Interview with Davy Knowles

It’s time for another of our “Artists on Independent Venues” interviews. Today it’s the turn of Davy Knowles, the amazing Manx songwriter and guitarist!

Here is number three in our series of artist interviews which is running in the lead-up to and throughout our cross-country trip to raise money for the National Independent Venue Foundation (NIVF) and Musicians on Call (MOC).  

We’ve spoken with Davy Knowles a few times here at Loud Hailer. In fact, it would be fair to say that he’s one of our favorite musicians. He has just released a truly beautiful new album If I Should Wander, which really showcases his talent as a songwriter/storyteller. Davy is currently on the road for a few solo US dates before traveling to Europe to flex his guitar god muscles when he links up again with Band of Friends. Given his busy work and family schedule, we are very grateful that Davy took the time to share his thoughts on independent music venues. Keep an eye out for more to come.

LH:  What are the independent venues you remember from your neighborhood growing up?
Davy:  All the venues growing up on the Isle of Man were independent, or run by the IOM Government, and those were the two theatres, The Gaiety and The Villa Marina. There was no formal dedicated music venue for up-and-coming bands – it was all the pub scene and so the landlord put the gigs on directly. It was a thriving scene.

LH:  Do you remember the first show you saw at an independent venue?
Davy:  It would have been any number of the local musicians playing in the pub. It was everywhere! We didn’t get many touring/traveling bands where I am from.

LH:  What was the first independent venue you played as an artist
Davy:  Y’know I don’t remember, but you may see a theme developing. My bet is it was one of the pubs????

LH:  Do you have a favorite venue/city that you particularly look forward to visiting?
Davy:  Gosh, there are many. Higher Ground in Burlington VT is a wonderful spot. Playing a home show on the Isle of Man is always emotional. In recent years we’ve put shows on at my old village town hall in Port St Mary, which isn’t a traditional venue at all. But those are really special gigs.

LH:  Do you have a bucket list venue? One that you’ve not performed at that you dream of playing one day? 
Davy:  I’m not sure. I’m just always looking for rooms with a good feeling, ones that have an atmosphere all of their own. Then your job is to tap into that and amplify it. Those are the special ones. It could be a small club or a giant room – but it’s normally the smaller ones that have that in my experience.

LH:  Any special relationships with venue owners/anyone who particularly helped your career?
Davy:  There were many on the Isle of Man, pub landlords, who took a chance on us in the early days. Lenny Conroy is a promoter on the Island, and I would flat out not be doing this without him, Lenny and a chap called Dickie Best on the Isle of Man. Once I moved Stateside, there were certainly similarly good-hearted people. Kevin at Higher Ground in Burlington VT, the folks at World Cafe Live in Philly have always been so supportive.

LH:  Weirdest thing that ever happened at a show? 
Davy:  Had a streaker run up onstage completely in the buff once at an outdoor show somewhere on Long Island, NY. The chap seemed to be having a lovely time and was entirely harmless, but it is a little disconcerting to have someone prancing about the stage with it all hanging out.

LH:  Funniest thing that ever happened at a show?
Davy:  Had a heckler in NYC crack me up and I had to abandon a song. There’s a tune of mine called “Coming Up For Air.” The last verse gets really quiet, and the lyrics are “Call me a sinner, call me no good, whatever I’ve done, I’ve always done the best I could.” So… band gets really quiet and I sing the first line:
“Call me a sinner”
Heavy New Yorker accent yells back:
I’m thinking ’shit… I know what’s coming next’ So I tentatively sing :
“Call me no good”
Whole place burst out laughing. I lost it. Had to stop what I was doing. It was all in good jest and a wonderful moment.

LH:  As an artist, is there one thing that you would like venues to know/something they could do to make your life easier?
Davy:  The biggest thing ever is just a friendly welcome at the time we are scheduled to load in. Makes all the difference in the world to be felt welcomed, rather than an attitude, or complete disinterest. I’m not asking to be treated like a star, just to have a bit of camaraderie, I guess. We’re partners for the evening, and we all want it to go well and with a positive attitude.
LH:  Any specific questions you’d like us to ask the owners?
Davy:  What would be the most useful form of support that artists could provide them?
LH:  Any last words on independent venues and their importance to live music?
Davy:  They are everything. Bands need the nurturing that only independent venues can provide. Without them, I think the whole house of cards would fall down. Also… it’s about culture. I am not for the corporate homogenization of the arts.

Thanks again to Davy for taking the time to share his thoughts! Head over to his website, buy a copy of If I Should Wander, and check out where you can catch him playing (himself or with Band Of Friends) in the coming weeks.

To read more about our cross-country fundraising trip for the National Independent Venue Foundation and Musicians On Call, click here. All donations go directly to your chosen organization. To donate to NIVF, click here. To donate to Musicians On Call, click here

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About Phil Walton 84 Articles
Phil grew up in the UK and loved listening to and playing music from a young age. He moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, falling in love with the city and its music scene. He enjoys nothing better than spending time with musicians, whether it be watching them perform, talking to them for the website or reading their autobiographies.