“My dad was Todd Rundgren’s chauffeur,” says Daniel Tashian of The Silver Seas. “He was working for Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, at the time and dad wanted to be a record producer so Grossman said to him, `go hang out with this kid Todd Rungren.
`He has a broken leg at the moment so you need to go pick him up and drive him to the studio and take care of him all day’. That’s how I heard about Todd Rundgren and I remember my dad playing his songs when I was a kid as well as his own songs.”
That’s the kind of tale of rock `n’ roll royalty Tashian reels off casually as he sits in a Dublin hotel on a recent visit to play local venues and the Westport Festival with his band, The Silver Seas.
The cherubic Tashian has just been decanted from a delayed and sleepless flight from his adopted hometown of Nashville but he’s still great company – talkative, witty and sparky. The Silver Seas have just released their fine fourth album Alaska and he’d probably rather be anchored down in Anchorage than dawdling in Dublin.
“Well I don’t know about that,” he smiles. “I’ve never been to Alaska and I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to go because I don’t wanna ruin it. Hahahaahahaa. I think I’d be disappointed if I went. Imagination was key when we were growing up. Some things just appeal to me. Like Alaska. I used to question why but now I don’t bother anymore. I don’t ask anymore, I just allow things to mean to me whatever they mean.”
Growing up with his dad Barry, a man who was in the orbit of gilded rock princes like Dylan and Rundgren, you could say music was always going to be young Dan’s career choice.
After hanging up his chauffeur’s cap, Barry became a member of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band and he and his wife Holly Tashian formed a country and bluegrass duo who have written for Kenny Rogers and Niall Toner and recorded with Tom Paxton and Nanci Griffith. Oh, and let’s not forget that Daniel’s Grandmother was his vocal coach and the woman who told him to let his spirit loose when he sang.
Not only that, but despite what most grown ups might tell you, Tashian reckons music is a really good career choice too. “Yes I do because it’s physically good for your body to perform and sing and play," he says. "If you don’t fall into the trap of abusing yourself with drugs and alcohol you can have a great long career and touch so many people and it makes people truly happy. Music has done great things for me. I’ve seen people make bad decisions because they don’t have something compelling to their souls.”
Tashian's Alaska of the mind sounds like The Jayhawks meets Ron Sexsmith one minute and a country blues act stomping away at the local dive bar the next. It’s all bonded together by Tashian and band mates Jason Lehning (who also has an impressive musical lineage) and David Gehrke’s faultless song writing.
Following the soft rock excursion of 2010’s Chateau Revenge, this is Silver Seas' country album with ethereal songs featuring steel guitar, banjo, mandolin and Wurlitzer. And an iPhone App called Figure invented by The Propellerheads.
On Karaoke Star, Tashian takes his grandma’s advice and really breaks free as he pictures himself down in a honky tonk bar lashing out songs on the old karaoke machine.
“The guy who’s singing that song is just letting himself get swept away by the music,” he says. “My grandmother was my vocal coach and she would say let yourself get carried away by it, get taken by the melody. In the shoe gaze genre which I was originally in you needed to downplay your emotion quite a bit but she said go ahead! Let yourself get carried away.”
Recorded over five days in Nashville last December, Alaska came quickly but that was as much down to financial constraints as anything else.
“I was talking to Patrick Carney who’s a friend of mine from The Black Keys and I asked him how they record their albums and he said we write them in the studio. He said, `we get in there with Danger Mouse and write ‘em. We know it takes us three days to write a song so we need to go into the studio for a month to have ten songs.' I fantasise about doing it like that but for us, I’ve already got the songs written . . . ”
Not that Tashian wants to make too many more albums with The Silver Seas: “Alaska is a document of where we are but I don’t wanna make too many of them. I don’t want to be one of those artists who has 19 albums and we’ve only got eight good songs,” he says.
“I really care about this music and I care about this band. We’re only going to make a handful of these things so they’re special and so far they have been special.”
Sounds like his grandma was right on the money.
Alaska is out now