Don’t mess with Danielle Marie, the 19-year-old starlet who has just released her new disc Here Right Now. Danielle, who hails from Morinville Alberta but now calls Vancouver home, is fiercely independent and wise beyond her years in terms of calling the shots for her career. The tattoo on her wrist which reads ‘Let them talk’ speaks volumes about sticking with her vision and maintaining her focus.
“When I was growing up people always told me you’re not going to make it and that a career in music was just a far-out dream,” she says over the phone line from her west coast home. “They always told me to get my head back in reality, so the tattoo is just a little reminder to myself to keep pushing because people are always going to have something to say.”
Danielle’s musical journey began in 2013 with her ‘Vertigo’ e.p. followed by a full length album, ‘More Than Just A Girl’, that was recorded in Nashville and created an early buzz in Music City. A few of the industry’s best country writers took notice and were more than willing to lend a pen when it came to the new disc. They certainly don’t dominate the proceedings, however, as Danielle wrote six of the tunes on her own and shows that she’s quite capable of going it alone.
“I’ve definitely matured as a songwriter and developed my sound and who I am as a person,” she says. “Although I like writing on my own I feel it’s easier to work with others because you get more out of it. You throw ideas off of each other constantly and it’s just faster paced. I’ve also had the opportunity of working with some pretty great people in Nashville. I composed one of the songs with Byron Hill who co-wrote George Strait’s first number one record ‘Fool Hearted Memory’. That was a pretty big thrill.”
What stands out most in Danielle’s song writing are the hooks, whether it’s the poppy ‘Hangin’ Out which is propelled by a pumping Farfisa organ in the chorus, or the pedal steel-infused country nugget ‘Drive Away’. Danielle isn’t big on putting labels on her songs and, in fact, she’s not always sure of the direction that a song will take.
“When I write I don’t consider whether the song is going to be country or pop,” she explains. “I just see where it goes and if it turns out to be a good song, it is what it is. On my last album I wasn’t really looking for hooks but now I want my stuff on radio and I want people to remember my songs. When we wrote Drive Away it took the direction of a country break-up song. You know, the guy getting the door slammed in his face then ripping down a country road. I wanted it to have a traditional country feel because I don’t want people to think that I’m full-on pop/country. I really love traditional country music performers like George Strait and if we’re talking old country, I love Loretta Lynn. I even named my guitar after her.”
The first single from the album, ‘What You Can’t Have’, is a harsh break-up song in which the singer proclaims the chances for reconciliation are zero. The album’s title cut, which could be a strong contender as a follow-up radio track, is a song about living for the moment which Danielle describes as “a little bit sassy”. The entire album abounds in sassiness courtesy of the lively playing of the session musicians that Danielle rounded up for the record. One player’s name that stands out is that of Jerry Adolphe, who has been the drummer for the classic Canadian rock band Chilliwack for the last 30 years. Adolphe and his session mates for Here Right Now, however, go by a far less iconic handle.
“They call themselves The Lyin’ Bastards,” Danielle laughs. “When you meet Jerry in person you would never think that he’s a rock drummer because he’s so cool and relaxed, but when he gets behind the kit he just rips. I first met these guys when I was job shadowing an engineer at Factory Studios in Vancouver, and I was really impressed by them. I contacted guitarist Tom McKillip and asked if he and the other players wanted to be on board for my record and he was really excited about becoming involved.”
McKillip produced eight of the album’s tracks while Danielle co-produced the remaining five with Sheldon Zaharko. Danielle felt that her experience in the world of dance gave her a leg up in the studio. She is an accomplished ballroom dancer, having won a Pro/Am award at the U.S. National Dance Championship, and she feels that choreography is much like producing a record in the studio. Perhaps her best production work on the new disc comes in the form of the heartfelt ballad ‘Where Does The Time Go’.
“We had a four-piece string orchestra on that song and it turned out really beautiful,” she begins. “It has a really stripped down feel at the beginning and then it really builds up throughout the song. It gets heavier and heavier emotionally and then trails off at the end and kind of leaves you with a sigh.
“One of my favourite songs is Cooler By The Water’. We got a stand-up bass in there and we were clapping and saying random things in the studio, and it all kind of came together. I brought in The Sojourners, a spiritual gospel trio from Vancouver, because I wanted the song to have a southern New Orleans kind of vibe to it. It’s a blast to play live…my drummer even plays the washboard on it.”
Danielle will be performing in western Canada through July and hopefully she’ll make the trek through the east later in the year. She’ll also perform at the Canadian Country Music Association’s Awards in September, where she beat competitors from each province for the right to appear in the prestigious Spotlight Performance. In the meantime, maybe she’ll keep her eyes open to see if Ed Sheeran, her favourite pop performer, makes a reappearance at the Edmonton Mall where he recently took to a stage for an impromptu duet with a fan.
“I look toward Ed Sheeran a lot for writing because he’s amazing,” she says. I was in a state of shock when I saw him live in concert because he’s such a great artist. If I ever had a chance to sing a country song with him it would probably be a Brad Paisley-Carrie Underwood duet.”
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