Will Dailey is as American as they come. He has deep roots in the Boston music scene, where he has won five Boston Music awards, including album of the year for National Throat (2014), and where he is a crucial fixture in the city’s baseball/rock fundraiser, Hot Stove, Cool Music. He has collaborated with American giants Stephen King and John Mellencamp, has shared the stage with Eddie Vedder and Peter Gammons and he’s currently collaborating with jazz composer Bunny Beck.
Baseball, Boston, and Bunny Beck aside, a large piece of Dailey’s heart seems to reside permanently in France. The independent singer/songwriter has toured France many times and speaks reverently of its wonders, especially its respect for art, music and food. Dailey has experienced many memorable moments in France. Some of these have been sublime, like a personal wine lesson at L’Avant Comptoir, and pre-gig multi-course meals that nearly left him incapacitated. Others have been darker, like when Dailey was touring France last year during the terrorist attacks in Paris. When his club show was cancelled, Dailey set up an alternate gig in a library which was streamed live worldwide. “We had some profoundly healing moments in the days that followed,” he wrote in our recent email correspondence, “thanks to music.”
Dailey is currently back in Boston, where he is working on a series of 7-inches to be released this year. Paste chatted with him about his food experiences in the US and France, but especially in France. “That,” he admits, “is where the good food is.”
Paste: You’re at a truck stop, you’re starving, and you have five minutes to assemble a meal. Please describe that meal.
Will Dailey: Honestly, I continue to starve. Unless there is by chance a farmer’s market at the truck stop.
Paste: When you’re traveling, what food from home do you crave?
WD: Everything my wife makes. Her cooking is my soul food. It has made me a bad cook. Her cooking is heavily Thai-influenced, yet the most amazing thing she makes is anything with the slow cooker. A day basking in the smells of the slow cooker is as homesome as it gets.
Paste: When you’re home, what do you miss about eating on the road?
WD: That magical little spot that the sound guy tells you about that is a four or five-block walk from the club. You stretch your legs out, eat what the natives eat, and the place miraculously makes the whole band happy, glad to be brought together in a way that only food can bring people together.
Paste: Is there anything special you like to eat before you play a show?
WD: I can’t eat too much before, which is a problem if I didn’t eat at the above-mentioned truck stop! I like to snack before and eat a meal after. But that can be a problem for sleeping! My solution is to graze all day. If it sounds like I need a fanny pack full of nuts and berries and Kind Bars it’s because I do.
Paste: Do you have any superstitious pre-show drink rituals?
WD: One gin and tonic or one shot of tequila 30 minutes before hitting the stage.
Paste: What’s the most important item in your rider?
WD: The most important thing is tea. I always need Throat Coat. I have no idea if it works, but the name of the tea makes it feel like it does. I also like to pocket the extra teabags and end up with a variety pack scattered through my backpack.
Paste: What restaurant in the world do you most look forward to visiting when you’re on tour?
WD: There are two. The first is Real Food Daily in Los Angeles. I am not vegetarian, but I skew that way. I’ve reduced my meat consumption by about 75 percent in the past eight years. Real Food Daily has the best vegan dishes, I usually head straight there once I arrive in L.A. and order the “Real Food Meal,” brown rice, beans, greens and vegetables. It’s a palette and soul cleanser after being on the road or on a plane.
But it’s L’Avant Comptoir in Paris that I stalk. It’s one tiny room, everyone packed in, sharing the same butter dish and bread basket, and ordering tapas dishes listed across the ceiling—because that’s the only place to display them. Eating there is an event. One time I asked the owner for a wine lesson: “Take me on a journey.” He’s a master, and wine has not been the same for me since.
Paste: Can you share your funniest on-the-road food story?
WD: The first time I ever ate in Europe, I think it was in Fourgeres at one of my favorite clubs, Le Coquelicot. My drummer and I were fed after sound check. The meal was an amazing salad, we each had two helpings. We couldn’t believe that they provided such a nice salad for the musicians. Soon we found out that the salad was course one. There were two more courses, plus desert and wine. We didn’t want to be rude. When you’re a musician, such a meal is rare. No club had ever treated us to such decadence. Usually you’re supposed to be grateful that you don’t have a bar tab.
Now I know that beautiful meals are standard over there, and the respect invested in the meal is the same as the respect invested in all the arts. We had to relearn how to eat on that tour, and not act like gluttonous American vacuums.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t play or sing that night at any tempo other than sloth, with a kind of “get me a bucket” grunt between songs.
Paste: Do you have anything special you like to cook this time of year?
WD: Beer and Cheese Soup. This soup cannot be messed up. It is perfect for playoff football, snowstorms, gluttony, and food truck fanciness. (here the recipe).
Paste: What’s the best meal you’ve had lately?
WD: The Hot Stove Cool Music after-party at Eastern Standard in Boston. Everyone hanging out after the show, passing dishes around, losing track of drinks and grabbing the closest one. It’s really all about the company. We could have been anywhere. Company adds the flavor and makes it a meal. Everything else is just sustenance.
Freda Love Smith is a drummer, Northwestern University lecturer and the author of Red Velvet Underground: A Rock Memoir, with Recipes. She blogs about food here. Follow her on twitter.