Here is a Q&A with singer-songwriter Dani Townsend. She talks about her experiences in music.
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
It sounds cliché, but it all began in childhood. It didn’t start as music though; it was poetry back then. I would write poems about anything and everything. Only now I’m looking back have I realised that it was a form of coping mechanism for my emotions, which is exactly what I do now with my lyrics.
My childhood had its fair share of complications above and beyond the standard challenges of growing up…so there was ample opportunity to get writing.
Over time, my love of writing poetry blossomed into my love of writing altogether, and now I write articles, blogs, novels, and of course, music.
Who are your influences?
I actually don’t have any musical influences. I’m a lyricist really but being an ‘undiscovered’ lyricist means that in order to share them with people, I also have to create the music to wrap around them.
So, though I wish I had an amazing back-story to share about an artist or band that fires up my musical passions, that’s just not true. I’m inspired by emotions, mostly my own, but sometimes of others’ too. That’s what drives me to write more than anything else.
With your music where do you tend to get your inspiration from e.g. how do you start your songs & what's your process?
Inspiration can strike from anywhere. Like I said, I write from a place of emotion and as a mechanism to manage my feelings, so more often than not my songs will come from that. However, on occasion I can be inspired by just a couple of words.
For example, I dusted off my ukulele recently and decided to write a song on that. In that moment, my Mum was at my house having a morning coffee with me and suggested I give the song a title that rhymes with ‘ukulele’, specifically she suggested ‘Miss You Lately’.
Later on, that evening, I had a new song (luckily, I was genuinely missing someone at the time, so it was easy to draw on those emotions). Other times I will just adlib in the shower and that will start a new song up. For me, inspiration is organic and quite difficult to force.
In terms of process, being a lyricist, that is naturally where I will start. The story and the words are what mean the most to me both when I’m writing and when I’m listening to music. I’m blessed to have a fantastic producer (Indi Forde) that helps me build out the music farther than my basic guitar and piano accompaniments that bring my lyrics to life.
How important do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
I think it’s really important to listen to a broad variety of music. I’m not sure how vital it is that they cover all sorts of generations, I guess that depends on what your goals are. But the more music you can listen to, the better, right? You never know where inspiration is going to hit.
Sometimes I’ll hear a few lyrics in a song that motivates me to write a full song around just those few words. I imagine if you’re more musically driven than lyrically, then the same would happen for little riffs and moments in songs too.
Do you feel it is important to watch other acts perform and to watch other live music?
Absolutely! My local area is full of amazingly talented artists, bands, producers etc, covering a huge variety of genres. Not only is watching other acts perform beneficial for your own inspiration and idea generation, but it’s also important for making contacts within the local music scene.
I’ve met so many amazing people in the short few months that I’ve been actively performing, some of which I now classify as good friends. Plus hearing other people’s stories and experiences with music is so fascinating, I could talk to them for hours if the pubs didn’t close so early!
Finally what tips do you have for anyone starting out when it comes to writing songs and performing live?
I am absolutely no expert on performing live, being that I only started in the summer, but from what I’ve learned so far my tip would be to start with a couple of festival style gigs, because your set will be shorter, the set-list requirements are much more flexible and having so many other artists performing means there’s a lot less pressure, which will help with the nerves a little.
In respect to writing songs, I now have weekly songwriting sessions with two of my younger sisters, challenging me to guide other people to write, which has been very eye opening for me from both a teaching perspective and a personal writing perspective.
Thanks to this, I can confidently say that my biggest tip for songwriting (well, mostly for lyric writing) would be to set yourself tasks and challenges that push you to write. Every week I give my sisters a different challenge. Here are a few of the examples we’ve worked through, in case you want to try them out for yourself:
1. Write down the title of your favourite book, now write a song with that as the title.
2. Here are three lines of lyrics that I have in my lyrics book, take those and run with them.
3. Write down some story topics, allocating a vibe to that (eg. happy, melancholy, bouncy) on scrap pieces of paper. Mix them around and choose one at random, now write a song around that.
You may not write your best song ever this way, but what it does do is pushes you to do something different and you might just realise that you’re capable of more than you first thought.
My sisters are amazing examples of this, I’m so proud of the stuff they’re creating…and honestly, I’ve drawn some inspiration from those sessions too, so another tip would be to get creative with other people, bounce ideas off one another, you can push each other to grow, and how amazing is that?!
Find out more about Dani at www.dani-elle-music.com
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