Musician Will Dailey invites you to listen, really listen

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In addition to playing music, Dailey’s job recently has taken the form of hosting the podcast “Sound of Our Town.” It’s a touring travelogue about the music scene in various cities around the country, with an emphasis on the clubs, dive bars, and record stores that are gathering spots for music fans in the know. The second season kicked off in July with episodes about Providence and Milwaukee.

“My podcast is kind of the anti-content podcast,” Dailey says. “We’re saying, ‘Maybe get out there amongst each other, and here’s a little starter kit for whatever city you’re going to or whatever city you’re in.’ ”

Dailey, 47, has been touring for more than 20 years, which has given him firsthand knowledge of some of the places he’s covering in “Sound of Our Town.” Doing the podcast has also introduced him to some new spots.

“The notion is that if you’re a touring artist, you know the music of that city,” but that’s often not true, says Dailey, whose most recent album, “Golden Walker,” came out in 2018. “You don’t see anything. You see transportation, a dark green room, there’s snacks, an audience, and then you’re off in the dark to the next place.”

Will Dailey, shown in April at Q Division Studios in Cambridge, has introduced the $10 Song Initiative — a track that listeners can only hear at his shows by strapping on headphones at the merch table.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

When Dailey began hosting “Sound of Our Town” in 2022, he was already immersed in the idea of forging connections. That’s something he’s always tried to do through his music, but the pandemic underscored the importance of getting together with other people when suddenly it wasn’t possible for a while. Early on, when many musicians were doing livestream performances, Dailey dedicated his online shows to raising money for non-salaried employees of music venues around Boston. He contributed $32,000, but Dailey quickly found that performing online was emotionally draining in a way he didn’t expect.

“Going back to ancient practices, a huge part of it was not met — the part where we’re with each other and I can feel their energy back,” Dailey says. “Reading a comment online is just not the same. Comments do nothing for our social well-being, really. It’s like a holograph of gratitude. It’s not real, and it’s been tricking our minds for the past 20 years.”

Normally a steady songwriter, Dailey intentionally shut down that part of himself early in the pandemic when he found himself “in crisis mode.” When he resumed writing a year or so later, he ended up with a flood of new tunes, and a lot of uncertainty about what to do with them.

“There are 100,000 songs coming out every day, and creative people, we’re all running to the same abyss and asking somebody to click on us, and I feel horrible about it,” Dailey says, referring to a 2022 study citing the number of songs uploaded daily to streaming services. “We spin ourselves in circles trying to get to this thing that is ephemeral, with our art that is forever.”

Rather than continue to play what seemed like a losing game, Dailey decided to try something different with one of his new songs, “Cover of Clouds.” He wrote the song as an appreciation for Joni Mitchell and the art she painted for the front of her 1969 LP “Clouds.” Rather than flinging the tune into the streaming-service maelstrom, Dailey burned it to one CD, which he put in a portable disc player that he brings with him to shows with a pair of headphones. At the merch table, concert-goers can pay the suggested price of $10, or whatever they want, to listen to the song, which stretches toward 7 minutes long. If they choose, they can write down their reactions in a notebook that travels with the song.

“In the six months that I’ve been doing this, I’ve had one dude in Philadelphia go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool,’ after he listened, to somebody in tears,” says Dailey, who will have “Cover of Clouds” with him this month on a run of dates opening for the Wallflowers. “The 10 bucks is more like a statement of what would it take for you to put everything away to listen for 6½ minutes and not look at your phone, and those are the responses that I’m getting.”

Dailey is working on a new album that he hopes to finish recording this fall. He’s not saying yet how he plans to make the new songs available, but “Cover of Clouds” offers some hints.

“My pattern of behavior will be followed through on the album,” he says.

Follow Eric R. Danton on Mastodon,

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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