Dave Daniels and his very visible “Just Like Ghosts”
One thought to keep in mind about Dave Daniels as you listen to "Just Like Ghosts" is that he's a writer just as much as he is a songwriter, singer or guitar player. He's always editing, always paying close attention to detail and always leaves room for his audience (reader, listener) to interpret. But he's also-- on some songs, certainly-- achingly personal and confessional. And the audience can't help but pay attention and feel what he's saying... but in their own way. In short, he does what an artist is supposed to do.
But Dave Daniels isn't the kind of person who wants congratulations on something he's supposed to do. He's too focused.
"This is all I've been doing for two or three years is working on this giant thing," he says, with a heaving sigh. "I mean, besides a 100 page collection of fiction and poetry."
In his sigh lies the sound of relief of having so much work behind him, but the realization of all that's in front of him, too.
At 25 years of age, Dave is still new to the music world.
"Every young artist is essentially an imitator in the beginning," he says, making no egotistical exception for himself, though Daniels insists he's coming into his own. “But I’ve been doing this for almost ten years, nonstop since high school. Finally, I feel like music is something I can do pretty naturally. I like this record.”
"I feel like I can kind of make my own song now," he says, even as he sticks with the folk tradition of covering music from old standards to songs from his contemporaries, a style that's very much a part of him. He openly acknowledges the influence of those he's tried to shake yet keeps coming back to, the kind of rock stars that only need one or two words to evoke their place in rock cannon: Lennon (his childhood hero), Dave Matthews (“he is the one that made me go out and get a guitar and learn how to write my own songs), and of course, Bob Dylan. “I don’t even want to talk about how much his music, his life, means to me.” He says and looks away as he blows a puff of smoke out of his mouth before his CD Release show at the EARL in Atlanta, GA.
He was inspired by another one-name phenom, given Daniels's and his music's newfound maturity.
"I was so inspired to get up to the Obama inaguration," he says, visiting the nation's capital in the middle of the long recording-and-writing process of "Just Like Ghost”.
The historic inauguration was not only a huge boon of inspiration for his music, but a bookend for his young-adult life.
"My first month in college, 9/11 happened ... I was on Capitol Hill protesting in 2003," he says. "So many of us have felt like we've been trapped in this world of darkness, holding our breath, waiting for this person to leave office. And there's a black president now? And there's social change? The country is happy about it? I mean, it’s like the smoke has finally cleared on the bitterness that has been choking us for so almost ten years. I mean, there are problems now, worse than ever, I guess, but at least some of now can be hopeful. It’s a nice feeling, even if it’s only that…a feeling."
His voice spans from a tone of darkness to one of encouraged, cautious optimism in a matter of moments. It's a sign of nuance; a sign of maturation and evolution. One that gives Daniels a broader vision, making him quick to back off being too political in his music. It's poignant, then, that he describes Natalie Merchant's "Motherland" (a cover song on "Just Like Ghosts") in a bigger context.
"That song and ‘Lose Your Wings’ are really the songs I like the most because they aren’t just about feelings and rock and roll. Those songs are like prayers for me. I don’t know…it’s nice to be able to lose yourself in a song and be able to convey something that is bigger than your own life. I like all the songs on the record, but those two songs are really important to me." he says. “I feel a bit more at ease talking about those kinds of topics now than I would have a few years back. All I was doing was venting feelings, whether good or bad. Now, I feel like I can write songs that might mean something to someone else other than myself. Who knows? That part isn’t up to me.”