Dan Hartland’s songwriting has been described as “absolutely gorgeous” (BBC Introducing), “delicately lovely” (Americana UK) and as cutting “right through to the listener’s innermost soul“ (Maverick magazine). His previous album, “Great Novels”, was praised by GigSOUP as “a thing of real beauty,” and by Folking.com as “a melding of Paul Simon with Gerry Colvin, with songs equally literate and thoughtful.”
Dan’s new album, “Haywire,” takes that trademark song-craft to new places, incorporating a range of non-acoustic instrumentation that marks a shift from the folkier stylings of his previous work. “Haywire” – a collaboration between Dan and a collective of musicians credited as The Brink – retains the lyrical and melodic focus of Dan’s previous songwriting, and situates it within a new musical context.
“The roots of my songs are still the same – but here they’ve maybe grown some exotic flowers,” explains Dan. “The album was recorded and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. While on the one hand the restrictions on how we made the record were frustrating, it also encouraged us to take time with the album, building up the songs in really interesting ways.”
If “Haywire” has a theme, it is – perhaps fittingly – about muddling through, finding ways into and out of difficulty. Intricate electric guitars, shimmering synths and radiant vocal lines weave through a range of sonic – and psychological – scenarios. In the title track, people “turn their faces each and every way,” not quite sure which might be the best. In another of the album’s highlights, “Cast A Coin,” the symbols found on maps become a metaphor for how to situate oneself in one’s own story.
“Some of the album’s songs face up to how difficult – maybe impossible! – it can be to see the sense in things,” Dan adds. “But I think the album takes the listener on quite a journey – and ultimately has a sense of hope that all storms eventually break.” On the album’s epic “The Rise,” Dan sings that, “I’ve seen enough suns set – let’s stay up past the rise” as a wall of sound swells in anticipation.
Dan is joined on this record by Marko Miletic on upright and electric bass, a long-term collaborator who also appeared on “Great Novels.” Crafting the soundscapes of the record are Becky Pickin and Andy Miles of West Midlands synth pop wonders, Grande Valise (“sweeping, swooningly sweet electro melodies” — Express & Star), and Sean Lloyd of the Black Country studio Claptrap, who also produces the record to exacting standards.
“The songs on this album have really been taken to the next level by how The Brink have interpreted and transformed them,” says Dan. “For a songwriter, there aren’t many better feelings than to watch a new composition fully blossom – and I think that’s exactly what we’ve achieved for the songwriting on ‘Haywire.’ It’s exciting!”
Hartland has a reputation for getting “right underneath the topic he’s writing about” (BBC Introducing); on “Haywire,” he and The Brink will be getting their audiences dancing as well as thinking.