By Arielle Hixson, DC Music Live
Owen Danoff is a local musician from the district recognized for his soft rock bass guitar and soothing vocals. This talented, young artist sat down with DC Music Live to talk about his recent EP’s, musical influences, and future career.
What inspired you to become a musician?
Honestly, the reason I started experimenting or seeing if it was something I wanted to do was because I wanted to put off growing up for a little bit. Since it had worked for my family, I knew it was possible to make your money through music, because I grew up doing that. And so my friends told me to apply for the Berklee College of Music school, and so I decided to try that because nothing else really appealed to me like music did.
How did singing come in the making?
Junior year of high school I wrote my first song and I knew a little bit of guitar – but I think I’ve always been singing just like in the car or around the
house or in the shower, so it was there. But I really started to work on guitar and singing just from writing. The more I wrote, the more I played guitar and the more I sang, so the better all of those got. It’s crazy, I still sometimes listen to recordings I’ve done in high school and I sound totally different. I don’t know if I just started singing differently one day or my voice changed, but it’s nothing like I used to be. The old recordings were hilarious.
When you got to Berklee College of Music did you instantly feel at home?
Oh yeah, it was perfect actually. I came from, there’s a school around here called Gonzaga. And it’s all guys – many are super into sports and competition and all that and you have to wear a uniform to school every day. It really wasn’t the spot for me – I’m the least athletic person I know really, and I didn’t fit in. So then I got to Berklee College of Music and everyone was a weird musician, basically. Everyone was quirky and everyone could talk about music for a while it was really, really nice. It was a complete 180.
So your father wrote “Afternoon Delight” and other hits, did his country feel have an influence in your music?
It must have – because I don’t know where I got it from. When I first started listening to music I only listened Green Day and all these punk bands. The first song I wrote was like Green Day, but after that it was pretty acoustic and country with some rock thrown in there every once in a while. I think discovering Johnny Cash was a big influence as well, because I discovered him in High School.
Your first performance was at Jammin Java in Vienna, how did it feel to be in front of that crowd?
The Jammin Java thing was really the first time I had a full band behind me in a live setting, so it was really the most complete thing I had done to that point. And it was really, really a great feeling because I was stressing like weeks beforehand trying to figure out what I’d say on stage and everything, and how well everything went was kind of a confirmation that it was the right thing.
Because it was so natural?
Right. And it’s funny because everyone after that show told me I was a completely different person on stage. I was really comfortable up there, so I don’t know if that’s just my element or not – but it was a lot of fun.
How did your first EP “Icarus” come into the works?
The first one was actually the combination of two final projects from other friends because they were both music production and engineering majors at Berklee. And their final project was to record a three-song demo for an artist. So my last semester at Berklee we ended up spending a lot of time in the studio recording. That was a little more hectic of an experience because the studios are booked up all day for classes and the project time would be from 2:00 to 6:00 a.m., we would go into the studio whenever we could possibly get in and get it done.
My favorite song on the first album was “Abandon Ship.”
I’m super happy about that, because there is a big string session in that song which I got to write all of the string parts of that song. And through this other Berklee student we actually got to sit in the big Berklee theater in the morning and record a live string orchestra for that. It was really, really cool – I remember writing that song in my bedroom at home and never even thought I would be writing something for a bunch of strings and have like 20 people playing that song.
What about the second EP “Never Trust A Man”?
The second EP, well that all came from sort of the same place. I wrote a lot of those songs pretty close together in terms of my life – but also, that was a
pretty predetermined sound we wanted when we went in to record it. Basically for the basic tracks my friends and I sat in a room with a microphone and stuff and sort of recorded bass, drums and guitar live, which you never do. So it was a lot of, let’s get the sound of us playing together because we had been playing for four years at this point. We had the same band through all of college, so it was sort of like a “let’s have fun” sorta thing. The second one for me sounds more cohesive just because we all sort of sat in a room and tracked most of it in two days instead of three months. It’s five songs, and four out of the five were written about the same situation. I don’t think they’re in any order that happened in life, but I think it sort of shows a progression of life.
What’s your favorite song on the second album?
The last one – “There She Goes Again” because it was not really like anything I’d ever written to up to that point.
You grew up in D.C., do you like the music scene here?
I do love the music scene here. I’ve met a lot of the people involved in it at this point and it’s some of the nicest, most supportive group of musicians
I’ve ever met. It’s really cool to be in a place where you meet with the other people and you really get a chance to work with each other a lot of times. Like I play bass sometimes for the band called We Were Kings who live around here from Virginia. So they had a headlining thing at the 9:30 Club on Friday and they asked me to open, so it’s a good thing.
Any music plans in the making?
Nothing official but I’ve been writing and would love to record it. I think my next recording things are just as a bass player.
Do you plan to stay local or go national?
Well, if time and money are on my side in the next year, I’m really hoping to go check out LA for a little while because I have a lot of friends from school and some family out there. But I love it in D.C., so even if I go out to LA I’m going to try and make it back here as much as I can.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Check out Owen’s music video for his song “Nothing Like the First Time.”