Friday, 12 November 2021

INTERVIEW: David Hunter, the West End star who has just released his new EP 'PLAY'

David Hunter is a name any theatre fan should know, he has now established himself as one of the finest leading men the West End has to offer. Before the pandemic, he was starring as Dr Pomatter in the West End production of Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre. David other credits include Charlie Price in Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre), Captain Walker in The Who's Tommy (Prince Edward Theatre), Guy in Once (Phoenix Theatre), Isaac in The Hired Man (Leicester Curve and Colchester Mercury), Pub (The Royal Exchange), Spinach (The Royal Exchange), The Mayor in The Mayor of Zalamea (Liverpool Everyman), Horton in Seussical (Arts Theatre) and One Man, Two Guvnors (National Theatre & UK Tour). David is releasing his new EP 'PLAY' on all streaming platforms today! We got to chat with him about this venture. 

You released your new EP, ‘PLAY’, exclusively on cassette a few weeks ago before launching online, this has meant that all your costs for the EP were covered. You’ve said online it would take 600,000 plays to make the same amount of money. As someone who is releasing this independently, how did you get the idea to do this? 

Literally in response to those cheapskates at Spotify! They pay £0.004 a play, so after 100,000 streams of my last single, ‘The Farm Song’, I’d only made £400…and it cost me £800 to make! I knew if I wanted to continue to record and release original music, I needed to find creative ways to do it. So, I combined that need with my nostalgia obsession and boom! PLAY was born!

The boxes you released along with the cassette were the pinnacle of 90’s nostalgia, what gave you the inspiration for the design for these? 

I noticed a few artists were releasing cassettes, alongside the usual CDs and vinyl etc. but I’ve never bought one because I don’t have a cassette player. So, I thought it might be fun to package my own cassette with a player in the hope that it might start a few collections – including mine! I’ve since been scouring eBay for old tapes of my favourite bands. I threw in a load of other merch as well and packaged it all in shredded copies of Smash Hits magazine from the 80s and 90s for that extra nostalgic kick!

The design of the cassette boxes were brilliant, will we be seeing any more merchandise in the future?

You will! I’m releasing a series of t-shirts, a hoodie and a brilliant pin badge as part of PLAY’s online release, all designed by Christopher Porter, the design wizard who created everything on the EP. 

And focusing on the album, tell us a bit about the inspiration behind it. 

The songs span eleven years in total, I wrote ‘Silver and Gold’ in 2010 and I’m only just releasing it! I wanted to open the EP with an oldie to reinforce the nostalgia of it all and it was amazing to finally lay it down. I see it as a bit of a David Hunter classic! I used to play it at Open Mic Nights and at little gigs in Warrington and it’s travelled with me all these years. ‘Hurt’ and ‘Hand on my Heart’ were written shortly before the pandemic and performed at my last gigs, just before lockdown. And ‘Starting Again’ is brand spanking new and represents the next chapter. The EP starts in 2010 and ends very specifically in 2021.

You also worked with Tim Prottey-Jones on this EP, having worked with him a few times previously. What was it like reuniting and having him as the producer on this EP? 

Aw, it’s always a pleasure to work with Tim. I’m such a fan of his work and he’s a collaborator I totally trust. I just hand him acoustic versions of the songs and let him run with them, wherever his brilliant brain takes him! I’m a control freak at heart, so it’s rare to find someone I can trust to that degree. But when you’ve shared a bed with someone in Lloyd Webber’s holiday home, whilst having 24 hours to learn an Ed Sheeran song together, you’re bonded for life…

The support you’ve received on this new project has been so wonderful, how does it feel to have people support you in the way that they have done? 

Unreal. I simply couldn’t release music without their support. I’ve been talking about it a lot recently because their support is utterly crucial to artists releasing music, without them I’d just be a guy in a bedroom, strumming a guitar! That’s fun too, but it’s amazing to be able to release things like PLAY and know there are people ready to welcome the songs into their lives. It’s a lovely feeling. I have some really wonderful people cheering me on, I feel very lucky.

As someone whose job got cut short due to the pandemic, reflecting back on it this time how does it feel coming out of it with this fantastic EP? 

I honestly still feel like I’m in the thick of it. I see this EP as yet another thing I’m doing to get me through it! I feel like theatre is still in limbo really, trying to rev up to where it once was, and in the meantime, I’m still looking inwards to create opportunities. 

You launched your new EP the other day with a live performance, tell us about your expectations beforehand and how people received it. 

We had a blast! I went with a really intimate set, just me and a guitar, telling stories and singing songs. I like my gigs to feel like we’re just hanging out in my living room and I think we achieved that. Then I ramped up the volume and sang the four EP songs to full backing tracks, so people could hear what Tim had built. I also did She Used to be Mine dressed as a ghost. Usual stuff.

Obviously, this has been an incredibly hard time for everyone, especially those in theatre. What's been helping you get through this pandemic? 

My kids have kept me busy and grounded. They have no idea about the pandemic really – other than being forced to be more hygienic! – so they don’t allow you to fret about it too much. Other than that creative projects like this has kept me sane! I always need something keeping my creative juices flowing!

Over the lockdowns, you also wrote and filmed ‘The Space Between’ with Caroline Kay. Is there any future for this piece? 

We were just talking about it this week! The short answer is, yes! Stay tuned.

Looking forward, are we going to see a return to the theatre from yourself? Or perhaps some more music? 

I’m sure the time will come, there are a few irons in fires right now, but I’m not in an almighty rush to return to a long-running show. My little boy started school last year and his schedule would be seriously at odds with a West End show! It would have to be something truly unmissable to tempt me away from my lovely home life for a bit. But we’ll see…

Tell us where people can listen to your new EP and how they can support you.

Anywhere you listen to music; iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music. If people want to go that extra mile to support an artist they like (and I hope that’s me!) then it’s best to download it on iTunes and then stream it like crazy on streaming sites! Oh, and buy a t-shirt! The income is equal to about 2500 plays!

Gig photograph credit: Danny Kaan
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