Splice Media Group recently had the opportunity to interview Americana artist, Dan Conn about his new album Shine On which is out on November 30th. One of a handful of talented artists that call Kentucky home, Dan is no stranger to the music business. Forgoing the usual Nashville way of recording in a high tech studio, Dan’s laid back approach to songwriting and production is something he’s proud of and rightly so. Read more below about Dan’s album, his songwriting and some of his current favorite artists.
Tell me a bit about your newest album, Shine On, how is it different than the other two albums that you’ve done?
Well, for one, I feel like I put more of an emphasis on the song itself, by stripping it down to the basics almost. I kind of feel like I did that a little bit with the previous record, with the traveling kind, but I felt like, you know some of the tracks, are real simple instrumentation. I didn’t put drums on any of the stuff. Um..I just kind of wanted the song to stand out. When I sit down and write a song, um..it’s usually me and an acoustic guitar. And over the years, people have been like, when it’s time to record or the band gets involved, what did you envision when you wrote this song? I write the song and then never think about it until well after the fact. I wanted this album to feature, the basics of the song, the acoustic guitar and my voice. Does that make sense?
So you touched on your songwriting process, you and an acoustic guitar. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about in your songwriting process?
Well, the thing is with songwriting, I don’t know that it is a process. It never is the same way every time. Everybody asks if you write the melody and then come up with the lyrics, but some songs will write themselves. I’ve been writing songs for 20+ years and some of them write themselves in 15 minutes and then some of them take years to complete. It’s kind of a weird thing, you don’t want to make yourself try to write a song, but you do have to work at it. You need to sit down and try to work on this, you don’t try to force it. It should come to you. And you have to be in the right mind space to do it. But it is work. It’s really nice when you get that song that writes itself in 15 minutes, but it also makes you mad when you think of that song you worked for 6 months on.
Do you have a favorite song on Shine On?
Um..I’m really happy with all of them. At any given time, any of them could be my favorite song. You know, some of them I’m really happy with the way they turned out studio wise and some of them are just really fun to play. Each day I feel like every song on there is really solid and really good and any given time could be my favorite song on the record. I have my ones that I’m really proud how they turned out, but then there’s others that just kind of came out of nowhere and I’m like wow, that turned out great.
So, on your bio it seemed like you got into the music scene later in life. Do you think that has benefitted you as an artist?
I don’t know. Only time will tell on that. I feel like it’s probably kept me grounded a little bit. I probably don’t get too high and I don’t get too low. That’s kind of the thing, you coming at it later in life, you’ve already had some heartaches in life. Music will break your heart. It really will. And the business is a tough, tough thing. You can discouraged real easy, but I don’t think it’s more coming into it later than life, I think it’s my disposition. I’m pretty easy going and that’s pretty much the way, I don’t get too high or too low. You take the good with the bad and move on.
What three words would you use to describe your sound?
That’s a tough one. That is a good question. Um..I think…three words to describe my sound. I can think of two, authentic and heartfelt and….I don’t know the third one. I’d have to come back to that.
Would you also use those words to describe your album?
Uh…yeah. Yeah. I would definitely say that’s, you know, I feel like, I’m hoping people hear the authenticity . Most of the songs I’ve lived, they’re life experiences or they’re experiences that someone has told me. Songwriting can sometimes be a storyteller. Sometimes you’re telling your story and sometimes you’re telling someone else’s that they can’t tell. If someone tells you something, you take that and run with it. I feel like songwriting is not any different than people that write books. It’s just short stories almost. Sometimes, you get inspired by someone else stories. I just feel like everything I write is honest and heartfelt. I would probably say more honest than authentic, I still don’t know that third word to describe my music.
What’s the proudest moment of your musical journey so far?
You know, really, proudest moment is to me is every time you get the chance to get together with your band and you get a chance to play for people that enjoy what you’re doing. You know? I’ve played some pretty big shows, some large crowds and I’ve played some shows that weren’t that many people. Its kind of weird when you’re playing, all these songs mean so much to me and you have somebody come up after a show and say, hey this song, or in an email, this song means a lot to me and that means more to me, someone getting what it I’m doing, that means more to me than um, any kind of fame or fortune. Granted I’m not a big star or anything like that, but I just feel like somebody relating to these songs, a song that you wrote, is a big thing. Especially somebody that has no idea who you are. That to me is the biggest thing in the world, you could get out of playing music. Writing a song, if that helps them get them through their day or help them get through something going on in their life. Music is about connecting with people, not just the people you’re playing for, but the people you’re playing on stage with.
Is that your hope for the album when people hear it? That there’s something that they can identify and connect with?
I hope so. I really do. I really do. I don’t write happy songs. I tell people I do two kinds of songs, up-tempo sad songs and slow sad songs. That’s all I got. I never set out to write sad songs. I’d love to write a song that’s a big hit on the radio, but that’s not what I do. I write songs that mean something to me and I hope for the listener they mean something to them. I feel like that’s something that’s been lost in popular music these days. If you go back and listen to old country, old pop, there’s a lot of sadness, my baby left me or whatever. It’s honest. I hope people will be able to relate to the songs, that’s what any artist would want, that people will relate to their songs.
Well, the next two questions aren’t directly related to the album, they’re more about yourself. If you could collaborate with any living artist from a different genre, who would it be?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Um..we’re going to have to come back to that.
Ok, the next one is, who are you currently listening to? Who’s on your playlist?
As always I listen to a lot of singer-songwriter types, multiple genres. Here lately the Colter Wall, the new Colter Wall CD, I really enjoy that. It’s really really good. And I’ve been listening to the new Bottle Rockets, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that band. Uh, they’re kind of between rock and country and rough around the edges and I’ve really been digging their latest album quite a bit. And I’m always listening to John Prine and Guy Clark. I t seems like if I go more than a week without listening to Guy Clark, some record of his, then I’m just not right. Seems like there is always a Guy Clark record on.
And now that I think about it, an artist from a different genre, um, I think it would be really cool to maybe work with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. I don’t really think we’re in the same genre, but I would love to try to write a song for them to record or something like that. Her singing, I don’t know if you’re familiar, first off either one of them alone in their own right is unbelievable and his guitar is unbelievable and her singing is, I don’t know why I’m picking them, that’s out of nowhere. I would love to write a song for someone else and take myself out of the equation. I don’t mean like write songs like Nashville, but I want to work with somebody and write a song that they’re going to perform or record and have them in mind specifically. I think that would be kind of a cool thing to do, to see how somebody else might interpret what you’ve written.
You can find Dan’s newest album, Shine On, in his store here. Consisting of nine original songs and one song written by Tom Petty, one of Dan’s biggest influences, this is an album you’ll want to add to your playlist.