It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. Recently I spoke to friend and long term collaborator Dave Smale.
He has informed me that his battle with Cancer which has been constant over the last 3 years has reached it’s final phase. Sadly he has been given between 2 and 8 weeks left to live. He is in his late 30’s. The news keeps swishing around my brain and partly to help the process along and partly to focus on the positive (of which there was so very much) I want to reflect upon the influence he has had on my world.
We first met when Dave joined a band I was in called ‘Phoenix Down’. As was the case with PD at that time the line up would sometimes change from show to show. I arrived at a concert to be told we would be joined by a piano player for this concert. I had never met the man and so the whole thing would be unrehearsed and although I was comfortable with my role I thought the new guy may feel a little out of his depth jumping onstage with a bunch of guys he hardly knew to run the set. But then I met him and he was super cool, very unassuming and brought nothing but positivity to the night. The host (Pete) introducing us was also thrown by yet another line up shift and so he introduced our new keyboardist as the mystery man. From that point forward he would be known as ‘Mystery’ Dave.
Shortly after meeting Dave it was clear his passion and instinct as a musician was simply incredible. Not only that but he made others around him feel incredible with his constant positive support. I was tinkering around with my 1st solo material and when Dave heard it he was full on encouraging. Soon he would become the 1st member of my new ‘Solo Band’.
Please see below a video from our 1st concert as a band in 2008.
By the time I was making solo album number 3 Dave was a big part of the process and we co-wrote what would become the albums opening song. Dave had written a wonderful piano line which we slowly moulded into the tune ‘Fear Not all Your Answers Will be Questioned’.
Fear Not all Your Answers Will be Questioned
For me what was the most incredible contribution Dave made to my output was for a song called ‘Conversations’. I planned to use music to back up snippets of interviews and despite collecting the 11 interview over 3 years I had yet to begin work on the music. I sat down with Dave and simply said OK so I will hit record and we will improvise and see what we get. Dave in his usual relaxed way said ‘sure, no props’ and so we began. However suddenly the light in the room blew and we were 30 seconds into the 1st take and were sat in complete darkness. But Dave just continued to play the piano and so I kept going with the guitar, 10 Mins later we finished and never needed a 2nd take. What we finished with was far greater than anything I could imagine and for me remains one of the most important pieces of music I will ever release.
As a musician this summed up Dave well. The chops are always there but more importantly so were his skills to see and understand what would best serve the song. His ability to play just enough of what was needed without crowding a track made him such a desired musician to work with. Let alone his positive demeanour and great sense of humour.
He has pushed me as a writer and has given me encouragement which I so needed so much at certain times.
In recent years I have been having a go at learning the Piano myself and through out so much of the practice I am thinking of the man who has inspired, encouraged and educated me. Your influence has left such an important mark on my journey through music and life Dave. I would not have made so many of the things I now look back upon as achievements with out your help.
Thank you for being you.