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November 02, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Well, as promised, I have an interview with singer/songwriter, Digney Fignus this week. Digney has been performing for many years and his current CD, "Talk of the Town" is currently #26 on the country charts. Here are some links to Digney videos.
Debbie: Tell everyone about you and your band, Digney
Digney: Well, I am a singer/songwriter out of the Boston area. Iíve been playing music for a long time. I started singing in the choir when I was a youngster. The music I am playing now evolved out of a lot of different traditions. What I think is a little different about the music now, or the way I am presenting it, is that it wraps around a story line. I think thatís a little different from whatís out today and itís a challenge to me as a writer as well. The band has developed over the years. It started with Chris Leadbetter, the mandolin player you heard.
Debbie: What is your background in guitar and singing?
Digney: The choir of course. So I got to study first as a soprano. My grandmother was my first influence. In her early years, she had been an actress and had some roles in New York. Once she started her family and moved to Boston, she got a job at Symphony Hall in the ticket booth, so she knew all of the musicians. One of my first musical experiences was when she brought me to the symphony. A little kid like that going to symphony hall, the acoustics. What an experience! Then she brought me backstage to meet the musicians. So it was really quite an experience. It really made an impact.
Debbie: So even though it was classical music, which is not the music you play, you really appreciated it.
Digney: Well, classical music is the basis of everything, really. The classical musicians explore every aspect of music. And you find a lot of classical themes in popular music. And the classical musicians of the time stole from popular music too so itís all a back and forth thing. Itís all music and itís just the way that itís put together.
Debbie: When did you get interested in the blues?
Digney: I was in a rock and roll band and that happened after I started to get into the rock and roll writers and see where they were coming from. This was in high school. I started playing the harmonica so the blues was a natural thing to learn! I had a Muddy Waters record that I probably wore right through the grooves. Great stuff. That was my thing. I didnít need any amplifier; I could just put it in my pocket.
Debbie: When did you start playing the guitar?
Digney: I started out as a bass player. But I was always interested in writing songs and I found that the bass was kind of limiting for me so I picked up the guitar as a way to expand my writing. As far as formal training, it was very important for me to study singing. I studied with an opera coach and from her I learned how to breathe. I learned where my voice should be coming from and thatís important as you start to do shows. You want to sing correctly otherwise youíre going to lose your voice. That was an important turning point for me and enabled me to grow my voice and not blow it out. I also did study formal guitar. I took some jazz lessons which introduced me to chord structures which I was not familiar with as a blues player. Along with my street training and ear training, just listening to music, I did have some formal training.
Debbie: How do you approach songwriting?
Digney: I donít try to close the door on anything. I donít say no. As a result, I have written some crappy songs but they never get played out! But you have to write a lot of songs to get good at it. Donít be afraid to write a song that you think is great today but when you listen to it tomorrow, itís going to sound like tripe. So Iíve written a lot of different songs and there are a few of them that actually came out pretty good.
Debbie: Do you start with a chord progression or is it a lyric that generates your ideas or is it a melody that comes to you?
Digney: Everything. All different. You know those classical songwriterís stories of ďI jumped up in the middle of the night. I didnít have any clothes on. I grabbed a piece of paper and I wrote it down!Ē Sure, Iíve done that. Iíve come home, and I have a lick in my head and Iíll try to figure it out. A lot of stuff comes to me driving for some reason. Iíll be in the car and zoning out and Iíll have a jukebox running in my head. Maybe itís because youíre in this semi-hypnotic state.
Debbie: Thatís interesting. Youíre not the first person whoís said that.
Digney: Of course thereís some stuff that comes from mistakes! There is a song from the ďTrouble on the LevyĒ CD called ďBoudreauxĒ. When I was working on that song, I had the chord structure and I kind of knew what I wanted it to be about. In the beginning it was called ďBackwater AnnĒ because I wanted it to be about this swamp girl from the bayou. So Chris comes over and we are practicing the song. I didnít show him the lyric sheet or anything. He starts singing ďBackwater ManĒ and I said, ďHey, wait a second, thatís not a bad ideaĒ. So I changed the lyrics around and made it about a man.
Debbie: So you just tried to stay open to whatever ideas pop into your head.
Digney: Yes. Of course a lot of it takes place in the editing. Sometimes that inspiration comes through but Iím always going back and tweaking things. Iíve got little files of my songs and Iíll go back and change little things.
Debbie: One of your songs made it to the top 40 on the country charts, is that right?
Digney: Yes, the whole CD, Talk of the Town, debuted at number 27 the other day.
Debbie: What do you have to do to make that happen? How do you get the word out about your music?
Digney: Radio. Itís all about radio and friends and interviews and everything. You want to be able to put out there as much as possible. Iím kind of a ludite when it comes to the internet. Iím not an idiot but I do need help with that. Oh you can still download songs from iTunes and CDBaby.
Debbie: You really seem to enjoy performing and you are an engaging performer.
Digney: Thanks, I appreciate that.
Debbie: What do you like about performing?
Digney: Well, itís exciting! Itís a bit of circus I guess. If you can get the audience engaged, itís really exciting. Itís outside of the everyday ordinary experience. Kind of like riding a motorcycle. Itís a thrill! Or itís the worst. If they hate you, oh boy, thrill ride number 2.
Debbie: Do you ever get anxious anymore performing?
Digney: Iíve been performing now for a number of years in a lot of different situations so Iíve kind of squashed that down. Iím not surprised by much now. Iíve seen huge fights in the audience. Iíve seen stuff blow up on stage. Thereís all kinds of crazy stuff that can happen. But I canít imagine anything that hasnít already happened!
Debbie: What was one of your most memorable shows?
Digney: Opening for the Ramones and Dr. John.
Debbie: What was it about your experience opening for Dr. John, for instance, that was so memorable?
Digney: Well, there were 2,500-3,000 people out in the audience. That was kind of fun. In that particular show, it was the first time we had introduced people to the CD ďTrouble on the Levy. What was validating to me was that we sold out of every CD we brought with us. There was a line outside of our merchandising booth and it didnít stop until the end of the night. We were very successful and it was really validating that people wanted to get a piece of the music. That felt really great. And Dr. John was a very unique character!
Debbie: So tell us about some upcoming shows you are doing.
Digney: The most fun show is coming up next month in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania at the Mauchunk. Thatís going to be a special show that WXLV is putting on. Weíre playing with ďGirls, Guns and GloryĒ who are in the top 40 as well. The show is called ďMoon Over BostonĒ. It should be a lot of fun. This is all Boston bands. Theyíve been playing my stuff down there a lot! Then back at the Regent Theater in Arlington on November 30th. We just played Scullers too but that was last week. It was great. We packed the house on a Wednesday night!
Debbie: I have to ask you about your name before we go.
Digney: Well, back in the day when I first changed my name and people would ask about it, I would say ďIím from WalesĒ and that would shut them up, thinking it was a welsh name. But really I made it up of course. No mother is cruel enough to name their child Digney. How many beatings in the playground would that have been worth?
Debbie: Well, it really works and you definitely stand out.
Digney: Yeah, I guess so.
Debbie: It was great talking with you. Thanks for taking the time and good luck with your show in Pennsylvania.
Digney: Thanks. Itís my pleasure, Debbie.
New class called "Playing with Style" is going to be held on Tuesday, November 18th 6:30 - 9:30PM. This class assumes you know your chords and starts where "Instant Piano" left off. You will learn lots of right hand and left hand chord embellishment techniques that will totally liven up your playing. Plus you will learn tricks and riffs to give your songs different "flavors". You will need to bring your own keyboard.
See you next week.
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