27 Apr 2017

Delaney Davidson: Devil In The Parlour

From Upbeat, 1:20 pm on 27 April 2017

New Zealand troubadour Delaney Davidson plays live in the studio and discusses the process, and stories behind his new documentary Delaney Davidson: Devil In The Parlour. The film gives an insight into his creative process, and life on the road, and screens as part of next month’s DocEdge festival.

Delaney Davidson

Delaney Davidson Photo: Supplied

A spotlight has been shone on New Zealand troubadour Delaney Davidson in a new documentary that shows him both on and off stage.

Delaney Davidson: Devil In The Parlour is part of next month’s DocEdge festival and gives an insight into the song writer’s creative process, and life on the road.

The documentary follows the performer to the back of beyond, from Lyttelton to the backblocks of Europe, with film maker Harley Williams, an “unsung string puller of the Lyttelton folk scene” capturing the intimate and the interesting.

For Delaney, the documentary filmed largely on his phone, captures the junctions, and the ups and downs in life. The film, dark in colour and at times in context, gets the viewer wondering whether he is questioning his entire existence. “Doesn’t everyone?” he says. “Who has a life where they can bowl on through and feel convinced?”

Delaney Davidson

Delaney Davidson Photo: RNZ - Alex Behan

But it doesn’t matter where life takes him – home, the UK, Europe – it’s the connection between him, and those around him that matters the most. And it doesn’t have to be a sweeping gesture to make a connection, as he found out while traveling in a train somewhere in France, surrounded by children who didn’t speak his language.

The children, he recounts, were exuberant. So he drew a noughts and crosses hash on his train ticket and pushed it towards the kids.  “We played the first game and it took off,” he says, describing how they pushed the games between each other for a good hour.

At his stop, he disembarked, and waited on the platform to wave goodbye. “The train took ages to go and I started to feel self-conscious and stupid standing on the platform,” he says. “But when their carriage went by, they were all against the window waving goodbye. You’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve got a bunch of friends.

“I looked down at the piece of paper with all the games we played. It was covered with hugs and kisses, because that’s what noughts and crosses look like.”

These moments, he says, are special. “They feel like rewards sometimes for being alive. Just reach out and people are there.”

Another is the pseudo-satanic chanting, which is not everyone’s thing, but is something he builds up to in his set. “People are looking for a release. I’m surprised how few people want to go there; want to dance… sing along… chant… clap… shout,” he says. “What stops people? Is it some imagination of who they are? Or an imagination of who the person who does that sort of stuff is?”

Being critical of one’s self has the ability to block creativity and Delaney is very conscious of that. He hasn’t looked at the documentary with a critical eye, instead he’s enjoying it for what it is – a snapshot of his life.

“Some things are good to be critical about, but others – what’s it going to bring?” he asks. “Often with song writing you should leave it to the side (in the early stages) and be as uncritical as possible to prevent chocking up the creative flow.

“Critical approach ruins life for lots of people. Comparison is the thief of joy, I’ve heard it said.”