Dave Helgi Johan – Five Questions With

David Helgi Johan

Dave Helgi Johan recently released his album, Drumheller

Hailing from a small Icelandic fishing community in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada. Dave Helgi Johan moved to Byron Bay in 2019 to actively pursue music full-time as a solo musician while playing and collaborating with many local artists.

He has recently released his first official solo album, Drumheller, out now on Greywood Records (Paul Dempsey, Michael Lane, A Choir Of Ghosts). He’s heading down the coast of Eastern Australia, with tour dates to be announced soon.

Dave has performed and toured for the last decade and a half in countless acts. Recorded and released a handful of albums and music videos in past groups and has finally committed himself to a solo career. He has performed with the likes of Mac Demarco, Kim Churchill, The Bros. Landreth, PS I Love You, and The Mowgli’s. He has played at many music festivals, including Canadian Music Week, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Byron Bay Surf Festival, Airlie Beach Music Festival, and more.

Listen to Drumheller below and learn more about Dave Helgi Johan via our Five Questions With segment.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Dave Helgi Johan. I am a singer-songwriter from Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, a small Icelandic community, and I am now based in Queensland, Australia. I’ve been in Australia for four years now and have been playing music here and there on my travels while recording in and out of my 1993 Mazda van.

Tell us a bit about your most recent release.

My new album Drumheller was recently released on November 11th, 2022, through the amazing Greywood Records based in Berlin, Germany. I wanted an album cohesive in music with a more mysterious title that really has nothing to do with the songs. I credit a lot of people to my musical journey, though my late father and brother have always been so inspiring to me. With that, I chose a beautiful picture of the two of them for my album cover. Shot in what looks to be a church that was in Drumheller, Alberta, from a family vacation in the 90s.

I’ve been a musician and singer-songwriter for many years now, playing in and fronting many groups. The collection of songs on Drumheller were mostly written in Australia and are reflections of different experiences and inspirations from my stay here. The material was mostly written at what was my home base for a long time, The Arts Factory in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Some of the instruments on the album, like the mandolin and banjo, had been lent to me by close friends Andy Holmes and Jake Griffiths. “Only A Week” and “Heartaches in Lake Forest Estates” were the only two songs written at a much earlier stage back in Canada though I thought they felt fitting on the album.

I’ve always enjoyed taking a DIY approach to everything in music, with recording in particular. The songs were recorded on GarageBand on a 2017 MacBook Air through a basic setup of lining in the electric guitar and the bass and layering most everything else, including the vocals, through a standard SM58. All this put through a very dodgy interface given to me by my friend Jasper Last which I really appreciated. He told me prior it was dodgy that’s why he bought a new one, and oh boy, is it. I still use it. Some of the sound clips and other noises I just took from films and video games I grew up on and played any synth or keyboard sounds on my MacBook keys, not even using a midi keyboard which was very strange for me but interesting.

All the songs were then mixed and mastered by my brother James Debrecen at Pick This Productions. His work is always top quality and very professional. Check out his work here.

Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when writing?

I tend to take inspiration from real experiences and memories. Sometimes the words are mysterious even to myself and I really like that. I sometimes have to try to decipher what I meant when I wrote a certain line and really just don’t know. I like the mystery of the subconscious.

Do you have any upcoming shows you’d like to tell us about?

I am embarking on a tour in March down the east coast of Australia. The tour is starting March 2nd in Airlie Beach, Queensland heading south through Yeppoon, Agnes Water & Town of 1770, Sunshine Coast, and ending in Byron Bay, then Ballina in New South Wales.

What’s your goal for 2023?

The goal this year is to record my second full-length album with support from Brooke Tala of Dusty Records. The material for my second album has been written for some time now and will be released in early 2024. I have some festival gigs coming up this year, and I am in talks with my friend Jayden Ward about a short film documenting life on the road to be filmed late this year.

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