Dave Evans interview by Dan Matovina
April 15, 2012
last updated: June 30, 2012

Dave Evans, the younger brother of Tom Evans, has recorded a four-song EP, which he calls, The Art of Knitting. It is a superb effort, full of grace, emotion and sincere melody with lyrics of incredible depth and passion. Not yet commercially available, the CD originated as being Dave’s Christmas gift for some friends and family; his return favor after people had chipped in for his birthday to allow him to book professional studio time. Dave has gratefully granted us permission to put the songs up for your enjoyment. Dan Matovina has created a YouTube video of one of the most powerful songs, Broken Hearts. That song was written about Dave’s brother, Tom Evans of Badfinger, who died in 1983. To get more background on the project, Dave and future plans, here is an interview with Dave conducted by Dan earlier this spring:

Dan: What is the genesis of this EP being made?

Dave: These songs have been kicking around for years, and people just sort of put it into a big birthday last year. Jan (Dave’s wife) organized a surprise birthday party for me. A lot of people chipped in a lot of money and they bought me some time in a recording studio. I wanted to get as many down as I could, because there wasn't quite a days worth, really... obviously, you sacrifice a bit of quality because of that, but I'm quite pleased with it. The feedback has been tremendous, I must say. All I did was to send it out to people with Christmas cards on Christmas. That's all I've done with it, really. I wanted to get it down and have it there as a momento sort of thing. I wouldn't have done any of it unless I could have done the Broken Hearts song. That was the main sort of guiding thing behind it and also, Utopia. Well, all of them, really. The mother's song (May Keep You Better) is about my mother (May Evans). She had sort of inspired it, but I would have to broaden it out to make it perhaps more commercial, rather than personal, because there's a very personal one on there, anyway, Broken Hearts.

Dan: How did you come up with the CD title?

Dave: The Art of Knitting is a metaphor for something being tangible - strumming and singing in your head or in your room is brilliant to craft the song, but “so what?” - then it's just yours. Music is to be shared. The CD is something to show, like a piece of art, a sculpting, candle-making... knitting. So I knew I would need a visual to somehow show “knitting,” but couldn't work out what it might be. Then the photo presented itself to me when we were visiting my son Ben, his wife, Helen and my grandchild, Lily. We stood in their dining room and in a corner on the floor, Helen's knitting basket jumped out at me - she had just started to learn. The basket is still pretty much the same shape, all this time later, not much knitting has gone on. She says it has to do with the arrival of Lily B - lack of time... we're not convinced, Helen! (laughs)... Anyway, it's about having an idea, using the fewest of rhyming words, crafted into as melodic a tune as possible, in an effort to deliver the message as originally as possible. An original concept is the most difficult. The rest is patience.

Dan: Talk about the song about, Tommy, Broken Hearts, and when you first felt the need to write this song, cause it's clearly about his suicide and all the pain it causes to those left behind. I’m sure it came from a place of "I need to make an expression of how I feel..." and how it did finally come out.

Dave: I felt as though I had to write the song. I can still sense the freezing cold and frost white; the bright moon and star-filled sky; the tree setting next to the stream [Tom’s home had a stream running through the backyard]. The shear and absolute loneliness of those final moments... which is too hard to imagine or bear. So I conjured up the swan from happier times, when Tommy used to entice the swan from the stream with whisky-soaked bread... a bizarre comfort in my mind maybe... knowing he did not depart completely alone. Perhaps the swan was swimming down the stream as he was hanging there from the tree... and then there’s the absolute tragedy of Stevie seeing him in the morning... It was really just an attempt to paint the thing... the total tragedy of that.

I struggled for a long time with the middle sections; then was eventually inspired to use some of Tommy's actual words from Carry On Till Tomorrow. “And so now, your happy journey is done." I really struggled with that... Pete (Ham) co-wrote the song, but those words are basically Tommy’s. The song is an attempt at portraying those scenes like paintings in three simple verses... I was determined not to pass any judgment in the song.

It was always a 'rocky' type song on a guitar in Tommy's honour, but when I sat down with Ros (Rosalind Evans) translating it to piano, she played the first couple of phrases and it immediately took me to the Brian Eno theme tune of a TV programme from way back called 'Arrival' (I think)... beautifully haunting in its simplicity. It just built from those first few phrases. I always heard strings on this piano arrangement, and when I mentioned this to Josh (Josh Parker) in the studio, he and Ros magically rustled up some cello chords and he inserted them beautifully at the change of chord direction.

Dan: Tell me about Ros and Josh.

Dave: Rosalind Evans. So she kind of did all the arrangements. I’m involved in sort of a barbershop choir. We all used to meet at Rosalind’s house. When I knew that I received this money for this recording, I wanted to play something else other than acoustic guitar, so I asked Ros if she'd do it with me. "Yeah," said she'd love to. I said "I have these four songs." Of course, the first thing you have to do is send them, to get her familiar with them, so she can think of arrangements for it. We spent maybe four or five months putting them together. We did it pretty simple, but when we listened to it back, I said at one point, "Oh, I’ve gotta put some strings in there, to give it a little bit more of a dimension, really."

Dan: Where did you find the string players and who arranged them?

Dave: No. It's just keyboard strings. The engineer in the studio, Josh Parker, had the equipment out, to sort of overlay it. Those electronic cellos give it a little bit of dimension, didn't it? There's a really weird sort of change of key in it... we were trying to work out where we should bring them in and it was at that change in key that we decided to introduce some... a soft change of key.

Dan: Going back to the song, how is Tom’s son Stephen doing today?

Dave: You look at the sadness surrounding Tommy’s death, but you look at the ecstasy... Tommy left behind Stephen. He is the most beautifully subtle and unassuming guy you could come across. Yet, he is also very determined and strong-willed. I see so much of Tommy in him, but without that aggressive facade Tom might put on at times to cover his insecurities... it's like Tommy is in the room sometimes. Stephen is brilliant within his new family... very protective, endearing; a modern day father. Yvette (his wife), a beautiful giving person and Mila (his daughter) melting our hearts - pure joy, untouched.

Dan: Tell me about May Keep You Better. That is one of my favorites. I met you mother and talked with her a number of times. We wrote letters back and forth. She loved Tom so much. It has that beautiful hook line in it, “mothers of the universe.”

Dave: The song was inspired by mum from my experiencing the extent of total unconditional giving in motherhood. I remember as a child that she was always humming and singing when carrying out the mundane household chores - the ooo's, mmm's and doo-doo-doo's within the song represent that. It represents all the mothers, wherever they may be in this world, singing in factories, paddy fields... anywhere they may be. Motherhood, universally, is unconditional giving. This song is my very humble, meager attempt at gratitude. I used that title, basically, because it's something with my Mum's name in it. That's the reason for the title. People have said to me, why do you call it “Mothers Of The Universe.” I wanted to to get Mum's name in the title.

Dan: Tell me more about the lyrics.

Dave: Yeah. Well, again, it was inspired by my mum, looking at all the heartbreak from Tommy's thing, really... you know, it slowly finished her off... One of the key things that the song was built around was the term 'wounded wombs.' I slapped the two words together. And 'heavenly kissed.' The next part was the suffering of my mother - 'turmoiled minds.' Mothers do go through turmoil with their children. I thought that I would write a universal song that a lot of people could relate to.

Dan: Let’s talk about Utopia, the most musically ambitious song. I think it is a marvelous piece of music and could get you attention as a serious artist.

Dave: That means so much to me. Yeah, that was a happening song. It took me over a year to sort of craft the words to that, because every word had to work its place within the lyric. Every word needed to do a job. There was nothing superfluous in there.

Dan: What was the inspiration for the lyrics?

Dave: It's difficult, because I think the song speaks for itself, really. You look at all the stuff that's going on in the world, about all the different religions that are in conflict with each other and all the chaos that it causes. You can see it's all bullshit, really. We're all so insecure that we've sort of latched on to these different religions, because we're insecure within ourselves and at the end of the day, I think the key is within ourselves. That song speaks for itself... just looking around and observing what goes on in the chaos of life... and at the end of the day, you gotta be a mirror to yourself and find your own answer.

Dan: How did it come together musically?

Dave: For me, the most important thing has always been the lyric. I’ve never been competent musically. And then I started playing other people's songs, and I thought, "Well, hang on. There's not much to this, really." If you've got a basic ear, and I've got a good ear for music, you realize it was not that much to it. So I thought, "I'll have a go at it myself (laughs)."

Dan: I mean, it’s interesting because you wrote them on guitar. Obviously, when you put them out with piano it’s a totally different feel, when the basic instruments change to piano from a guitar base. What was your gut reaction to this new thing that was coming forward with the piano and the bass from banging them out on an acoustic guitar?

Dave: I like the impact it had on Broken Hearts, definitely, and the mother song... On, Utopia, Ros said, "I think you just should have just played that on guitar and just kept it." 'Cause I want to keep it very basic. I wanted the lyric to come through on that. It's such a strong lyric. I was determined to hold everything back. Let it come through and that was the key to it, really, but fair to what I think you are talking about... you could have gone one further step back and just kept it as I play it in the bedroom. I think it would have come through. But the piano gave that song a different dimension. The next song So Much Love is definitely a 12-string guitar song. I could always hear a 12-string guitar on that So Much Love. There are real nice chords on there which would have worked... especially with a 12-string guitar, but she did a fantastic job, anyway.

Dan: Can you talk about So Much Love?

Dave: Just sort of a love song, really. I was on holiday in Corfu. I was playing around with a song, sort of before we went on holiday. Because I was just lazing around for a week, it gave me the opportunity to bring the whole thing together. It came together, for me, very quickly. Thinking up different ideas as you go along. And Jonathan Ross, the TV presenter was interviewing a chef, cook type person, Nigella Lawson. He just commented on the fact that she had 'deep pooled eyes.' It was just sticking in little ideas like that. The first line is sort of 'kissing everything dry' and then the second line is 'being saturated.'

Dan: What are some of your musical influences?

Dave: Certainly, Paul McCartney, but I should mention the Paul Simon/Brian Eno collaboration on the Surprise album, pure poetry and melody linked by Eno's mystical arrangement.

Dan: What are some of your earliest musical memories with Tommy?

Dave: I remember when Tommy and I were in Primary school... I remember there was a concert that we were putting on at the end of the term before the summer holiday. Tommy taught me how to play basic chords on a ukelele. At this event, I sang a Lonnie Donegan song, called My Old Man's A Dustman. ‘He wears a dustman’s hat. And wears gold blimey trousers and he lives in a council flat.’ It’s very English speaking, really. And of course, Tommy was playing guitar at the time. I don't think he started in a band yet. Musically, he was influenced by my grandad on my mum's side. He played a mandolin and Tommy picked up on that... There was always music at my grandmother's house on my mother's side. We used to get together there as kids and we got with all the cousins. In those days, they used to go to the pub and come back and have a sing-song around the piano.

Dan: Did your grandmother play the piano?

Dave: My grandmother, my mother, a lot of the girls in the family.

Dan: What kind of musical interactions did you and Tommy share?

Dave: The Everly Brothers, in the very beginning. I was always sort of the younger brother watching him, listening to Radio Luxembourg, because we used to sleep in the same bed at that age when we were kids. So, he used to listen to Radio Luxembourg and I obviously had to go along with all that... Buddy Holly and then The Everly Brothers. That was a big influence of the music at that time.

Dan: How did you sing The Everly Brothers songs together?

Dave: I was always a brilliant harmony singer. Even when I was way back in school, I could always just pick up harmonies. We just sort of just picked them up naturally, really.

Dan: What are some of the songs you used to sing?

Dave: Walk Right Back, All I Have To Do Is Dream, Cathy's Clown. All the obvious ones, really.

Dan: If you could redo or change any of the four songs you recorded, what would you like to change?

Dave: I want to say that I personally have no desire to develop or take any of the songs further, but it would be fantastic if someone was interested enough to take them and develop them. That would be brilliant.

Dan: It’s a great CD, Dave. Do you have other material?

Dave: Yes, I’ve got enough to do an album. That would be nice to do someday.

Dan: I hope you get the opportunity. Good luck, Dave.

Dave: Thanks, Dan.


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