Interview with Heartwork (Part Two)

The second part of my interview with the lovely Heartwork is here.  If you missed it, check out yesterday’s post for an in-depth discussion of Dan’s writing process and the construction of his two newest EPs, ‘Coloured Out’ and ‘Five’.


Which advice would you give to someone who is perhaps just starting out in music, or who wants to start writing their own songs?
If you’re going to do it then initially, fuck everyone else. Chances are, if my history is anything to go by, you’re going to suck at it. But still do it. Do it for no other reason than the fact that it makes you feel something. You’ll learn from your mistakes, you’ll iron out your creases and you’ll be great at it. The minute it stops being fun then change things up. Figure something new out. Listen to different kinds of music. Start a band with people that are better than you. Challenge yourself. Surround yourself with inspiration. Go to gigs. Go to the big arena ones and small local ones in shitty pubs. Make sure that you learn something from every gig you play and every gig you see. Be envious of people. If there’s someone on the bill and he’s a better musician or singer than you then don’t let it put you off. Let it make you want to be better. Be kind to people. Be polite. Show respect to the other acts. Don’t take any compliment for granted and don’t let any bad review get you down. You’re only as good as what you let yourself be. Go into it thinking you can achieve anything, but don’t take it to heart if you don’t make something of it. But most importantly, don’t do any of it for any other reason than the fact that you believe you can.
How did you come up with the name Heartwork?
When I was going through my problems with anxiety and other things, I was talking to a psychiatrist about panic attacks. I mentioned that when I had suffered from them before, my heart would have these really irregular rhythms and it would worry me, which would then in turn make things a lot worse. She then explained it all to me and said something along the lines of, “That’s just how the brain and heart work”. That phrase rang in my ear for hours. It made perfect sense for me to use that in some way. It also worked so well because it sounds like the name of a project rather than a solo artist’s name like my old one, Dropout Dan.
If you can choose just one, which song that you’ve written are you most proud of?
There’s a lot of songs that ended up not being released. I had a Dropout Dan album written and demoed just before I put an end to that project, so they’re just sat on my hard drive gathering digital dust. If I had to pick just one song out of everything I’ve ever written, then it would be one off that collection called ‘I Was Building An Empire’. I actually released it early last year, but it was kind of a quick decision and I eventually took it down online because the recording I had didn’t do it justice. I started writing it in July 2012 when I was recording the Dropout Dan EP ‘Forever, Instead’, but I didn’t record it for it. The version I like is a full band demo I did. I actually finished it in the December of the same year, and the lyrics for this one song span about 2 years of my life. I do want to bring it back in the future in some way because I personally think that it has the best lyrics I’ve written, and it’s difficult for an outsider to pinpoint exactly what it’s about. Some people have tried to guess, but they’re always wrong. Hopefully it’ll take form as something else in the years to come, as I’d really like to play it live again.
How many guitars do you own, and which is your favourite?  
Out of all my electrics, acoustics and basses I think I have eleven?!?! My favourite electric is my Epiphone Les Paul Standard. I call her Lesley Pauline. She’s a great gal! I got her on April 1st 2006 and I’ve had other electric guitars since then, but I always end up coming back to her. It might be a sentimental thing as it was her that I pretty much started writing rock songs on. I was 15 and experiencing a lot of things for the first time, and there’s some great memories with that guitar.
Can you play any other instruments?
The first instrument I ever tried to learn was drums. My oldest friend Nathan had an electric drum kit that ended up being kept at my house for a long time in about 2003/2004. I would mess around with it and I kind of learnt it from there. But I suppose my “discipline” is the guitar.
What is your favourite music venue?
This is a tough one! I’ve been to some great shows at The Portland Arms in Cambridge. There’s some great memories there. But I may have to say overall, it’s not a venue, it’s a location. I mentioned a festival earlier called the 2000 Trees Festival. It’s held every July in Cheltenham and this year will be my fourth year of attending. The three days me and my friends spend there are what we spend the rest of the year looking forward to. It’s split between 4 proper stages and countless busking stages throughout the fields & forest. I’ve seen some of my favourite bands/artists there – Frank Turner, Frightened Rabbit, Ben Marwood. Oxygen Thief, B-Sydes and InMe, to name but a few – and I’ve also been introduced to some amazing music there too. But all in all, it’s the atmosphere there. There’s always a time in the day when we’re all setting up our tent where we’re at the highest point of the layout, the sun is beaming down on us and we’re all in shorts and vest tops. We have our preferred drink of choice in our hands and we’re surrounded by a couple of thousand other likeminded people and miles and miles of green fields. It’s a feeling like nothing else. No worries or feeling of responsibility at all. It’s immense.
Best show you’ve played to date? 
It would have to be a full band Dropout Dan show in 2013, at a Cambridgeshire rugby club, opening for local heroes Dirty Kirst. There’s so many things about that night that were just, perfect. It’s very dear to me.
Best show you’ve seen to date?
That’s a tough one! I’ve seen a lot of shows. I may have to go with Frightened Rabbit. Again, it was last year at the 2000 Trees Festival. They headlined the main stage on the final night and I remember that during their set, me and my good buddy Ben ended up arm in arm, singing our little hearts out until we could barely speak. That set kind of reaffirmed my faith in a lot of things.
If you could choose a dream line-up for a gig, both to watch and to be a part of, what would you go for and why?
I’d love to open for Blink-182 circa 2003. Before them it would be Frank Turner. Before him it would be Taking Back Sunday circa 2006. Before them The Wonder Years and before them it would be B-Sydes. That’d be a great night.
If you could work with any artists from the music world, who would you choose, and why?
I’d love to be a guest vocalist on an Every Time I Die song. There’s something about the way Keith Buckley writes lyrics that makes me want to just give up forever. Seriously, he’s the most profound and poetic lyricist I’ve ever heard. Maybe not “Hey there girls, I’m a c*nt” but still. It’s funny nonetheless.
Which bands have you been listening to lately?
In the last two years I’ve gotten into a lot of the new wave of American pop-punk/emo. Bands like The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, Into It. Over It, Real Friends, This Wild Life, etc. They’re all really great. Then there’s both the American, British and Scottish bands I’ve loved for a long time, like Reuben, Taking Back Sunday, Every Time I Die, Frightened Rabbit, The Xcerts, Frank Turner, Lonely The Brave, City & Colour, Dashboard Confessional, The Travis Waltons. It’s so difficult to name them all because there are so many.
The best album I’ve listened to in a while is an album called ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’. It’s a concept album by Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years but going by the name of “Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties”. I actually first heard it as soon as he announced it back in May last year which is when all my personal stuff was happening, so it kind of came along at the perfect time. He’s in one of my favourite bands and is one of my favourite lyricists, so I was immediately drawn into it. Described by Dan himself as a “character study”, ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ is the fictional story of Aaron West. A man in his early thirties who’s having a “very bad year”. His wife has had a miscarriage, his dad has passed away, he’s lost his faith in God and now his wife’s left him. It’s not gone well for him, to be honest. It’s heartbreaking, raw and so emotionally charged that you really feel like you’re living it with him. Even now when I listen to it, I’m still finding new things in the songs that just cut me up!
Which album do you always find yourself coming back to?
Taking Back Sunday’s 2006 effort ‘Louder Now’. For more reasons than I care to mention.
Which song do you wish you had written?
‘Fairytale Of New York’ by The Pogues & Kirsty McColl. That song just moves me.
Any musical guilty pleasures?
I tried so hard to not like Ed Sheeran’s latest album. I failed.
And just because this is primarily a bookish blog, I have to ask what your favourite book(s) is/are.
I’m not a massive reader if I’m being honest. Well, novels anyway. I wish I could read more but I just don’t have the patience but my housemate Chris says that I just haven’t read the right book yet. I’ll try more, I promise! I read a lot of poetry though. When I was 17 I came across ‘Selected Poems’ by T.S Eliot and his work is just stunning.


‘Five’ is available now on BandcampAmazoniTunes & Spotify.
‘Coloured Out’ is available exclusively from Bandcamp.

Keep in touch with Heartwork here: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram
Alternatively, you can drop him an email at


Thanks so much to Dan for being a wonderfully open and enthusiastic interviewee!  If anyone has any books which they think might be good for him to start with, do feel free to mention them in the comments section.

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