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Variously described as a blend of music icons such as The Beatles, Ray Davies, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Young & Neil Finn, Melbourne late bloomer DC Cardwell has only recently begun to make his mark in the music world. A “triple threat” singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he sealed his credentials by taking out TWO of the top prizes at the Australian Catapult Song Contest in 2011.
DC’s distinctive and affecting voice is perfect for his songs which take an honest and often wry look at life, peppered with positivity and redemptive possibility. Combine that with his maddeningly catchy hooks, pop-smart arrangements and melodic lead guitar breaks and you have Beatlesque songs that you will want to hear again and again.
DC’s self-produced debut album“Some Hope” was released in the US in 2010, and met with glowing reviews internationally. Of the record, Aaron Kupferberg from Powerpopaholic wrote,
“DC Cardwell creates a heartfelt gem here, full of wonderful melodic hooks and a Ray Davies styled vocal. The gentle minor chords and harmonies that open “I Am Still The Same” are both brilliant and poignant. “Birthday Present” is another example of solid composition and a revelatory Harrison styled guitar break. Some of the mid-tempo ballads are like magical combinations of both Paul Simon and McCartney. ”
The success of the album also paved the way for other opportunities abroad. In 2010 noted Hollywood music supervisor/film composer Jaymee Carpenter (The Fighter, Crime After Crime) heard one of his songs (Birthday Present) on a Youtube video and immediately invited DC to L.A. to record six of his songs for use in his film projects. Jaymee’s reaction to DC’s music is worth noting, and is quoted here with permission:
“I am seriously blown away by your album. I think it may be the greatest thing I’ve heard in years! I don’t want to freak you out, but I’m drooling over here. You just easily became my favorite ‘new’ artist!”
Northern Ireland to Australia via Canada
Growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles shaped DC’s formative years. In 1988 he emigrated to Vancouver with his wife, gifted singer-songwriter Marjorie Cardwell, and their young son, Joel. In the vibrant alternative milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s Marjorie played her own songs in the rock clubs of Vancouver, with DC on lead guitar, described in one review as her “secret weapon”. They moved to Australia in the 1996, along with their second son, Samuel, and settled in Melbourne, widely regarded as Australia’s musical and cultural centre.
While DC had played guitar for Marjorie for many years, soon after arriving in Australia she retired temporarily from music to pursue university studies. So it wasn’t until 2003, as their two boys were growing up and also learning to play, that DC began to sing and write his own songs. DC would spend long hours “jamming with the kids” and, to avoid the dead-end of interminable 12-bar blues workouts, he would take on vocal duties. Initially reluctant to sing lead, he found that he started to strengthen and develop his own voice, and this new development finally allowed his own songwriting experiments to blossom as he could, at last, instantly translate his ideas into sound.
Catapult Song Contest
In 2011 DC’s song “I Am Still The Same” was selected from over 3000 original song entries Australia wide to win both the Overall Prize and the Judges’ Favourite award in the nationwide Catapult Song Contest.
It’s an emotionally affecting piece with a fascinating back-story, and has a startling video which was an official selection of the 2012 SoCal Film Festival in Los Angeles, USA. This remarkable film has garnered much attention and been selected for use by a major charity and also by the Campfire film foundation providing thought-provoking short films for schools and universities. One of the Catapult judges, Australia’s esteemed Music Director John Foreman (Music Director – Australian Idol, Carols By Candlelight) noted that it has:
“Fantastic evocative vocal tone and great lyrics. Together with the clip it’s a very moving song.”
DC’s delicately crafted melodies, coupled with a blend of poignant and witty lyrics, conjure subtle reminders of 60s and 70s rock fused with DC’s infectious hooks and subversively heart-warming style.
When asked to describe his own music he says it’s hard to beat his favourite quote from an online friend, songwriter Christopher Morse:
“Who knew that depression, bitter irony, loneliness and mistrust could be so much fun? I’m not saying that sarcastically. You dig deep with such gentle and humorous resignation it’s impossible not to enjoy the bitter truths you unearth.”
DC has always had an eclectic taste in music, with The Beatles as his ‘gold-standard’, but as far as rock goes he also credits classic influences such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Buzzcocks, Al Green, The Kinks, The Velvet Underground & The Band, and slightly less well-known artists like T-Bone Burnett, Nick Lowe, Jonathan Richman, Richard & Linda Thompson, Wild Man Fischer & Sloan. He also has a deep love for a wide range of genres including soul, early R&B, early jazz, bebop, reggae, country, folk, indie, punk… In fact he draws from so many wells that likes to use a term coined by one of his favourite artists, cult female singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, to describe his own music: OMNIPOP!
His first album already displays a firm grasp of a number of pop and rock genres, but DC has an inquisitive and probing musical attitude and doesn’t intend to be be pigeon-holed. And with a lifetime of experience to sing about, he has no intention of slowing down. He’s only just getting started.