Andy Dalton • On Grabbing the Gold, Living Outside the Box & Hoping to Win the Lottery

Best Rock Instrumentalist • Best Male Rock Vocalist • Best Live Streaming Performance • Best Website • Most Innovative Artist • Best Rock Video - Paycheck • Best Alternative Rock Band -The Fireside Wake

    icon Jun 03, 2021
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It rained golden note statuettes for Andy Dalton at this year’s 35th REVIEW Music Awards celebration, as the creative range and accomplishments of this creative musician were given their proper acknowledgement with an amazing sweep of wins in seven pivotal categories including Most Innovative Artist and Best Alternative Rock Band for his one-man conceptual combo The Fireside Wake.

Regardless of how one feels about awards and acknowledgement in general, without doubt they represent a level of achievement and a standard of connection - whether creatively or in terms of popularity - that marks a significant recognition of all the hard work and assets an artist invests into their endeavors.

And with this in mind, I sat down with Andy for an in-depth interview to discuss not only what these wins meant to him, but what qualities comprise the essential building blocks for each of the categories represented.

REVIEW:  Let’s start first with the award that you received for Best Rock Instrumentalist. What to your mind does it take to become a good instrumentalist?

Andy Dalton: A song that needs instruments for starters, because you’re not going to get very far without a song. The point of everything is to write a good song and build the instrumentation around it. For me the way that happens is to write the guitar parts, then I hear the vocals followed by the drum parts and build it that way. When I start recording things I’ll see if I’m okay with the way the guitar and drums sound coming at me through my speakers so that I can move on to the bass line. After that I might realize a piano would work in one part and then as it comes together I can go, ‘Oh, I hear the sound of breaking glass over in this part!

REVIEW: So you use the notes and instruments to color the song.

Andy Dalton: I look at it more like composing, not that I’m a composer by any means. I don’t concern myself with whether I need drum or guitar solos, because as a one-man band I’m already shining on every instrument I play, so I don’t need to shine on any one thing or on any one instrument.  My only focus is how it serves the song. 

If  it doesn’t serve the song, it doesn’t need to be there.  I like that roller coaster feel, whether it’s contained within a song or a long-playing format, you’re creating a mood. I’ll use whatever color or instrument it takes to get there. I’ll teach myself to play the instrument or if I can’t, I’ll enlist the aid of someone who can provide it.

REVIEW: Your second home run came with securing the Best Rock Vocalist award. What’s it take to become one?

Andy Dalton: Honestly, I was surprised winning that one because to me a great rock vocalist is Todd Michael Hall. That guy’s got pipes that will last for days. He’s an acrobatic singer that hits multiple octaves and never sounds like he’s stretching it.  Or Andy Hahn, from Marsupial Creampie - he’s so relaxed when he sings and is never flat or sharp or reaching too far for a note he’s so good. 

But for me my own standards of a good rock vocalist involve how to put words together. I like to get clever with my rhyming and use obscure words that you don’t see in the Rock canon too often - you know, open a dictionary and go, “Oh, what a cool word for that particular thing. I’m gonna write a song about it!”

Also I think it’s important what a vocalist does with their voice - not being flat or sharp too often. For some people that’s their thing and it sounds good; but most important is to have your own voice.  You need to sound like yourself. Only Tom Petty sounds like Tom Petty. Honestly, I’m still looking for it. I can do a yell scream pretty well, mid-range pretty well, but struggle with falsetto and other techniques.

For me the question is do you sound comfortable in your own skin as a singer. I have a long way to go with that, but I also know I don’t suck and as far as I’m concerned it’s another instrument for the song.

REVIEW: In a way receiving the ‘Best Alternative Band’ honor was the grand slam of the entire evening. This is the first award ever given to a one-man band  in the 35-years of the Awards Celebration, which considering ‘The Fireside Wake’ is a conceptual alternative band that consists of you playing all the instruments, is rather intriguing.  What was your reaction to winning that honor and what are the qualities that you feel best distinguishes a great Alternative rock band?

Andy Dalton: To me Alternative Rock takes me back to the early ‘90s when discovering MTV and I think of bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and the movies Singles and High Fidelity - that’s all alternative rock to me.  It doesn’t fall under Metal or Classical so really it goes back to the groups who started the genre like Nirvana and The Foo Fighters - Rock & Roll with giant bass and drums and vocals, four kids in a garage making noise and having fun - it doesn’t matter if it sounds cool.

I write what I write and the only reason I don’t have other members in The Fireside Wake is because I haven’t found the right musicians; but to me the idea of Alternative music is that it isn’t set within boundaries and constraints. Sometimes I’ll write pop-oriented verse-chorus-verse material and other times I’ll play the same riff through the whole song and repeat it five times and build it on something. Sometimes its rock music, sometimes its alternative, sometimes its blues-rock, but all of it is rock ‘n roll.

REVIEW: Apart from the musical side of life you also secured top honors in several new categories we added this year due to the pandemic lockdowns and the fact there were no live festivals, or even clubs open to perform at.  One of those was the ‘Best Rock Video’ award for your video ‘Paycheck’.  What were you aiming for when you started putting it together?

Andy Dalton: That was the first time I made a video for any of my own material. I’ve been in other videos and have seen low level and middle level productions, but never anything Hollywood level. With Paycheck I had this idea in my head that seeing as The Fireside Wake is a one-man band that’s supposed to be a full-piece, wouldn’t it be cool to do a video where I play everything myself, only record it four separate times and splice it together doing a costume change with each segment, so it looks like there’s four of me on camera in the same room.

The Temple Theatre approached me about being part of their web series Under the Golden Ceiling that was showcasing local talent, so I was eager to perform a couple songs. When it came time to record the video I asked if we could get weird with it, explaining my idea for not using any green screens but recording four of me playing each instrument on one screen, not tiled screens. I thought it would be more of a mind bender if everyone was on the same screen in the same room so people wouldn’t necessarily realize it was the same person. I did the live takes from my studio and had that be the audio that was spliced into four video takes, which were also all live takes of a unique performance, as opposed to playing verbatim to the record.  I wanted something a little goofy and alternative.

REVIEW: In the same vein another new category you won was ‘Best Live Streaming Performance’. Once everything shut down the only route musicians had to reach their audiences was through producing live streaming shows on the Internet.  Do you feel this was a temporary phenomenon or something that’s here to stay?

Andy Dalton:  It’s hard to say what people will end up doing.  I did it out of necessity because I wanted to keep playing when the Pandemic hit, but it’s not very fun playing to nobody in the room and hard to build an energy off that.

Playing shows in general where people are not paying attention can be disheartening, too, so I’ve trained myself to live in my own head and enjoy the music for myself and not worry about how it’s being received, which is kind of backward. 

Streaming will continue as a way to get yourself out there. You don’t have to go anywhere to reach people and its accessible. You can even use facebook live and you’re off to the races, although the production value is an issue with FB live.

With my first streaming performance I used my laptop camera; with my second I connected to my I-Phone as well so I would have 2 cameras; and then by my third performance I acquired software for producing graphic overlays and cut scenes because I wanted to get Monty Python with my show by adding animations and old movie commercials like ‘Let’s Go to the Lobby’ or friends doing weird skits so that the show wasn’t shot in one static angle for an hour.  In that sense my series was more than a show, it was a production and a performance.  I’m always making it harder on myself by trying to take things to some extra new weird level.

REVIEW: You also secured the award for Best Band Website.

Andy Dalton:  I was very proud to receive that particular award because I built and manage The Fireside Wake website all by myself. All the graphic design for the website I painstakingly did by myself and for all the webstore stuff I took all the photos of the merchandise and dropped them into a template with descriptions. The webstore involved learning a whole new set of skills, and I’m doing all the inventory tracking myself and the budgeting. I don’t run numbers to make money, but just to do it.  I invested $20,000 of my own money into The Fireside Wake.  People tell me I’m neurotic or a perfectionist and I’m like, ‘Is that a bad thing?’ Am I offending you? Excuse me for putting my money where my mouth is.

I have high standards for a band, which is why I haven’t put one together for The Fireside Wake. The litmus test is the drummer. If he’s locked in and on-point  then I can focus on the rest of the band. The most important thing is solid drums that are musical and not just bashing away or showing off.

REVIEW: Finally, you secured the ‘Most Innovative Artist’ award, which I’ve saved for last here because in a way it represents all the qualities we’ve talked about with the other awards during this interview. What do you feel are the qualities that comprise an innovative artist?

Andy Dalton:  That’s like asking how do you be creative. You either get it or you don’t. You either have a vision or you don’t. You’re either a leader or a follower; and I can be both. There are instances where you tell me when and where and I’ll be there. 

I was 14-years old when I started The Fireside Wake so now I’m starting to think about what am I going to do to follow it up?  Eventually I’m going to be done with this album and need to start thinking about that, but can’t clutter my brain up with all the stress of this current project.  I’m swinging for the fences with this one like I’ll be hit by a bus tomorrow.

Innovation is a hard topic to talk about.  Historically, when the spark hits like it did in San Francisco in the ‘60s or Seattle in the ‘90s the vultures come to find the next watered down version they can sign. What does it take to be innovative? I would say being motivated, clever, and thinking outside the box. I write songs I wished already existed so I can listen to them.  Let’s hook stuff up and see if we can break it - that’s innovation!

For my next project I might take the minimalist route and see if I can make a 40-minute A and B side album as strong as my 90-minute triple-disc Fireside Wake album. I purposely have not written a single song since finishing Fireside Wake and it’s taken up a huge chunk of my life. When I get through it and when I come back to the writing game, I’ll see how all these things have affected my writing and playing. It took me 20 years to get this project done, but it won’t be 20 for the next one.  I’m not signed to a major label, so can do things at my own pace and hopefully one day I’ll be winning the lottery.

REVIEW: Do you even need a major label to gain national attention anymore?

Andy Dalton: A couple miles away are four Polish kids from Frankenmuth that can play for Elton John. That’s what I call hitting the lottery. 


To learn more about Andy Dalton and The Fireside Wake, or to order products and the vinyl edition please visit




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