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Howie Day: I’d rather play the bad boy than a mediocre cutie pie

Courtesy of Matthew Welch

To the public eye, Howie Day is a lot of things; a pop artist with a certified gold record and single, a bad boy and a performer who lost his way. But if you ask him, he’s just a guy who wants to make music.

Day will perform Wednesday at The Basement at 8 p.m. as part of a tour he said is helping him “get back to square one” with his music and fans. On his first tour in almost 10 years without a major record label, Day said he is testing out new music and enjoying his freedom.

“This show in Columbus is part of a transitional period between major label and getting back to what I actually care about, which is music,” Day told The Lantern. “People who were along for the ride when I was 21 years old and getting signed will be there in Columbus.”

Day, 30, was recognized early in his career for his unique solo performances, a combination of exuberant acoustic guitar playing and the use of effects pedals to create loops that give the illusion of a full band. After signing to major label Epic Records in 2002, the small solo shows were replaced with full-band performances.

Day said his current tour is reminiscent of his earlier shows, something fans of his music will be excited to hear.

“We used to have a band and two buses,” Day said. “Now it’s just me, the guitar and a couple little effects pedals and goodies on the stage for me to mess with. The shows are smaller but better.”

To those who aren’t familiar with his full catalog, the singer and songwriter is best known for his 2004 hit, “Collide,” from the album, “Stop All the World Now.”

After multiple arrests in the same year and time spent in rehab in 2007, where he befriended pop princess Britney Spears, Day said those mishaps weren’t what they appeared to be.

“The music industry wanted me to be a cute guy, and in order to not do that I went out and got arrested a few times, tried to play the bad boy card,” Day said. “I’ve never been an a–hole, but I would rather be a little bit of an a–hole than a f—ing cutie pie, mediocre musician.”

Day said the fast fame and pressure from his label left him feeling lost.

“Before I had a hit on the radio, I was playing colleges,” Day said. “After ‘Collide,’ a lot of people turned on me. As soon as that happened a little piece of my personality died. Suddenly I could afford to live in a house in the Hollywood Hills, but I was unfulfilled musically. I’m back to caring about the music again.”

After breaking things off with Epic Records in 2010, Day released “Ceasefire EP,” a six-song collection of tracks that were discarded from his 2009 release, “Sound the Alarm.”

Day said he released the record without promoting it as a way to test what he could do without a major label.

“We didn’t hire a PR person, there was no record label, no radio play,” Day said. “It was an experiment. I just wanted to see who would come to the shows.”

Jessica Mowry, an Ohio State alumna, said she is excited to see Day perform and hear his new material.

“I saw him in concert in 2004, so it’s been awhile,” Mowry said. “‘Collide’ has somehow survived my playlist, but it’s always refreshing to hear something new from an older artist.”

He plays three or four new songs at every show that are from his forthcoming album, which he will fund himself and release on his own label, Daze Records. He said he plans to record his next album the same way he recorded his first, “Australia.”

Day said the response from his fans has made him feel 10 years younger.

“I’m not making $50,000 a night like I was when ‘Collide’ was a huge hit,” he said. “It’s more like enough money to pay my crew and stay at the Holiday Inn Express, but I would rather be authentic than s—ty.”

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