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howie day (interview from 2003)

Move over Dave Matthews... The acoustic craze has only just begun! John Mayer and David Gray have a new counterpart. Meet Howie Day. Poised to become your new favorite singer, Howie opts for edgier acoustic tunes. His debut album, Australia, was recently re-released. Originally only available through his web site, you can now purchase it from your local music store. Be sure to send fan mail to Epic Records for making Howie heard. In the meantime, check out our interview with the singer/songwriter...

Lindzi.com: How are things going? Exciting week for you, huh?

Howie Day: Things are going good. Very exciting. I played a lot of mini golf yesterday. I think I might play some more today. I did an in-store at the Virgin Megastore in Boston. I played a bit and signed some copies of it. That's it really. I came home, went to the stores, and found my section. I thought it was cool that I had my own divider with CD's in it.

Lindzi.com: {laughs} Has anyone made the connection?

Howie Day: Not really. I do it very covertly too. It wouldn't be too cool if somebody saw me looking at my own CD's. I had to dress up in a mustache and glasses.

Lindzi.com: How tough has it been getting to where you are now?

Howie Day: It's been a piece of cake really. I haven't had to do anything. My theory and strategy was to go on the road and play as many shows as I possibly could. [I wanted] to do it organically and come up with fans the real way -- by playing to people who have never heard me before and hopefully having them dig it. It's been a whole lot of that for the last three years or so.

Lindzi.com: But you've been at this since you were fifteen?

Howie Day: When I was fifteen or sixteen, I was going to high school and playing a lot in Maine. I was learning how to be a live performer and how to deal with audiences. I wasn't really out on the road, hitting the road hard until I was about 18 or so.

Lindzi.com: Why did you decide to take things one step further? 

Howie Day: It came down to that crossroad where it was like go to college or go out on the road. I had the opportunity to go out on the road. I had enough shows lined up and the means to do it. I figured the opportunity to go out on the road was better than the opportunity to go to college. It wasn't really that tough. Didn't look back on that one too much.

Lindzi.com: What were you singing about at fifteen?

Howie Day: When I was first starting out, I did a lot of covers. I was learning the ropes. I was probably writing stuff at that point, but I wasn't playing it for anyone yet. At that point, I played a lot of Beatles covers and bar classics because I was playing in bars. Slowly by the end of those three years, where I was playing in Maine, I was doing half originals and half covers.

Lindzi.com: How does your new stuff compare to your first attempts at writing?

Howie Day: It doesn't really. It's a little older. It's from a twenty-year-old's perspective rather than a sixteen-year-old's. It's a little older or more mature or something... I think. I think I'm more mature than I was at sixteen... but I'm not sure.

Lindzi.com: What does your first single, Ghost, mean to you?

Howie Day: That was a break-up song that I wrote. It was a mean break-up song.

Lindzi.com: What type of audience are you hoping to reach with the re-release of Australia?

Howie Day: People that would like it. It's never been available in stores across the country. It's an opportunity for anybody who's heard of it to pick it up -- without having to get it off the internet.

Lindzi.com: Are you hoping to reach a more mainstream audience... or... Like how would you define success?

Howie Day: Definition of success... that's a deeper question than you know. As far as the career thing goes, I roll with it as it happens. I think there's a fine line between being a mainstream artist and staying true to your own beliefs and fan base. Dave Matthews is an example of somebody who does it well. As far as success goes, I just want to uphold a certain amount of artistic credibility and not get too wrapped up in the business side of things. You need a nice balance between the art side and the business side.

Lindzi.com: What has the transition been like -- from being an independent artist to being signed to a major record label?

Howie Day: It's been really good. I've been doing a lot of the same kinds of things. Just more of it. Even though I was independent before, we were a business. We didn't not do interviews that would get us more exposed. Now, it's a bit easier to do that stuff. It's like a steroid shot for what we were doing before.

Lindzi.com: How has it affected you artistically?

Howie Day: They want me to create whereas before I never really came off the road. They're a component of me creating things. It's a little different this time. The time for me to write the next album is a lot less than I had before, which is maybe a good thing for me because I work better under pressure.

Lindzi.com: What is the writing process like for you?

I'll sit down with a guitar. It usually starts with a line or a riff. Then, I'll sing gibberish words over that. I'll tape it, listen back, and see what I like. I try to envision myself on stage saying, "This is my new song." What would that sound like? Then, I try to let it transcendentally happen.

Lindzi.com: Have you actually written a song by improvising on stage?

Howie Day: I've done that. Not usually from scratch -- though I have done that. I'll play pieces of a song because I'm so excited about it. I'll play it and fill in the blanks. I played Ghost before that was done. I probably had part of the chorus written. A lot of [my songs are written like that]. They evolve a long way from where I first wrote them.

Lindzi.com: How do you feel about John Mayer comparisons?

Howie Day: It makes sense. I see it. I could see it from the outside. Two young guys with an acoustic guitar. I think I'll get compared to anybody... any white guy with an acoustic guitar. I've come to accept that. {laughs} I really like John. We toured a little bit a year ago for about a month. I got an opportunity to get to know him. We played a couple of songs together on stage.

Lindzi.com: Might you collaborate with him?

Howie Day: Maybe one day. You never know.

Lindzi.com: How do you think people view you?

Howie Day: Judging from articles I've read about myself... {chuckles}... So far I've learned that people see me as a brooding, depressed kinda guy.

Lindzi.com: How do you want to be viewed?

Howie Day: Dave Matthews is somewhat of a young hero of mine. When I was younger, I looked up to him a lot. He's really humble with his fans. I try to be like that. I want to be down to earth and stay grounded with family and friends. I don't want my job, which is being "Howie Day," to over take me.

Lindzi.com: How does "Howie Day -- the rock star" compare with Howie Day?

Howie Day: I always joke about that. Before a show, I feel like I'm dressing up as "Howie Day" for the show. It helps to try and separate the two -- rather than try to play the part all the time. Being in a spotlight and being in front of a lot of people, you definitely have to take just a few qualities about yourself that you like and only show them. You can't totally open up. Like if you're in a bad mood, you can't just let that come through. It's a little bit like acting the part of Howie Day.

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