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INTERVIEW: Nashville Americana Duo The Danberrys

Pic by Boudica Photography

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you!  We’ve been great!  We have a healthy, happy, 8-month-old baby & she’s a solid sleeper. We’ve also been busy and excited about the release of our third full-length album.

Can you talk to us more about your upcoming single “The Mountain”?

“The Mountain” is the first single from our upcoming album, “Shine”. It will be released everywhere music is purchased or streamed on Feb 7. We’ve always loved that traditional New Orleans second-line feels, and we intentionally wrote this song with that vibe in mind. We were also really excited to have Darrell Scott featured on this track as a guest vocalist. He’s been a musical hero of ours for a long time, and it was surreal listening to him lay his part on this song – a real dream come true.

Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?

Lyrically, this song is an echo of the prayer or meditation that grew within us during a time when we were re-building ourselves, our relationship, and our lives after everything fell apart seven years into our marriage. We were guided to reframe the destruction as a catalyst to help us grow into stronger and wiser individuals, with more presence to bring to our craft, and the lyrics are a reminder to remain steadfast in that reframing instead of wallowing in the mountain of pain from the past.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We have videos for some of our other singles but haven’t made up our minds about this one yet. There’s a possibility that we’ll release a video eventually.

The single comes off your new album Shine – what’s the story behind the title?

Shine is the title track on the new album. We have plans to release this song as a single as well. After we recorded all 12 songs and looked at the artwork as a whole, it seemed like a no-brainer that the album should be named after the title track. There is a pervasive theme of light and dark that runs through these songs, and all ends of the spectrum are visited in some way, but we almost always come back to hope love, perseverance. It’s who we are.

How was the recording and writing process?

For this record, we worked with executive producer Brian Brinkerhoff and co-producer/ace drummer Marco Giovino. From the beginning, Brian requested that we co-write every song. This request was really foreign ground for us as we had never had success co-writing together in the past. With a bit of hesitation and a lot of determination, we began writing with a third writer, Nashville’s bluegrass songwriting guru Jon Weisberger, who ultimately, and unbeknownst to him, taught us how to write together. We had three songs that Dorothy had started writing a couple of years prior. She hit a wall in the writing process, and they had been shelved for a while, so we started off by taking those songs to Jon. The process with Jon was pretty straight-forward and efficient. We drove to his house in White House, TN, and sat at his dining room table, banging it out until we finished the song we were working on for that day. Jon was awesome to work with. It was the first time either of us felt like we really clicked with another writer. That process with Jon got our confidence and creative juices flowing, and we just started coming up with new ideas and working those out together at home and on the road. We had all of the songs written by the end of 2018, and we made plans to head to Marco’s studio in Boston, MA, in January of 2019.

The recording was pretty old school and completely awesome. Marco Giovino was the musical director, drummer, vibes player, and curator of the band. We’ve always recorded with friends and colleagues in Nashville, but for this session, we didn’t meet everyone until the first day of recording. Marco brought in Duke Levine on guitars & mandolin, Neal Pawley on guitars & trombone & tuba, Marty Ballou on upright & electric bass, Tom West on keyboards, and John Deaderick on the pump organ. All of these guys were amazing to work with and were some of the best human beings we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. It really turned out magical and the band just killed it. They were so good, in fact, that Dorothy literally cried happy tears in the vocal booth when she heard them hit the first note on the first day of recording. The tunes were not rehearsed before we rolled tape, and most took only 2-3 takes to get what we wanted. Marco was very insistent that we not do a bunch of overdubs, and, as a result, the album includes very raw, mostly live, full-band takes (including lead vocals). It took us three days to finish all 12 songs, and the only substantial thing left unfinished was the background vocals. Marco set us up with his friend, musical genius Doug Lancio, and we laid down the majority of the remaining vocals at his studio in Nashville, TN, with our amazingly talented friends Vanessa McGowan and Amanda Broadway. We also worked with our long-time friend (and Amanda’s husband) Mikie Martel to lay down a few of the background vocal tracks. Mikie has been involved, in some way, with every single project we’ve ever released, so it felt great to have his presence on this album as well.

What was it like to work with Marco Giovino and how did that relationship develop?

During our early talks with executive producer Brian Brinkerhoff, he mentioned that it might be a possibility to get Marco involved. We had always been huge fans of Marco’s drumming, so we were beyond stoked that it “might” be an option to have him produce. We had originally talked about possibly recording a stripped-down, duo-style album, but once we started creating the material for the album, we knew we had to get Marco on the project. Brian sent some demos to Marco and he jumped on board without ever having met us. A few weeks before our studio date, we started fleshing everything out with Marco via email – selecting the songs for the album, re-working a few things, setting feels and vibes. We didn’t actually meet him until the first day of recording. It was clear from the start that Marco had a very clear vision of what he wanted this album to sound like. He’s a big-hearted guy and quite hilarious at times, but it was all business once the downbeat came. He emphasized authenticity and the importance of capturing the magic that inevitably occurs during the first few takes of every song.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Marco really helped us solidify our rough demos into more polished and digestible songs. We learned a lot about songwriting and song structure from him. He also significantly shaped this album by selecting the players the engineer for the session. Anyone who has seen Marco play knows that he is a force to be reckoned with. He really drove the songs on this record with his incredibly unique drumming style, while still being very reactive to all of the other musicians and to our artistic vision.

How did you go on balancing the blues with the folk and your other different influences?

Our sound has always been organic. By that, we mean that our art is truly an amalgamation of all our influences. It’s not something we actually ever think about. We just do it / be it.

We both love so many types of music, new and old, and it all somehow seems to come through in our writing/performing.

What role does Nashville play in your music?

Dorothy was born in Nashville, so that was quite the pivotal moment in her Nashville music career. Seriously though, we both grew up just outside of Nashville and spent our teenage years going to concerts downtown and to all of the little clubs and festivals. As adults, we moved to East Nashville in 2008 and started our band in 2010. Living in Nashville makes you want to be better and try harder. There is also a ton of support here from fellow artists and musicians. It really is an amazing place to create music and learn how to be better at your craft.

What aspect of destruction did you get to explore on this record?

The lyrics of these songs were inspired by a period of our lives when we experienced a string of heartbreaking losses and revelations. We wrote about the demise of close friendships, death, the destruction of family and heritage, abuse, the upheaval of internal emotional and mental foundations, the loss of self, betrayal of trust, the loss of our marriage, and many other aspects of symbolic death. We’ve been through a lot together, and we’ve rebuilt ourselves and our relationship several times already throughout our almost 14 years of marriage. Dorothy has dealt with a tremendous amount of emotional and mental fallout from trauma, and the healing process always involves periods of de-construction and assimilation – breaking down and purging of unconscious emotions and mental constructs and integration of the new, intentional way of being. Healing can be an extremely messy process, and our journey has been at least partly preserved in these songs.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The material on this album is almost exclusively based on our personal experiences, but there is one song that breaks the mold. “Never Gone” was written from the perspective of our close friend’s father who battled chronic illness and chose to say goodbye on his own terms as much as possible, breaking the hearts of his daughters and wife in the process. It’s hard to perform this song without getting emotional.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’re starting to venture back out into the touring world after the birth of our daughter. We will definitely be out playing this new material as much as possible.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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