What inspired the name of the band? What are your influences and are they the same as when you started out?

I’ve got a pretty wide variety of influences, I’d say. I grew up listening to a lot of old rock music with my dad, things ranging from Neil Young to Led Zeppelin and pretty much everything in between. Then as I got a little older I got really into Hip-Hop and basically just listened to, like, Kid Cudi, Wu-Tang, A Tribe Called Quest and Biggie for several years. Then I discovered Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Americana, whatever you want to call the mix of all of those genres and that’s when I really started to focus heavily on the writing aspect of making music. 

So taking all of that into consideration, those genres all influence my music in a lot of different ways, even the Hip-Hop at times. That’s also why work by such a wide variety of artists influences what I do. I often find myself drawing inspiration and influence from artists like The Band, The Rolling Stones, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kid Cudi, Mac Miller, Frank Ocean, Wu-Tang, Sturgill Simpson, Trampled by Turtles, John Prine, Leonard Cohen and many others. All of those really just scratch the surface but I think that that list of artists really gives you an idea of the variety of musical sources that I draw from.

How do you approach songwriting?

Honestly, I think that every song is different in some ways. It kind of just depends on how and when the inspiration strikes as far as what the actual approach is. The one common thread in my process is that I always start with a melody. Whether I just think of it at random, it comes to me in a dream or I find it in some other way, I’m always thinking of melodies. Then I’ll take one that I’ve thought about and take the vibe of it and start to craft a song around it. After that, though, the process really just depends on how that song shapes out and what the most appropriate method to fit it is. Sometimes I’ll write the song like a poem where I’m completely focused on the words after hammering out a basic melody and progression. Sometimes I’ll write it all on my guitar alternating between strumming and writing things down in my notebook. Sometimes, I won’t even write a word down and the whole song will come together in my home studio where I record takes with guitars, keyboards, MIDI boards, etc. while I work out the lyrics and melodies. It all really just depends on what the song is. 


Generally, I just explore what’s on my mind. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s joyous, sometimes it’s funny and pretty neutral. I often find myself gravitating as a writer toward themes about growing up, the concept of home and nostalgia, but then sometimes I just want to write a song about getting lost in the desert or something. I think that when I write melodies the writing just takes over to fit the melody and convey these feelings of hurt or joy or longing that are conveyed in the sound of the music that’s already there.

Why do you write the sort of music that you do?

I find that it’s the most effective method that I know of for self-expression. Writing music in general is so multi-faceted and challenging with the amount of work that goes into putting together progressions and riffs, melodies, lyrics, song structure and everything else that a song consists of that it really is the most satisfying feeling in the world when it all comes together. Bearing all of that in mind, I think that my music exists in a genre that’s somewhere between Alternative Rock and Americana. I think that I gravitate toward that musical space because it’s lyrically focused but there’s also a lot of flexibility musically to express what I need to in the songs that I write without being stuck in a certain box. I can either write a heavily produced song that involves 6 different instruments, heavy drums and guitar solos or I can write a ballad with just my voice and guitar. In the space that I inhabit musically, any of those decisions make sense. I find that flexibility inspiring and liberating and that’s what I make the kind of music that I do.

How do you decide what songs to perform live?

That’s actually a very fitting question because right now I play my live shows solo so often I do have to find ways to transpose them out of pure necessity. If it’s just me, my guitar and a kick drum or a loop station, it’s all about just finding a way to convey the groove and feel of any particular song. On any given day that feel could change, too, so I think it’s all about just keeping the songs fresh in a way that allows for them to be a vehicle for my emotions but also for those of the crowd. It’s all about keeping the songs interesting for me and for the people that I’m playing them for. The only way I could really accurately describe how I do that is that it’s all just based on feeling. The crowd has to feel it and so do I, and for that reason I think I’ve played a lot of different versions of the songs that I play live. The songs that I choose are also usually from a large list and I’ll kind of mix and match along the way to fit the vibe of the room that I’m in. That kind of flexibility keeps it interesting for me and I think allows for me to connect with the crowd more as well. That process is one of my favorite things about making music. 

What plans do you have for the future?

I’m planning to release several more singles over the course of the next year or so. All the while, I’ll be playing lots of live shows in my current home city of Washington, DC and the surrounding area. You can find information about any of that on my social media or on my website (danriley-music.com) Hopefully soon I’ll be playing more shows in other places as well for people who really want to be there to hear my music. That’s the ultimate goal, really. I’m also hoping to release a full-length album sometime in the next year or so after I’m done with this series of singles. There’s a lot on the horizon right now but I’m so excited for all of it. It’s been a big year and it’s only going to keep getting bigger.