In The Know...Interview with Danny Michel

>> Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sometimes you play an album for the first time and it, well, just hits the spot.

Take singer-songwriter Danny Michel's latest offering Sunset Sea, for example. From the first few laid-back notes of album opener "Maybe You Can Find It In Your Heart", it's difficult not to get instantly sucked in by the warm, summery melodies and overall feel-good aesthetic vibe the record offers. And the eight songs are punctuated, as always, by Michel's knack for thoughtful storytelling and his unaffected, slightly raspy delivery.

It's no surprise, then, that Sunset Sea was mostly written and recorded in remote Caribbean hot spot Belize (formerly known as British Honduras), a small tropical nation abounding in cultural diversity (and the only Central American country whose official language is English).

Hear him perform songs off Sunset Sea live on September 11th @ The West End Cultural Centre.

I recently caught up with Michel and asked him about the role Belize played in shaping Sunset Sea, the collaboration with Sarah Harmer, and his thoughts about the optimal crowd size.

Painting over Silence: Sunset Sea is your eighth studio record to date. Is this the first album to be conceived all over the place – from Belize to Holland back to Canada – or do you typically write/record whenever and wherever your travels take you? Did the end result match your original vision?

Danny Michel: I've never had a regular pattern of writing. I write when the feeling strikes. So where I am doesn't matter. But I did go to Belize with the intention of sitting down to just write. I rented a small house on stilts by the sea and just wrote songs & swam. The album did turn out how I heard it my head

PoS: How did the varied cultures of these countries ultimately shape the aural aesthetic of Sunset Sea? Were there certain native sounds or local musicians that caught your ear and inspired/influenced your songwriting process?

DM: Oddly enough, I've found very little live music in Belize. The sound is more influenced by the culture, places & energy of the people. I can hear music in the silence of the Mayan ruins or a sailboat cutting through the waves out at sea. All kinds of things added to the songs

PoS: Treasured Canadian songstress Sarah Harmer guests on “Binary Star”, the album’s final track. How did this collaboration come about?

DM: Sarah was actually in Costa Rica at the time & we did it over the internet. I sent a demo and Sarah sang her part into the little microphone built into her laptop....the effect was perfect for the song. I was & always will be so flattered she liked the song.

PoS: Speaking of collaborations, while Sunset Sea is a bona fide Danny Michel release, it’s also the result of musical input and contributions from friends, family, and, most surprisingly, fans. Were you ever overwhelmed by the myriad ideas that surely surfaced?

DM: Yes. It was a real blast to open each one, not knowing what I would hear.

PoS: How many recordings from fans did you receive?

DM: Oh, many. Tons of wonderful snippets. Maybe they'll find there way onto records someday

PoS: On your website there are several video blog posts that offer candid windows into the making of Sunset Sea. Why did you decide to document the behind-the-scenes writing/recording process?

DM: We felt we were making an album that was a little more special than usual. We wanted to let everyone in. We wanted people to be & feel involved.

PoS: Were there any tracks that didn’t make it onto the album? If so, do you have plans to release these songs at a later date, perhaps on a rarities compilation disc (or download)?

DM: There are always tracks that don't make the cut. It's always a horse race....Hard to say where the losers will wind up. Maybe another chance, or maybe off to the glue factory with them!

PoS: And finally, I read somewhere that your favorite crowd size is around 200. What is it about performing in front of around 200 fans that makes it an optimal show?
DM: I like having a connection with the crowd. Visually. I can feel how it's all going by their faces & can adjust if needed. When shows get too big you lose that. Even 200 is a lot. The worst is when its so dark you can't see anyone or anything. That's the worst way to ever have to perform. That's like trying to play in your closet.


Wanna see the show?

Courtesy of those generous, PoS friends the West End Cultural Centre, I've got a pair of tickets to Michel's show to giveaway. If you're interested, flip me an email (on the right) by noon on September 7th with the subject line "Danny Michel Ticket Giveaway" and your name in the body. One entry per person please.


Anonymous,  27 August 2010 at 00:18  

sunset sea does have a great opening track. rest is pretty good too.

dietmar 27 August 2010 at 15:52  

Danny Michel is an amazing songwriter and Sunset Sea is another pearl and to me the sound of summer 2010

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