Danny McNamara (born Daniel Anthony McNamara, 31 December 1970, In Bailiff Bridge, West Yorkshire , England is the lead singer of Embrace.
Danny and his brother Richard grew up in the village of Bailiff Bridge, near Bradford,in England.
Aged 11, he passed his 11+ exam and gained entry to Hipperholme Grammar School near Halifax. When he left school, he studied psychology at Manchester uni but eventually quit to concentrate on the band, and having become tired of commuting.
Embrace are an English rock band from West Yorkshire. To date they have released five studio albums, one singles album and one b-sides compilation. The band consists of brothers singer Danny McNamara and guitarist Richard McNamara, bassist Steve Firth, keyboardist Mickey Dale and drummer Mike Heaton. The group has released five studio albums: The Good Will Out (1998) which went to number 1; Drawn from Memory (2000); If You've Never Been (2001); Out Of Nothing (2004) which also went to number 1 and This New Day (2006) was their most recent and also went to number one spawning their most successful single to date "Natures Law" which just missed the top spot by a few hundred copies. Their sixth, and as yet untitled, album is expected to be released some time in 20?
Embrace have not only enjoyed critical and commercial acclaim at home where they have picked up several awards and nominations including the coveted best new band award at the Brats, but they have also enjoyed similar success overseas, most notably in America where the band were put on the cover of billboard magazine, and in Thailand where their single "You're Not Alone" stayed at number 1 for six weeks becoming the biggest selling single of that year. Closer to home his band are famous for spearheading a movement which later became known as guerilla gigging. Secret gigs by the band so far have involved playing everywhere from beaches and forests to most notoriously a staged break in of the big brother house
People ask me where my lyrics come from, and I’ve always been intentionally vague in the past. I’ve always believed that a song means whatever the listener wants it to mean. That the best ideas aren’t crafted from the ground up, but really do feel like they come out of nothing. So to then impose your own interpretation on the songs seems to be a bit egotistical.
But something happened to me when I was younger that up until now I’ve only ever shared with a handful of my closest friends and family. Something that has literally coloured everything I’ve done since. It was traumatic, terrifying, and it almost killed me. But it also enabled me to see things very differently. It enabled me to write songs for the first time, and has probably informed every single lyric and song I have ever written.
Between the ages of 19 and 22 I suffered from a horrendous condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I won’t go into too much gory detail here but all I will say is that for the best part of three years I was in a living hell. It felt like the rest of the world was at the other side of translucent bullet proof ice. I couldn’t even cope with basic functions. I was having up to fifteen panic attacks a day. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I went down to about ten stone, which isn’t very much when you are 6ft 2” tall. I almost died. I’d spend all day fighting my thoughts, and all night running from imaginary demons and voices.
One thing I’ve never been short of is hope. I’ve been really lucky to have a great family who’ve instilled in me from a very early age the belief that good usually wins. But all that hope did was make the fight for my sanity longer, and harder and more bloody horrible. It broke me down, smashed me to pieces, and then came after the pieces one by one. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m quite a driven and determined person, and I fought back, but it was impossible. Like trying to beat yourself in a fight to the death, starting with your soul and working your way out with minute, internal, mathematic, mechanical horror. It was almost impossible to think a nice thought. I’d see a nice view and I think of all the killers killing and the rapists raping and all the abusers abusing as far as the eye can see. I’d see a park full of flowers and all I’d think was how sad and pathetic it was that I, as a twenty year old man, had to rely on family and friends to take me out to the park for a change of scenery.
Once I locked myself in the bathroom because all I could hear in my head were these awful voices telling me to hurt and kill. I didn’t want to hurt anyone but I’d been fighting my thoughts for months and I’d got to the point where I’d become terrified that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I even somehow had a knife in my hands. I remember shaking uncontrollably and sitting in the bath and turning on the hot water hoping the shock would bring me to my senses. It didn’t. As the pain from the scalding water went through my body the voices just got louder and more horrific and more confident and started laughing and saying I deserved it repeatedly over and over, and that I should use the knife on myself before I hurt my family on the other side. It wasn’t living and it wasn’t pretty, and so that’s as much as I want to say about it for now. I wrote a short fictional story at the time based on my experiences. I re-read it the other day, and while it’s a bit green, it has an honesty about it that I’m still really proud of. If enough of you want to see it, maybe I’ll post it up here in a future blog someday.
The reason I’m speaking out now is because there has been a lot of coverage of depression and other mental illnesses recently. People have come forward and spoken out in really brave and touching ways about how they have learned to live with, overcome and even in some cases embrace the dark side. And I found it inspiring. Lots of people suffer for months and years in silence because of the stigma attached, or worse still (as was the case with me) because they fear they’re going to be locked up. According to a recent story in The New York Times, for every one US soldier who died in battle last year, 25 veterans committed suicide. Most were suffering from the effects of PTSD. The tragedy of it is that if those young (usually) men hadn’t felt isolated and weak or afraid to speak out, there might be a real chance their lives could have been saved. Men who’ve often fought selflessly for their country only to be isolated and even tragically turned into ratings winning TV casualties when they come home… “World’s Most Dangerous Drivers” really might as well be called “World’s Most Off His Face Ex Soldier” - it has to stop, and it has to stop now.
I’m really lucky I got help. My mum literally carried me to the doctos in the end, and I’m better now. Not just well, but better. Better than I ever was before. Back then we’d spent so long trying to write songs and failing, nothing had any depth, nothing felt real. Coming out of the worst of my PTSD, I was aged 22 and I couldn’t honestly stand behind anything we were writing anymore. Embrace sounded like our influences, as it said in Melody Maker at the time, “A lowest common denominator blend of The Chameleons, The Bunnymen, and U2; basically that live aid performance minus the laughs”.
Well let’s say it hit a nerve. Aged 22, I picked up a guitar for the first time and learned some chords. The illness took a while to lift, but as it did, the demons that kept me up all night just enabled me to spend more time writing. So I sat there with my acoustic guitar and I wrote and wrote and wrote. And as I got better, I wrote even more. The illness that had smashed me to pieces, the horror that had me fighting for air, isolated and trapped behind an ice wall now enabled me to see the world with growing clarity as the ice melted. Colours burned brighter, orchestras played in my head. I felt so alive, I could fucking taste it. Songs poured out of me. As my health came back, I was able to help my dad on the building site by day and then write songs all night. I wasn’t sleeping very much at that time but it felt like I’d wasted the last three years as a walking zombie and I didn’t know how long this new alive feeling was going to last. Well not only did it last, it continued and still continues to enhance every aspect of my life to this day. It’s not all been plain sailing though to say the least. But maybe that’s a story for another time.
So why talk about this now? Last week Richard came to the studio armed with one of the most aggressive pieces of music he has ever written and for the first time I felt compelled to open up and write about PTSD. The song is called “Self Attack Mechanism” and it’s not quite finished yet but it’s turning out like nothing else we’ve ever done before. Which after five albums is really great to be able to say.
I feel like we are on the final lap with this album now. The bell has gone and everyone and everything is starting to speed up. Most of all, I’m starting to hear in my head how all this is going to sound live, and it’s fucking exciting man… I love my job. I love this band. Watch this space there’s going to be some big news very soon.
Recently, Danny and his brother have been involved in DJ sessions. The first was at Get Loaded in the Park festival in Cardiff, and then on a weekly basis, as part of "Another Music = Another Kitchen" (named after a song by the Buzzcocks, at the Proud Gallery nightclub in Camden,
They also did a set for a special aftershow party for their gig at Manchester Apollo in October 2006, which was opened up to the public, as well as one-off sets with Richard in Bristol and Cheltenham and even more recently in Huddersfield.
McNamara now owns Moho Live in Manchester and continues to run 'The Aftershow' where young talented bands are invited to play. Danny is now married and has a young daughter.
Richard McNamara (born 23 October 1972, Bailiff Bridge, Brighouse is the Guitarist for Embrace. He and his older brother Danny grew up in the village of Bailiff Bridge near in West Yorkshire. Danny is the band's Singer
Richard and Danny McNamara were pupils at Hipperholme Grammar School near Halifax along with their brother Jonathan.
According to Danny, as a child Richard was nicknamed 'Firestarter' as he was fascinated with fire and was always playing with a box of matches.
McNamara was initially the Drummer for a metal band called Gross Misconduct in his late teens. It is believed that Embrace began when his brother barged into a session and started telling him and his bandmates what to do.
Although McNamara has worked with his brother in writing many of the band's songs, he only single-handedly sings a few songs. Most notably "One Big Family" and "Hooligan" and Refugees which were all issued as singles.
As Embrace come back with their best material ever, I Like Music caught up with Embrace's guitarist Richard McNamara to talk Gravity, gifts and great music.
''I like music because... it gives me something to do in the day.'' Richard McNamara, Embrace
Embrace have always taken the organic approach to songwriting. They believe in writing what comes naturally. And what comes naturally are songs that are life affirming, heartfelt and all embracing. These themes have remained a constant throughout Embrace’s career and hence it’s no surprise that they recur once more on the band’s latest album out in September.
Heralding the album’s release is debut single Gravity, a song that bears all the hallmarks of a Danny McNamara composition.
Expressive, panoramic in scope and featuring McNamara’s most powerfully emotive vocal to date, Gravity would sit comfortably alongside any one of Embrace songs. And yet it was written by Coldplay singer and songwriter Chris Martin. The decision to record another artist’s song might seem surprising were it not for a long standing friendship between Martin and McNamara dating back to when Coldplay supported Embrace at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom in 2000.
Danny and Chris Martin are quite close friends. The first time we ever heard Gravity it was played down the phone. Danny got a phone call Chris and he said 'Dan, I've written a song and played it to Danny, and the next day Danny came into the studio and told us about it. And we asked what it was like. Usually you're in a critical frame of mind just as part of the creative process, and he said, 'It's absolutely amazing'. So we were like, back to the drawing board then? He played us the song and I said 'It sounds quite a lot like Embrace to me,' and Danny said, 'That's what Chris said' (it was written three or four years ago) and we thought no more about it, until about a month before we'd finished recording the album.
Chris came down to the studio to hear what we were up to and catch up with Danny. And he sat at the piano and started playing some new songs off the next Coldplay album and we said, 'Play Gravity' and he played it and we were like, 'wow, that's a great single man' and he said 'yeah' and then about a week before we finished the album, he rang Danny up and said 'Danny, do you want Gravity?'
So he came to the rest of the band and we weren't sure, we don't do covers, it's not really what you do in the Indie fraternity or whatever. I don't think we should do it. So we all went home that night, came in the next day and thought, hold on a minute, and thought it's an enormous gift.
The way that we did it was, we had a download of it from a gig in Dusseldorf where Chris played it on the piano and there's this chord that I managed to put over it in the middle of the chorus that has a dissident sound to it, like the Death Star's tractor beam, that Gravity kind of sound, that's one of my proudest moments, smiles Richard.
Chris Martin originally wrote the song for Coldplay but as it developed it became clear to him that the song might be better suited to Embrace. As Chris explains, “We’ve always loved Embrace and Danny is one of my best friends. When we wrote Gravity we thought it sounded far too much like them for us, but not too much like them for them, so I asked Danny if he wanted the song and that was that.”
On hearing the song, Danny felt it was just what was missing from the album. “There was no out and out love song, something there’d always been in the past.” he says, “You could say there was a Gravity shaped hole waiting to be filled”. And whilst he admits to some reservations about covering some one else’s song he’s had to concede that Gravity sounds like “the best ballad I never wrote”.
So how did the arrangement with Oxfam via BigNoiseMusic.com come about?
To be honest it all came in an email to us as an opportunity and we jumped at it, explains Richard. The whole thing with the song is that it was a gift from Chris - and a big gift if you know how hard songs are to write. Maybe three times a year you'll get a great song and he passed one over to us, so it kind of felt good to be giving something back really.
As a band you project a way of life to people and a willingness to be charitable, and go out of your way to be thankful for what you're given. I don't want to get too soapboxy about it, but it feels good what we're doing.
The new album Out Of Nothing is out on Independiente on Sept 13th and features some of Embrace's best material yet. It took three years to write and 3 months to record with Youth, and they had some fun laying down the tracks.
Near Life was the most fun to make because it was just a jam, recalls Richard. We didn't spend weeks pouring over writing it. We just went into the studio. Youth played us a couple of songs he thought we should play around with and we went from one bit to the other, got pretty caned and just went in there and did it, and he came back in and was like, 'wow'. So it's got a nice rock sound to it.
And Embrace have made sure there are plenty of all-embracing anthems and live hits on the new album.
My favourite track to play live? Well, we haven't actually done the song that I think is gonna be my favourite, and that's Ashes. I think we're going to start the next tour with it. There's a band called Cloud Dead - a west coast US hip hop band, very original and they've got this sound on the end of their album which is like this massive white noise, but it's ultra major, it sounds like it's God screaming at you it's so noisey, and the intention is we think to come on to that and kind of build it up ourselves and kind of augment it and go mad, and Ashes is a four to the floor song and Mike's going to give us like eight kicks and we're going to come in with this tune. So I'm kind of living in a daydream of what we're going to do and how that's going to feel and I'm so looking forward to playing Ashes, and I've never really felt like that about a song before.
When we spoke, Rich was also looking forward to playing V festival that coming weekend - a last minute replacement to Jet, who sadly had to pull out of the festival when a family member passed away.
I got a phone call from Danny last night at 10pm and he said 'Rick you're busy this weekend!'And I just thought he meant more phone interviews and press or another rehearsal and he said, 'We're doing V mate.' But, because we've just done two days rehearsing this is the last one before we go on our promo tour, so we're ultra ready for it and just can't wait.
Embrace went down a storm at V and dedicated a track to Jet.
Of course, this is second time around for the mighty Embrace, who've encountered some major obstacles, including being dropped by their Virgin label, [boo!] despite being makers of incredibly brilliant music.
We found ourselves without a deal and kind of rapidly running out of money, so we thought, right, what are we going to do? explains Rich.
We can either turn over and die or we can get back up on the scene, we know we've got more music in us, we know we can make a better album than we've ever made before, so we built a studio. So we overcame it through positivity rather than lying down and taking it. And now it's like being a new band again, which adds fuel to the fire.
We could have signed the deal and the label could have asked us to get the album together in a year to make their money back, but Martin Macdonald at the label he knew we had a classic album in us and our best music in us and wanted us to make the definitive Embrace album, so he said to us, 'however long it takes is however long it takes, there's no compromising.'
So three years we've spent toiling over this record, and it's really paying off, as we're getting such a good response from it we're loving it.
When we started and got the new deal we spent a few months working out what we were gonna sound like, like a band in room, like a U2 garagey five-piece, rather than the big production sound. So we kind of endeavoured to write the songs like that and make them sound effortless, although it took a year to write them, not effortless one bit. We spent only 12 weeks recording it though, which is the fastest album we've ever done.
The songs that we took to the studio were massively different from how they've turned out, and that's all down to Youth's genius really, so a big thanks to Youth for that one.
So what advice does Richard have for young artists coming through?
Enjoy it to the max. The thing about us - our first album we got signed and we were straight to doing press and radio and TV and all this attention, and we just thought to ourselves, 'oh this must be what happens to signed bands, but it's not what happens to signed bands, it's what happens to good bands. So on this new album we've had such a really warm positive response from so many people, we're feeling that new band buzz, and we can appreciate better this time round. Now we want to do everything and are keener than before when we'd get a press invite and think, oh no!
Embrace have been around since 1997 so have seen the music industry change for good and bad, so what does Rich think is good about the music industry in 2004?
Our albums coming out :) But seriously, the best thing about the music industry is you can't relax. In some countries you can have a record out and that record will last you for ten or fifteen years because you're the guy that did that record people come to your gigs. The US is a bit like that, but in the UK you've got to be on your toes, there's no let up, no relaxation, you've always got to be on top of your game, and that's the best thing about the music industry.
There's a fast turnover of new bands and new talent and everyone's vying for space and it produces a competitive, creative feel.
The band certainly enjoy the creative process and know that quality needs to be high to compete in the modern day chart.
We'll write songs with a band and we'll have 10 or 20 songs each and we'll kind of all go through them all and put them down to DAT, explains Richard of the Embrace music-making process.
After a couple of weeks of that we'll go away back into the writing process, and meanwhile listening back to the stuff we've got so far and making a shortlist of what's good. And once the songs have gone on to the A list (out of lists A, B and C) then we start looking at them more seriously, so I'll try to write some guitar lines and Mick will start trying to write string or keyboard parts, and everyone will be consciously thinking about those songs so when we come to work on them again we can do really good versions of them.
The quality control bar is right up there. We know how good we've got to be, we know we're not competing against local bands but against international bands, because this isn't battle of the bands anymore. But when you're a young band that's your mentality. When you write a good song it's so quick between writing it and you being on at the Grammy Awards ceremony, and it's so fast, so that's where you're aiming. Rik also plays part time in the band Eevah with his Girlfriend.
Mike Heaton (born 18 September 1967) is the Drummer for the Embrace. Heaton is from Heckmondwike In West Yorkshire.
He is nicknamed 'Besty' after the original drummer of The beatles , Pete Best
He plays the Clarinet at the beginning of 'Drawn From Memory' (the title track of his band's second album), and also wrote 'Still So Young' (b-side of Save me
He is also the manager of an up-coming band from Leeds called Anechoic, who despite still being unsigned, have supported his band at some of their biggest gigs to date, including their Forest tour in June 2006 and their 'Glorious Day' gig at the Millennium Square in Leeds.
On 31 October 2005, directly after his band had played a live gig for Radio One in Leeds city centre, he was rushed to hospital to meet his new baby daughter Connie Rose, as he became a father for the second time.
He has recently opened up his own drum school, based in Squirrel Studios, offering private drum lessons to aspiring drummers and he also mentors a number of young bands in the North Yorkshire area. He has also recently co-opened a bar called 'The Hop' in Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Hi there, my name is Mike Heaton and I've been the drummer for Embrace for the last twenty years!! For a short summary of the band's achievements see further down on this page or, for the full story, go to www.embrace.co.uk
In 2007, I began mentoring young bands and relished the challenge and excitement of helping those who were starting out in music .Following on from this, in 2008, I decided to embark upon the path of teaching one to one, giving private drum lessons. My teaching is primarily aimed at beginners to intermediate players, as I feel these are the areas in which my knowledge and skills can be most beneficial; my theory being, if you can master it at these stages you'll be well on your way to being a great player (with plenty of practise of course!), however, I will take students as far as possible, providing they find my help useful, and hopefully inspiring.
My style of teaching is not geared towards the focus of grade exams; being self-taught, I did not take the formal grade route. I believe the key to successful drumming lies in how you are taught to warm up, practise and play rather than how many pieces of paper you have! I have seen quite a few reasonably highly graded students who can perform any rudiment perfectly at speed, but are unable to hold down a steady groove - timing is king for a band player!
My main area of expertise is Rock/Indie music, however, I'll willingly explore any other areas that students wish to investigate - consider it an adventure for both of us!
I feel that my plethora of experiences gained from the last twenty years of playing (sixteen professionally) gives me an extremely relevant and in depth insight into what makes a good drummer and how best to approach the instrument. My aim is to hopefully help young drummers avoid the pitfalls and problems I've encountered over the years, through things such as careless posture and general laziness, when it comes to practise/playing!! Hindsight is a great thing to have and I feel passionate about passing mine on to help those starting out. My first hand music industry knowledge is also invaluable, for those aspiring to take their playing to the next step - I lecture in this area, so would be very happy to have such discussions with my students.
I am a member of the Musicians Union and am covered for £10m public liability insurance. I am also CRB checked and you'll find all certificates on display.
Squirrel studios is located within half an hour's drive of either Leeds, Bradford or Huddersfield. Mike is also Drummer in their new project! The Land Sharks.
Mickey Dale (born 22 March 1968) is the Keyboardist for Embrace. He grew up in the Heaton area of Bradford.
He only officially joined the band in October 1998, just after the release of their first album, The Good Will Out. Dale had been playing live and on record with the rest of the band beforehand, but was an 'unofficial member'.
Prior to joining Embrace, he had previous experience with local bands Lazer Boy and Kitsch, and more famously Cud, who enjoyed moderate success themselves, including three Top 40 singles
Talk To Angels were Dale's priority project. They played CMJ in New York City in October 2008 and an Obama election night show in Austin, Texas. They appeared in 2009 at SXSW Austin, Texas for the first 'Yorkshire Showcase', at the British Music Embassy, and at Latitude. He is now Manager keyboard player and backing vocalist for Glass Mountain. A man of many talents and is an absolute genius.
He studied art at Liverpool University, and also completed a psychology degree.
Firth admitted that he only found out about Embrace by chance, as he was looking in the music adverts section of a local paper as an old habit and had temporarily given up due to several failures in bands and at the time having a wife and full-time job, and was actually looking for a new suit as his cat had destroyed his best one. He replaced the band's original bass player J Senior in 1995.
Steve often spends his spare time as one of the Bass players for Evil Blizzard. He is also bass player in new in new band The Land Sharks
Steve is also the nicest man in the world...