“People say you can’t have friends in this industry but they are wrong. Friends help each other, work together, and support each other when dreams come true.” – @danikingmusic
Listen to the Interview:
Episode #269 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax
GETTING TO KNOW DANI KING
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
I am currently working on a project with a crew back in Nashville…
that I am incredibly excited about. We are creating a concept EP. The songs all flow together, telling a story. It is about the rise and fall of loving someone. So each song shows a different phase of the relationship, whether it is when they first meet, falling for each other, breaking up, regretting it, and so on. I chose this concept because I recently went through a tough ending of a relationship that never reached its peak. It ended before it ever really started, and that has been really difficult for me to deal with, because I wanted more. I have a tendency to suppress negative thoughts and feelings rather than acknowledging them, which is not the best course of action. I say I’m fine and pretend like nothing ever happened, but that is not reality. I have finally gotten to the point where I am allowing myself to process my emotions through songwriting.
I’ve been writing about these emotions a lot, and the idea of analyzing the different stages of a relationship, and how I feel at each one really resonated with me based on recent events. It has been a good way to process everything and move forward in a positive way. I have been able to put my feelings about what is happening in my personal life into this EP, which makes it true to me. On top of the authenticity of it, all of the songs intertwine, so the ending line of one song might be the chorus of the next one, and the beats will all flow together as well. It’s going to sound like a story, listening from beginning to end. The guys I’m working with, Trent Waters on production, and Matt Leigh on writing, production, and basically overseeing the whole project, are both incredible musicians. The first song we put together was absolute magic and we had to do something with it, so we are making it happen!
Chicago to Nashville to Los Angeles…
Oh my god, this is a fun one. So I grew up in the suburbs outside of Chicago where there is NOTHING. I would drive 45 minutes to an hour for most of my gigs because there was nothing around me except country clubs and forest preserves. I didn’t have much of a life outside of that. I hated the suburbs so I went to Nashville for school, which obviously has an incredible music scene. Nashville is mostly country. While that was great for college, I wanted to build my life somewhere else. I just recently moved to Los Angeles, and I love the music scene here! There is so much variety and action happening every day in music. It is so refreshing and revitalizing for me.
I am still exploring and learning all of the fun places to go in Los Angeles. I live close to the Wiltern, so it’s been fun waiting until the night of a show to find super cheap tickets and just walk to the shows. I love the beach too!
I bar tend. Bar-tending has paid my bills for the last 2 years now, and I honestly love it. I started by working at a huge tourist bar in Nashville. It destroyed my social life, wrecked my body (speed bar tending is straight cardio), and turned me into an asshole when I was behind the bar. And it is so addicting. It is like being on stage, you have to put on a show and all attention is on you. How fast you move, how well you remember drink orders, how you interact with customers, how you show off, how good you are at your job in general. I LOVE it. I worked in a hip-hop club and we would dance behind the bar while pouring drinks. Another bar I worked at was a karaoke bar, so I would sing and bartend at the same time. I would be taking orders, serving them, and cashing them out all while holding a microphone and singing a song from memory. That was a fun challenge.
I am beyond in love with the business side of music. I actually minored in music business in college. I have found that most people my age (early 20s) entering the music business are just as hungry for success as I am, but instead of stepping all over each other to get to where we want, we work together. We build each other up. I’ve always said that if I am going to make it in this industry, I want to do so surrounded by friends and people that I trust that are just as talented, full of desire, and inexperienced as I am. I look at the people I have surrounded myself with in this industry, and it just fills me with pride to be associated with them. The music business is going to change in the next few years. The people entering the business now as assistants and receptionists have new ideas, new business models, and a new mindset. They are the future executives, A&R reps, managers, and business tycoons. I’m excited about it.
Pros and cons have you experienced…
One of the best pros I have experienced is working with my friends. People say you can’t have friends in this industry but they are wrong. Friends help each other, work together, and support each other when dreams come true. My friend Shelby Carol is a great example. She is my photographer, and she is one of the best I have ever worked with. That girl has overcome some of the biggest hurdles in life to become a successful freelance photographer by 21 years old. My photo section is on her website in between Wiz Khalifa and the Rolling Stones (I’m not kidding, I fan-girled a little when I saw that). Whenever she needs a model for something, she asks me to do it. Whenever I need photos done, I ask her. And after we do a shoot, we go get Sangria at Bar Louie, gossip, and catch up on each others lives. Some people are in your life to build you up and support you, no matter how crazy your dreams are, and that is what we do for each other.
One of the biggest cons I have experienced is sexism. Sexism sucks. I recently put up a post on my blog about the most recent time I have been discriminated against. One of the biggest problems I have had is people thinking that I am nothing more than a sex object based on my social media pages, particularly my instagram. This is a segment out of my blog post that covered that particular issue: “I use sex appeal to gain a bigger audience. I have no problem admitting that. I love my body, I work hard for my body, and I am proud of my body. This is a big advantage that I have, and I am not afraid of what I can do with a picture. Anyone is capable of this, whether it‘s a man or a woman. There is no shame in being beautiful, sexy and proud of it. That being said, let me make something clear: My words are more important than my pictures on Instagram. My mind is far more powerful than my body.”
I am a woman, and I am proud of it. I have boobs, I have a butt, I have blonde hair, and no one can agree on what color my eyes are. Are they blue? are they green? I still don’t know and they are attached to my face. If I put up a beautiful pictures captioned with my words, people see it. But most importantly, they see the caption. Hell, I even saw one instagram user had created a meme out of one of my pictures and lyric phrases! It’s honestly cool to see people react to my posts that way. I try to make sure that my pictures don’t just reflect how my body looks, but also my personality. I am energetic, hard-working, smart, ditzy, clumsy, silly, and sexy. All of these different attributes are online for the world to see, because they are a composite of my life and my experiences. They are me. Everyone should be proud to be who they are without fear of discrimination. Period. (My little rant on sexism)
Hurdles and pitfall…
F**k the haters! I react well to negativity. It pushes me to be better and be a bigger person than anyone who has anything to say about me. I have heard everything you could think of – she can’t sing, she’s not talented, she’s ugly, and so on. The best advice I have ever gotten was this: when people criticize you or say something hurtful to you, they are really reflecting on something they dislike about themselves. When you feel like criticizing someone, think about what it is you really don’t like about them before you say anything. These are words I live by, and it helps me not take anything too personally. (disclaimer: advice came from my mother, because moms are always right.)
I love social media in general. I’m addicted to facebook and instagram for sure. Social media is FUN! It’s a sneak peak into each others lives. I love seeing all of the beautiful things happening for my friends.
If everyone could stop getting engaged that would be great. For real though, many of my Nashville friends are getting engaged, and I’m really excited for all of them. My roommate from sophomore year just got married, but I am still trying to figure out when we became adults! When did all of this happen?? Oh and also, Twitter. I suck at twitter.
Singles vs an album…
I have not yet released an album, only singles. I feel like singles are a lot easier to release and push to fans. I love listening to full albums of artists, but I am also a huge music nerd. Not everyone likes that, so I am nervous about the idea of an album! I’m starting small though – an EP will be a good start for me. Talk about the differences in your marketing strategy to support your preference. I’m still building a marketing strategy for my EP, but my marketing for my singles has been pretty successful as an independent artist. I am all about the social media push.
My biggest following is on instagram, so to get people involved and paying attention I do little contests and giveaways for my singles. For example, I did a “caption this” contest on instagram, the winner got a free download of my single. For an independent artist, interaction on social media is the most important part of getting people to actually listen to your music.
I have always loved singing and music…
I was singing before I was completing sentences as a toddler. When I was a freshman in high school I was enamored with the idea of musical theater but I was never cast in a show – not even the chorus. I finally asked the director why I was never cast and she told me that I wasn’t right for the stage, that I should find a different hobby. Well, I went and found a different hobby – I started singing and accompanying myself at bars when I was 15. I have the best parents; they are incredibly supportive and would accompany me because I was too young to be in a bar. While I was heartbroken that someone thought I was not good enough, I was (and still am) so stubborn that my only response was “Yes I am, now watch me.” And sure enough I ended up going to college for music and building my career around it. The best part is that I get paid to do what I love. That is how I got started in music.
I’m Good At That…
This was a fun one for me to write. It is about an ex-fling who went completely psychotic when I ended it. I had to get a restraining order it was so bad. I was angry when we were writing it, so my co-writer and I pulled actual lines out of text messages that were sent to me and turned them into lyrics.
First off, my co-writers are incredibly talented, and we really enjoyed putting a little team together. I mainly worked with two guys, Philip Donnan who did lyrics and production, and Jonton Soup who did production. Matthew Sim did the mixing and mastering. Phil and I wrote these nasty, mean lyrics while sitting at an Urth Cafe in Pasadena, which is totally the wrong setting for that! Phil is one of my closest friends and had to push me pretty far in order to get the best recording. Even though writing it was easy, recording this song was difficult for me. I am not naturally an angry person and I have trouble emoting that kind of rage. I shut it out and focus on the positive. That obviously does not work when you are trying to record something that is clearly meant to be a diss, so
poor Phil had to figure out how to piss me off enough that it would come across in the recording. We spent five days straight recording, arguing, re-recording, arguing, recording again, and finally ending up with a take that was exactly what we wanted. It was a long five days.
Funny story as to how I ended up rapping…I am not usually a rapper. I like writing fast paced lyrics that flow similar to rap, but I never actually considered rapping. I do it for fun, singing along with Kendrick’s verse in “F*cking Problems”, memorizing Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” just to see if I can move my mouth that fast (I can!). In the process of trying to write the song, Phil asked me, why don’t I rap on this song? I laughed at him because I thought that was funny but he said, “No, I’m serious. Go write a rap.” It was like I was put in timeout! I went and sat in the corner and wrote a rap. So now I rap and sing I guess?
I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
Tori Kelly. That girl has been hustling for a long time, and has been successful as a pop artist without compromising any of her values or beliefs. She’s a bad ass.
Do you find that there is too much emphasis on being current and trendy or Is there a balance that you have found helpful in your artistic decisions…
I have actually found that when I try and write something trendy and pop, I hate it, but when I just write for myself, I come up with something current and catchy. I just have to stay true to what I know and what feels right to me and I can create something both magical and trendy. I was part of an acapella group for years, so I have made vocal arranging (big harmonies) a big part of my sound. I write out all of my harmonies and layers on sheet music to make it clear for me and my producers. And surprise! All of the sudden harmonies and layers are trendy again! I just go with my gut, it’s usually right.
I am most afraid of…
failing. But I don’t think I will. I don’t have a backup plan, so I can’t fail.
My personal definition of success is..
Success is being able to reach your long term goal by creating short term goals and sticking to them. One of my 5-year-plan goals was to sign a contract after I graduated from college. I made that goal when I was 18 years old and a freshman in college , and I fulfilled it a month and a half after graduation. I turned down a few publishing deals, and ended up signing a single song agreement for an EDM song I sang on that was released in Europe. My short term goals that got me to this point included writing more songs, co-writing with as many different people as possible, and working across genres. All of these combined put me in a position to make the right connections and get a deal. I was incredibly proud of myself for achieving this long term goal I had created for myself. No matter how far fetched other people thought it was, I made it happen. That was the most successful I have felt up until now, since I’m currently being interviewed for a radio station… that feels pretty good too!
My overall goal for my life & career is…
To make a difference. I love helping people, it is what drives me. I want to be able to help and inspire people while doing what I love.
3 Ways that I challenge myself and how each one moves me forward towards my goal.
1) I am trying to learn production at the moment, and it’s very difficult. I can play 4 instruments and sing, accompany myself on a three hour gig, and write, but I have never been able to record myself. I want to fully understand every aspect of the creation of one of my songs. Production is the last step in that understanding for me.
2) I am trying to write more emotional songs. I have a tendency to only write mean break-up songs or bad ass, independent woman style songs, and I need to branch out. This EP is pushing me very far out of my comfort zone, analyzing and writing about emotions that I don’t usually acknowledge. Its both scary and exhilarating!
3) The biggest challenge I have tackled year was moving to a new city. Over the last four years, I built up a life in Nashville. Friends, co-writers, work, everything was there. But it didn’t feel quite right there. Nashville was too small for me, so I made the decision to leave everything I knew and start over in Los Angeles. I don’t regret it, but that doesn’t mean it has been totally easy. I knew maybe 8 people out here when I moved. I just call it an adventure and roll with it.
Instagram: @danikingmusic http://bit.ly/IGDaniKing