Artist Interview: Jeremiah Daly – Jacksonville singer songwriter conveys wisdom beyond his years
When I walked into the quaint coffee shop in Akron, Ohio to meet with Jeremiah Daly, I was immediately impressed by his professionalism. He set up the meeting, was cordial with his correspondence, and even though he didn’t realize he was already “on,” I heard him politely engage his server at the counter. By the time he sat down, I was already impressed by this talented young man. He spoke with confidence, yet gentleness, and his comments about past relationships, his musical career, and his current venture as an independent act all blended beautifully into an experience that seemed to transcend only twenty-three years of life. Here are a few of the things he taught me.
First, Jeremiah taught me that in life we have to keep moving forward. As many of the tracks on his latest album The Darkness Will Be Over Soon mention, we have to keep moving on from the things that hurt, hinder, and help us. The past matters, he assured me, but so does how we move on. Daly’s musical past was as a “band” called The Perfect Measure, which he started when he was 14. He launched it to much fanfare on Myspace (no kidding), but admits he didn’t know much about promotion at that time. No sweat, Jeremiah – most people don’t know much at 14 except trying to avoid B.O. in gym class. Starting your own band is way ahead of the curve.
That band was a great success by many standards, including a handful of EP releases. But now Daly is working on his own brand, something that really isn’t a tough sell as he brings his own sense of maturity and articulate songwriting to the folk singer songwriter landscape. This newer music is more of a genuine reflection of who he is, discussing heavier themes that are reflective of his age. It is a time that he says should be about asking hard questions about life, identity, and even faith.
When I asked Jeremiah to talk about his influences, I fully expected him to mention Noah Gundersen and David Ramirez, some other folks in the same genre with even similar questions that permeate their music. But he didn’t. Instead, he settled on a three-headed hydra that makes us all proud – Jason Isbell, Avett Brothers, and Johnny Cash. Interestingly, none of these three powerful acts were his most influential, though. That honor goes to Jon Foreman of Switchfoot who, although not being a favorite, marked an important force especially in Daly’s formative years. Still, our chat referenced several other names (including Dawes because… I mean… Dawes). I suddenly wished our 45 minute interview could be an all day hangout and music marathon.
But that seems to be part of Jeremiah Daly’s entire ethos. He’s not a performer, he’s just an honest guy who happens to sing his feelings into a microphone for the rest of us. One of the reasons I was so interested in talking to him is his incredible ability to evoke emotion in his music. He sings about love and regret and loss with such seeming ease. So when I talked with him I really wanted to know how he does it. Like a wonderfully enigmatic artist type, he just said he “hopes to catch one.” The one being, of course, a song. He talked about sitting down with the guitar, hoping to find a riff or melody – a “chunk” was actually his word – that could form the basis of a song and allow him to build from there. As an aside, this was stunning to me; I would have thought he started with a poetic lyric first since his music is so fantastically lyrical. That said, it was great hearing about and imagining the process that conveyed some of my favorite tracks from the album.
He explained to me that “Ashes” was a song that he wrote with one of the other songs while sitting around a campfire in his back yard. He scoffed at how he imagined that sounded, but really it came honestly for him. It made sense, too, when he explained that the song was about emerging from the ashes of a previous relationship. I’ll spare some of the personal details here, but it had been a serious relationship and it was about how as they each moved – “out of the ashes” – neither of them will ever be replaced. There was that intriguing middle ground of being both family and friend. I sat, nodding with agreement, thinking of a few special people in my own life who feel like that. I hope he couldn’t tell how close to tears I was hearing that or how many times the song itself has brought me to them.
As I asked a few more questions about the “business” side of being a musician, I was stunned by Jeremiah’s seeming small talk about big and important themes of human life. He was able to talk about love and brokenheartedness as if they are just ordinary emotions. Relationships that clearly rocked him are just part of his story and he’s able to learn from them and move on. It was an incredible display of maturity and wisdom as he mentioned a few other one liners. “If I say it in a song I mean it” or, later on the topic of faith, “if there’s not a space for that in art, where can we talk about it?” He reminded me that “you’re stronger than your weakest moments” and, maybe most powerfully, that life happens in “honest conversations” where we have to “become and stay friends” with the people that matter to us. At twenty-three he sure has a lot figured out.
During the interview, Jeremiah mentioned that his next album will cover more questions of faith and purpose. I thought this album did that a fair amount, but apparently the new album will do more of that. So when I walked into the wonderfully intimate house show in Akron, I was thrilled to hear a preview of a few of those songs. Without making this into too much of a live show review, let me be frank; GO SEE HIM LIVE. Daly walked to the mic with a confidence of years of experience, despite his youth. In the dimly lit living room of a perfect stranger, he closed his eyes with what seemed like a gentle moment to express for all of us this deep, searing wound from a broken relationship. His voice reached high, quivering notes of heartache, then crooned low for expressions of what sounded to me an awful lot like grief. In the interim he cracked jokes about his sad songs, none of which he needed to apologize for. We were feeling with him, for him, and all relating to the pain in our own ways. His relaxed demeanor silenced the room, held our attention, and expressed the stories you’d expect a man twice his age to discuss.
At the end of the experience, I walked away with a newfound respect for Daly. At the most surface level, I was impressed by his charisma. He charmed some of the show attendees before and after his performance. His guitar playing was outstanding and extraordinarily nonchalant. He made it look like total second nature; a storyteller with a guitar permanently attached, rather than someone who actually learned, practiced, and mastered the instrument. But at the deeper level, I learned that Daly provides what could be described as a prophetic voice. In my notes I expressed as “delivering lines like prayers.” That’s it in a nutshell. As I heard some of the lyrics from the new songs that were clearly wrestling with who God is and who we are as humans made in His image, breaking each other’s hearts with our own broken hearts, I look forward to hearing more of what Jeremiah learns. I want to learn more about how to live and love. The fact that he can teach me these lessons with such breathtaking composition and performance makes it all the better.
After you give the album a stream, consider picking up a copy and buy one for a friend. You will not be disappointed.