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Interview: Danny Hughes (DCPA)
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Music extracurriculars were always something my parents encouraged when I was growing up. As a kid I was in piano classes, then was a trumpet and guitar player in high school. It was always something I came to naturally and wanted to challenge myself to be the best at. For a while I didn’t see the short-term prospects of a music career for myself and didn’t really know what that would look like. So, I got a masters degree in accounting at Texas Tech and went to work as a CPA and auditor until 2020 when I left to pursue music full time. When I saw so many electronic producers/DJ’s paving the way forward for that style of music career and taking full advantage of modern technology, and after going to some big electronic music festivals in the U.S., I decided I might give myself a shot at it.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to get outdoors and find cool nature spots to check out with my dog, Tipsy. I take lots of photos so I can use them for social media or other graphic art ideas. If I’m not making and playing music, I’m usually working on graphic design or videos related to DCPA.
How long has music been your career?
I started taking the first steps toward my official artist career in 2016 with the Symphonic Distribution release of “The Dog House EP”, three instrumental tracks I made while also working as an accountant in Dallas. I developed a lot of international relationships in the industry during the following several years, produced with local artists, and international artists from my affiliation with Nimble Agency. In July 2020 I left my accounting job and went full time into the music industry, booking shows in Texas with Tammy Miranda Music Productions (Austin TX).
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Currently, I’m based out of Austin Texas. I’ve lived here since 2020 and previously I was living in Dallas-Fort Worth. In Dallas, we had a ton of electronic dance music acts coming through in the past decade so I was really able to see what other big names were doing live and where the scene was headed, and where I can try to differentiate. In Austin. I’ve played up to 10 shows per month for the last year which has influenced my production style in more technical ways. Seeing how a live audience in a commercial club responds to my music, and hearing/mixing those tracks on club speakers helps a lot. “All Again” was a song I released as I moved to Austin and took inspiration from both my hometown of Aledo, and where I was headed.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played
The first ticketed show I played was at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas. A lot of amateur artists played that night and packed the house. I was really taken by the large number of friends who bought tickets to come support me, and the reaction the rest of the crowd gave was a huge boost in me deciding to go full time at this. I’ve had similar nights at my Austin gigs, but that first one back in Dallas was especially cool.
Recently I had a show in a remote area of town where crowds tend to mostly gather in one place each weekend. I forget what else was going on but basically the neighborhood all went to another event, so I played to the few bar staff at my gig. When that happens you make the most of it, play like it’s a full house and take advantage of the opportunity to show your talents to those listening.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
A lot of venues are in a tie for my favorite. In Austin they range from rooftops on 6th street, to a marina restaurant on the lake, and even a golf course clubhouse. The crowd in Austin is always super dynamic, and I like the open layout where I’m able to interact with lots of different people. Austin is full of equally great venues, but I’ve played Maggie Mae’s more than any, and the rooftop stage is a unique part of it.
I’d love to play in Vegas, or at any of the big festivals I’ve been to in the United States or in Europe like Tomorrowland and Amsterdam Dance Event.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
That’s a tough one, I’ll just pick 4 and go with ATB, Seven Lions, Porter Robinson, & Daft Punk.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Learn at least one instrument first, and learn to read sheet music. You can get the best fundamental skill set this way and also practice your mind-body connection to music. This will greatly enhance your ability to envision and create new sounds within a software. Get some trial versions of a few digital audio workstations, and see which one is intuitive to you before buying a full version. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from your favorite artists either. Studying and covering popular songs is a good way to learn to make good music.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I’d probably challenge myself earlier on in college to explore all of the different ways a musician can sell their talents and make use of upcoming technology. Music tech was my favorite class I took in high school in 2006, so I think pursuing that into college I could’ve grown with the technology during that time, much which I’ve been catching up on. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have the accounting and business background, and some key networking opportunities I have now if I went back and changed things. I think that it’s important to commit to decisions affecting your long-term future but also to realize when there is opportunity to pivot and be willing to do so.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“Happy Again” was a special one, it was instrumental and was the first song I finished on my debut EP in 2006 and incorporates instruments I played growing up. It represents the mental process of navigating one’s current position, and eventually realizing what that person realizes is their true passion and purpose in life, then breaking through to fulfill that purpose. Without a vocal, it’s fun and challenging to portray this kind of message using instruments only.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Lately, my personal favorite has been “Keep Your Eyes Closed” with vocalist Marcia ‘MISHA’ Sondeijker, which just officially released on October 8th. It’s getting a lot of local and international praise. It even reached #3 in Electronic on iTunes Poland! (Listen here - https://hypeddit.com/link/x8ugjo )
“Celebrate” and “Be My Friend” are some crowd favorites.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
I try to spend a lot of time daily discovering music and imagining new songs of my own. Usually it’s just putting down random ideas that come to mind and building around them or producing around an existing vocal. I like to keep a few original vocals ready and also a list of covers/remixes so there is something to always work on regardless of mood. I’ve worked with several different styles by now and try to change up the production style every few tracks, and also stay dynamic in where I’m taking outside inspiration. This inspiration is a culmination of my experiences in life so far, live crowd trends, past music education, favorite artists, and my collaborators. I try to work on projects that have a relevant message at the time.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I want people to feel understood when they listen to my music. No matter the vibe of the track, I want it to ultimately leave a positive and energized feeling with the listener. I hope others can interpret their own lives through my music and that other artists can be inspired by it to move forward in their own journey.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Usually the only way to resolve that is to test out everyone’s suggestions and keep an open mind. I never call an idea bad until all of us hear it and agree that it wasn’t for the better. There’s also a team member around typically who doesn’t take part in the recording or physical producing aspect. Instead they listen critically to demos and offer technical feedback on the track. It takes several experienced ears to maximize a track's first commercial release. From here you can always quickly do the remix and other edits.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m working on a lot of new music this fall, and planning for a strong tour schedule in 2022! I’m about to release the music video for “Keep Your Eyes Closed”. Then, look out for my next track “Iconic Love” this holiday season.
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