Featured Member: Danny Michel

The only good thing about not shopping in record stores anymore is you won’t have to figure out what genre to look for Danny under. If that were the case, you could try looking under, rock, pop, folk, world or (recently) even classical. His own self-described musical A.D.D. has kept his music fresh for decades. His thoughtful lyrics & charming performances have earned a devoted fan base, multiple nominations for Junos, The Polaris Prize, CBC’s “Heart Of Gold”, and most recently winning the CFMA’s “Producer of the year” and “Oliver Schroder Pushing the Boundaries” Awards.

But Danny considers his career highlights to be the unique real life moments like performing for Jane Goodall’s 85th birthday party, touring with Stuart Mclean and working with charities close to his heart. “When I was eleven, I spent a month living in Khartoum, Sudan. It was there I was exposed to a very different world…and music beyond Rock & Roll”.

In 2015, his adventurous spirit took him to the country of Belize where he tracked down one of his favourite Belizean bands; The Garifuna Collective (a unique Afro-Amerindian cultural group) and convinced them to create an album together. That album (“Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me”) was called “One of the finest musical works of our time” by Billboard’s Larry Leblanc, landed Danny’s 3rd Juno nomination (World Music Album Of The Year), and a sold out summer tour of North America with The Garifuna Collective. While in Belize, Danny also founded the DM Ocean Academy Fund that helps raise scholarships for a small non-profit community high school. To date, Danny & his fans have raised over $90k for the school. In 2016, Danny returned to Canada to record “Matadora,” his most deeply humanist album to date. This ten-song collection explores the environmentalist, pacifist, romanticist, archivist, and space enthusiast in Danny.

Then it was off to the Canadian high Arctic where Danny recorded “Khlebnikov” (possibly the most northern album ever recorded/above 80°) aboard the legendary Soviet-era Russian ice-breaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov during an 18-day arctic expedition curated by Col. Chris Hadfield. Once home, Danny’s recordings were arranged for brass and strings by film composer Rob Carli. The result is a suite of atmospheric and haunting songs about the Arctic, our planet, and our place in it. When he’s not performing he’s fighting for musicians’ rights, the environment, making short films, producing, running his studio or filming “Dan’s Space Van” Danny is currently staring at a blank white board pondering his next musical adventure.

How has your music evolved since you first became a recording/performing artists?

I’d hope my music has become more focused over the years. My early albums are frantic and all over the map. I still learn lessons after every album. I’m constantly being reminded that less is more. I’m also trying my best to make a connection. If I can get the listener to think about a lyric or ask themselves a question that’s very rewarding.

Do you tend to write for one genre, or do you find your music crosses genre lines?

I’ve always joked I have musical A.D.D. I love so many genres of music I couldn’t imagine playing just one style my whole life. I’ve made rock, folk & even world music albums. While the style might be different I hope there’s a thread that runs through them all that still sounds like me. The songs are still the same style of writing, just dressed up in different clothes.

How did you learn your craft – was it “formal” or “informal” music education?

I had no formal training. In high school I worked at my cousins chiropractor clinic as a janitor in exchange for a guitar. I learnt to play on my own with chord/tab charts. I was never a strong singer either. But I loved music too much to let that stop me.

Do you have any advice for upcoming songwriters and creators who are looking to break further into the creative scene?

For me, I’ve been an indie artist much of my career. It’s a ton of hard work but rewarding and pays off on many levels. I’m a manager, travel agent, driver, roadie, merch person and more. I still lick stamps, hand-write each envelope & stand in line at the post office twice a week to ship merchandise orders. I love it.

What is your fondest musical memory or favourite piece of music you’ve written?

One of my most fondest memories would be performing for Dr. Jane Goodall at her 85th birthday party recently. It’s moments like that, where my music crosses paths with incredible people making a difference in this world that mean the most to me.

What is the most important “tool” you need when creating, eg. (Garageband, google docs, your cell phone, Pro Tools, or a pad of paper?

For me it’s the memo app on my phone. It’s loaded with dozens of 20 second song ideas I get. They’re the seedlings of songs.

What do you see in the future for songwriting and music creators like yourself?

I’m concerned for songwriters in this modern age who are no longer compensated (fairly) for the music they create. Especially those starting out. I’m not sure how something can be sustainable when it has no value. I hope the conversation continues & gets louder.

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Note: The Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members. Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

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