Dan Pettitt

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A Straightforward Account Of My Life And Music

As a child, I was always keen to get out of the house, so I could look at other houses. This simple love of architecture bore some of the hallmarks of an obsession. I grew up in beautiful countryside, but what always appealed was something man made. Cars, trucks, aircraft, houses. I was a shy child, oblivious to reading, writing, art and music. I loved bridges, roads, clocks, trains, spaceships. I was a self-reliant, introspective kid, and my schooldays passed with very little incident and no qualifications.
 
I had two options: move around from job to job, or join the army. I'm a pacifist, so it was an easy decision. I had to work, and as a friend of my father was involved in the fishing industry, I took up a job on a sailing ship off the coast of South Africa. It was a long way away. I lived and worked there for a year, learned a lot, and that is where my musical influences really began. Whisky became a good friend of mine, and together we’d listen to the blues, all shades and persuasions : Delta blues, Memphis blues, Country blues. I'd pick up the records in markets, and when I wasn’t sleeping off a shift or working on deck, those records were always playing. I started to get an education, and not just in music. I was reading and writing like I was sat at the front of the class. Eventually I began to write songs, and play them on an intermittently in-tune guitar. They weren't recorded, and would have vanished into the air, but I wrote them all down in a series of notebooks. In '99, I recorded them.

When I’d completed my time at sea, I returned home to England and started acting on an impulse. I was performing with a travelling mummers group called The Dark Saints. We'd put on plays in Scarborough, Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire and Somerset, in the pubs and on the streets. Some of my ballads from that time have a real old feel, I mean medieval, but ‘Playing For The King’, ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and ‘Parson’s Trail’ are pure folk songs. My time with The Dark Saints lasted for a few prolific years, as I acted out the plays and wrote many songs. One of my closest friends around then, someone I had met on a sojourn to Scarborough, was Andy Ridgeway, an unimpeachably rhythmic guitarist, highly advanced. He encouraged me to integrate music into the street performances. I slowly became familiar with playing to a crowd.

I decided to leave the mummering behind. There are a lot of places in the world that aren't Africa and Britain, and I wanted to see them. In the mid nineties I spent a year in Honolua Bay, basically a beach bum, making some good friends, reading and writing poetry. We’d often hitch a ride on a boat to Maui for beach parties and to adventure around the hardened volcanic molten lava, decked out in trinkets like tourists. I wrote 'End Times' in Honolua Bay. A lot of fragrant new age alternative talk perfumed the air, but I came up with simple songs, and then those songs led me onto a Native American chant inspired album : 'The Star Nations’. I loved travelling through the highways of continental United States, tracing the famous routes of the nation. We visited the home of Earnest Hemmingway in Key West, went on to Texas and Arizona. After seeing the NASA centre in Houston, and the stars over the Chihuahuan Desert, I wrote ‘Strangers Under Dark Skies’. I started to wonder if I was less alone in the universe.