Interview – CMAO New Faces Showcase West with Dani Strong

Canadian Beats had the chance to interview the six artists performing at the CMAO New Faces Showcase West, on Saturday March 19, 2016. The event was held at The Bull & Barrel Urban Saloon in London, Ontario. This will be a 6-part series, featuring each artist. All were asked the same set of questions. It is interesting to see the diversity in their answers.

Today, we chat with Dani Strong. She is a straight shooting country rocker that isn’t afraid to take risks and tells it like it is.

Dani Strong

Dani Strong

Please tell us about yourself for anyone who hasn’t heard your music or know who you are.

I’m NOT just another girl with a guitar. I was once told by someone that I was “just another girl with a guitar”. The next morning looked up the audition cities for Nashville Star (as I had heard it was the only TV show that allowed you to perform original material) and I literally threw my guitar in my truck and started driving to Indianapolis; the closest the auditions we’re going to get to me. I thought to myself “if I’m just another girl with a guitar… I’ll have no chance at this show”.

4 rounds of auditions, 1 live interview, 1 video interview and 2 months later I was heading down to Nashville as the ONLY Canadian to make the top 50 of Nashville Star out of over 50,000 auditioned.

I didn’t win the show… didn’t even make top 10. However, I did receive the high compliment “Best Original Song” by a local Nashville media writer. So, I drove home happy and feeling hopeful in my quest to be something “extraordinary”.

Since my Nashville Star experience I’ve lived a roller coaster ride of what I’m happy to call “paying my dues”. You know, pounding the pavement. One thing is for sure, there is no silver spoon in my yap. Never has been. I am, however, quite blessed with the company I keep. My band mates and musical acquaintances are all pretty much monsters of their art. They inspire me every time we play, practice or even just hang out.

A few things I have accomplished in the past years are:

  • Semi-finalist in the International Song Writing Competition 2 years in a row (2013/2014)
  • Opened for The Eli Young Band, Emerson Drive, Jason McCoy, Tebey, Jess Moskaluke, Jimmy Rankin, The   Lovelocks and more.
  •  Featured at KX Country presents Hot Shots Series in April 2015
  • Won episode 2 of Florida based talent show Do I Have a Hit Song
  • Nominated for Best Country at the Toronto Independent Music Awards, Oct. 2015
  • Currently working with Coleman USA for their 2016 campaign song
  • Won Best Overall Press Kit at Toronto Independent Music Awards, Oct. 2015

Oh, and last year I found out a girl had stolen my song and used it to enter multiple competitions, had been selling it on the internet (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Bandcamp and more) for AT LEAST 3 years, received air play, did interviews and even submitted a video of ME saying it was her to a TV show in the USA… But that story is almost a whole separate interview.

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When did you first know you wanted to pursue music for a living?

Honestly, when I decided I was capable of learning 4 hours worth of music. I made a list and just learned song after song after song. Then I started booking my self in any bar, pub, restaurant, or event that would pay me to play. I wasn’t very good when I started, but there were a handful of venues that I’m sure just booked me because they pitied me and thought I was sweet. And I just played. I played SO VERY MUCH. Bar gigs are insanely good for your chops as far as getting comfortable and starting to find your own way of playing songs. Bar gigs are also terrible for anyone that doesn’t like having people yell “PLAY SOME SKYNARD” after every song you play. It’s tough actually.. those bar gigs, are good for some things but they can rip the soul right out of you and it’s almost an art in itself finding the balance between playing bar gigs to keep the bacon in your fridge and the carving out time to work on your passion of song writing. You HAVE to find that balance… or you’ll turn cold and jaded and just hate everything to do with music and the industry.

Thankfully’ I found a decent balance and, as of lately, I am blessed to be mainly just playing original shows now. There’s not a whole tone of bacon in my fridge… just a couple old soggy apples actually, but I’m very happy with where I am at right now.

What do you feel sets your music apart from other artists in the same genre?

HA HA! Well… I’m stubborn. And honestly, it gets me into more trouble than it does me good, but it keeps my music true to me. Now I tread lightly when I say that, because I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the industry, because I am not. I love this industry actually. but like any industry there are certain protocol or industry standards that you are expected to meet. I have had a couple small, slightly heated discussions regarding, what songs should be on my record, or whether I can keep certain lyrics or what songs I should take out of my live set. I have an AMAZING team, and we love the music. We stay true to each song individually and how we feel that song should be represented, rather than the album or even the genre as a whole. As I always say, it’s a fun trail to blaze.

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Do you have any Canadian artists that you draw inspiration from when creating your music?

Paul Brandt. He has been such an inspiration. I have always loved his music, and I love his authenticity. He is also a trail blazer… Small Towns and Big Dreams being released as a live recording and doing so well is SO AWESOME! I want to do that! He is also very true to his faith; being a Christian, I really admire that about him. He’s been pretty kind to me and very much a mentor… I had the pleasure of having a sit-down with him early last year. We stay in touch… he keeps me grounded, not scared to let me know if I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s pretty awesome. I’m very grateful to have someone like that.

And I have to say Dean Brody as well…. I am a huge fan of his music. There are some real roots to his tunes, he can write hits without too too much fluff in it. Having said that, I admit that the second I hear “Bring Down The House”… I’m dancing from the beginning until the end EVERY TIME. LOVE that tune.

What song, that you perform, best shows us who you are? Why?

Dirt Road Fortune. No question. That is one of my fave songs I’ve ever written and definitely our fave song to play live. I think it’s the kind of music we all (the band as a whole) love to play. It’s got that country, rootsy laid back vibe. It’s a real life song. The lyrics hit me hard every time I sing that one. When I get to the bridge I’m pretty much on another planet when we perform that.

As a relatively new artist to the scene, what do you see as the future of Canadian Country Music?

I personally feel like there might be a big shift happening in Country music right now. With Chris Stapleton on the rise (LOVE him) people are really sinking there teeth into the old-school Outlaw music. It’s kinda nice. I mean, I like to dance, so I like it all… but I do believe things are shifting… but I lost my crystal ball last week, so really I don’t have a clue.

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What was it like to get the call from the CMAO to perform in London at New Faces Showcase West?

FRIGGEN AWESOME! Ya man. First of all, we did our recording in London at EMAC studios with producer, Dan Brodbeck,… I’m not scared/ashamed to say that I didn’t do it in Nashville. LONDON ONTARIO folks!! LOUD AND PROUD. We love the sounds we get with Dan at EMAC. … Another thing that sets me apart from other artists I suppose.

What is ahead for you for the rest of 2016?

In the past I would’ve fibbed on this part and made up some cool stuff… BUT this year, is truly turning out to be my craziest year yet. I thought last year was nuts with the song theft… it’s not slowing down. In May, we have 2 dates for CMW; May 3rd and 5th. Then, I’m heading down to Joshua Tree National Park’ in California’ to perform at the launch of Coleman USA’s new campaign. They are using my song “Own The Weekend” for the campaign.

Then, my new album comes out this summer… Words could never describe my excitement for this. Let’s just say I have a lifetime of effort put into this record. No joke.

When you are not performing, rehearsing or recording, what do you like to do for fun?

I’m a mama. So the kids and I like to play, we love camp fires, we do short little trips to somewhere cool and close to us. Tobermory is a favourite.

Some musicians name their instruments; please tell us what you play and if you have a special name for your instrument(s)? Is there a story behind the name?

I have lots of instruments. And I’m sad to say that none of them have names. Sometimes I call my Martin HD28 Marty… and although it seems really boring… it’s actually after Martin Sexton one of my all-time favourite songwriters, but Martin Sexton plays Godin guitars… so that makes the name pointless.

My dog’s (Pug-Shar-Pei) name is Billie Holiday, because Billie Holiday was a bad-ass, and so is my dog.

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