Having already opened for the likes of T-Pain and Mat Kearney, Danny Cal has already achieved far more than many musicians could ever dream. But he’s not done yet. Following the dual release of songs “Can’t Let You Go” and “One Last Time”, he looks set to make 2016 his biggest and best year yet. Already working on his EP, he kindly agreed to this interview to chat influences, song-writing and inspirations.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Danny Cal: Hi PopWrapped! I'm Danny Cal, a NYC-based singer/songwriter.
PW: When did you first realise that you wanted to be a music artist?
DC: I've always been a performer and a creator at heart. I love the stories you can tell with music, and singing and writing help me discover emotions in a new way. When I was in preschool I started playing piano, and was always singing around the house. I got involved in musical theater because I loved escaping reality and telling someone else's story. In college I sang in an acapella group called the Dodecaphonics, and started a band called The Euphemisms. When my band opened for Misterwives, I knew I wanted to do this professionally. I moved back to New York after graduating and paired up with producer EGM, and have been writing and performing around the city ever since.
PW: Which bands or artists did you grow up listening to and have your tastes changed over the years?
DC: I grew up listening to a lot of late 90s pop. N*Sync and Britney were my first two albums I think. As I got a little older I got into emo and pop punk--think Green Day, MCR, Avril. I needed the angst and the raw emotion at that time in my life. I got into folk/Americana while in college; it was very easy to study to. I love the Gabe Dixon Band, their musicality and lyricism is unmatched. My current songwriter crush is Sia, I've actually been covering "Alive" lately. I love how she brings forward such rare power and release through the catchiest melodies and smart progressions. I don't think my tastes have particularly changed; I still love every genre I've listed here; but I do think I've gotten more musically intelligent and more discerning over the years.
PW: Is there one particular band or artist people might say you're similar to?
DC: A lot of people have likened me to One Direction, may the band rest in peace. Fans like when I sing in falsetto so I often pull inspiration from Sam Smith, Adam Levine, and other artists that implement their upper registers.
PW: Who or what most inspires you when it comes to the songs you write?
DC: Generally speaking, my songs come out of emotions that I'm trying to make more sense of - I'll put them in context using my lyrics. For example, a new song I'm working on is about the fear of growing up and losing the spark of childhood, and it's told in the context of a sibling relationship. But that's my perception. Someone else listening could take away something else entirely. I like making music that's readily accessible to everyone at any stage of life. Because we're all human, we've all experienced these emotions in one way or another.
PW: Is song-writing something that comes easily to you or can it depend on what you're writing about?
DC: Oh man, it totally depends. I'll usually get these overwhelming ideas and have to make a note on my phone. Often, they come to nothing, but once in a while I'll pull from them. I tend to doubt myself, so I love having smart musicians around me, in my band, my producer, to help expand my ideas. I don't think it's ever an easy process. I'm not a songwriter that can get an idea and write a song in an hour. I need to mull it over and draft and revise many times. I love coming through with a perfect song that I'm proud of.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
DC: Oh my god what an insane question. There are so many definitions of greatness in music. I'd have to say "I Will Always Love You," and the juxtaposition between the original version by Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston's cover that turned it into the song we know today. This song shows that music becomes timeless when everyone can relate in their own personal way. Plus, go to any country in the world, and this song will be listed at the top of their karaoke book. That's great. If you play that song at a party, anywhere in the world, every single person will sing along at the chorus.
PW: Tell me about your dual release of "Can't Let You Go" and "One Last Time" - what made you decide to release them together and are there stories behind each song?
DC: These two songs go together. They are different sides of the same feeling--that moment you meet someone and you're not sure what kind of relationship you want to build with them. "Can't Let You Go" explores the need to be with that person, the complete vulnerability you feel when you're hoping a relationship can hold on. "One Last Time" is driven by the insecurity and frustration when you feel that relationship slipping through your fingers. At the very least, you have to be with that person "One Last Time", whether it's to lock in their memory, get closure, or hope that you can convince them to stay. I released these songs together because I wanted to give fans a better picture of what's to come. I'm working on a full EP and it's going to explore more influences and subject matter. You can check out more of my music on Soundcloud.
PW: What are your touring and performance plans for the year?
DC: I'm touring around the NYC area for the next few months. I'm playing The Bitter End on Sat April 30th and Leftfield on Ludlow on May 26th. There are other shows on the docket but I haven't yet released their dates!
PW: Which venue would you most like to play in and why?
DC: This might seem unexpected, but it's sort of been a dream of mine to play a show at the Nikon Theater at Jones Beach, New York. I used to go to shows there growing up all the time, and it's an open-air amphitheater. I love the outdoors so I've always wanted to do another outdoor show, and to fill up an arena like that would be mind-blowing. As a kid and teenager, I would imagine myself on the stage looking back at myself in the audience, and told myself, "One day, that could be you." I think that's why that particular stage is locked in my mind.
PW: You've opened for T-Pain, Mat Kearney, and Misterwives, but of all the shows you've played, could you pick a favourite?
DC: I loved opening for Mat Kearney's band. The guys were so fun and it was great to hang with them backstage. They gave us some great advice and we helped each other with our sound checks and shared some equipment. It was just an extremely casual environment; we were all joking around with each other before and after the concert. I'd love to hang with those guys again.
PW: If you could share a stage with four other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would you pick?
DC: Okay so another dream of mine has been to perform on stage with Carrie Underwood; season 4 was the only season of American Idol I watched, and my sister and I were obsessed with her from day one. I sing along in harmony to her songs all the time, and I think we would blow the house down on stage together. I'd also love to do a set of show-tunes with Judy Garland, one of America's most iconic performers ever. I'd love to be a part of a classic boy band--whether that's getting N*Sync, NKOTB, the Backstreet Boys, or 1D back together, I'd love to be a part of such a high energy pop group that can play off each other on stage. Finally, I'd love to share a stage with Johnny Cash, because he's my dad's favorite, and I think it would make my dad the happiest person on earth to see me on stage with him.
PW: Are there plans for an EP or an album in the works?
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and would you agree it's a necessity for bands and artists today to be socially interactive with their fans?
DC: In today's world where everyone is hyper-connected, fans want to experience their favorite artists' lives vicariously. They want to buy things they buy, they want to do things they do. Social media helps artists represent their humanity and lifestyle off-stage. I'm a very quirky person, and I like my fans to know that it's cool to be kinda weird. There will always be people that come to your show, but whether or not they believe in you is a matter of how well you communicate with them. Right now that channel for communication is social media.
PW: Finally then, are there any other plans in the pipeline you can tell me about and where do you want to see yourself five years from now?
DC: Hopefully in five years I'll be on the Jones Beach stage...but if not, I'll definitely still be making music as long as people still want to hear it!
Check out "One Last Time" and "Can't Let You Go" below and for more information on Danny Cal, visit his website.