Interview: Dane Davenport!

Greetings! Following a brief hiatus, Underneath This is returning to publishing articles and interviews. We are pleased to break this hiatus with an interview with Dane Danvenport, an indie folk singer songwriter. Before proceeding to the interview, please read some more about Dane in the below bio:

Bio:  Back before music was an industry, folk singers traveled the country on foot, rail, and rubber. Tying the country together by sharing songs and sounds, both new and passed down over generations. Since then folk music has continued to grow and has been fused with dozens of new genres and sounds. Born and raised outside Kansas City to the sounds of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Tom Petty, Dane Davenport continues the folk tradition today by carefully combining the sounds of our musical forefathers with something new for the 21st century. These days you will find him traveling the world, working to fuse together the ideas, emotions, and sounds that unite us all, with a song.

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Hello. Please describe your path to becoming a musician.

When I was ten years old my mom called out to me sitting on the swing in our backyard. She asked me what instrument I wanted to play. I didn’t realize she wanted to sign me up for orchestra so I answered “Guitar.” Rather than narrowing her inquiry and asking for a different answer, she found me a guitar teacher. Not just any guitar teacher either, the renowned classical guitarist John Svoboda. Over the years Svoboda became a mentor to me and he was the one who encouraged me to move from classical guitar to folk/rock, to writing my own songs, and finally into the life of a touring recording artist.

Did you consider any other professions?

If I could do anything else for a living I probably would. For years I worked for others and finally for myself as a graphic designer and saw success in the field but those successes never meant much to me on a personal level. So one February morning I woke up and emailed myself a resignation letter and never looked back.

Jumping without a safety net is not something I would recommend as a career plan but I also believe that if you feel it in your bones that you were born to do something and you don’t do it, that will hurt so much more than failing. I am lucky to have seen as much success as a singer/songwriter as I have but I would rather go down in flames doing what I love than be wildly successful doing anything else.

Your music has compared to that of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Damien Rice among others. Have these artists been influential? Who and what else have been influential?

They are all monumentally influential. I love the folk music tradition of emulation and expansion on what has come before and my influences cross a dozen genres and hundreds of artists, some obvious, others invisible. Lyrically I like to approach songs in a manner that can be taken literally or figuratively, something Lennon and McCartney were the masters of. Other names that jump to mind are Glen Hansard, Josh Ritter, Amy Lavere, Ryan Adams, Joe Henry, and Rachael Yamagata.

Have you had female influences and if so, who?

Jenny Lewis’ new album has been a staple for me lately. In her single “Just One of the Guys,” she is tackling struggles with gender and biological clocks inside a pop song. It’s incredible and inspirational. Brandi Carlile has a new album coming out and every time I hear a new track from her I always find myself wishing I wrote it. Gillian Welch, Kathleen Edwards, Jesca Hoop, Serena Ryder, Laura Veirs, Vienna Teng, Neko Case, Sarah Jarosz, and Amy Millan (of Stars, Broken Social Scene, and solo fame) are also artists I would call influences. I would go on and on but I think the influences you aren’t aware of are usually the most prominent so I’ll leave it at that.

Do you consider your music to be feminist?

Good question. I would consider myself a feminist. There is a lot of debate surrounding that label but I believe that the cultural movement should belong to everyone who supports full civil and legal equality for women. It truly boggles the mind that women still face such widespread discrimination and disrespect.

I suppose that wasn’t your question though.

I don’t tend to think of my music as inherently feminist in the same way I don’t ascribe my other world-views to my music. This is because I write about emotions surrounding topics as opposed to the topics directly most of the time. Then again, I wouldn’t say my music isn’t feminist since the way someone sees the world will almost always seep into their art. So maybe I’ll let you be the judge of what does or doesn’t come across.

How has being in Kansas City influenced your creative process?

Kansas City has one of the fastest growing arts communities in the world. That kind of support from a large community is both rare and valuable for any artist. One of my favorite parts of the job is traveling and meeting people from all over the world but after being on the road for large periods of time, coming back to Kansas City will always feel like going home.

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Your sound has been described as “post indie folk rock.” What do you make of that description?

During the indie rock movement ‘pop’ was deemed a bad word only fit for big label artists but those worlds are blurring now. The internet has leveled the playing field and independent and mainstream artists are crossing genre lines like never before. That freedom in music is what I live for. The first person to describe my sound that way might have meant something different by it but that’s what it means to me.

Genres are still helpful to inform people of the form and style but my music has been described in so many different ways in my career I’ve decided to be willing to be classified into any genre that will have me.

I quite enjoy your song, “When does the Heart End?” What is the story behind that track?

Thank you. During the 2010 Tennessee floods, there were houses that were built generations ago that were washed out. Still standing but no longer homes, just walls waiting to fall. Those houses were on my mind in The Basement (a fantastic Nashville venue) a couple years ago, inspiration struck and as soon as I got back to my room I wrote out the song almost exactly as I play it now.

The story told in the song (now titled Walls on the new record) is about a relationship that has been falling apart for a long time told from the perspective of a man who had been lying to himself saying everything is okay and has to face the truth when she leaves without a word.

I so much like the incorporation of nature into the video for your song, “Time Flies.” What was it like to make that video?

Lot’s of fun! That was my first video so there were only a few of us and not much planning. We grabbed my guitar and a camera and headed into the woods just before sunset and as you can see in the video it’s all recorded live in one take. There were a couple early attempts ruined by people on the trail and by our cameraman bumping into trees as he was filming while walking backwards up a winding rocky path. Yet we still had fun and we got the song done just before the sun went down.

I have some more traditional music videos in the works now but I fell in love with live performance videos that day so I will probably keep recording them as long as my career lasts.

So far, what have been some highlights of performing live?

I have my favorite venues and cities but for me the highlights that jump immediately to mind are the more personal moments. When you find a connection from on stage and something clicks. Sometimes with an entire room, sometimes a single person. During a happy song we share in each others joy, or in a sad song comforted knowing someone else has felt the same sense of loss. Or with some songs knowing that someone else recognizes what it’s like to struggle and fight for something you love. It is always powerful and it’s the reason I keep getting back on stage.

What is an overall message you would like listeners to take away from your songs?

I love when everyone takes away something different and personal best. That said there is a theme I keep coming back to; life is short so give love freely.

What insights do you want to share for aspiring musicians?

There is no substitute for experience. Get as much of it as you can, wherever you can, as fast as you can. Break down your biggest goals into the smallest steps you can and cross off at least one a day. If you love and believe in what you create, chances are there will be other people who will love and believe in it too. Focus on principals not methods. The music world is a small community and every person you meet knows someone who can make or break you so be nice to everyone. Actually, be nice to everyone anyway because there is no excuse to not be.

What is next for you creatively?

My first full length album titled Time Space & Paperclips comes out worldwide later this year (you get to hear a sneak peak of the album by subscribing to my monthly newsletter at danedavenport.com/signup).

After the release I’ll be announcing tour dates in the US, UK, Europe, and Australia on my website (danedavenport.com).

My team and I are currently developing ideas for music videos to go along with the album and of course there will be some new live videos shot for YouTube as well (danedavenport.com/youtube).

I am constantly interacting with people on Twitter (danedavenport.com/twitter) and Facebook (danedavenport.com/facebook). In fact, recently,on Twitter I dubbed February “Covers Month” so I’ll be posting my versions of other artist’s songs all month long on those platforms and I’m still accepting suggestions for songs to choose if you want to join in the fun.

Last but not least, I am already writing songs for the next album!

Underneath This looks forward to hearing them.
-Sem
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