2015 was a big year for Danielle Marie, a young starlet, from western Canada, a CCMA Spotlight Performance at the Canadian Country Music Fan favourite Legends Show in Halifax, 4 BC Country Music Award Nominations, the 2015 BCCMA Ray McAuley Horizon Award and a radio tour throughout three provinces. Plus Danielle’s sophomore album Here Right Now broke the Top 25 iTunes Country Album Chart within 24 hours of release and her current single at radio, ‘Drive Away’, co-written with award winning Nashville writer Byron Hill, is proving to be her biggest yet and recently debuted on the Canadian Country Trax report currently at #74!
When I first heard Danielle Marie I knew that I had heard something special and knew that we would have to feature her here. I had the chance to chat with Danielle a few months ago and I can tell you that she has the charisma, charm and personality to go far in this business so there’s no doubt in my mind she’s on her way to becoming a household name in Canada.
H: Now Danielle for an emerging artist, just looking over your bio and some of the accomplishments that you’ve had over the last number of years. You’re number one on ReverbNation, pretty much everywhere, you got 5 BCMA nominations in 2015 and won the BCCMA Ray McAuley Horizon Award, plus performed at the CCMA awards as part of the Legends Show. To me, as an outsider, for an emerging artist in today’s market, you make it look easy for the success that you’ve had.
H: From your perspective do find that has it been easy or do find that it’s been a difficult kind of road for you?
D: I wouldn’t say it’s been difficult. I’ve worked really hard doing. I’ve been doing this since I was 15. That’s when I started to record and decided that this is what I want to do for a career. I’m lucky to have an amazing family supporting me and literally everyone, like my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, everyone’s kinda pitched in to make my career possible. So I’ve had a lot of people helping me along the way which I’m grateful for. But I still go out there and bust my little bum and do shows every weekend and I’m out promoting myself and I’m always ready and trying to work with as many people as possible and collaborate and it hasn’t been easy but it’s been fun. It doesn’t really seem like work to me, I guess.
H: That’s important. It’s not fun when it starts feeling like a job.
D: For now, every day I get to wake up and do music and that’s a dream come true so I’m happy with my life.
H: I would be too. Would you consider the hard work and the family support the key reason for your success?
D: Yeah. My family, they’re my number one fans. Although tend to get annoyed when I play my guitar 24/7 and constantly singing. Everyone that I meet says my life is like a musical, like Pitch Perfect or something. But really having their support has pushed me to succeed. Because still there are times when I doubt myself and feel like it’s not going to happen. They’re always there to push me and make me believe in myself. I’m really lucky again. I know some people don’t have that support. So I try to support as many other artists as I can too because I know how hard it is to get somewhere without that support.
H: I can’t imagine getting anywhere in this kind of business where you wouldn’t have that support from your family. I know there are people out there who do that everyday, whose families are like “no, we want you to have a nine to five”, or “we want you to be a doctor” or whatever. And they’re like, my heart is in the music, I know it’s gonna be a struggle, I know the first 10, 20 years I might be flat broke all the time.
D: Oh yeah, ain’t that the truth!
H: Yeah, or even my entire career. People who get into music don’t get into much because they want to be rich. They get into music because they love making music and they’ve accepted the fact…
D: If you’re in it for money, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons and sorry, it’s not easy to make money as people think.
H: No exactly, I know first hand and I find that people who have the true success in music are the one’s that accept the fact, getting into it, that I might be starving artist until the day that I die, but I will still go out there every day, play the street corner or play the local pub and just have a good time doing it. Even if I’m only making a couple hundred bucks a night and just barely get by. I like what I’m doing. I’m happy with what I’m doing. To me that’s the sign of a true artist. Someone who’s accepted that and they’re also the one’s who’ve found the success.
D: What I love so much about country music, is immersing yourself in the family. Especially for me in BC. I’ve been here for a while now and the Association has welcomed me with open arms and the radio people in Ontario, and the last tour that I was on. Everyone was so welcoming and they know what it takes. They know you have to work your little butt off to get somewhere. Everyone knows what it’s all about, it’s like one big family and we’re all supporting each other and that’s what I love about it.
H: It’s true and a good point that you bring up, specifically with country music. For me, the big thing with country music is that it’s such a large community. It’s a family. It doesn’t matter if you’re from BC or Halifax, you’re part of the same organization and the CCMA and the cool thing is they work with organizations, like ours, to help us promote you and support you.
D: But it’s never like a competition. Everyone is there for everyone. It’s a huge support system.
H: It is. I’ve yet to make it personally but I’ve had members of our team at the CMAO Awards at the CCMA’s in Halifax. When you work a day job it’s hard to take a week off and go to an awards show and then take a week of and go do this. It’s like… I need to decide sometimes, there’s festivals that I need to cover in the summer time and shows I need to cover in the winter time and I only get so much time that I can take off. Until it starts making me money and I can afford to take the time off and Sound Check will cover the expenses, well that’s different, but how do I charge someone to let me do what I love doing?
D: It’s true of musicians too. When someone asks you how much do you charge to play a show, sometimes you don’t know what to say because you just want to play.
I’ve hit that point where before I was saying yes, yes, yes but a lot of the time I was playing for free.
H: But that’s where role of your manager comes into play who looks after that side, takes care of your contracts and allows you to focus on the music. We’re not that much different, very similar to the rise of an emerging artist. We’re at the point where sometimes you’re covering one event and wish you were at another.
D: I went to the Taylor Swift concert this summer and a day later I was opening for Bobby Wills so I usually sing along to every song at concerts but I had to literally put my hand over my mouth so that I wasn’t going to strain or lose my voice.
H: Yeah, that would not be good. It’s a tricky thing. But Bobby Wills what a great guy that guy is.
D: He’s a great guy. It was amazing.
H: He was I think my third official interview. When I started this I hated doing interviews. I still hate interviews because I find them… I mean an actual interview, an interview you would do with on TV like Breakfast television or radio or whatever. Same boring questions, it’s just the same. I like to mix it up a bit, as you’ll see. I remember chatting with Bobby, he was fun. Saw him a few months later at Calabogie Country at the scenic Calabogie Peaks in the Ottawa Valley, great venue if you ever get a chance to play there.
D: I’d rather have a casual conversation.
H: So… let’s talk about the early, early days of your career. You said about 15, so I mean, I have a 16 year old stepdaughter now, how do you decide at 15, or how do you know when you’re 15 that this something that not only you want to do, but how do you make that conscious decision that music is what your career is going to be. This is what I’m gonna do for my life. How do you make that decision. How did you know that was the path you needed to take?
D: Well… I’ve been involved with music for my whole life. When I was five years old I begged my mom to throw me into classic piano lessons and I would play around with pots and pans when I was little and she said I would sing my ABC’s by the time I was 10 months old before I could speak full sentences and so it was always a big part of my life and when I was 15, there was thing, you know where in grade 9 that you get to go and shadow your parents at work for a day and I didn’t want to go to my mom’s work and I didn’t want to go to my dad’s work but we had a family friend who was a sound engineer and he was working at The Factory Studios in Vancouver and so he flew me out to one of the sessions.
H: Wow, that’s one heck of a take your kid to work day. Fly into Vancouver.
D: So he flew me out to The Factory Studios and I didn’t know what he’d be recording. I didn’t know any of that and Tara Oram was actually recording her last album, “Revival” in the studio and I think that was the moment for when when I knew country music is what I want to do with my life and just being around all the musicians and the atmosphere of the studio it was and it still is one of the most inspiring moments of my life. I had such a fun time that they invited me back a couple of months later to help them out to finish the album so that was the turning point and after that session Sheldon put me in front of the microphone. I was nervous and I did my first session, so that was the moment. It seemed that it all changed for me.
H: Tara, I know Tara, she’s one heck of a wonderful person and I love that CD. I’ve told her before. That doesn’t surprise me, now that you’ve mentioned her name, in personality, tone, the flow of the actual CD is very similar.
D: She doesn’t even know that I’m doing music now but if I ever see her one day, she’s getting a huge hug.
H: Talking about albums…you were in the studio for Tara’s album. Let’s talk about your album, Here Right Now. I told you earlier today I’ve heard parts of it in my Spotify playlist over the last week or so and then just in the last 24 hours finally had a chance to listen to it cover to cover, and first of all, it’s a fun album to listen to. I would hope it was as much to record as it is to listen to.
D: Oh my gosh, for sure. We goof around while we’re recording and it’s fun. We try to make it as much fun as possible. You can’t be boring, if you wanted to be boring. You’re recording music! I’m happy that you felt that way. I want people to see and feel how much fun and how much passion I have for my music, that I’m not just singing words of the song. It’s my real emotions coming out, nothing’s faked for sure.
H: Now… back in, I think it was, 2013 you recorded that mashup of Pumped up Kicks and Mad World and you called it Mad Kicks. A bit of a defining moment I think in your career, at that point. I don’t know if there’s been anything since but the video. I’ve seen it, it skyrocketed, what was it 10,000 hits in 24 hours or something like that?
D: Yeah, it was crazy unexpected.
H: So tell me a little bit about what inspired that. Most people particularly aspiring country singers don’t just suddenly burst out of the gates with a song like that for one. It’s cool right but turn it into a video that’s raising awareness about gun violence.
D: Umm… it’s kinda of a funny story of how the song came to be. I didn’t get the gun violence idea until the video came around. When I was 15 that’s when I picked up the guitar. I was learning chords and I was trying to learn from songs and those two songs that summer. I was learning chord progression and they had kinda the same vibe so, I pieced them together and I think they fit together and when I brought it to my producer when we were doing the first album, we were talking about what it’s going to look like and it was around that time that the school shooting happened. We thought it would be a really powerful message to send out, that guns do kill people. It’s a pretty heavy video and I was 17 at the time when we filmed it and that was my first ever time acting. It was heavy, really heavy.
H: Yeah, it was heavy and that kinda leads into the next question which is what has been your career defining moment to date. Would it be? would you still say that that was your career defining moment?
D: That was probably, yeah that was probably the defining moment where I was like… I can do this. People are listening to me. That was definitely the highlight beside the CCMA performance opportunity but yeah. Just getting that video out there and getting the response that it did and I mean not all of the comments and responses were positive because some people didn’t agree with my view on guns. But I think any publicity is good publicity really so it was yeah. That would be the defining moment for sure.
H: Now I’m not sure how much opportunity you’ve had to travel around the world but we know that you’ve at least been to a few provinces in Canada. So in your travels do you have a favourite restaurant somewhere that if you could go there every time you get an opportunity.
D: There was this place in Owen Sound, I can’t even remember the name, but it was the best meal I’ve had in so long. It was so small there were maybe four tables in there and it was so good. Now I’m craving it.
H: What about favourite tv show.
D: Favourite tv show, I’m gonna have to go with Dexter.
D: Yeah, I watched it I think three times now from start to finish. All of the seasons.
H: I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode of that one. Heard about it.
D: Oh my goodness. It’s so good. It’s genius. It’s a serial killer who kills serial killers. How more genius can you get.
H: And he’s also, if I remember the story correctly is he not a forensic scientist with the police force.
D: Yeah…he studies blood.
H: So he’s a CSI that would basically figure out the evidence that would basically identify that he’s the guy that did the killing and he’s the guy that did the killing so.
D: He can basically cover it up.
H: Yeah… *laughs*… exactly. If you could see any artist in concert, living or dead who would you see?
D: Michael Jackson.
H: MJ… I don’t think I’ve ever been told that.
H: That’d probably be one of mine too.
D: I love dance and that would be the best concert. My mom saw Janet Jackson when she was younger and so I can only imagine what the Michael show would be like.
H: It would be mind blowing. There’s no question it would probably be one of those moments where, well you know when you see videos from his shows where the people are crying and passing out I think I’d probably be one of those people. I really think that to see Michael Jackson live, I think it would such an emotionally powerful experience that I would probably get emotional. I don’t know if I’d pass out but I’d probably shed a tear.
D: Oh for sure.
H: Let’s talk about really quickly before we wrap it up, fan encounters. I mean I know that you’re still an emerging artist and have you had an experience to date where a fan just kinda really caught you by surprise. Maybe when you were here in Ontario somebody knew of you or even back home where you’re just walking down the street – “are you???”, you’re that girl that sings that song. Have you had that moment yet?
D: Yeah… actually it’s happened a few times because I want to inspire people, that’s been my dream my whole life. So when little girls come up to me, one time I was out shopping in West Edmonton Mall with my sister and this little girl, we’re talking about 10 – 12 years old, came up behind me and she was chasing me, she tapped me on the shoulder and she was “Oh my goodness. I follow you on Instagram. You’re amazing.” and was shaking and I was like oh my god. And then this summer at Big Valley Jamboree it happened four or five times, I had random people that follow me on social media and buy my music and wanted pictures with me and one time in Ontario we stopped at a little truck stop at lunch and there was a man that overheard me talking about my radio tour and he went on to say that he’d heard my interview and that he loved my song and so I gave him a CD. So yeah, I’ve had a few of those moments and it’s definitely, you have to blink to see if it’s real.
H: Yeah for sure…now here’s a tough question: In Danielle Marie the Story of My Life – who would play you in the movie?
D: Oh my goodness. Oh wow. That’s so weird. I’ve never been asked this question before. Hmmm who would play me. My goodness, Jennifer Aniston maybe *laughs*
H: Jennifer Aniston. I think that was Tim Hicks‘ answer too….no just kidding 🙂 (sorry Tim I had to :-P)
D: Or I don’t know. The ballroom dancing, Julianne Hough, the ballroom dancer/singer. There you go. She was on the show “Dancing with the Stars” and she also sings country music and she acts and she dances, if anyone was going to play me I guess that would make the most sense.
H: I supposed from a similarities point of view. Dances, acts, sings.
D: And I’ve been told I look like her too or Jennifer Aniston because I think she’s hilarious and I love her.
H: There you go. Nothing wrong with picking someone who’s hilarious that you love either.
H: Ok here’s another one: Star Trek or Star Wars?
D: I’ve never seen Star Trek in my life so it has to be Star Wars.
H: You’ve never seen Star Trek?
H: I don’t know if we can be friends *laughs*
H: Live long and prosper, come on it’s so epic compared to, well nothing wrong with Star Wars but Star Trek has Trekkies and there’s no warsies.
D: I’ll have to go watch it now.
H: So… if you look back over, it doesn’t have to be over your career but over your life to date what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
D: The best advice I’ve ever been given would from Tara Oram, she told me that when I get up on stage I look down at the ground and I say to myself, this is my moment, this is my stage and I don’t care how many people are out in the crowd, it doesn’t matter, I love music and this is where I’m meant to be, this is where I wanna be and just go with it and have the time of your life.
H: Good advice.
D: Yeah, it works every time.
H: Do you still get butterflies when you go out there?
D: I do. I get butterflies when I’m sat side stage just waiting to go on. It’s a couple hours before I play music and go crazy and before when I’m standing beside the stage, it’s like that moment of oh my gosh 10 more minutes and I’ll be out there and once I’m on stage it’s amazing. All the butterflies go away and I guess I use them to help me be better and once I’m up there I’m not nervous anymore. That’s how I’ve always been, with dance and everything. I think it’s good to keep, to have jitters before. I think it makes you perform better and not take things for granted.
H: I think I counted three or four different genres on your CD. You’ve got the bluegrass feel in “Cooler By The Water”, then there’s that kinda pop rocky feel to “Touch”, then there’s the distinct country songs like “Where Does The Time Go”, “Live Out Loud”, I love that song, and, of course, “The Most Country Song” another favourite of mine.
D: Thank you
H: I like that one…ok…I say that to all the songs. Yeah I like that one. I like that one. I just like them all. There’s not one on there that I don’t like. It’s a fun album. I like that it’s not stereotypical to a certain genre, to a certain sound. You mix it up. You show a lot of versatility on it. It’s for lack of a better word, it’s a very mature sound album. It doesn’t sound like, your second full length.
H: It sounds like somebody’s fifth, like you’ve been doing this for a long time kinda album.
D: Oh… thank you, that means a lot.
H: They’re fun. The songs they’re well thought out, they’re well written, they’re not just light, they’re not thin, you know, so they’re very, I don’t know, it’s a very well put together CD. There’s a song on there for every taste, except maybe metal. You need to work on that for your next album *laughs*.
D: *laughs* Oh my god, that’s the one genre I can’t stand
H: And yeah, there’s no rap either. So you need to collaborate with Kanye West
H: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you Danielle, look forward to hearing more and actually meeting you in the near future.
I caught up with Danielle again late last week to see how her recent songwriting trip to Nashville went and she was excited to say that she wrote 20 songs in 28 days which included 3 incredible sessions with Byron Hill (also the co-writer of her current single Drive Away), so there’s no question we’ll have plenty of new music coming from Danielle Marie for the foreseeable future including a hot new single expected sometime this summer, likely close to the end of June, and an official music video to follow.
Danielle returns to Ontario this summer with a stop at Manitoulin Country Fest where she’ll be opening things up for our good friends Tristan Horncastle, Jason Benoit, Blackjack Billy and The Road Hammers but if you can’t make it out to that event good news, plans are underway for a mini-Ontario tour leading up her appearance at the festival on August 6th. No dates are available for this tour as of yet but when they are finalized we’ll be sure to have all of the juicy details…if you want Danielle to schedule a stop in your town why not mention it in the comments.
For more information on Danielle and her music be sure to visit her online at www.daniellemariemusic.com
If you want to connect with Danielle on social media you can here: