“Deep in trial, bound and burning
Her restless charm has broken through
But between cheap denial and reckless yearning
To run from harm was all I knew
And when I told you I was afraid to fall
Really I was afraid to fly at all
We fly and we fall
From the summer’s golden rays to the murky ocean floor
And sometimes there’s some cause we’re calling for
But mostly it seems we’re chasing dreams to the shore”
– Daniel Champagne, “The Nightingale”
There’s something about Daniel Champagne that makes me feel like he belongs in Memphis. Quite a few things, actually. He was heavily influenced by the Delta blues growing up on the coast of New South Wales – wait, stay with me – and his own work strikes a constantly shifting but always successful balance between rock, pop, folk, country, blues, and jazz. He’s kinda like the Aussie Elvis, except a much less challenging houseguest.
So when I talked Daniel into making his second trip to Memphis this year, I also hoped he’d find his own connection points here. He made his Memphis TV debut on Live at 9 followed by lunch at The Arcade and coffee in the Edge District. But then I pulled out the big guns: a private tour of Sam Phillips Recording Service, intros to the amazing folks working there, and two hours holed up in the old SPRS offices, ensconced in red shag carpeting, working on a song with our pal Cory Branan. We were just a pulled pork sandwich away from the Most Memphis Day Ever as we rolled into our special Folk All Y’all Secret Subscriber Show.
One of the greatest things about hosting a show with Daniel is sitting back and absorbing the initial reactions from people who’ve never seen him – or anyone even remotely like him – perform live. Sure, they may have checked out YouTube, but there’s really no way for that tiny digital facsimile to express the dizzying talent and breakneck skill that runs from start to finish. People literally gasp. They exclaim. They laugh in disbelief. The word awesome is thrown around so much, but seeing Daniel perform truly inspires awe, and that’s simply not an experience most people have very often, especially in a stranger’s dining room on a Monday night. I love sharing a great surprise, and presenting Daniel to an unsuspecting audience is always that.
The show went absolutely beautifully, of course, with Daniel mixing some of his very first songs with his latest. He has been on a non-stop whirlwind of a tour this year, barely stopping to breathe between our last show with him and this one, but he seems fundamentally incapable of showing fatigue or anything less than total commitment to giving every performance his best. His act is a well oiled machine at this point, but he still brought in the unexpected, like a haunting cover of “Come As You Are” that I hope someone with more production skills than I do will mash up with Rebecca Loebe’s. And he left the audience so enamored that I think he set a new guest-to-CD-sale ratio record.
Our main mission over here is to welcome new artists to Memphis and help them build enough of a fan base that they’ll come back more often and play bigger and bigger rooms, but obviously my specific goal with Daniel is that we’ll make him a fan of Memphis. Thank y’all for helping make both those things happen.