Aussie guitarist keeps coming back to Duluth

by Richard Thomas

Daniel Champagne (yes, that is his real name, from a French-Belgian lineage) is a guitar virtuoso and singer from Australia. He travels the world performing year-round and will return to Beaner’s in Duluth on Feb. 18. He has released six albums since 2011, the latest being “Fault Lines” (2017). He’s known for his unique musical style, stemming from his classical training, and his use of the guitar as a percussive instrument. He spoke to the Reader by phone as he was on the road.

Reader: We’re in the middle of snowstorm. What brings you here?

Daniel: I kind of like the Midwest. It seems to be the part of the country that’s been kindest to me. This is the fourth time I’ve been to Duluth, but I’m always coming through. I’ve been touring up in Canada for 11 years and my base there is Winnipeg. That’s where my ex-tour manager lived. I am a little nervous, I don’t think I’ve been through Minnesota in the winter. 

You’re playing here on a Monday night. That’s kind of unusual.

I try and play every night. The venues that are happy to run on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday are in some ways more valuable to us. Every venue wants us to show on a Friday or Saturday, but unfortunately we can’t always do it. And I’ve always had a good time at Beaner’s.

When did you relocated to the states?

Almost exactly five years ago. Just more places to play. I love Australia and I still go back there, but there’s only five, six cities. You kind of feel like you’re just doing circles. At the time I was working with a U.S. management anyway, I got asked if I could move here for a while and I was ready to do it. I still don’t feel like I’m really based anywhere. A lot of different countries every year.

You play with a full band sometimes?

Never play live with them but on the albums, there’s been a few records that we’ve produced with string or rhythm sections and all that. I’m very happy to let the live shows and recordings be very separate worlds. A lot of the songs that I like to play live, there’s not a lot of room for other instruments anyway.

How did you develop that percussive style on the guitar?

Lot of trial and error. I was a classical guitar player when I was young. I kind of got really into depths with the potential of the instrument. I kind of did the same thing that a lot of classical composers are doing with the six-string guitar.

Who are other guitarists that you draw influence from or admire?

Countless people. Michael Hedges, Tommy Manuel, always loved them. There’s a couple of Australian guys like Jeff Lang and Lloyd Spiegel. When I was starting to do this, it was also at the same time that Andy McKee and John Butler were doing really well.

There are a lot of solo acoustic performers out there. What would you say makes you stand out?

There’s a lot of really great guitar players in the world and there’s a lot of really great singers. I guess my goal has always been to try to tie it all together. Often it’s more the solos and instrumentals. So hopefully that’s what sets it apart. You’d have to ask the audience.

Daniel Champagne performs 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18 at Beaner’s Central. One Less Guest opens. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door.