The Scala, King’s Cross, 8pm. An hour until the main act, Fountains of Wayne, are due to come on (yes, they have more than one song! Yes, they play concerts!). The pit is still filling up; gig-goers are still purchasing their beers in plastic cups. Quiet conversation takes place as an anonymous man in a trilby takes to the stage with his guitar; a solitary figure on a reasonably small stage in front of a small crowd, a ghost band of unmanned instruments behind him.
I don’t know his name; I don’t know any of his music. I listen, not knowing anything about him except what he sounds like: highly melodic, highly emotional, totally un-whiney, and a fusion of all those influences I had grown up listening to in my dad’s car. Turns out his name is David Mead. As Nylon magazine put it, his sound is influenced by everyone from ‘Paul McCartney to Squeeze to Crowded House,” and, of course, Fountains of Wayne. He’s toured with John Mayer, Liz Phair and he’s ticked off a Jackson (Joe) too. Taylor Swift does a cover of one of his most well known songs, Nashville. So why hasn’t anybody heard his music?
Mead, it seems, falls into the same category of musicians that Fountains of Wayne are filed under: an under-the-radar community of artists (think Brendan Benson, Jason Falkner) for whom virtuoso songwriting skills go hand-in-hand with relative anonymity. Albums like Mead’s ‘Mine and Yours’ and ‘Indiana’ have a cinematic, soundtrack-to-your-life kind of tone that finds poignancy no matter what your mood. Songs like ‘Girl on the Roof’ could easily be huge hits, such is their strangely familiar, easy melodic sound…and yet, Mead is still best known for Swift’s rendition of one of his songs.
But then again, perhaps that’s the way Mead and his fellow cohort of anonymous musicians like it. After all, it must bite proverbial butt for Fountains of Wayne to be referred to as ‘the ones who sing “Stacy’s Mom”’ when they’ve actually clocked up six albums worth of music. Between songs, their frontman Chris Collingwood tells an anecdote that sums up their strange state of semi-fame. “This song is called Hackensack,” he explains – an old classic that’s familiar to fans. “Recently, Katy Perry covered it. Now, we get all these kids asking us why we’re covering a Katy Perry song.”
Perhaps it’s better to just make great music and bypass the glittering success of the pop goliaths; perhaps a Scala full of fans is enough. But I think it should be common knowledge that there’s more to Fountains of Wayne than Stacy’s Mom and Katy Perry. And there’s certainly more to David Mead than Taylor Swift’s live rendition of Nashville, which is why I’m sharing him with you.
Youtubing before you buy? Try these David Mead hits:
- Girl on the Roof – so catchy you’ll hear it and think you already know it. Then again, maybe you already do: it’s an ingeniously crafted pop hit that’s already featured in multiple movies.
- Dudes – it might be a celebration of a man’s best friends, but ‘Dudes’ has a sound that both genders alike can enjoy – and it’s the title track off Mead’s new album!
- Nashville – a more nuanced, rougher cut of the kind of pop-country Taylor Swift specializes in. Which is probably why she’s covered it.
- Indiana – Feel good, road-trippin’ number with genius lyrics about ‘concrete canyons’. Grab your Cadillac and go.
- Comfort – “I sleep alone with the radio on,” Mead croons. Perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.
- Only In The Movies – A tragically sad but beautiful lament. Depressing but simultaneously strangely uplifting in it’s truthfulness.
- Mine and Yours – The title track off Mead’s sophomore album, ‘Mine and Yours’ has all the hallmarks of a song that’ll have you hitting ‘repeat’.
- Beauty – A melancholic and cinematic ballad, it’s thanks to tracks like this that this album (Indiana) is Mead’s most critically acclaimed.
- Ordinary Life – “Could you save me from an ordinary life?” asks Mead, making all those mundane topics and potential cliché minefields like love hopelessly romantic again with his clever lyrics.
- Elodie – A fun, French infused tribute to Elodie. Whoever she is, we like her.