to day or the mundane?

D.P: The mundanity of life can be an inspiration. Day to day life has acted as inspiration for me. I don’t remember the French film but there’s a girl who’s being interviewed and she says ‘I’m just waiting around for something’. It’s the classic tragic comedy in that we all take the day to day for granted.

R.E: Some musicians adopt a character or an alter ego, would you say that’s true for Daniel Pickard the musician?

D.P: I don’t believe so, if the song is in first person it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is me, but it can be a type of character that takes the form of an alter ego. It’s just more narrative based or adopts the perspective of a character that I’ve encountered. My songs stem from something factual that I’ve experienced but I often complete the narrative in the opposite way to how it actually played out. It’s fantastical, or it can be. If the experience doesn’t end I’ll give it an ending, or sometimes I don’t conclude at all. It’s playful.

R.E: There is an obvious playfulness both in lyrics and delivery. You also describe yourself as a cynic, is that right?

D.P: I am cynical yet I intend to point a finger at myself first. We live in a society where very few are willing to own their mishaps. It’s the cost of courage. To be brave is to put oneself under the spotlight.  It manifests in my songs as I reference with seriousness the cynicism to my own ailments and hopefully, with humour. If we could just all laugh about it…

R.E: Are you competitive? Do you think it’s important to be competitive if you’re going to be a successful musician?

D.P: I think I sometimes mirror people. Certain friends of mine are competitive, and will egg me on. With music, I take it seriously because it really is the one thing I do take seriously and care about. I don’t see it as ‘it’s me or the next guy’ though. I think especially now if I’m too watchful of things in the industry I could end up going down a long winding road whereby I’m not really myself so I’m not really selling myself, I’m just trying to be more like them.

R.E: Yes, and any success that you'd have as a result of this wouldn't hold the same satisfaction. When you think of success what do you imagine?

D.P: A long, healthy career in writing music. I would love to be able to build a profile so I’m in a position where I can write for film and TV too. A multifaceted career, maybe I’m writing lyrics for other people on top of making my own music.

R.E: What’s the most exciting thing happening in the music industry at the moment?

D.P: Electronic music is very exciting. I find a marriage within Electronic and Classical music. Electronic music is the modern Classical music by the premise of a strong, emotional sensibility which can excite and foray the soul.

R.E: Do you get bored?

D.P: When I feel bored it’s often in a social situation, and it's not to do with the company, it's just that my mind is elsewhere. I feel bored because I could be elsewhere… daydreaming, I do a lot of that. If I’m on my own sitting at home I won’t get bored, I’ll put on a record.

R.E: In Heartbeats the Flaw you collaborate with French musician Mahault. What drew you to working with her?

D.P: It was the Instagram algorithm. I saw a video of her covering Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Comme un Boomerang’. The narrative of the song uses a boomerang as a symbol involved in a tragic love story - you throw a boomerang and it comes back but it slices your heart. It’s quite visceral and poetic. Her cover was wonderful, so I took note of her. And then when the time was right I wrote to her, I sent a message. She did multiple takes in Lyon with her engineer and it worked out. I didn’t know what she thought of the song until it was released and she posted about how much she loved it. We never met in person.

R.E: It’s amazing that you can create music like that without ever meeting, I would have guessed you’d spent several days together. What’s the story behind Heartbeats the Flaw?

D.P: It’s a song about anxiety and lack of composure in important moments. One is struggling to breathe in certain situations due to nervousness and the song is about the regret of not being opportunistic in those moments. And then there’s the description of a scenario whereby being intimate with somebody can merely be a passing of the time as it feels like there’s nothing else to do, as opposed to unfortunately being a romantic… The lyrics ‘new house rules to not move’ came from a sign inside a pub post lockdown. I was waiting for the extra line at the end of the chorus. ‘New house rules to not move’ meant that unless you’re leaving or going to the bathroom, you have to stay seated with the people you arrived with. I’m taking that phrase and using it as an analogy of how selfish love making can be. It’s all coming out now!

R.E: (Laughs) There’s a lightheartedness to the song.

D.P: It’s very playful because I wrote it at a time when I wasn’t in love.

R.E: Do you feel like you write better when you are in love or when you’re heartbroken?

D.P: It changes it without a doubt. I think it's easier when you’re in love because for me, I have quite a sharp sensitivity in general but when I'm in love that's heightened. If you feel strong it's easier to write. With 'Heartbeats the Flaw' and songs written at the time it's as much from the head as it is from the heart.

R.E: And what's the process like when you write a song? Do you have to sit down, in the way that someone like Nick Cave sits down and even if he doesn't feel like it he will treat it like a job, like a spiritual ritual. Or is it more intuitive, you go for a month and don't feel it then return to it?

D.P: There are two phases - there's the writing which I do from home, and I’m quite traditional so I’ll start with words, then I’ll type out the rhythm in my head. Then I’ll transpose that on the piano and the guitar as closely as I can. The writing is more intuitive and when I’m in the studio it's like a job. The writing is more vague but the studio is time, money and it is  like a job. You can leave feeling drained, but you’d hope it’s rewarding in the end. 

R.E: There’s an expectation for artists to have a reckless side, the whole rock ‘n’ roll cliche, in order to be creative. Do you fit into this?

D.P:  I am adrenaline seeking but the rock ‘n’ roll thing has never really been to my taste. It doesn’t feed me. I’m more of an observer as opposed to a carnage seeker I guess. Living in London for my whole adult life, I’ve never really been attached to one circle. However I am an adrenaline seeker, I do feel like I need to feel a hit of something, whether that be a night out with people or going on holiday last minute and jumping from a cliff into the sea. I’m punk in spirit because I like to question everything, but I’m not rock ‘n’ roll.

R.E: How does being on stage make you feel?

D.P: It feels vulnerable. It makes me feel like when I was younger because it’s similar to the thrill I’d feel queuing for a big ride. I am scared of it but I’m attracted to putting myself in a position of vulnerability. It’s important for me to not masquerade it. I’m trying to have no filter, to be really true and earnest and get away with it. And it’s really difficult as an artist.

R.E: Why is it difficult?

D.P: We’re living in times where as an artist you’re being judged by every word that you say. But that excites me as there's a heightened sensitivity to what's coming out of peoples mouths at any given point…  it's my style not to sing about sugary confections, although that could be good at some point. I mean you’re going to cause offense if you’re honest. I also like brushing  shoulders with people who are completely different. We might never get on but it's a lot more interesting than sitting in a room with people who share the same views.

R.E: Were you outgoing as a child or were you opinionated but shy?

D.P: Yes, the latter. I’ve become more extroverted as I’ve become older but intrinsically I am an introvert. In school I was really shy. I went to a very big school and it was quite tough if you were quite shy or reserved. My rebellion came when I was around my group of friends outside of school because I knew not to get myself in trouble at school. I was never big bilt or square shouldered and tough and there were lots of boys who did fit into that type.

R.E: And lastly, what’s your favourite F-word?

D.P: Flabbergasted!


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