The Camino Cafe

102 - Finding Harmony in Silence: Dan Mullins' Journey Through Vocal Loss and Creative Triumph

January 31, 2024 Leigh Brennan Episode 102
The Camino Cafe
102 - Finding Harmony in Silence: Dan Mullins' Journey Through Vocal Loss and Creative Triumph
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When life handed Dan Mullins a silence he'd never asked for, it wasn't the silence of peace but of challenge—a virus had stolen his singing voice, casting a shadow over his musical career. But from the depths of that quiet time, a story of resilience and reinvention emerged, which Dan shares openly in our latest episode. It's a testament to the power of the human spirit, chronicling his journey from the devastating diagnosis following the aftermath of a virus to the discovery of a richer, more captivating sound that's now the hallmark of his music.

Struck by the profundity of silent moments, Dan speaks candidly about the unexpected gifts that came with his vocal rest. Imagine this: a wellspring of creativity bursting forth as he unearths a treasure trove of old melodies and crafts new songs, each a testament to his undying passion for music. Listeners will travel with Dan on his path of recovery, learning how meticulous vocal exercises and a supportive family and medical network paved the way for a new album inspired by life's intricate tapestry. His narrative is not just for musicians but for anyone who finds themselves at the crossroads between loss and the sheer determination to create something beautiful from it.

Finally, we meander through Dan's creative plans, and next Camino walk, to the intimate stories behind his podcast and record ventures. His innovative approach to crowdfunding a new album intertwines the artist-fan relationship in a shared pilgrimage, redefining the journey of music production. To cap it off, we're treated to the world premiere of a touching composition born from a tale of enduring love and sudden loss—a couple's lifetime together ending in a poignant harmony that echoes through Dan's music. Join us for an episode that celebrates the human capacity to find hope, creativity, and connection in the wake of life's unexpected silences.

Dan’s website:
https://www.danmullinsmusic.com/

CAMINO DOCUMENTARY: Somewhere Along The Way - Help Fund:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/camino-documentary-film


1st Interview with Dan at The Camino Cafe in 2021

YouTube version:
https://youtu.be/OGxwmtWq5oE?si=ltT0u-DkZzi6eORc

Podcast version:
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/9-dan-mullins-we-switch-seats-leigh-interviews-the/id1562037974?i=1000522788168



Connect with Leigh:

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The Camino Cafe's intro and outro song with thanks to fellow Pilgrim, Jackson Maloney. Original Song - "Finnis Terre" - written and performed by Jackson Maloney - Singer, Musician, and Songwriter. Connect with Jackson: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3fdQsSqq9pDSwKcWlnBHKR

Dan Mullins:

Somewhere along the way. I hope it's like what you're looking for Somewhere along the way.

Leigh Brennan:

Hello everyone, welcome to the Camino Cafe podcast. Well, that was Dan Mullins. He was here in Santiago last year performing and that was his most famous Camino song. Somewhere Along the Way, shortly after Dan left, he came down with a virus and was told by doctors that he would never sing again. Imagine, after performing for 41 years it's the one thing he loves doing the most singing and he was told that he would never sing again. Well, dan beat the odds. Today he's on the podcast to tell us about this odyssey and we have such wonderful news he's going to be walking the Camino and recording a new album. Let's hear it in Dan's words Dan Mullins, I am so excited to have you on today's show. Welcome back to the Camino Cafe.

Dan Mullins:

Thanks, Lee. It's great to be with you. I've been really looking forward to this.

Leigh Brennan:

I had such a great time when you were here this past fall and after you had walked with Jen and your son and Claudette, you did a concert just a couple of nights after arriving here and you sounded fantastic. It was so much fun at the concert. And then, shortly after you went home, there was a bit of a crisis with your voice and first off, I would say I'm so grateful that your voice is back.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I went to see my mother in Queensland it's an hour's flight and they was in the line and there was a man about 10 or 15 people up from me just coughing the whole time and I thought, oh gosh, I hope I don't sit next to him. You know, surely he shouldn't get on the flight. They won't let him on. Everyone was aware of him coughing. He just didn't stop the whole time and wouldn't you know it? You know he's sitting in the plane coughing and I'm walking down the aisle with my ticket going oh no, like you know, 11d, I can see. It's right next to that guy. So I sat down next to him and straight away he starts to cough. And he's coughing so badly he couldn't even control his coughing. He couldn't even put anything over his mouth or anything. And I said to the steward you know, can I get a different seat? She said I'd wear full, you know, because we canceled all the flights last night. I said, oh no, this is a disaster. So we got back to Sydney and I knew straight away that I was never going to escape this illness, whatever this man had. But that afternoon it was a Sunday. That afternoon I did a show in Belmaine Huge show, big pack to the rafters and just went crazy. It was Easter Sunday and so they had Easter Monday off. And then on the Tuesday I woke up and went into work and thought, oh no, I'm really quite ill. And when home I said to my boss look, I'm going to go home because I'm ill. She said go, go, go. We need you to be better, you know. So I went home and I actually got very ill. I was the sickest I'd been in my living memory, much more sick than I'd ever been with COVID or anything like that in bed for kind of 10 days sick. Yeah, it was really awful actually, as I was sort of coming good. I got this cough and the cough. I would wake up in the middle of the night and cough between, you know, 1am and 5am. I would cough for four hours straight and I would cough so hard. Forgive me, but I would nearly be sick and so I would be on all fours on my bed coughing, coughing. I had to sleep in another room. Jenny and the boys had to sleep in different parts of the house to get some rest because I was keeping everyone awake. I coughed so hard and as I came good, slowly but surely. So I can tell you exactly when it was it was four weeks later. We went down to the south coast to visit some friends. One of them said I'll sing us a song, dan. You know I had the guitar there and I sang the River by Bruce Springsteen. You know I've sung that song literally thousands of times. And halfway through the second line I thought oh, I can't sing. There was no voice there. Driving home the following day, jen said to me what do you think happened last night with your voice? And I said well, my voice has never been. It's not been the same since I had this illness, you know. And so she said oh, maybe she'll go and see someone about it. And I could tell that my voice was a bit husky. You can tell it's a bit husky now. It's not quite as smooth as it used to be and that's kind of like my new normal now. But I don't quite have that same gloss that I used to have. But, and that's just the result of what I went through, but anyway. So at the time I was thinking something's not quite right. So I went to see this first doctor and he said oh, you need to have surgery. You've got a lesion on your vocal cord. I don't know if many people want to realize, but your vocal cords are not much bigger than your thumbnail. All of that was Celine Dion comes out of something about the size of her thumbnail and one of the one of the vocal cords had you could see it and they put the camera down a six mil lesion on one side, six millimeters long, and it was about three millimeters thick. And I said what on earth is that? And he said well, that's from coughing. And what it meant was that my vocal cords could no longer come together, they could no longer close, and it's when they close that you get pitch and tune and melody and that's how you get the gloss on your voice when they close. And they couldn't close and then live a close again. And I said okay, he said you need to have a steroid injection into them, into that scar. So we booked in for the surgery and then, luckily, out of the blue, got to see the best voice specialist in Sydney. It happened to call and say oh, look, you know you tried to get in. We couldn't get you in, but we have a vacancy. So we said oh, quickly, we'll go and see her. She said, no, no, that's like a big problem on your vocal cords. I don't see a problem with it. I think we can, through speech therapy and what have you, get your voice back? And I said, oh, fantastic. Over the course of the next two weeks my voice got much, much worse, much worse, and to us I could hardly talk. I was like this and we panicked. We just totally panicked. So we went back to the original guy and said, oh, can you do that steroid thing? And he said, sure. So we did the process. You know, that was really quite ghastly, the whole thing.

Leigh Brennan:

You know steroid shots are really painful. Normally you had to have this in your throat.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I had to have all these needles in my neck and everything and then, and then I fainted three times throughout the whole thing. It was so ghastly. And then, when we finished, he was like okay, that's it. You know it didn't work, you'll never sing again. And he said didn't you hear me? I said it didn't work, you'll never sing again. You might sing, but you know it's like would be like a marathon runner trying to run and having lost, having three toes cut off. And I said what, what? I wouldn't say, what wasn't allowed to speak. So I was like, you know, gesturing with my hands. He said but as for singing, no, that's all finished, okay. So I went out to the, to the foyer, to pay you know, cause all this money? And the receptionist said wow, that was a heavy consult, wasn't it? I said you know, yeah, that was a heavy. I didn't. I was thinking to myself but, lee remark, I don't know why or how I thought to myself at that moment. There are people getting worse diagnoses today. I don't know why I thought like that, but driving home in the car, I was thinking and I wasn't supposed to be driving myself home, but I was and I was thinking, oh gosh, okay, who am I going to be now? Hmm, I can't sing. What am I going to do with all my spare time? So it was really an extraordinary thing. Anyway, I went, I went back to the other doctor and she said look, I'm going to send you to my friend and he's a speech therapist. I think we can, I think we can make this work. I said, oh, okay, that's really kind of you, you know. So she sent me to Cecilia, and Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and Cecilia wasn't just my speech therapist, she became just my therapist. She was a woman of a certain age plus some, and she was so gentle and so kind and so supportive she never for a moment let me believe that I was not going to get my voice back to full use ever. She basically taught me to speak again. Then, after 12 weeks, she said and it's so exciting. And I said what's that, cecilia? She said I think you're ready to sing again. So she sent me to Patricia, who's another woman of a certain age plus some, and Patricia was just the most extraordinary, or is the most extraordinary woman. She didn't tell me. It took 10 weeks for me to get my singing voice back, by the way. 10 weeks. And I had to learn to sing again from scratch. And at the end of those 10 weeks she said I didn't want to tell you this, but now's the right time. And I said what's that? She said I didn't. I was. When you came in I thought, oh, we've got a real, we've got real trouble on our hands here. But she said you've done all the work. You've done all the everything I've asked you to do. You've done and you've embraced it and I think you're ready to sing again. And I was so excited, so delighted, so I did a little two hour show just down the road at my local pub and they were lined up down the street was so packed and everyone was just like he's back. So I was taking it very slowly, lee. And now but now here in the new year, I'm back into it in full swing. I'm doing shows most weekends. It's back, the voice is back and I'm okay and I got through it all. And here we are. Well, I don't know, nine months later or something.

Leigh Brennan:

This was a nine month Odyssey.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, and frightening at times, really frightening to think. You know, singing is such a big part of what I do. I was. I sat a day morning here last night I sat on the lounge. I sang for three or four hours just sitting there, you know, working on things and writing and learning and what they call, and what they call wood shedding, which is, you know, just sort of working out different ways to do different songs and how they sound, and that's what I do, that's how I kind of like my thing. So having the prospect of losing it was, I never really had a time. The thought, to be honest, I just sort of truly believed in these two beautiful women, helped me believe that I'd be okay and I'm okay.

Leigh Brennan:

You've got your podcast, you've got your music, but also, you know, for those folks that are listening today that don't live in Australia, you've also had this huge journalistic career where you've also used your voice, and is that something still today that you're doing regularly in your current job?

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, I am, yeah, yeah, and that was one of the great challenges because I talk all that work. I've got a team around the country, so we used I used typing text in meetings. I would type and everyone would say, oh, dan says they would read what I typed. I'd type it out and they'd say hang on, hang on, dan's saying something. And I would type it out. I was not allowed to speak at all for three weeks after that, so the next like six weeks, it was very limited. Use of my voice had to be had to really not use it very much too. But then it started to come good and everyone and it was really funny, actually it was my boss, melanie said to me one day in a meeting your voice sounds great. I said, oh, really. She said, no, no, it sounds great, keep doing what you're doing. And I said, oh, that's nice. Yeah, so it was. It was time. Time was a time in patience and doing all of the exercises. You know I've got all these apps on my phone and all these recordings of Patricia playing the piano and me having to sing along the scales and stuff, and I had to do it every day and every night I would be standing in the kitchen singing and la la la, meaning, naming, meaning, naming, meaning, naming, meaning, naming. Doing it over and over and over and over and over until I got it back.

Leigh Brennan:

You leave this appointment and you go out to your car. I mean, do you you don't have a moment of falling apart I? I mean, that doctor didn't seem to have the best of bedside manner with you.

Dan Mullins:

I have one moment of falling apart. When I got home, my middle son, lewis, was at home and I came in through the back gate and into the courtyard and he kind of opened the back door and said how did? How did it go? And I couldn't speak, of course, and I just burst into tears and fell into his arms and he was like oh no, oh no, what's wrong, dad, what's wrong? And I couldn't tell him so I had to get my phone out and type it out. The doctor said I'd never sing again. He's going what? Oh no, oh no, that's what. What happened? I fainted three times. He's going what are you doing driving? You're crazy. You know what he was freaking out. Yeah, I was like wasn't the smartest thing to do. I'm kind of renowned for that kind of thing, but the good thing is, here we are today talking.

Leigh Brennan:

I was thinking back when I saw you here in concert in Santiago, that you, a lot of your singing came very naturally to you. You know, being able to play by ear. You had to go back and start all over again as a musician, as a vocalist 100% had to start from scratch.

Dan Mullins:

I had to learn to sing again from scratch.

Leigh Brennan:

How many hours do you think you've put towards that just in this period of time during the last nine months?

Dan Mullins:

Oh, hours and hours and hours and hours, yeah yeah. And it was quite interesting process because one of the things that was happening with my vocal chords, as I said, was they weren't closing, so a lot of breath comes through that gap, right. So you need the vocal chords to seal so that the breath stops and that's how you get the noise. The sound resonates in your voice box, your vocal chamber, and then resonates in your head, and that's how people have their distinct sound and how you use it is. You get used to being able to project in a certain manner and use those different instruments in your person. That gives you your sound and you have to be able to find it. So, slowly but surely, I realized well, it's not the same voice that used to be and it never will be, and I understand that. So I have to learn to breathe differently all the time. So when I sing, I used to sing, for instance, what could something I could sing for you? Just to explain it to you, El Camino Rosa, santo Domingo Cruz. So that's me trying to sing that all with one voice, one breath, right. So now I cut it up El Camino Rosa's breath, santo Domingo Cruz. So there's a lot more. I've got to breathe differently, I've got to breathe in places where I wouldn't normally breathe and I've got, and it's taught me, a whole different way of singing, which is quite interesting. And I sing the same song. So people come and see me, who've seen me for years, come and see me now and go oh, I love the new voice, the new voices. He's better than the old voice. Yeah, it's better. Wow, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

Why do you think they're saying that?

Dan Mullins:

When you're breathing all the time. It's a lot easier to listen to somebody who's breathing all the time. It's a weird thing. If I was to show you like I just explained that one there, that probably wasn't the best example, but because you go like Say that again, say that again.

Leigh Brennan:

It's easier to listen to someone.

Dan Mullins:

When they're breathing properly and they're breathing easily, because it's really funny. We have a sense of empathy when we're listening and we're watching someone perform. So if they are struggling, we're struggling. You've got to be comfortable watching the person play. Really hard to explain. So if you go like Well, my bags are packed. I'm ready to go On my way away. I'll go See, that's now straining right. Whereas if you're breathing when you're supposed to be breathing. So that's difficult to listen to if you're in the crowd, whereas if you're breathing, you see Well, my bags are packed. Breath, well, my bags are packed, I'm ready to go. Taxi's waiting outside my door. You've always got the voice to listen to. There's no straining, there's no pressure. It's easy to listen to. And that's what I've learned to do, which I should have been doing for 40 years, lee, but I wasn't. So you know, when I say I learned to sing again, I learned to sing properly.

Leigh Brennan:

Maybe this will give you longevity and voice, longevity and career.

Dan Mullins:

Well, I never warmed up. I never, ever, warmed my voice. No, no, no. And Cecilia asked Patricia, my singing teacher did you ever warm up? I said I would have a couple of beers. She said, no, no, no, I mean like warm up your voice. I said, oh yeah, I would have a couple of beers. She's like no, I'm down Now I warm up, now I do my warm up and I take care of my voice and I look after myself. And yeah, things I should have been doing for, like I say, four decades, I'm now starting to do because I should have been doing them all those years ago.

Leigh Brennan:

During this time, then you know it sounds like you're pretty busy. You're still working, you're doing all the therapeutic things you need to do to restore the voice. Did you find that you were able to have any other creative outlet, like, were you writing songs or journaling or, you know, doing something to help you mentally and emotionally through this time?

Dan Mullins:

Well, I played a lot of guitar. I played a lot of guitar and I also wrote a lot of songs, so that was one of the things that I wanted to do. We had planned to finally get all of that done, and when you lose something that's very special to you, it puts a lot of things in perspective. And so, using that time to write and using that time to try and get better at the guitar and I used that time to I rested a lot, lee, it sounds crazy, but I have three jobs, so my day job is really full on. So I took the time to rest actually, yeah, yeah, I was really focused and I took care of myself and really that was pretty important in the whole recovery process as well. But I write all the time because I write for my podcast. You know I've got three interviews this weekend and I write every single one of them. I write a big intro and a big outro and I write all the questions and everything. So I'm always writing and, of course, my day job is writing interviews. So, yeah, yeah, I tried to be as creative as I could have. It's the best answer for you, lee.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah, do you write some new songs during this?

Dan Mullins:

time. Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah. Oh, a dozen or more, I guess, maybe even 50.

Leigh Brennan:

Wow, wow, and those will be on the new album.

Dan Mullins:

Some will be and some of the songs on the album are old songs that we found. We had a shopping bag full of VHS tapes upstairs in our storage and we always said we must get those put onto CD or something you know, put onto a USB. There's people who do that, as you know, and we. Somehow, you know as the old story it comes up on your computer when you talk about things. I don't want to get into all of that, but it came up, you know we'll do it for you for $50 per search, and said, oh, I'll drop them off. So set them off. And they came back and here they are on a USB, you know. And when we put it in the computer upstairs, one of them was Dan Mullins concert, Brisbane 1991.

Leigh Brennan:

1991. Yeah.

Dan Mullins:

And Jen said, oh, I wonder what that is. I said I don't know what that is, so we click on it and it's. Somebody had put a video camera at the back of a concert at Her Majesty's Hotel, her Majesty's Bar in Brisbane in 1991. And it's me with a, with a four piece band, and they were a very, very good band playing all my own songs packed, you know, no, no room. There's no, no, no room for anybody else to get in. And it was all of these songs. And so I started watching it. I'm thinking, oh yeah, I forgot I wrote that song. Oh, this is a really good song. And then the next one oh yeah, I forgot, I wrote this song. So there was I don't know, I most probably did 30 songs that night. 20 of them I'd forgotten, not even written. So I had to listen back to them and in some cases had to write out the lyrics because I'd completely forgotten even the lyrics. And a couple of them made it onto this record. So onto this new record, so or will? So, yeah, that's a real blessing. So I think about half of them are new and about half of them are old or not so old, yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

This was something you might not have done had you not had this time.

Dan Mullins:

Exactly 100%. That's so true. I know where you're going with this, lee. It was a time of reflection and a time to just to reset in a way to get my energy back. And you know what? What I haven't told you is that at the very start of the year, I was due to walk the Camino Primitivo with my friends Carl and Brian in mid April, and then my eldest son got into some strife. He needed help, so I had to. I couldn't walk, I needed, I had to stay, and all of my resources and funds and everything went to him for that. For that three or four months leading up to that, and I worked like crazy. I worked like I did every gig that anybody asked me to do, so sometimes Friday, saturday, sunday, just so I could get the resources together to help him out, and then all of a sudden it was finished. You know, like he's done, and so it kind of was a really interesting. It just occurred to me then that that all happened at the same time. So then after that, having the ability to just switch off for a while was kind of a blessing. Yeah, I suppose I haven't thought about it really. Yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah, really probably one of the very first times that you've had quiet reflection time. Right, I'm getting so busy with your family.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, that's true. Actually, now I think about it, it is the first time, yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

How does? That make you feel. Just to think about that right now.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, it's kind of a bit upsetting, to be honest, because I can't help thinking of wasted time Isn't that funny? But I, but I, I'm kind of pleased I can't get up. I'll get up tomorrow and play another 50 something songs, and I just know that halfway through the first song I think, oh, it's so much fun to sing again. I'm really pleased I did it right, so I could have just gone up. You know, to they said I'll never sing again. Well, that's the end of that. And to you, lee, I would have tried to sing again and it wouldn't. It would have been frustrating and it would have been, my voice would never be the same and I would have been disappointed and upset. And. But I didn't do that with Jen. I've got to give my wife Jen some credit here too. She was very supportive and said keep to keep going, keep doing it, keep doing it. And she was very supportive. I'm blessed to have her in my camp as well. But now I think back on it, I could have easily just gone oh well, it'll come good eventually and not done all of the work to make it better. But I did, and now I'm pleased I did. So, you know, while it was a time of reflection and a bit of a time to reset and a bit of easing in my capacity and in my responsibilities. I also was kind of every day doing this, doing these exercises. I kind of had I still had plenty to do. And one of the girls at my work was telling everybody the other day, oh, and Dan lost his voice. He would go into the meditation room and do his exercises and we would all sit in the newsroom and listen to him. I didn't know. I didn't know they were listening to me. I was so embarrassed I said are you kidding? She said they were all imitating me and all the girls, they're all doing these little impersonations of me. I said, oh, that's so embarrassing.

Leigh Brennan:

Wait, what were they hearing?

Dan Mullins:

The voice or the breath comes through the vocal cords from the back okay, from the lungs out through the vocal cords, right, and what we needed to happen was for them to be more flexible, to ease up, to soften up. So, in order to do that, you would sing through a straw into a bottle of water and blow bubbles, yeah, yeah, and blow bubbles, as you did it, right and with your voice and what it does. The bubbles just bring the voice back in, back, down your throat, and gently massage the vocal cords on the outside so that they're getting this softening on each side. So you'd go and then you sing scales through a straw into a bottle of water, and so that's what they heard.

Leigh Brennan:

And they were getting picked out of that.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, Any guys again. You know, have my little bottle with my little straw in it. Hello everyone. You know not going to the quiet room at work, which I thought was a quiet room, but it wasn't a quiet room at all, it was a very noisy room. Of course, everybody could hear what I was doing.

Leigh Brennan:

Sounds like in your heart. You never really gave up on your voice, like like you thought it was coming back.

Dan Mullins:

I had to. I had to believe I had to. I had no choice. I had to believe that it would come back. Otherwise, what would I do? What would I do with my time?

Leigh Brennan:

Definitely. It's very clear that singing is your passion. Is it also your form of meditation?

Dan Mullins:

See Lee it's an ego thing.

Leigh Brennan:

It's an ego thing. What do you?

Dan Mullins:

mean, well, it's an ego thing, right? So someone will throw a piano like someone I can be at a dinner party or at a party or something, and someone will say, oh, dan, sing us a song. And you know, there's nothing quite like the feeling of sitting at a piano in front of people who've never heard you, you don't know who you are. So they pass you a guitar and might be their son's guitar, you know from the, from the toy room and you quickly tune it up and then you sing and everyone goes and I don't think I have to tell you I'm quite good at it. So when you are good at it, it's an ego thing. You love doing it because you feel good using this God-given gift, and it's even better so much better that people enjoy it. People get some people seeing the joy in people's faces. I do it every weekend, I'm doing it tomorrow, I did it last Sunday, I did it the Friday before that. The following Friday, I'm doing it on Australia Day, where every single person in the room is singing as loud as they possibly can and they're just having the time of their lives. They go along on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday afternoon or a Friday night or whatever, and they really enjoy themselves. So what's not to love about that part of your life that you give that moment or that few moments of enjoyment to somebody through the gift that you've been given. It's an ego thing. I do it because it makes me feel good. I really enjoy it, and plus as well. You know, when you finish, people come up and say, oh, that was great. You feel pretty good at the end of the day. When people come about you on the back and say you did really well today, the publican or the owner of the venue comes and says it gives you a cash and you get whatever money or whatever. Yeah, fantastic, you go home, feel good about yourself. You've done a good day's work. You've made people happy. I know for a fact a number of people who've met at my shows and married. You know, I've seen them, I've seen them meet at my shows and because I've been doing it a long, long time 41 years I've been doing this. It's as much a gift for me and myself as it is for anyone else. Yeah, that's why I keep doing it and that's why I love it so much. It's a blast, it's fun, it's great fun.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah. Well, I wonder, when you were going through this, to imagine your self-identity if this part of you had gone away.

Dan Mullins:

I don't know, and I don't even want to really think about it. I don't know what I would have done, I don't know who I would have been, and that was what I was thinking driving home that day what am I going to do? Who am I going to be? That was a really scary thing, because I don't really have many other skills. I was at a show, went to see my friend's band play last Saturday and the band that came on afterwards were very loud and I was talking to someone and I thought, oh no, I'm talking, I'm almost yelling. I can't be here in this noise and conduct a conversation. So I just wrote on my phone as a text. You know, look, I'm sorry, I can't talk, I can't raise my voice. People were coming up to me about talking and I sort of went, you know, showed them my phone and they would go oh yeah, your voice. Yeah, sure, I understand entirely. So there's just some things I have to be smart about. Like, if I go to the game, you know I'm not going to be yelling at the game. You know yelling for my team, screaming out loud. That is pretty straightforward. But in the meantime we'll keep singing, yeah, as long as God keeps giving me the gift to do it. Yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

Well, now it's time to celebrate, right? And you decided that I mean, what does a pilgrim do when the chips have been down and things get better, or you're trying to work through something? We decided to walk a Camino and you make an announcement just you're going to record a new album and you're coming to Spain and just talk about how that came about. I believe that Jen had some input in that.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah. So I'll go back a little. When I released you Enday, my then boss said to me I'll talk to the people at Sony Records and they'll put it out for you. And the executive at Sony who was given the task said to me we don't put out people like you, we don't put out people like you, your records. And I said we'll just have a listen to it and see what we think. And I sent it over to him and he said I love it and we'll put it out. No problem, we got you got 100% backing because I just love what you've done. He then left and he set up his own record company and he's really keen to make a new record. So I sent him some songs and he said oh my gosh, I love these songs. These songs are amazing, they're stories. And I said yeah, yeah, yeah. He said let's call the new record storyteller. He was working with a producer in Australia who's these days about the best producer in Australia. He was working with another fellow and they were in the studio and he said what were the? In a bit of downtime I'm working with this guy, dan Mullins. And the producer said oh, yeah. And he said I should play you some of his songs. He said, oh, play them for me. So he put his phone, plug his phone in and played them. And this producer his health say name Dan, said oh, my gosh, who is this guy? And he said oh, you know, he's this funny guy actually is a pilgrimage sort of guy and you know whatever. And the producer Dan said I want to meet this guy and and and then so we kind of never got a chance to catch up, but we spoke on the phone many times and he said I don't, I want to make your record and he's like one of the top, if not the top, producer in Australia. He made some of the records some of the listeners might know of dance monkey by tones and I was like the number one song two years ago globally was the number one song in the world. He produced that and so he's very accomplished and to have him even interested is kind of kind of cool. He said so, let's make this record, so send me the songs. So I sent him all of the songs that I thought I would put on the record and he said oh man, this is, this is going to be epic, we've got to make this record. So we said Okay. So he came back with a quote and we went Okay, well, that's a lot of money. We sort of thought Well, the record company doesn't know. Record companies give bands album money anymore. That just doesn't happen. It used to, but they don't sell records anymore. They just don't. So they don't. There's no way for them to get their money back. What happens is that the band produces it themselves and then goes on the road and sells tickets to concerts. So that's how bands make money. They don't make nearly as much money as they used to and they don't make anything really out of. You've got to have like a billion plays on Spotify or Apple music to get even $10,000 kind of thing. That's a whole different story. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don't make any money out of Spotify or Apple music at all. You get like 0.0003 cents per play. So imagine, do your sums 10,000, 10,000 plays for a dollar? Maybe not even that. So we sort of thought we'll crowd fund it, we'll do a crowdfunding thing and we'll give a t-shirt if you give $100 and maybe your name on the record if you give it to, or whatever. And so we thought about it and we sort of umbed in how we'd do it. I was able to fund part of it by doing gigs on the weekends and what have you? And then Jen said why don't you walk the Camino and ask people to walk with you? They can contribute to the record and that would be a way to fund the record. A, b they'll have a really fantastic time. And C you'll get to meet some of the people who listen to your podcast and listen to your records. I said I love, I love that idea. We weren't sure we would be able to do it, so we put just an invitation together and the response has been fantastic. So we've filled half the spots now, and so we're half the way to funding the record, a record we never in our wildest dreams could have imagined that we could afford. And so so we. It's just so exciting, and so excitingly, and all of those wonderful people will be having the journey of a lifetime. We've got shows booked in some extraordinary places and already we've got fingers crossed. We've got some even more exciting and extraordinarily exciting places to play, but we're just not quite over the line yet. It's so exciting to think that, a we're going to go and walk the Camino again and, b we're going to have time of our lives and I can't wait to sing for all those people and meet all those people. We can have big sing-alongs. You know it's going to be epic. It really is going to be epic. You're going to join us for a few days, right.

Leigh Brennan:

Here I am and I cannot wait. I was so excited when we saw this announced. It's going to be so much fun. The actual tour starts in May and you start walking from León and you're coming all the way to Santiago. So you've got the concerts, you're going to be walking and recording the album.

Dan Mullins:

Well, no, no, we'll be recording the album when I get back. Some of the songs actually are very personal songs and this will be the first time that I've played them for anyone. And what we're going to do and I know we're going to talk about the filming of it in a minute, but what we're going to do is I'm going to introduce the songs for the first time to the world on the tour. Nobody's ever heard these songs. There's a song, there's a song called Exhibition Wednesday, which was a letter. So I've put music to a letter that I wrote to my son, my oldest son, when he was four years old. It's an incredible song. And that producer producer, just out of the blue, sent me a message. It was like a Saturday afternoon and I got a message Exhibition Wednesday, omg, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, exclamation mark. And he wrote back and said was this genuinely a letter? And I said I wrote back yeah, yeah, it was. He wrote back OMG, omg. So the song. Well, one lonely Saturday night and I was in the country and I read about a couple who had been married for 70 years. He died on Friday and she died on Sunday. She died like 48 hours later. And I remember reading that story, thinking oh well, you know, she only had one lonely Saturday night. That's kind of a blessing in a way, you know. And I just thought about it. And then, while I was getting my voice back, I just worked out that was playing these chords over the top. I just sang out loud, I don't know how and why. I just sang out loud that exact line. She died on Friday and he died on Sunday. Like someone turned out, a light, in some ways, a blessing bestowed upon her. She had only one lonely Saturday night and it was there. So I quickly sent it off to the producers. He's like oh my God, that's fantastic, that's fantastic. So we're going to debut that song on the trip and there'll be moments where I'll tell stories, and I'll tell the story behind the song. There'll be moments when we all just sing together. Again, we'll sing piano, man, at the top of our lungs. You know there'll be times when we break into parts and sing choir. You know like sing, you sing a third, you sing a fifth, you sing a seventh, and we'll all learn how to do it and then by the end we'll all be singing our different parts and singing like a choir. So it's going to be just an epic adventure and it really will be an adventure. We'll walk together and alone. I can't wait to walk with people and get to know everybody and we'll become a very tight musical family and it's going to be very, very special. I'm very you know what I'm blessedly that people would consider first of all, even walking with me. That's a blessing, but even more so that people would contribute to the record because they want to help and see me make it, because you know, people are so kind and so loving and to be the recipient and to be blessed by that blessing is quite extraordinary, quite overwhelming, very humbling.

Leigh Brennan:

I hope when you first made the announcement there was so much concern in the communal community, because I mean you are so well loved, dan. You just put out your 353rd episode of my Camino, the podcast, which is amazing. I mean you've been doing that now for how many years.

Dan Mullins:

Seven years Easy.

Leigh Brennan:

When I think about the number of people that have decided to walk because they've heard an interview on your show, or the number of hours that people have spent training listening to your show. You have already given back so much to the Camino community. It's amazing to me that people listening may not have an idea of how much it takes to put out 353 shows.

Dan Mullins:

It's a lot of work.

Leigh Brennan:

It's a lot of work. I know I've really done a very small fraction of that and you have been so consistent, constantly giving back to this community. You know, when I look at that, when I look at it somewhere along the way, how many people do you think have that downloaded on their Camino playlist, that they're playing it while they're walking or they're playing it while they're training? When this announcement came out of your diagnosis, I think there was just an outpouring of love. It was so obvious how loved you are and I think that response is coming through again and showing by the number of people that want to support this project. What made you even start this podcast seven years ago? That was the Camino wasn't even at its heyday seven years ago.

Dan Mullins:

Well, I was working in radio and first of all, thank you for those very kind words. That was beautiful. Very humbling. But secondly, I was working in a radio station and the fellow who was running it was going off to form or launch what was then Australia's really first podcast company, and it was called Wushka. And he said you know, you're one of the best producers in Australia. Give me ideas. I need ideas for podcasts. So I started you know what about this, what about that? What he's going on writing them down. Some of them are still going now and he's saying you know what about this? What about that? And so right at the end, he said and why don't you come up with something? And I'd only just got back from my Camino in 2016. And I thought I should do a podcast about the Camino, where people tell their story. And that's the crazy part about it. Podcasts were so new. We called it my Camino the podcast because because we don't sure what anybody would know what it was. If we just called it my Camino, people would go what is that? What is that? We had to say the podcast. So people understood it. Yeah, yeah, and now it's like we got to take that out of the name, you know, but it's kind of well, that's a lot of work to take it out of the name, because they have to take it out of the name 353 times and we'll just believe it way it is now and that's how it began. And then that company was eventually bought by Spotify, and so now I'm with Megaphone Spotify, I'm with Spotify now, but because I was the founder, like one of the very first, I don't pay fees because I'm a legacy podcast now, because I've been there so long, I'm like the third longest running podcast in the country. It's ridiculous. And so like 353 episodes is kind of crazy as well. It's really weird. I flip back through them from time to time and have a listen and I go, oh yeah, I forgot about this. This is a great podcast and this is a great interview. This girl was really brave telling her story. I'm inspired by them and I did them. So, yeah, it's been an amazing journey and my goal is to get to 500.

Leigh Brennan:

How do you keep that passion up?

Dan Mullins:

Oh, that's easy because of the people that you talk to. Lee, it's the best thing ever. Like you, you love it, right? You love it, I love it. And never, ever, ever say, oh, it's Saturday morning, I've got an interview this morning with those people in Canada. Oh, you know, never. I always go like I can't wait to talk to those people in Canada this morning. It's going to be so much fun, so it's not really work for me. It's more about just discovering people and finding out interesting things about people, and everyone has a story late, as you know, right, everyone. And when we're on the Camino at late 2022, I ran into this American guy and we were in the garden there in Azura and he was saying I don't have a story, I don't have a story. Not everybody has a story. I don't have a story. I said, come on, you're talking about quiz.

Leigh Brennan:

You have a story.

Dan Mullins:

No, no, I don't have a story. I don't have a story. Now I can't tell you his story because he asked me not to, but he did have a story. You know, a couple of cups of tea later I had the story out of him and it was amazing story. It's funny. People say I, I don't really think it, because I say, come on the podcast, I don't really have anything to talk about. And then ten minutes in you're going. What you did, what you're from where you what. What you know it's. I never, ever tire of it. And then, of course, you know Sarah Jane and and Karina Mccardo, and just recently, I don't know about six weeks ago, I did it and I didn't really know their story at all In the course of the interview. You know she's cheated, she had, well, she did die. She didn't cheat that, she died and came back and I mean that Interview was just that's when he days to get over that. It was just so extraordinary. And she's she just wrote me the most beautiful letter yesterday. An email came through yesterday from Sarah Jane. So I have continued Contact with the people that I interview as well. So we're all kind of like a community. So I I never tire of it. Answer to the question. Lee, I never tire of it. I never fail to be inspired by people and their stories and they're quite often so, so excited to have had someone Interested in their story as well, which is a real blessing.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah, as communal pilgrims, we want to share our stories right.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, and it's a Safe place to Lee. I like to think my, my podcast is a safe place. You know you're not going to be judged, or it's a safe place, and so I like to think that that community that I've built 353 episodes is I kind of shake my head and think it's ridiculous, but it's a body of work now that really has a, has a place of its own. I think, and really I'm just the, I'm just the shepherd. You know, it's the sheep that are the stars and it's the, it's all of my guests. They're the special people, they're the story and they'll continue on forever and long after I'm gone. Their stories will live on. I think that's a fantastic thing.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah, I think you're capturing a piece of history.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, exactly yeah, and so are you yeah.

Leigh Brennan:

Yeah, we're quite blessed to be able to do what we do possibly be a documentary made about the making of the album the walks and fill me on. How did this happen when I was in?

Dan Mullins:

Canada in 2022. The, the wonderful people, the beautiful and extraordinary people at the Canadian company of pilgrims invited me over. My friend, tom Friesen, invited me to go to Toronto to Give a talk and sing some songs at their annual gathering and I said, well, of course I'd love to come over. So I went over there. I did some shows in London, ontario, I did a show in Ottawa and I did a show at the pilot have an in downtown Toronto, and Rocco Rossi, our friend Rocco, organized it all for us. And that night there I met a fellow named Simon Bern. He's a filmmaker and a content maker, credibly gifted photographer and filmmaker. You go to his website, simon Bern creative, and see the photos of the Camino and just get blown away. They are insane photos of the Camino and out of the blue, he sent me an email and said look, have you thought about maybe making a film about this walk that you're doing with all these people? And I said, well, I hadn't really thought about it. Some kind of busy making an album, you know, like that's my focus, and got some other things going on as well. And he said I will, I'll make that, I'd like to make it. I said how does it work? Then he kind of came up with this concept of we want to tell Dan's story but we also want to tell the story of the Camino and make it a love letter to Spain. And so it's going to be part documentary about me and my music and the Camino, this magical musical Camino that I and my guests are on and their stories in some respect, and also this love letter to Spain. So this is this incredible place and this incredible place and this incredible journey and this incredible history and this incredible legacy Some of the footage that he's shot from other projects he's worked on. He's a super talented guy. So I said let's do it. Our friend, andy Holloway, who's now in Germany but he's normally lives in America, andy's going to come along as Simon's assistant and Andy's very gifted person and he's own right photographer and filmmaker. So we've got this amazing team and it's going to be very fly on the wall. They won't be impactful at all and it won't be sort of like I don't really want to be in a movie. They won't. They'll be invisible. It's the most exciting thing on the screen. It's going to look exquisite.

Leigh Brennan:

How's the cost gone up in trying to put out an album?

Dan Mullins:

This next album I'm making is going to cost five times what Duende cost me to make. I simply couldn't fund it myself. I would have. I funded the first record, duende. I paid for everything myself. I paid every musician. I paid them musician union rates. Everybody got paid and I paid the studio every second, every cent, and I paid it all for myself out of doing gigs on weekends. I didn't ask my family to contribute, I did it all out of. I worked and worked and worked and worked. But this time I can't do that. I just I simply couldn't. It would take me too long, would take years and I probably wear myself out doing it. I want it to be good enough to do justice to the songs and I want it to be good enough to do justice to the people who are contributing to making it so that they can put it on when they get home after being out with family and friends. And you know, I'm going to have a glass of wine, sit in front of the fire, I'm going to put Dan's record on, I'm going to put on Storyteller and they put it on and they think to themselves I contributed to this and listen to it and I want them to go and it's fantastic. It's absolutely world class. This is a beautiful, beautiful record, and not only will they have contributed, they'll also have the Camino to remember that they had walked with me for almost three weeks. They didn't just give me the money, they came for a beautiful Camino. We walked and we've got that to share. You know, their name will be on the back of the record if they want to. You know, if they walk with me, they'll get it for nothing because I'll send it to them as a keepsake, but their name will be on the back of the record. If they want a vinyl copy, they get a vinyl copy. It's a great opportunity for me. It's a great opportunity for others. A little while down the track, they can go to a cinema and see a full length documentary about the Camino and their contribution as well, which is pretty spectacular, I reckon.

Leigh Brennan:

With the keepsake. Just to walk a Camino is a memory of a lifetime, and this is like times a million that first Camino you ever walked, dan, if someone had said to you okay, so this is what's going to happen, dan, you're going to walk this Camino and then you're going to come home, and then da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Yeah, good question.

Dan Mullins:

I don't think I would have imagined in my wildest dreams. I remember my first steps on the Camino, like most people can. I was walking out of Sa'hun and it was early morning, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and I thought, walking along by the poplar trees there's a, everybody knows there's, there are two, there are two lines on the side of the road and walking along there, thinking I really like this, I really like this. So I was kind of walking and I couldn't wait until I could walk far enough from Sa'hun that Sa'hun disappeared. I didn't want any towns on the horizon. It's one of the Masetta, you know. It was mid-crop so there weren't, there were no crops at that time. So normally there'd be sunflowers or something, but there was not a wheat or something, but there was nothing. So it was very barren. And I remember, yeah, thinking I like this a lot, I still like it a lot. I don't know quite why it's just struck a, struck a chord with me, that, and that chord seems to still be ringing out. You know, one of the things about it, lee, are the people. The people, you know, they're just so fantastic. We were talking about stories earlier and everybody having a story. Everybody is so kind Well, not everybody, but the vast majority of people that you meet are so kind and so happy to share. But what's not to love about that community? And if you can be involved and engaged in that community and, as you said, they love you back, I don't I don't take that for granted for a moment why wouldn't you want to be involved in it and go back there? Of course the Camino is going to call you back because you want to go back and keep sharing that same experience, that same love. You want to go back and live and breathe it all the time. That's why I'm going back, that's why we're going to do this incredible adventure. And when I first walked on those first few steps, if you'd said in seven years time you're going to be going back to make a record and you're going to be taking people with you who are going to chip in for that record and we're going to film a documentary about it, I would have said sign me up, let's do it. Yeah, what a blessing. Yeah, I don't really thought about that. That's funny. You know, people always say to me good question. Well, you asked the best questions, dan. You asked good questions too, lee.

Leigh Brennan:

I take that as a real compliment coming from Dan Mullins.

Dan Mullins:

Yeah, yeah, good questions. Yeah, so it's, it's, it's some. What a blessing. I hadn't really ever thought about that. What would I have made of it seven years ago? But yeah, sign me up.

Leigh Brennan:

How good is there any chance that you might maybe play a new song from the new album?

Dan Mullins:

I'd love to Lee, I'd love to his. I've got my little sit there. The Camino guitar is here. How could I, how could I not play for you tonight? I used to do a lot of traveling for the radio show that I worked for, and I was in a little country town and I read the story of a couple that had been married, I think 70 years, almost 70 years, and the wife and husband lived in this little town. He died on Friday and she died Sunday, 48 hours later, and the town was in mourning. You know how could this happen? But I I, when I read it, I remember thinking, well, she only had one lonely Saturday night. I kind of felt like, well, that's kind of a blessing in a way. I never thought about it again, and I'm talking about like 2012,. Maybe I was on the road, I think, yeah, 10 years, and then, when I'd lost my voice and I was just writing songs and playing a lot of guitar, I would just sit and noodle, like I'm doing right now, and then I came to the chorus, or what would be the chorus, and I sang over the top of it that lyric and the song wrote itself. This is one lonely Saturday night. Married in 47, aged 22, had seven children, lost one at birth, Children of neighbors and neighborhood rivals. They saw a little something in each other's eyes. The hands seemed to age at exact the same price. Their wedding rings got tighter and then became looser, Just like their skin and their necks, if kin. But their hearts were mighty and the love was forever. He died on Friday and she died on Sunday like someone turned out alive, Somehow, a blessing bestowed upon her. She had only one, lonely Saturday night. He was a minor and she loved to play. They'd climb in French and penny love the song and there were the board cladding covered the fibro. After a few years no one knew there were households. He died on Friday and she died on Sunday like someone turned out alive Some ways of blessing bestowed upon her. She had only one, lonely Saturday night. His illness was a creeper out of the blue. She didn't tell him, but somehow she knew how she wished it were to go first. 36 hours was all that it took. He died on Friday and she died on Sunday like someone turned out alive, In some ways of blessing bestowed upon her. She had only one lonely. Saturday night. Somehow a blessing rained down upon her. She had only one lonely Saturday night. One lonely Saturday night. One lonely Saturday night.

Dan's Journey to Overcoming Vocal Cord Injury
Recovering Voice
Rediscovering Voice and Creativity
Walking the Camino
Starting Podcast and Making Film
A Couple's Love and Sudden Passing