Times are good for the `Bad Day' guy

ON POPULAR MUSIC

July 13, 2006|By RASHOD D. OLLISON

Daniel Powter really loves his life right now. And I can see why. Homeboy is living his lifelong dream: circling the globe and singing for packed venues filled mostly with screaming young women. He blew in from Canada a few months back with a warm hug of single, "Bad Day," which rocketed to No. 1 on the pop charts, thanks to its ubiquitous use on the last season of American Idol.

Chatty, friendly, as buoyant as his music, Powter is calling from Los Angeles during a brief break on his national tour. He plays Washington's 9:30 Club Tuesday night. "The stage becomes like a living room and the audience the family," says the singer-songwriter, 35. "I grew up like that. My family was musical and everybody would come and play music. So I'm used to performing."

If it weren't for American Idol's usage of "Bad Day," played during the goodbye video for booted contestants, Powter probably wouldn't have made such a big splash on the American pop charts, where his self-titled debut entered the Top 10 in April. But overseas, especially in England, Powter and his single had been huge for months. So earlier this year when he was approached by the folks at American Idol regarding the use of "Bad Day," he didn't immediately like the idea.

"I kinda felt like I didn't need to be on American Idol," Powter says. "The record was doing fine already; it was close to No. 1 on some stations. But I was talking to my mom, and she told me the best thing about the show was that at the end of the day it inspires people to play music. So the next day, I had to do it. I had to be a part of that, encouraging people to pursue music. Music saved my life."

While growing up in Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Powter absorbed his family's record collection. At age 4, he started playing the violin. He soon switched to keyboards, inspired by the sounds of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Prince. During childhood, Powter was diagnosed as dyslexic. Feeling insecure and isolated, he found solace in writing songs. His dyslexia led him to drop out of college, and soon afterward he pursued his music full time.

After a stint with a "terrible" pop-rock band, Powter scratched out a solo career, working as a keyboardist on The Chris Isaak Show. Last year, with his production partner Jeff Dawson, the lanky musician began recording what would eventually became his self-titled debut. After landing a deal with Warner Bros. Records, Powter hooked up with Elvis Costello's old producer, Mitchell Froom, who polished the sound of the album.

"I made the record before I was signed," the artist says. "So when I wrote the record, it was like a diary. I'm a poster child for the fallible and desperate. This album was a way for me to wipe the slate clean and repent. It's how you connect with people by being honest."

And backing those sentiments with catchy melodies certainly helps. Though Powter's whiny, slightly whimpering falsetto sounds thin sometimes and his lyrics can be a bit trite, there's a genuineness that still shines through his music. You listen to cuts like the rollicking "Song 6" or the Elton John-influenced "Lie to Me," and you get a sense that Powter's a cool guy, somebody you'd like to hang with. He's been traveling nonstop since "Bad Day" flew in the Top 10 in Canada, the U.K. and various European countries. The pace has been grueling. But Powter's loving every minute of it.

"Man, I have no room to complain," he says. "I'm making music; I'm sharing the music. It's amazing. I don't know if being in magazines or videos would make me a better musician. Being a performer and traveling and meeting people and hearing their stories - all that has made me a better musician. I'm like a dam. I've got so much welled up. I want to keep going."

Check out Daniel Powter at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. N.W. in Washington, Tuesday night at 7:30. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 800-955-5566 or visit tickets.com.

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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