This big-voiced Detroit native has yet to commit to a record deal, but she’s already been able to get some attention for her single “Walk of Shame” and her EP The Danielle Car EP, which can be heard on her MySpace page. This talented lady recently took a few minutes to chat with me over the phone about her music, influences, and career goals.
Ben: Would you like to start by telling a little bit about your background, and where you come from?
Danielle: Sure, sure! Well, I’m a first generation Italian-American on my dad’s side. I was born and raised in the Detroit area. Music was always a part of the household. I’m from a family of six, and food and music were like our seventh and eighth members of the family. We always had musical instruments laying around. We were always playing, whether it’s my older sister playing “Fur Elise” on the piano, or my brother rocking out to “Crazy Train” in his room. We always had music goin’ on around the house. Dad was more into Pavarotti and ABBA, Air Supply – Europeans love Air Supply. My mom was more into the country stuff. She loved her Kenny Rogers, and she loved her Glen Campbell and Elvis. Even some of the Neil Diamond stuff – if you go back and listen t o it now, a lot of it really has sort of what would now be considered country. Ultimately, that’s what I sort of gravitated toward and ultimately identified with was sort of the country stuff.
Ben: There aren’t very many country singers from Detroit, so do you feel like having kind of a unique background for a country singer lends any special qualities to your music?
Danielle: I think more than location country music is more about the feelings – the sort of accessibility of the lyrics – the identifiability of country. I don’t necessarily think that you need to be from Nashville to express those universal themes that country music usually has. We have one country music station. I’ve done a lot of work with them, but other than them there’s not a whole heck of a lot going on country music-wise. We’ve got a great local country music scene, but there’s not a whole lot of outlet for it. So I’m trying to take it big time then. I’m trying to take it out, spread my wings around the United States, and it’s working well so far. People really have embraced country music from Detroit. I think people are sort of curious – “What does country music from Detroit sound like?” And then when they hear it, they’re pleasantly surprised. They like the attitude, and they like the sound, and they embrace it.
Ben: What drew you to country music, and made you realize that was the kind of music you wanted to make?
Danielle: Well, my mom she put on a record when I was about seven years old – this old record she had, and I just started crying when I heard it. It just dominated my little seven-year-old mind for the rest of the day. It was Glen Campbell’s version of “It’s Only Make Believe,” and I just felt his aching voice and these soaring strings. I was just amazed that this song could make me feel something so deep. Even to this day, if you get me in the right mood, that song still makes me cry. But it was then that I sort of knew that I wanted to embrace the tunes, and sort of write tunes that made people feel something the way that song made me feel. So I always had an appreciation for country music, but I had a friend who was crazy about Dwight Yoakam, and sort of turned me on to him when I was in my teens. It was all over from there. Dwight Yoakam, ’Turn Me On, Turn Me Up, Turn Me Loose’! Dwight Yoakam!
Ben: Who are your main musical influences?
Danielle: My main musical influences – I would say Dwight Yoakam for sure. Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison, Queen. I was very popular in grade school because I was a member of the Queen fan club. (That’s sarcasm – I was a big fat nerd!) But I was in the Queen fan club, so I love Queen, Johnny Cash – those were probably the biggies. But Dwight for sure. Dwight was like my country music deity. He officially has deity status in my mind.
Ben: So I understand you do quite a bit of songwriting.
Danielle: I do! I do a lot of songwriting. Some days it’s very cerebral. I’ll have to sit down and force myself to write something and see what happens. Most often it’s sort of an exercise in randomness. Sometimes the music comes first; sometimes the lyrics come first. But the randomness is something that’s always fun.
Ben: What’s a song that you wish you had had a part in writing?
Danielle: I would say if I could have been in on the songwriting process maybe with Loretta Lynn and Jack White. That “Portland, Oregon” song – It’s such a simple tune, but they added so much to it, so it’s got this really funky intro to it. I really really love that song. “It’s Only Make Believe” – I know Conway Twitty made it famous, but if I could have been in on the Glen Campbell arrangement, that would really float my boat.
Ben: I bet songwriting with Loretta would be fun.
Danielle: Oh my God, I’d probably just get cotton-mouthed and start sweating, say stupid things, and embarrass myself if I ever even met Loretta, let alone writing with her.
Ben: Of the songs that you’ve written and recorded, do you have any favorites?
Danielle: My favorite is probably “Walk of Shame.” It’s probably a tie with “Walk of Shame” and “Pretty Please.” With “Walk of Shame,” I’m merely the narrator of a story I saw literally night after night in the club. The steps were sort of like clockwork. The hot chicks would come into the bar. The dudes would provide Jager rounds and applejacks. Then the inevitable requests for “Redneck Woman,” “Before He Cheats,” and “Friends In Low Places.” Then, you know, a little dirty dancing later, and they leave with their hands in each other’s back pockets. No harm, no foul, so I wrote a song about it. It’s sort of an everyday part of life. No big deal. Millions of Americans do it – red-blooded American country music fans know what the “Walk of Shame” is! So that one always got a great response in the clubs.
“Pretty Please” I think just rocks. It’s not necessarily an anthem of any kind. It’s a relatable topic about a dude cheating, and the other woman not having it, putting her foot down and saying “Go on home and see your family, ’cause I ain’t gonna plead or beg down on my knees, pretty please.” So I sort of like that one. It’s just a woman recognizing her self-worth, and she’s not gonna give it up to somebody who’s already chosen someone else.
Ben: Kind of like “Stay,” by Sugarland?
Danielle: No! “Stay,” oh my God, is the most depressing video. It’s the saddest song. It’ll put you in a funk! “Pretty Please” is a little more you’re in a good mood after it. I guess thematically speaking, they’re similar, but I guess style-wise, they’re more different.
Ben: Like similar themes, but a different mood to it?
Danielle: Definitely a different mood. I feel like “Stay” is a ridiculously unbelievably perfectly-written song. It has a somber edge to it, even though at the end the main character, the woman, supposedly Jennifer Nettles – Who knows? – is sort of gettin’ her groove back and realizing “Hey, stay with your wife, and I’ll be over here with my self-esteem. I guess thematically “Pretty Please” is the same thing, but it’s just more of a fist-pumper.
Ben: I understand the amount of attention you’re receiving is pretty big for an unsigned artist. Are there any of your career accomplishments thus far that you’re especially proud of?
Danielle: Yes! I’m really excited to be on the Promo Only releases. Promo Only is an industry promotional outlet where they take the hottest singles, whoever’s releasing a single that month, and they put it all on one disc for promotional outlets, be it radio stations, clubs, line dance classes. Nationwide they give out the best of the best for that month for country radio, and “Walk of Shame” is going to be on January’s compilation along with, oh gosh, Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Sugarland, and I’m just so stoked that I’m the only unsigned artist on the entire disc! Everybody’s got a record deal but me, so I’m actively searching for one – don’t get me wrong – but I think it’s really fun that if you have good tunes and a good attitude and you’ve got all your ducks in a row, if you first spread the word, the word gets spread! People have been taking notice, so I’m really excited about that.
Ben: Well, that’s awesome! Congrats on that. One question that I pretty much always ask when I interview somebody is who would be your dream duet partner?
Danielle: Why don’t you take a guess? [Laughs] I’m making you do the work now! Judging from my answers, who do you think it is? I know who it is. Who do you think it is?
Ben: Glen Campbell?
Danielle: No, Dwight Yoakam! Glen Campbell would be great, but it’s Dwight Yoakam. Dwight Yoakam to me is, oh my gosh, he oozes cool. His cool quotient is exponentially above mine, so that might be difficult for collaboration purposes. But he sweats cool; he breathes cool. I’m convinced all of his lyrics are just the word cool, cool over again, ’cause that’s all I hear. And he’s true to his sound. He doesn’t try to do anything but be himself, and just make great music, and the tightness of his jeans just makes me feel like I already know him, so I would absolutely love to collaborate with Dwight Yoakam.
Ben: Awesome. Yeah, Dwight was gonna be my second guess! So are there any projects that you’re working on right now?
Danielle: I’m really excited for the EP to start sort of taking wing in January, so now I’m really promoting my song “Save Your Cookies for Me,” which actually made it to Promo Only’s hot list this week. It’s not gonna come out on the monthly disc, but it’s on their hot list this week along with Brad Paisley and Katy Perry and Rihanna, ’cause it’s like an all-genre hot list. So I’m really promoting my Christmas song “Save Your Cookies for Me.” Pretty cool!
Ben: Yeah, that’s pretty big. So do you have any career goals that you’re hoping to attain sometime in the future?
Danielle: Career goals? I think it’s just to be embraced enough to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to get my music out to as many willing ears as possible, and really bring attention to the country music scene in Detroit. I’d like to be the first female Detroit country-rock artist from the area. There’s a lot of country artists that are coming out. Uncle Kracker is sort of trying to do the country thing. Frankie Ballard from Battle Creek. Josh Gracin went to my rival high school. So there are a lot of country artists that are out here, but they’re all dudes! So I wanna add some estrogen into the mix. That’s the goal!