AUSTIN—Will Dailey put everything he had into producing his first solo album, including his prized red Honda Civic. Selling the car to finance the album, which was appropriately named Goodbyeredbullet, “added sweetness to that record,” Dailey says from Austin’s Apple Bar, which is being taken over this week by L.A.’s Viper Room for a series of showcases during SXSW.
“I have a lot of friends who are musicians and they’ve never parted with anything they loved,” Dailey says. “I’ve had to sell a guitar and, now, a company just gave me a guitar for free. It’s so bizarre because I don’t need that guitar now. I needed you guys to help me keep my guitar four years ago. But it’s a whole bittersweet process and I think I’m healthier for it.”
From the start of his solo career, Dailey says he’s always been “DIY.” He hit the road to promote his first album, selling more than 10,000 copies of it on his own and garnering a large national following. On the road, sales of those records helped Dailey pay for food and gas. “If I went to a small room and played for five people in a town for the first time and I sold two records, that 20 bucks was food for the next day and what not. There was this kind of circle of survival,” he says.
Now, those kinds of worries are gone for Dailey, who received the 2006 Boston Music Award for Best Male Singer Songwriter. His second album, Backflipping Forward, has been picked up by the newly reborn CBS Records, which is also promoting Dailey’s music on CBS TV shows. Despite the recent success, Dailey is still modest and has an unassuming air as he hangs out in the alley off of Fifth Street where standing puddles are the sole reminder of the bad weather that’s plagued Austin for the last two days.
A few feet away, a set up crew is fast at work prepping a makeshift stage for tonight’s performances, which include Will Dailey; English band Mohair, who channel The Beatles and Queen; and L.A.’s catchy Reeve Carney and the Revolving Band. Dailey is up first tonight, starting off his set with “Bi Polar Baby.” The small covered stage area in back of Apple Bar lends the intimate feel of being at a house party where a friend’s band is playing. Dailey only adds to this as he shuns his footwear, choosing to play the entire set in socks.
He and his band move from the rocking “Bi Polar Baby” into the mellower “Yesterday’s Gone.” Being able to transition from an upbeat song to a slower one is the sort of style Dailey says many contemporary artists lack. “I miss the Elton Johns and the Billy Joels who could write a really upbeat song and have a complete ballad on the next one—and just have different feelings and genres coming through all the music.” In an age where there are so many singer/songwriters, Dailey sets himself apart with the ability to rock out an audience before moving them to the verge of tears.
He continues his set with “Hollywood Hills,” which gets a big response from the crowd that’s packed into the venue. Dailey is winning new fans over tonight, including Jay, an Austin native. “It takes a lot to impress me but this guy has an amazing voice and it looks like he’s working hard up there,” he says.
Hard work isn’t something Dailey has shied away from over the years. He’s interested in longevity in the music world and not in being an overnight sensation. “I think now it’s hip to be like, ‘Oh they’re the new big thing,’” Dailey says of the current music scene. For him, it’s been different. “Someone didn’t hear me all of the sudden. I played many nights over the last four years and have all the road bumps and still have to plug away” despite the CBS Records deal. Now isn’t the time for Dailey to sit back and relax even though the days of financing albums with his car are likely gone. But Dailey isn’t forgetting where he came from either.