Following several epic performances at Glastonbury 2015, I caught up with Daniel ‘DaFreez’ Johnston, guitar wizard from My Baby, to get an insight into one of the most unique sounding groups I have heard in a while. When a band is described as tribal indie funk delta trance, you know you are in for something both original and incredibly rewarding.
Karl - How did My Baby come about and which artists were your main influences as musicians?
Daniel - We have been playing together for almost 10 years in other groups and in various formations. From 2012 we decided to form the three-piece that became My Baby. As musicians our main influences are old blues, gospel and folk like Robert Johnson, The Staple Singers or Bert Jansch and Joni Mitchell. We have a history of playing soul and funk. Think of Sly and the Family Stone.
Karl - Your music is an infusion of so many styles obviously with deep delta blues and soul undercurrents. In an industry where originality is so often overlooked, how tough have you found it to get more mainstream recognition?
Daniel - It's obviously unlikely to get such recognition at first since we are not a pop group or a band that embraces a recognizable sound that is very clearly inspired by our influences, which would put you in a niche or style like blues where a lot of people will discover you but you fail to breach the pigeon holing. It takes a while but the amount of appreciators of the diversity that our music represents multiplies over the years and we have seemingly been pushed forward in more of a mainstream kind of way. For us it's very rewarding that people recognize the roots but detect an original concept of some sort and find that appealing.
Karl - You are obviously working very hard and this has been an incredible year. Touring with Seasick Steve and your own headline tour later this year. How was it touring with Steve and are you pleased with how well you have been received on the tour? I know a lot of people have come away from those shows and been blown away by My Baby.
Daniel - It's been immense and overwhelming in many ways. Touring with Steve was like a dream, and it takes a while to take stock of things and grasp at the reality of what you have gone through. Steve is such a special yet humble guy. It's Inspiring to tour with such an enigmatic figure and he is so positive towards us. It urges you to greater heights. To play your heart out that much more and thereby reach a huge audience along the way that really gave a lot of positive energy back to us. It's been an amazing experience and we certainly look forward to our UK tour later this year.
Karl - How was the experience of playing at Glastonbury and not only that but doing seven shows over the festival weekend? That is some achievement!
Daniel - Again full of gratitude to the people that believed in us and made that happen. A very wild ride… and very hard work, we only just survived. But had some cracking gigs and we continue to believe in playing as much as possible. It's the best way, and perhaps the only way to reach and connect with as many people as possible. And what better place to do that than Glastonbury.
Karl - With a brother and sister in the band is there much in the way of sibling rivalry between Cato and Joost or do you find yourself getting ganged up on?
Daniel - I manage to escape as often as I can but Joost and Cato are vastly experienced at arguing with each other. At times there seems to be no other modus operandi. And they are fine with it.
Karl - I love the album art on your records done by the talented Stefan Glerum no less. His art style seems to fit in perfectly with the melting pot of different influences you can pick out from your music. Did you have an idea of what you wanted with the design or did you let him work his magic based on the songs?
Daniel - We have strong opinions on all things creative surrounding the My Baby concept. It always poses a challenge to collaborating with others. Stefan has a very distinct style and his creative genius depends on his imagination. Luckily Stefan was very inspired by our music and was able to tap into our thought processes as well. We feel blessed to have him complete something so impressive and something that communicates very strongly with a lot of the subject matter on Shamanaid.
Karl - Is there a particular venue or show you would love to play? What would be the ultimate gig for you?
Daniel - We'd say a lot of dreams are coming true already with festivals such as Glastonbury, Lowlands and Sziget this summer and a main hall gig in Paradiso coming up in December. Not to mention the headline tour in the UK that we’re embarking on this fall. Perhaps we haven't thought far enough ahead to pinpoint anything else. Perhaps our achievements now have already outstretched our ambitions. We don’t think so. There is of course the United States where we are yet to tour. Festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza or Burning Man or perhaps a gig at the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Karl - In addition to being huge music lovers we also like to kick back and play some video games. Are any of you gamers and if so what do you like to play? If not what do you do to relax between shows?
Daniel - Gamers? Not for a while now. We don't give ourselves too much time to relax. But given nice weather, we’re known to go swimming wherever we can.
More information can be found on their website at www.mybabywashere.com and you can pick up copies of the awesome 'Shamanaid' and 'Loves Voodoo!' albums on Amazon and iTunes. I myself am very much looking forward to catching these guys at the Birmingham Academy on November 4th. If you can make one of their upcoming shows I strongly recommend that you do so.