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Exclusive interview with the Grammy and Juno award-winning chanter/songwriter Dan Hill

29 Nov 2010

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P.T.  When you co-wrote and co-produced  “Seduces Me” sung by Céline Dion (from the CD Falling Into You, one of the best-selling albums of all time, released on Women’s Day (the 8th of March 1996)), did you know it would be Grammy material and how did you feel when you received the award in 1997?

D.H.  I thought it was an unusually strong song. It is powerful and has an erotic component to it. I do believe that it is one of the best songs that I penned. I did not conceive of it in terms of a Grammy. I try not to think about those things.  However, I knew it was a great song. When I co-wrote the single, I had the certainty that Céline [Dion] would do a great job. I knew that it would really resonate with her background. She comes from Québec and I knew she would bring the French romanticism in the song.  As a woman, I was convinced also that she had what it takes to bring the female sensuality in the song. She felt it and knew how to bring emotions into it. In other words, she understood the emotion behind the lyrics and knew how to get all that across. She has the ability to get deep into the song.

P.T.  In what settings do you feel more comfortable to write your songs and how do you find your inspiration?

D.H.  I try to write in almost any setting.  Also, I have to say that it depends on the situation.  Sometimes, I have to write with well-known singers and I have to pen with them in their settings.  When I am by myself with my own devices, I like to be in an acoustic place with my guitar and piano.  I keep playing until some interesting stuff begins to surface.  What can I say about my inspirations?  Well, let’s put it this way.  I think that every moment I am inspired.  It is like that for writers.  When they say they are not writing, they are doing it even in their mind.  You find the inspiration by being observant of everything around you and inside you.  When you compose a song in ten minutes, it is not really the case because unconsciously you were building all these things for the single with the use of experiences and knowledge before putting it on paper.

P.T.  You said in the past that it helped you in your career as a lyricist to be a singer.  Do you think that for aspiring songwriters who want longevity in their career they need to be versatile?

D.H.  I think it helps to be versatile and flexible.  Flexibility allows one to write songs in different situations.  Sometimes, people in the music industry send you a track without any words and ask you to put a melody on it with lyrics.  It is an asset to be a singer in the studio because you can show artists how the song can be better.  As a singer, I hear the music and I can demonstrate with my voice how to improve the melody.  When I do vocals, I demonstrate to the performer how to sing the lyrics.  It shows how it really sounds.  There is an important aspect in delivering a song with emotions when you present it to other artists.  Another great asset is to be able to write the chords that you are playing when you pen a song.  Personally, doing this really helps my work.  In this respect, it is good to know as much as possible as an artist.  It is a real advantage to learn to read, play and write music with a good musical ear.  You can save hours of studio time if you are able to translate the tunes into notes.

Great songwriters know how to touch the heart of the audience.  I think also that it is important for them to not be afraid to address powerful and honest issues.  In other words, in their creative process they have to be bold to expose themselves and be naked in the figurative sense.

P.T.  It is very interesting to hear this.  I thought that it is more as a performer that you must feel naked than as a songwriter.

D.H.  As a songwriter, in a different way you can feel naked.  You have to go deep inside your heart, your memories… It’s like a self-hypnosis process.  You can’t be afraid to say things which are revealing.  It is hard sometimes and when you get older it becomes more difficult because with age we have more defences.  In this respect, with age we can have the tendency to reveal less of ourselves.  As a songwriter, you have to learn to not let that happen.

P.T.  About your latest album Intimate, what message do you want people to take away from it?

D.H.  I would say the importance of connections.  I think we stumble in this world by trying to find how we can relate to one another.  In fact, we are too often disconnected.  In Intimate, I am trying to establish anew the need for interrelationships.  These days, with all the technology we might think that we communicate better, but it is not necessarily the case.  I could add that it is very easy to be disconnected.  The technology has the ability to take us away from other people.

P.T.  Talk to us about your moving song “I Am My Father’s Son” on your latest album.  You talked a little bit about it before but can you elaborate further?

D.H. I knew my father was dying.  There were a lot of things that I wanted to say to him.  However, I really didn’t know how to express it.  So, when it is difficult for me to communicate something, using songwriting is a great tool for me.  “I Am Father’s Son” is really about the last connection that my dad and I had.  It is also about the disappointment that I felt from him.  The song is also about how I learned to forgive him which is a big part of love.  I needed to write that song in order to process all the mixed emotions I had about my father.  It allowed me to see him more as a human being.  I was able to understand more about what motivated him as a man and about what shaped him.  The song itself helped me to pen my book “I Am My Father’s Son”.

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