We all know and love The Beatles, but do you know the story of The Beatles before they were THE Beatles? Backbeat the musical recently made its US debut at The Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and I had the lovely privilege of attending a showing before the opening (thank you Center Theatre Group!). Backbeat is the story of the world’s most famous band before they hit the big time. You know John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but before there were 4, there was 5 (Stuart Sutcliffe). Before there was Ringo, there was Pete Best. Before there was, well, you get the idea. The musical details the Beatles’ journey from Liverpool, to Germany, to taking over the world.
The actors did an amazing job; I was surprised to find out that most of them learned their respective instruments specifically for this role. They performed like vets on that stage and sounded like they’d been playing for years! While at the show, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Daniel Healy, who plays Paul McCartney, to chat about The Beatles and his own interests. I must admit, I was swooning over Daniel’s accent the entire time (can you blame me?), so when you read the interview below, you MUST imagine Daniel speaking in the most lovely Scottish accent (that’s right, he’s not actually Liverpool bred).
Melody Darlene: This is going to be tough but, what’s your favorite Beatles song of all time?
DANIEL HEALY: You know I’ve given this a lot of thought through the years and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s “And Your Bird Can Sing” which is off Revolver. Something about that song when the third verse kicks in with McCartney – it’s like a three part harmony. It’s amazing, it just sends shivers down my spine… I can think of a million Beatles songs for a million different reasons but that one just makes me feel good.
M: What was the last concert you went to?
DANIEL: Oh man, you know what? That’s really hard because I play a lot of gigs. In fact the last concert I went to was a band I was supporting called Lawson – my flatmate’s in this band and they’ve had like three top-ten singles in the UK. They just played the Troubadour in LA a couple days ago. Little plug for Andy there (laughing).
M: Touching on music, what are you listening to right now, who’s on your playlist?
DANIEL: The thing is, most of the people I like are dead. So for me, I just keep discovering new older artists. One person I really like at the moment is – well, I know everyone loves him – Bruno Mars; I’m really digging his new stuff. He’s doing stuff that’s kind of Michael Jackon-esque, Sting, a lot of people I like. Obviously I love The Beatles, I love blues. I’m a big blues guy. I love a guy called J. B. Lenoir who not a lot of people know. He died quite young in a car crash. He was quite big in the early 50s – but then he released kind of controversial stuff during the Vietnam War. He was one of the blues artists who was singing about the Tax Paying blues, the Eisenhower blues, the Vietnam blues – when people weren’t singing about that stuff he was singing about it. Unfortunately at the time only a select few got to hear it. It was only when Martin Scorsese did his documentary on the blues that people started to listen to it.
M: You said you like a lot of artists who have passed away, so if you could do a collaboration/musical duet with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
DANIEL: Could I have one alive, one dead?
DANIEL: Probably Lennon/McCartney (laughing)! It would have to be.
M: Have you met McCartney?
DANIEL: No it’s a funny story. I had VIP, backstage tickets to see Bruce Springsteen because the producer of the show is friends with Stevie Van Zandt. So, (the producer’s wife) got me, my mom and dad, and my girlfriend at the time, tickets to see the show. And, me and my girlfriend had a massive fight that night. I ended up not going to the gig, and my mom and dad never went – and I would have been backstage! Then that was the same gig (it was in Hyde Park) where the power got turned off and Paul McCartney turned up and played with Bruce Springsteen. So if I had went to that gig I would have met Paul McCartney, that would have been the moment.
M: Do you have any pre-show warm-ups or anything that you do? Or pre-show traditions?
DANIEL: Yeah just the standard sort of “ma-ma-ma-ma-maaaaaaaa”, you know (laughing). Just try to get in like 45 minutes earlier and do a good vocal warm up. I never used to do that stuff, but as the show went on and my voice was getting tired I knew I had to warm up. Just standard warm-ups you do for any musical theatre show – physical and vocal. And then usually just play. The 5 guys, we get together and just jam and get in the groove.
M: Do you get nervous still?
DANIEL: Yes, every time.
M: Are you nervous now? Am I making you nervous? (laughing)
DANIEL: Slightly, but I like it (laughing).
M: 5-Song Beatles Playlist:
– And Your Bird Can Sing
– Happiness Is a Warm Gun
– Keep Your Hands Off My Baby
– In My Life
M: YM&C is very much about inspiring people through the arts, so, what is your artistic inspiration? Who are you inspired by, what are you inspired by?
DANIEL: I feel like at the moment, personally, I am just letting myself be inspired by traveling and meeting people, talking to people, faces, meeting good people and bad people. It’s been a great experience for me on the show. The show has inspired me because I’ve met so many amazing people. David Leveaux, my director is an amazing inspiration to me. And Paul Stacey, the musical director – he’s inspired me not only to be a better musician, but to be a better person as well. Because the things he’s seen, went through, and the people he’s played with – he’s played with Tom Jones. It’s amazing to be around people like that because when I came in I was only 22, I’m 26 now. It’s been a process – I came in really insecure not knowing anything about life really, how it played. We’ve all grown from that.
M: What’s next for you?
DANIEL: I’m a singer-songwriter and I act as well and play music in cover bands. I don’t want to choose. It’s just me – these are the two things I feel passionately about and I love them both equally. I want to be the best actor I can be and the best musician and person I can be. So the two are a symbiosis.
M: You’re a performer.
Daniel: That’s a great way to put it.
Backbeat plays in Los Angeles through March 1st. If you’re in L.A., this is a show you don’t want to miss (no really, I left there feeling like I had just watched The Beatles perform right before my very eyes)! Get your tickets through Center Theatre Group here.