Local Music Director
While waiting patiently for Austin-based musician Daniel Bryson – better known on the local stage as A.L. West – to join our Zoom call last Wednesday, I was eager to discover the artistic background of the Bedroom Pop soloist. One of three artists featured at The Porch on October 20, 2022, for KTSW 89.9’s monthly Third Thursday event, Bryson was kind enough to catch up with me after a long day of work.
AVERY VIERS: When you first started making music, what was your experience like? When did you first pick up an instrument?
DANIEL BRYSON: I’ve been playing music for most of my life. While I was growing up, being involved in [MARCHING] band throughout middle school and high school gave me the ability to read music and stuff like that. I played in some different bands throughout high school as well as after I graduated.
AVERY VIERS: Have you sung for as long as you’ve played instruments?
DANIEL BRYSON: Since high school, more or less. I was in a band in middle school that didn’t have a vocalist; I wanted to [FILL THE ROLE] at the time, but it wasn’t until later that I felt comfortable singing.
AVERY VIERS: While browsing your Bandcamp I noticed that you released your first set of singles back in October 2020 – how long had you been working on what would essentially become your inaugural project? How long had you considered adopting the persona of A.L. West before releasing those two initial tracks?
DANIEL BRYSON: I was in a band a few years back that broke up in the Fall of 2019. Up until we stopped playing together, I had essentially acted as the group’s main songwriter. Near the end of the project, though, I had begun to write songs that didn’t seem to fit the sound [THE BAND] was going for; they wanted a fundamentally different overall sound that was a much louder sound than the one I wanted to produce. The sound I was working on at the time was significantly more laid back because of my focus on Bedroom Pop. I kind of had tentative plans to start a separate project that lent itself to much more mellow songs; I started kicking around the idea in my head back as early as the spring of 2019. As the other project dissolved, I began to go through a period in which I didn’t feel as driven to make music as much. Then, as the severity of the COVID-19 Pandemic began to worsen, coming back to music was ultimately how I spent most of my newfound free time; I wanted to slowly ease back into writing and recording with the intention of sharing my songs with people, not yet sure if returning to the stage was something I wanted in the future.
AVERY VIERS: Could you tell me a bit more about your songwriting process? Do you find yourself following a consistent set of steps while entering the creative mind space that makes songwriting possible?
DANIEL BRYSON: It varies quite a bit. [MY SONGWRITING] usually takes me a while to construct from start to finish; I’ll usually start with instrumentation – guitar riffs or something like that – and then eventually I’ll try to fit in lyrics sometime later. I procrastinate on [SONGWRITING] a bit because writing lyrics alone can be quite nerve-wracking and tricky to do. I always want to make sure that whatever I’m trying to convey can not only be understood but also arranged in the style I originally envisioned. Over the last year-or-so I’ve worked on recording an album that includes a track that features a guitar arrangement I wrote, like, six years ago. After finishing my initial arrangement, the lyrics I’d written to accompany it didn’t seem very cohesive. Now, several years later, the lyrics I would eventually pair with my archived chords would be the result of five or six drafts of the lyrics I had originally written.
AVERY VIERS: I understand what you mean. The process of songwriting seems like something that is constantly evolving.
DANIEL BRYSON: Yeah, exactly. For example, the first two songs we released on our Bandcamp were tracks I essentially produced in GarageBand within one day. In other words, if I’m working on a song in small parts, it’s more likely that I can complete it more quickly. If I’m wanting to be more deliberate with instrumentation or with my lyrics, though, it can take a lot longer.
AVERY VIERS: That makes sense! I remember you mentioning prior to our interview that A.L. West has acted mainly as a solo project. Have you ever incorporated other musicians into your music, whether that be during production or while performing on stage?
DANIEL BRYSON: Everything that’s been produced thus far has mostly been me, like the album I mentioned working on that’s still under production. There were elements on [THE ALBUM] I hadn’t finalized yet which eventually resulted in them being brought to the rest of the band; workshopping together ended up resulting in incorporating a couple of drum patterns that our drummer, Dylan, came up with in the album itself. The drum patterns themselves were pretty similar to the ones I initially had in mind, but not exactly. I suppose components like that are best fleshed out in a group setting. For the most part, though, I think there are only two parts total on the album that weren’t played completely by me. The only other component that wasn’t a contribution of my own was written by our former guitar player and our engineer, Tony and Connor.
AVERY VIERS: Would you say the sound of your upcoming LP is consistent with your other work? Did you hope to deviate from the sounds of past projects?
DANIEL BRYSON: It’s definitely quite different – like we briefly mentioned earlier, the songs on our Bandcamp were written much more quickly. The tracks featured on the album, though, certainly cater more to songwriting in the traditional sense with a pen, paper, and an acoustic guitar.
As my conversation with Bryson on Wednesday afternoon came to a close, I thanked him for his time and wished him luck on his upcoming performance. Each time I have the privilege of meeting another Central Texas-based artist, the summit of the figurative local music soapbox from which I frequently preach grows higher.
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Written by: Jordan Young