Introducing Country-Americana Singer/Songwriter Danielle Lee
We’re really excited this week to introduce you to indie musician Danielle Lee, one of Nashville’s best Country-Americana singer/songwriters. That’s Danielle’s sweet voice you hear singing now.
It’s fun to get to chat with her. She talks about growing up in a musical family, the tribulations of learning the piano, her road to Nashville, and her dream instrument. Read on…
Tell us about yourself.
Indie Insider Nashville: Tell us about your childhood. Where did you live? How did the place you grew up and the people there inspire your career in music?
Danielle Lee: I grew up in a musical family. My mother used to be a local country singer in Owensboro, Kentucky and her father (my grandfather) played guitar and played in a family bluegrass band when he was younger.
I grew up in a small, rural Hoosier town called Huntingburg, Indiana. It’s a town where everyone knows each other right in the middle of what I like to call Cornfield, USA. The nearest mall and other attractions are about 45 minutes away, so we had to come up with our own kind of entertainment. Mine was performance. I was in every sport, choir, musical, and talent contest I could be in. I just loved making people happy.
The spotlight somehow always called my name. I outgrew that little town and spread my wings in Bloomington, Indiana at Indiana University where I studied Theatre and Drama and Arts Administration. After I graduated, I got married and my husband and I moved to Nashville.
Indie Insider Nashville: Who inspired you to be a country music singer/songwriter? What age were you?
Danielle Lee: My mother always sang to me when I was growing up. I wanted to sing just like her and sang with her often. My grandfather had a sense of some musicality in me when I was 10. He sat that guitar in my lap and taught me my first song, Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Since then, I’ve been playing, singing, and writing songs.
Indie Insider Nashville: Did people you cared about ever tell you that you couldn’t make it in music?
Danielle Lee: I always felt called to perform, and I did a lot of soul searching to find what it was I wanted to do. There was always someone who told me that I need to have a backup plan, or at least think of something else and just perform for fun. That’s not where my heart was and I just smiled and said, “I’ll let you know how it turns out.” Since moving to Nashville and people seeing my name more often at music venues, I haven’t had a problem since!
How did you choose your genre?
Indie Insider Nashville: Did you consciously choose your genre, or did it come naturally to you?
Danielle Lee: I always loved Country Music, all up until the most recent mainstream country genre. I found that I’m not into writing or playing songs that are the newest, mainstream songs out there.
I found that I love performing Classic Country and played mostly Johnny Cash, Elvis, Loretta Lynn, Dolly and other similar artists’ songs. Classic Country is a genre of the past, but I had new ideas and new sounds.
While playing for a producer that’s a good friend of mine, he said, “You know, you sound more Americana to me than anything.” That was it. I just couldn’t put my finger on it what I was singing until that moment. Americana gives me freedom, it’s more flexible than the mainstream genres and I don’t find myself on a strict path like before. I’m so happy about it.
Tell us about your instruments.
Danielle Lee: I play guitar mostly to accompany myself and have been playing that since I was 10 years old. I also like to jam on my mandolin and ukulele. I’ve only been picking on them for a couple of years, but I love adding them to my shows to mix up the sound. I recently bought a cajon and a foot pedal to add even more. I’m very excited to introduce them to my shows.
Indie Insider Nashville: What’s the worst instrument you ever played?
Danielle Lee: Piano. Oh Lord, I had to force myself to sit down and learn it and it was not fun. I took lessons when I was 8, did it for a year, quit. I took lessons again when I was 16, did it for a year, quit. It’s easy to learn but hard to master, and I’m better with strings anyways. I only use piano to help out with composition now.
Indie Insider Nashville: What is your dream instrument?
Danielle Lee: I’ve always wanted a Les Paul. If it’s a merlot color, even better! I just love the classic style of it and think it can go great with my sound and look.
We’d like to hear about your creative process.
Indie Insider Nashville: Take us briefly through your normal songwriting process, from the idea on.
Danielle Lee: I am a melody machine. You got words, I got a song. I have numerous sound recordings of me humming along to nothing, no words to make sense of it. Next I come up with a hook to get the story going. And it’s off the races. Each song is constructed differently. Sometimes I start in the middle, sometimes the beginning. I try to be flexible to not hinder the thought process.
Indie Insider Nashville: How do you know when the song is finished?
Danielle Lee: I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my music. A song to me is usually never finished, or I say it’s finished but can always add more to it and just need to finish it up so I can finally record it. It can always be better.
Indie Insider Nashville: What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs?
Danielle Lee: Freedom, Love and Heartbreak, and where I come from. I love the thought of home, but there’s nothing left for me there but my family. All of my resources are here in Nashville. I try to visit often. I’m proud of where I come from though, and I like to write about it. Hence, that’s where my song “Our Indiana Home” comes from. Love and Heartbreak is always a go to when writing. It’s a complex emotion or feeling that can be told a million different times.
Indie Insider Nashville: Tell us about a particular lyric in one of your songs that means more to you than what appears on the surface.
Danielle Lee: I have a song that I want to get recorded soon called “Better Than I Deserve”. It’s a song about me counting my blessings and to not focus on the negatives but look up and see the light (the positives) instead.
Music City is a big town; it can be intimidating at first. I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made and the supportive people I’ve met. I have a family back home that supports me and fans that always come to my gigs. I’m blessed in every way. I’m doing better than I deserve.
Indie Insider Nashville: How have your creative abilities evolved since you first started?
Danielle Lee: Maturity. At first, I had a hard time writing anything down because I thought I never really “lived”. I was known as the miss goody two shoes who followed her parent’s orders, went to Church every Sunday, dated only a couple of times, and had good grades. I only went out with my close friends, never partied and never knew what it was like to love or really be loved by someone until I was 18.
I knew, though, that I needed to open my eyes more to life and not compare myself to other writers. So I wrote about what made me happy, daily struggles, and wishing for a world I could be myself.
Indie Insider Nashville: Have you ever written any songs that you didn’t like and tossed out?
Danielle Lee: All the time. Many do not see the sunlight. I’ve only brought out a few of the many I’ve written. Again, I’m a perfectionist. If it’s not sticking in my mind, it won’t stick to others’, I think. I do believe that in order to write the good songs, you need to trudge through the bad songs. That way, you know when you’ve actually written a good song. Does that make any sense? [Laughs]
Tell us a little bit about your career.
Indie Insider Nashville: Who’s the most exciting person you’ve met so far in your music career?
Danielle Lee: I’ve met so many people! It’s hard to choose! My favorite so far is Ron Oates, Grammy-winning producer and longtime pianist. He knew so many people and had me meet many of them. He has shared his knowledge and his passion with me and I couldn’t be more blessed to know him. He believes in me and he’s the reason why I moved here to Nashville because he told me, “you have to be present to win.”
Indie Insider Nashville: What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome?
Danielle Lee: Time management. I work a full-time job to pay my bills. I am always on the run and get worn out quickly. I have to manage my time and energy wisely. I almost have three full-time jobs: Executive Assistant for a CFO, Danielle Lee – Manager, and Danielle Lee – Americana Singer and Songwriter.
Indie Insider Nashville: If you could be any musician/singer for one day who would you want to be? Why?
Danielle Lee: Hillary Scott. No doubt. As a singer and songwriter, I look up to her as a woman in the music industry. She takes it on her shoulders with grace.
Her mother, Linda Davis, has coached me before, and I met Hillary at a Meet & Greet. Both of them are the sweetest people. She just released an extremely heartbreakingly honest song called “Thy Will”, about her loss and yet, she wasn’t apologetic about it. I hope to one day live up to that same status as Hillary, and have my fans see me the same as I see her.
Indie Insider Nashville: What was your most rewarding musical experience?
Danielle Lee: Last October, I played in a 500 seat opera house. It was magnificent. I couldn’t believe I was there. It was one hour away from my home town and unfortunately, not many were able to come. I only had about 30 people come. I put my heart and soul into my music that day, because the people who did come were special to me. My set was about my life. I had people laughing and even crying. I might have not had the biggest crowd, but I had the best fans I could ever ask for.
Danielle Lee: My friend, Ron Oates, and I have a big project coming up this year. We will be creating a presentation project of three songs for me to present to the big folks in Nashville. I’m ecstatic and can’t wait to get the ball rolling!
Indie Insider Nashville: What’s your favorite venue?
Danielle Lee: My favorite venue is in St. Meinrad, Indiana called Monkey Hollow Winery. I’m a huge lover of wineries and love the atmosphere. It goes with my style of music well and we always pack the house! It’s a rewarding gig to me.
Indie Insider Nashville: Which song do you perform most frequently?
Danielle Lee: I always have Folsom Prison Blues in my set. After 15 years of playing it, I can’t stop now! It really gets the crowd going and helps tell my story of who I am as an artist.
Indie Insider Nashville: What’s the strangest thing you’ve been told by a fan at a concert?
Danielle Lee: Guest: “Can you play the Skunk’s Salute?”
Me: “Um…Sorry I don’t know that one…”
Indie Insider Nashville: Do you have any upcoming shows or tours?
Danielle Lee: I’ll be playing at Monkey Hollow Winery on June 17th and September 16th. I’ll also be performing in Perry County, Indiana at the county 4H Fair for the 3rd year in a row! Looking forward to it! I’m in the middle of booking right now, so more will be booked soon!
Indie Insider Nashville: Do you have merchandise for sale? What do you have, and where can we get it?
Danielle Lee: YES! I just released my newest t-shirts on my website at www.DanielleLeeMusic.com/shop/
I have adult and youth sizes available. I also have my first EP on sale too!
Any last words?
Indie Insider Nashville: Any last words?
Danielle Lee: My motto: You can do anything if you want it bad enough.
Check out Danielle’s website: www.DanielleLeeMusic.com
Listen to more of Danielle’s music:
With her charming songs, lovely voice, and wholesome beauty, you’ll want to keep an eye on Danielle Lee – she’s going places!