Introduced to me by the renowned Georgia-based jazz-fusion guitarist Bill Hart, the music of Richard Daigle is modern-day folk-rock at its best. A guitar ace with a great set of ears, Bill Hart is right on target as Richard Daigle’s 2020 album Average Joe is both humorous and entertaining music, at the same time. Although he started playing guitar at age 13, in mid-2020, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Richard Daigle released his first solo album, at the still-young age of 65. Obviously a case of, no matter what the age, you can’t keep a good musician down, Average Joe is living proof of that timeless saying. So, who is Richard Daigle’s Average Joe CD reminiscent of? Some Arlo Guthrie, some Bob Dylan and of course the late, great John Prine, the renowned folk music pioneer that sadly passed away in mid-2020 due to Co-Vid 19 complications. In his tribute track, “John Prine, A Friend Of Mine,” Richard recalls first seeing the legendary artist perform way back in 1977, while also actually getting to interview John Prine in 1979. Reading through the CD liner notes, Richard dedicates Average Joe to his late wife, Jan Daigle and his brother Lennet, and that sentiment of love and loss of family can be heard to great effect on the album's lead-off song “Cooking For One.” It’s not all sad travails though, as the lead-off title track, "Average Joe," pokes fun at being human and "The Best Part" looks at being single at 60, while “Carnivore” is Richard's light-hearted, and even humorous look at trying to be vegetarian in a meat-based planet. Even with so many heartfelt lyrical moments, Average Joe closes out with a folky instrumental dedicated to his late older brother Lennet. That album-closing instrumental track is quite intriguing sounding, with Richard adding, “On For Lennet, I played an instrument called a Charango. It’s from South America, the one I have is from Peru.” On the album, Richard plays rhythm electric guitar, fingerstyle and acoustic rhythm guitar and also writing the music while enlisting the assistance of musicians that lend a hand and fill in the missing spaces. Music production, electric lead guitar and bass playing by Ronnie Winstead works its magic and the studio sound is clear as a bell. As the 8-track, 33 minute moves through its paces, it’s clear to the listener that Richard Daigle has gone through lots of memorable life experiences and he puts it all to music on Average Joe. Filled with a range of tuneful, toe-tapping tracks with deep lyrics, Average Joe is a very cool little CD by a singer-songwriter that still has something important to say. www.RichardDaigle.com
mwe3.com presents and interview with
mwe3: First thing I wanted to ask you is why did it take so long to release an album of your own music? Was it the realization of a long sought after dream? Tell us about your life’s work, I know you worked at SBA disaster, a partner with FEMA and you worked in publishing, so you’re a writer too?
Richard Daigle: My first job out of college was a newspaper reporter for a small daily paper in South Georgia and my career path after that was in the communications field whether as a magazine editor, public relations spokesperson or in journalism education. I retired from the U.S. Small Business Administration disaster assistance office, which is a federal partner with FEMA. I learned guitar when I was really young and I’ve always been a writer so I guess it was inevitable that I’d begin writing songs in earnest at some point. I would’ve started earlier but life got in the way. That’s not a bad thing, though, because I had a great life with a wonderful woman, who unfortunately died from cancer in 2014. We raised three kids so those years where maybe I could’ve been writing songs and growing as a musician were invested in a higher calling: trying to prepare three youngsters for their life ahead. I would write a song now and then but never took it very seriously until the last several years being retired and single. After I wrote a couple of songs I liked I thought “hey, these aren’t bad…maybe I should consider doing a CD.” At that point I reached out to an old buddy who has a studio in the Atlanta area and we made it happen. So, it really wasn’t like it was a lifelong dream to do a CD. It just seemed like a natural next step after I wrote a few songs that I thought were worthy of a broader audience than me and a few house plants in my den!
mwe3: Were you always musically inclined and were your parents or siblings musicians? Tell us about how you gravitated towards music and what your early musical training was like? Can you remember your first guitar and did growing up in New Orleans have an impact on your musicality?
Richard Daigle: I have a younger brother, Ron, who plays sax, keyboard and sings. He’s just come out with a CD as well. Ron is very musically inclined but another younger brother, Andrew, and my sister, Susan, not so much. Hey, that’s ok—they have other talents! My older brother, Lennet, who died at Thanksgiving, 2019, played a decent blues harmonica. I remember when I was around 11 or 12 there was a kid’s guitar at the house and I used to pick it up and just kind of bang away on it like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know any chords, I just liked how my fingers felt on the strings. One day I was strumming away, making nonsense chords but keeping a pretty good rhythm, when my mom called from the other room and asked me to turn the radio down. I was so excited because she actually thought it was a radio, not her son who had no clue what to do with a guitar! I remember that day thinking that I could actually learn how to play so I got a Mel Bay chord book and began learning chords. My dad played guitar and mandolin in a group as a young man in south Louisiana and as I taught myself some, he saw I had a knack for it and started helping me as well. The first guitar I ever bought was a Yamaha classical guitar. I paid $60 and it still sounds great to this day. It’s at my son’s house in the event he ever wants to learn, but he’s a busy guy so I don’t see that happening.
mwe3: You said that you saw The Beatles play live in 1966 thanks to your brother Lennet taking you along. What do you remember about that show? Seems so long ago yet I guess if it was your first attended concert, you must remember things about it? What about some of the other concerts, bands, guitarists and songwriters and artists from the 1960s and ‘70s made the biggest impression on you?
Richard Daigle: Lennet took a date to see The Beatles in 1966 in Memphis at the Mid-South Coliseum and something possessed him to take me, his kid brother! At least, I always thought it was him until years later when I asked and he told me the truth: it was actually his date that suggested they take me. I wish I knew where she was now because I’d certainly thank her! I remember we were on maybe the second row in the balcony and I remember the opening act, Bobby Hebb, who had the hit song “Sunny.” I felt bad for him because thousands of teenage girls were so anxious to see the Beatles they were just wanting him to get off the stage as soon as he could. When the Fab Four came out, it was like being on a tarmac when a jet plane fired up its engines. The shrieks and screams were deafening. I knew all the songs but you had to listen closely, through all the din of the teen girls, to pick up what they were playing. It was quite a night! In New Orleans, in my high school and college years, I’d go with friends to a legendary venue called The Warehouse. This was from the early to late 1970s and I can tell you, I saw every classic rock band known to man at that place, from A to Z… Allman Brothers to ZZ Top and everything in between.
mwe3:What guitars are you playing on your 2020 album Average Joe and what can you tell us about the Charango you also play on the album? Speaking about featuring the Charango tell us about the album-closing track in honor of your brother, which is called “For Lennet”.
Richard Daigle: About 15 years ago or so, I played a Baruke guitar that a friend owned and I immediately fell in love with it. Just a few years back, I bought one, a Jubilee model. Allen Williams, out of Gainesville, Georgia, is the luthier and he certainly makes a great guitar. I have nothing against Martins, Taylors or Gibsons but I’ll take my Baruke any day of the week. On the instrumental “For Lennet,” which I dedicated to my late brother, I play an instrument called a charango. My late wife and I did a lot of Christian mission work in Peru so I’ve been there a lot. The charango is a common south American instrument sometimes made of wood, like mine, but traditionally made from the back of armadillos. The charango has five pairs of strings with the middle pair an octave apart. I came up with this little tune which I really loved. When my brother was ill and wheelchair-bound and declining, I played it for him and he really liked it.
mwe3: Why do you call your album Average Joe and what was it like working with producer Ronnie Winstead? You said Ronnie is also playing on the album too? Where did you shoot the front cover pic?
Richard Daigle: I wanted to name the album after one of the songs and I debated which song to use. I even did a quick Facebook poll with a lot of my friends to get their input. “Average Joe” was probably third or fourth on their list! I think I finally wound up with that name because I think it reflects me, and really, all of us. We’re all in the same boat, the boat of life, and we’re all average joe’s but, at the same time, all really special. In doing this album, I didn’t feel like I was some gifted musician trying to impress the world because that’s certainly not me. I just felt I was an average guy trying to make something good happen. I think being an “average Joe” involves people seeing the common humanity in each other, beyond race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, financial status, politics, faith or whatever. We’re all equal in God’s sight, all children he loves. The acoustic versions of my songs, to me, were like stick figures drawn on a page. Ronnie used music to turn them into beautiful works of art. He brought a spit shine to my basic melodies. The cover picture was taken by a local photographer, Flint Chaney, under the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge here in Chattanooga, not far from where I live.
mwe3: Is “Cooking For One” a tale about bachelorhood following a painful loss? So then, is it autobiographical?
Richard Daigle: After my wife died, the first really meaningful relationship I had was with a woman in Nashville, LuAnn. She’s a realtor now but she’s a former full-time songwriter, super talented, with a Kenny Chesney song under her belt. Anyway, the relationship ended and I was back in Atlanta one evening cooking for myself, thinking about how she and I would cook meals together at her house, and I thought, “dang, I’m cooking for one.” Well, that first line led to another line, a tune popped up in my head almost immediately and the song was pretty much done in a few days. She and I are still good friends. She’s really happy with the album and I appreciate her praise because she’s definitely a better songwriter than I am. “Cooking For One” is a universal message about single life, the loss of a relationship and wondering and hoping if it could be restored. I think many single people can relate to solo cooking!
mwe3: Sounds like the title track “Average Joe” is the country hit single off the album right? That could be a big song especially with the new President Joe Biden, as he’s maybe someone the “Average Joe” could relate too. The older guy and underdog making a comeback against the forces of evil, special interests and corruption?
Richard Daigle: I’m not sure which song is the hit single but I’d love for any of my songs to be considered that! I think “Average Joe” has a nice message. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all put our pants on the same way. I’m not impressed with people who feel they are better than someone else just because of their talent or wealth or position in life. I am super impressed with people who are not that impressed with themselves and see other people eye to eye. One guy that comes to mind is Bill Hart, a good friend and world-class jazz guitarist. Bill invited me to an open mic at The Velvet Note in Alpharetta, Georgia and really encouraged me as a musician at a time when I probably believed in my songs more than I did myself as an artist. Bill does amazing things on the guitar, he’s absolutely brilliant, but to himself, he’s just another guitar player. He’s a humble guy and I really appreciate that quality in him or anyone. I never thought about the “Average Joe” and Joe Biden connection but if someone wants to take that and run with it and make that song a big hit, I won’t object in the least!
mwe3: “Carnivore” is hilarious. I tried being vegan for so many years and I don’t think it worked! lol but now I do eat limited meat considering my other illnesses. Is Pam your plant-based baby? Is she vegetarian? lol God knows why people kill for food…just like our great ancestors, (the cavemen!) hahaha Doesn’t Pam make her own records?
Richard Daigle: “Carnivore” is maybe the song I’m most known for when I play places. It’s definitely a fun song and it sprang from a relationship I had with a really talented singer/songwriter in the Atlanta area who sang harmony on several songs on the CD, Pam Hamilton. Pam is indeed a plant-based eater and that’s another song where I got the first line and it kind of took off from there. She’s always wanted me to title it “Plant Based Baby” but I settled on “Carnivore.” Pam is a gifted artist who, while I started very late, started very early, performing when she was just a young girl. She was very gracious to sing harmony on a few songs and I can tell you, her vocal talent really made those songs shine. Pam is a dear friend; she even drove up from Atlanta to Chattanooga to attend my CD release party to perform with me!
mwe3: The Prine song “John Prine, A Friend Of Mine” is haunting. Who was Sam Stone? So, when did you first meet Prine and then you saw him again 35 years later? I knew he died this year from Co-Vid as his wife had it too? So, the year from hell inspired a tribute song to a music icon, so it’s a little bonus for us? Can you tell us your favorite John Prine albums or songs?
Richard Daigle: “Sam Stone” is one of Prine's best songs. There are several phrases in the song that are ‘Prine song references’ so it’s kind of ‘inside baseball’ for those who don’t know his songs. I’d like to think the song still works for someone who doesn’t get the Prine song references. Maybe it’ll inspire them to discover Prine. I first saw Prine in 1977 at a little bar in south Louisiana in a town named Donaldsonville. It was a benefit for NORML and we were all packed like sardines in that little club. The fire marshal wouldn’t have been happy! Around 1980 or so I was a reporter for The Brunswick News in Brunswick, Georgia. I interviewed Prine on Jekyll Island where he was playing. After the interview he asked where he and his band could get a good seafood dinner, I recommended a place, and he invited me to come along. I didn’t see him for many years later when the woman I was dating at the time, that would be LuAnn, won two tickets to see him and Jason Isbell in a New Year’s eve concert. That whole song is pretty much a journalistic report: it’s all true, even the part about him busting guitar strings at the Jekyll show. It was certainly a sad day when he died and yes, I did cry in my coffee when I read it online. He was and always will be a one-of-a-kind songwriter. I love so many of his songs and albums but I’d say his very first album, to me, is the best. “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There,” “Paradise,” and “Spanish Pipedream” are all truly great songs on that album. I also really like “A Good Time,” “Lake Marie,” “The Bottomless Lake,” and “Summer’s End.” I could go on and on about Prine songs I like so I guess in the interest of time, I’ll stop right there! I should note that on the last chorus of “John Prine, A Friend of Mine,” I employed some voices of musician friends here in Chattanooga and that really added a lot to the song.
mwe3: “Open Mic Night” is my favorite track on the Average Joe album. Is that written from experience? I know you met Bill Hart, and he met you when you did the show at open mic night at the Velvet Note? It must be lot different performing a good band behind you like you do on the album track. How did you overcome your stage fright?
Richard Daigle: Thanks to encouragement from Bill Hart, I did lots of open mics at The Velvet Note, where I got much more comfortable singing in front of an audience. I developed a bit of a fan club there, even had one guy drive up the two hours from Atlanta to see some of my gigs here in Chattanooga! A true fan! Because of my past work experience, I was comfortable with public speaking. Public singing, of course, is something totally different. I was pretty much a regular fixture on open mic nights at The Velvet Note for several months and I became more and more comfortable performing in public. I think performing is a little like speed car racing, tight-rope walking or other dangerous pastimes because you know that one mistake—forgetting a lyric or chord or missing a note—can really have embarrassing consequences! That just makes doing a live performance all the more exciting. My son was a pitcher in the San Diego Padres minor league system and he probably had the same feeling, knowing that when he released a pitch something really good or really bad could happen, a strikeout or a homerun or whatever. As for the song, “Open Mic Night,” that was actually inspired by playing an open mic at the Tremont Tavern here in Chattanooga. I was there one night and saw a young woman pouring her heart out to a crowd that at first wasn’t that interested and it gave birth to that song.
mwe3: Who is singing on “I Saw It In Your Eyes”? Is that Pam again? That’s another hit single if I ever heard one. What was the inspiration for that track?
Richard Daigle: Pam actually sings harmony on that song but Amanda Richards sings the lead. I really like the song but didn’t feel my vocals could do it justice so my producer, Ronnie Winstead, contacted Amanda and she did a great job. That song actually started with a guitar riff I fooled around with for a while and then the lyrics “I saw it in your eyes” came to me one day with the lyrics falling right on the riff. That’s another song that seemed easy to write, the lyrics and melody just falling right together. It’s got a really nice vibe to it, I think, and is another story song like my others. I think it has potential and yeah, I’m all for it becoming a hit single! Why not? Of course, it ain’t that easy in the music biz world so I’ll take whatever sliver of success I can get!
mwe3: Is “The Best Part” biographical? It seems to place you in another era? Pam does some great backing vocals for the song. What else can you add about that track?
Richard Daigle: “The Best Part” is inspired in part by my life experience losing my wife and trying to connect again with someone as an older person. It’s true that my wife died, like the man’s in the song, but not true that I found love again with a childhood sweetheart. That’s really a favorite song of mine because it’s filled with hope for people who are older and single, like me, and trying to find another great life partner. Pam does a great job on vocals on that song, just like the others she’s on.
mwe3: What can you tell us about your Jubilee Baruke guitar? What are your other favorite guitars, or any other gear you use in your songwriting, playing and recording?
Richard Daigle: I love my Baruke guitar! I paid a pretty penny for it but it’s worth every nickel… how’s that for a mixed metaphor? I also have a Guild F-48 jumbo body I bought new in 1972, which is pretty much what John Denver played back in the day. He played an F-50 which is the same guitar but with gold instead of silver tuning keys. I also have a classical guitar I bought from Casa Nunez, a guitar maker company in Buenos Aires. It’s a very sweet sounding nylon string instrument. And then I have a parlor Guild guitar I bought from Mountain Music, a store here in Chattanooga. I’ve used it to play healing instrumental music for patients in a local hospital. I forgot one guitar! I have a PRS Jr electric.
mwe3: Tell us about working with Ronnie Winstead on the production. Did Ronnie assemble the band? Who is playing harmonica on “The Best Part”? How did you meet Ronnie, where is he based and what did he bring to the Average Joe sessions?
Richard Daigle: I played with Ronnie in a church band many years ago and when I got the idea to record, he was the first person I thought of. He owns Virtual Adrenaline, a recording studio in Duluth, Georgia. He played harmonica on “The Best Part,” lead guitar on “Carnivore” and other songs, and bass on everything. There was more than once where Ronnie told me, “just trust me, this is gonna work,” whether it was a certain riff or drum beat or whatever, and he was right—it always worked. Ronnie really worked his magic on producing this CD. The ‘band’ was Ronnie, his partner Eric Baker, who plays sax and keyboards, and Alex Stephens, a drummer he works with regularly. Chattanooga musicians also pitched in. Emerald Butler on fiddle and mandolin and Butch Ross on mountain dulcimer both really made strong contributions.
Richard Daigle: 2020 is no doubt a crazy year and it seems to me 2021 has got to be better. If not, we all need to buckle our seatbelts! I’m always working on songs and I have a few in mind already for the next CD. It was way too much fun recording my songs and bringing them to life musically to not do it again. Of course, I’m trying to promote Average Joe as well. I’d love for someone to hear a song and pick it up for use by an artist or movie or TV commercial or whatever. But if my songs just connect with whatever audience they connect with and make someone laugh, cry or think, then that’s not a bad thing at all.