Singer-songwriter Dan Whitehouse presents ‘The Glass Age’ on Brum Radio, inviting each month a musical guest to discuss with him the emotional impact of music, our listening habits and how our human experience and ways of connecting have changed through the ‘glass’ of virtual meetings and communication. He talks about his show, his career and latest tour.
Tell us something about yourself and your music career to date.
My recording and touring career began as a teenager with ‘Naomi’ (Gut Records) before fronting the rock band Sonara. In 2009 I started releasing solo stuff and I’m now on my seventh studio album release. Alongside this I deliver song writing workshops, and collaborate with other artists, co-writing, producing and mentoring.
My Dad set up ‘Wolverhampton Community Radio’ in the 1980s. You can imagine growing up with a DJ Dad – the house was always brimming with vinyl and alive with music.
I think one of the many things Dad taught me was the value in collaboration, listening to others and being inspired and not threatened by them and their ideas. One of the things I love about being a solo artist is the opportunity to collaborate with many different musicians, something I’ve embraced a lot over the years.
I’m currently really excited about my forthcoming duo tour with Max ZT – the New York based Hammer Dulcimer player. We have written an album together entitled ‘Ten Steps’ and we’re touring the UK together in October 2023.
Where did the idea of ‘The Glass Age’ come from?
I wanted to talk about the profound emotional impact that music listening had for me during the pandemic and create a space for others to do so, too. During that time certain records sprung out at me – it felt like I needed them more than ever before! And I wanted to share this vital life force!
I know everyone had such a different and dramatic experience during the pandemic, here’s a little context about my journey through it…
In Jan 2020 I took a flight to Tokyo to visit my son and shortly after arriving suffered an injury to my ear. The doctor deemed me ‘unfit to fly’ – we all know what happened next in the world – and so I spent 18 months under strict lockdown in Tokyo.
I found myself listening to a lot of podcasts about music and art, really enjoying the opportunity to dig deep and learn of other’s creative practices and processes.
Around this time Brum Radio invited me to sit in for an hour and guest on a show – I really enjoyed sharing what I’d been listening to and the flurry of messages that followed from listeners.
‘The Glass Age’ is the title of my song and album about how we’ve adopted the glass screens of our devices almost as part of the family. Globally, we have embraced the use of these communication devices and it fascinates me. I want to talk to others about their experiences and thoughts on this. Personally, I don’t think it changes the way we feel about one another but I feel we have changed the way we express ourselves. I started out being really down on social media and screens in general but I had an epiphany – screens are okay! We should embrace them. They’re magical, really. A portal to our loved ones, in our pockets. This was heightened by my personal experience of living apart from my young son – he lives in Tokyo with his mother and is nine years old, so the screen is really crucial to us.
How do you choose your guests for the show?
I invite artists that have moved me. People who’s work has given me that feeling, where you close your eyes or take a breath, and just feel so grateful they exist and made this piece.
Now we are ‘out and about’ again, yet still communicating online in many ways, has the idea behind The Glass Age changed?
It’s evolved a little bit – I am now conducting some interviews in person, and discovering new acts at live shows which feels good.
One of the themes of the show is the emotional impact of music. What was the first music that had a lasting emotional effect on you and what was the most recent?
Growing up, we lived near to the Wolverhampton Civic Hall and my parents took me to see Chuck Berry play at the age of 10. Something shifted within me at that night, I found my pathway and have followed it ever since. Then in my early 20s I fell deeply in love with Jackson Browne’s first two albums, those records held me close, nurtured me, and gave me a grounding I can still see feel when I close my eyes.
The most recent music that had an emotional impact was ‘Wrenne’ – live at the RBC in ‘THE LAB’ venue last week – a truly ground-breaking singer songwriter who is breaking all the rules and re-writing the rule book – I’m very pleased to say Wrenne is lined up to be a future guest on TGA too!
One of the biggest changes was going to gigs and festivals again. How did you find returning to live performance yourself?
It was turbulent at first, but I feel that on this current tour ‘REFLECTIONS ON THE GLASS AGE’ I’ve found my rhythm and I’m really enjoying connecting with my audience through my songs and my voice.
I have lots of dates throughout May – Oct and all the details are here on my site:
Was online performance a positive or negative? Is there still a place for it?
Peak pandemic it felt like a beautiful reaction to the challenge everyone was facing. I remember seeing Michael Stipe singing into his laptop at his kitchen table and my heart was warmed.
I feel like artists can carve out the right shaped space for it now, yes. I think that’s possible, with the right kind of care and attention for it all to feel right for both audience and performer.
When out in Japan I do this thing online called the Rising Sun Stream to connect with my audience back here. I take my guitar down to Tokyo Bay. It’s evening in the UK and as folks gather behind their screens at home they watch the sun rise behind me as I play. The rising sun is our campfire and our screens feel like the portal to it.
What are your plans for the rest of 2023 and beyond?
I’m currently touring a show called ‘REFLECTIONS ON THE GLASS AGE’ which lands at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Friday May 26th. After that I’m really excited about my forthcoming duo tour with Max ZT – the New York based Hammer Dulcimer player. We have written an album together entitled ‘Ten Steps’ and we’re touring the UK together in October 2023.
A Night of Glass – Dan Whitehouse with Elizabeth J Birch is at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Friday 26 May. Get your tickets here. The Glass Age is on Tuesdays at 9pm with a new show the first Tuesday of the month.