Name: Danielle French
Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta
Currently residing: Nomadic (Calgary is home base)
Musical past and present in one rambling run-on sentence: I’ve been a singer/songwriter for 20 years, have released 4 independent CD’s, toured extensively across North America to the point that Calgary, Banff, Reno and Wisconsin all claim me as a local.
1. Who are some of your favourite composers, musicians and bands from the past and present?
Tom Waits is an all-time favourite. And I feel he is especially relevant in this day and age where corporate music is so contrived, and digital music recording allows us “perfect” things to the point where the soul can get sucked out of it. Tom shows us the perfection and humanness of our imperfections and I am consciously seeking to embody that in my current work. Kate Bush is another fave. She is a true artist in every way and a huge inspiration. Bjork also falls in this category for me. Heroes like Peter Gabriel, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell are obvious 🙂 In more recent era, I really appreciate artists like Radiohead, Beck, Arcade Fire. And I’ve been doing lots of co-writing with indie artists in Wisconsin who I have become huge fans of in the process. Check out Liv Mueller, Ruby James, pat mAcdonald (formerly of Timbuk3, his current band is Purgatory Hill), the Sonnets, Charlie Cheney, Carley Baer, James Hall, Andrea Wittgens- these are all stellar artists!!
2. Is there a particular song or musical passage that never fails to move you emotionally?
Peter Gabriel hits this one note that descends a tone in The Blood of Eden and the way he shapes the sound and descends the note gives me chills every time. It reminds of me the power of music, that when delivered with such emotional content and tonality, just one note can have a powerful emotional impact on a listener!
3. How would you describe your perfect day?
Right now I’m doing a self-directed music residency at The Banff Centre for the month, so I’ve been experiencing perfect days pretty consistently here. A general breakdown:
– Wake up at 11am (I like to sleep in!), looking out the window at a perfect, majestic snow-capped mountain.
– Leisurely take a shower, check some emails, do a few errands before heading to the cafe where I order a fresh juiced carrot-apple-ginger juice for breakfast
– Head to my “hut” that I’ve decked out with a record player, funky lamps, tarot cards, books, DVD’s, my computer, and it contains a grand piano, PA, 3 guitars, a Neumann U87 microphone so I can record vocals.
– Write, play and record music all afternoon, often collaborating with the other artists in residence.
– Yoga at the gym for an hour
– Dinner at Vistas- a lovely buffet with a stellar view of the mountains
– Back to my hut to do more writing, practicing, recording etc…
– A night out with the other artists at the Centre either playing “Telephone Pictionary”, going to karaoke or an open mic, having some drinks, enjoying the company of friends who are creative geniuses!
– Hitting the hay around 2 or 3am
4. What would your friends say they appreciate the most about you?
I made a new friend here at the Centre just a week and a half ago and she told me that she appreciates me because I am magic. I have the ability to manifest amazing things in my life and I share my magic with others in many ways (for example, I was offered a $500 gig today and they were looking for other artists, so went out of my way to recommended her knowing she really needs the money at this time).
5. What is your most valued material possession?
My 1935 Martin Archtop that I’ve had for 13 years. Her name is Miss Kitty and we make beautiful music together!
6. Who were you, or would you be nervous to meet?
Probably Tom Waits. But it would depend on the circumstances. For instance I got to meet one of my idols, Joni Mitchell, and I wasn’t nervous at all because she was so grounded and conversational, she dispelled any aura of idolization immediately. I suspect Tom would be that cool as well. And Leonard too. I would be more nervous to sing for them!
7. If you could blink your eyes and be in a favourite place right now, where would that place be?
I have a lot of favourite places being nomadic and all, so it would depend on the context- I’ll name 3 and tell you why:
– Reno, Nevada- That’s where I feel most at home in my heart
– Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin- During one of the songwriting intensives at the Holiday Music Motel that I’ve been attending religiously three times a year over the past 2 years. It’s an intensive where 40 invited songwriters get put up together in a 50’s retro motel for a week, we spin the bottle to get songwriting partners and write and record all week- it’s songwriter heaven!! And that wish will come true soon as I’m heading there in the middle of February.
– Sedona, Arizona- one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been
I would say Banff, Alberta, but I’m here 🙂
8. Is there something you would like to do more of in the future?
I’m applying for a grant right now to study vocal lessons in Nashville for a few months with a woman named Julie Christensen. She sang back up with Leonard Cohen for 10 years and has an incredible voice and is an amazing person. We met at Folk Alliance a few years ago, and I’ve wanted to study with her ever since.
9. Where would you like to find yourself in ten years?
I’ll do this in point form cause I have a lot of musical goals that all tie together to help me make a better living doing what I love:
– Be a respected writer/co-writer and have other people cover my songs, hopefully a hit!
– Continue touring and traveling with my music, but only touring venues that I enjoy playing at, which means having a wider audience. Doesn’t need to be large stadiums, preferably intimate halls, folk festivals
– Have regular film and TV placements
– Continue growing as an artist, learning new things about the craft of songwriting, guitar playing and singing
– Be a proficient accordion player
As much as these are career goals, I realized a while back, that even if I don’t achieve these, music makes me a better person. This career choice and lifestyle have made me adaptable, able to work as a team or be self-sufficient as needed, it has given me a balance between structure and going with the flow (right-brain/left-brain blend), it has taught me to be open to the magic of the universe. I feel most in touch with my Divine Source when I am creating, but that can be through music, film, photography, or making a great meal! I know as long as I am in touch with that source and feel connected, all else will flow from there and I will be happy in whatever I do.