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Danni Leigh: Nashville Rebel

Posted by: Petr Mecir

Interviews 06/01/2007

Danni Leigh is one of the most unique artists of today's country music. A former waitress at the legendary Bluebird Café managed to gain a lot of fans and soon was opening shows for Alan Jackson, George Jones and other superstars. For her rough image, rebel reputation and wild performances Danni earned her a nickname "female Dwight Yoakam". Even though she wasn't very lucky to have good record labels, which were releasing her albums without any marketing plans or promotion, Danni still built a massive fan base in Europe, where her song "Quarter Over You" became of the biggest hits of 2007. I made an interview with this extra-ordinary lady at her show in Hamburg, Germany.

Way before entering the music business you had done various jobs and one of them was a bungee jumping instructor. Where and how did you learn such extraordinary profession?
"Well, actually I moved to Florida and before that I wanted to try bungee jumping. I had a friend of mine who went while I was at home on vacation and it made me so angry that I went down and got the job. So I could just jump every day. It was just a hobby, really."
Are you keen on adrenaline sports?
"Oh yes, very much."
What else do you do?
"I do rappelling, I like speed skating, volleyball, which is not really extreme but it can be at times. I like a lot of outdoor sports. I love riding motorcycles. I have an obsession with going very fast."
What was the last time you jumped?
"Oh my! Probably in 1990. Long time ago. Too long!"
What was the most precious experience for you while working at the Bluebird Cafe?
"Yes, it was a very special time. I think I was extremely fortunate to get that job and it introduced me to the people that started my career. So it was a very good thing for me to be able to do."
What was it like to meet all those big names, songwriters, artists and be just a waitress with a big dream?
"Well, intimidating at times. But I'm not very easily intimidated but only when I'm holding the credit card of the President of the Sony Records then I get a bit intimidated because my first instinct is to wanna go tell him 'I'm the one! You want me!', but can't do that. It was a very impressionable time for me and I learnt a lot about the business so I'm very very thankful."
Sometimes they call you 'female Dwight Yoakam'. Do you like the nickname?
"I love it!"
Your previous album was produced by Pete Anderson but have you ever worked with Dwight himself?
"I did a tour with him in the States in 2000."
2000? Wasn't it the Tomorrow's Sounds Today tour?
"Yeah, it was great! Fantastic! I love Dwight's music, I love his songwriting. I think that Dwight is one of the best things that happened in country music since our heroes. I think he's the one that's doing it pure and he's fantastic, he's got a lot of class and I'm honored if someone says I remind them a female Dwight Yoakam. I remind them of Dwight Yoakam."
You have toured with so many great artist such as Alan Jackson, George Jones, Sawyer Brown. What tour was really remarkable for you?
"Dwight Yoakam. That's where I felt the most comfortable. I felt like it really fits. I also had a great time with Charlie Daniels. I did only maybe 5 shows with Charlie but he's so humble and just a pleasant person and it was a great time... George Jones, of course! But I would say my favorite tour was Dwight."
You also recorded two Rick Trevino songs - "Poor Broke Mixed Mess Of Heart" and "He Used To Say That To Me". Is Rick an inspiration for you?
"Well, I don't wanna say no, but honestly at the time I recorded these songs I had no idea that Rick Trevino had also recorded them. What brought me to those songs were the songwriters. Merle Haggard and Tommy Collins - "Mixed Of Mess Of Heart", and "He Used To Say That To Me" is by one of my favorite artists/songwriters of all time - Jim Laudermile. I love love love him. I praise his
name and with John Scott Sherill they wrote that song together. If I look for songs I go to these certain catalogs. I found those two songs without knowing that Rick had also cut them. Oops! Someone should have said something!" (laugh)
What makes your new album different from your previous records?
"Actually this album is one that I wrote or co-wrote all of the songs and it was produced by the first guy who started my career. The first guy that I met at the Bluebird Cafe, Michael Knox. It was produced by him in my early days in Nashville. All of these songs are honest as I can possibly be. They were written a long time ago and I've never got the chance to put them on a CD. There were different producers who liked different songs, you know, but I've always had a very special place in my heart for all of these songs, and I feel like this is one of the truest CD's
I've ever made as far as what comes out of me as a songwriter. I'm honored and thrilled to have all these co-writers on a CD with me. I'm really excited for the CD."
Were the songs recorded at the same sessions as 29 Nights?
"Yeah, the demos. When we were making the songs, we did a lot of mastering sessions back in the day and right after I wrote the songs, we'd go in and record them and then master them and yeah, they were recorded at about the same time."
What is your favorite song on the album?
"I think "Masquarade of a Fool", the title track. I like the lyrics."
Do you have any special relationship to the song?
"Well, just a feeling that knowing what you felt when you wrote the song. And it just becomes very special. When I sing it now it just feels really comfortable. I remember very well when I was my mind and where my heart was but I tell ya, it's really difficult to pick out a favorite since there are a lot of them on there and every single one I adore."
What do you think that the best song you've ever written is? What song are you extremely proud of?
"Well, that's a tough question. I'm very proud of "29 Nights". I'm sad about the fact that song never saw too much radio airplay and video play. It makes me very sad and it makes a lot of other people very sad. I would say that's probably the proudest moment as a songwriter. Any many more to come!" (laugh)
No doubt about it! How do you actually write songs? Do you just sit down and write?
"It's always different. I honestly don't have a method. There's a madness about what are the methods. I don't know. It hapens when it hapens."
What is the hardest thing about staying in the business?
"Selling CD's because touring for us is simple, I mean that's what we do for a living. It's trying to continue to get a record label to put your CD's out. And nowadays with the Internet everything's changing. The hardest wariness is trying to continue to find a backing. That's what's labels for."
Can you see any difference is the approach of the audience in Europe and back home?
"Sometimes it seems like maybe they appreciate a little bit more the traditional sound in Europe. Because nowadays in the States it's very commercial. And my music is not commercial. That's my problem there. So I think that's probably the biggest difference. The radios, the labels, the crowds maybe appreciate more the traditional sound which I also appreciate."

Way before entering the music business you had done various jobs and one of them was a bungee jumping instructor. Where and how did you learn such extraordinary profession?

"Well, actually I moved to Florida and before that I wanted to try bungee jumping. I had a friend of mine who went while I was at home on vacation and it made me so angry that I went down and got the job. So I could just jump every day. It was just a hobby, really."


Are you keen on adrenaline sports?


"Oh yes, very much."


What else do you do?


"I do rappelling, I like speed skating, volleyball, which is not really extreme but it can be at times. I like a lot of outdoor sports. I love riding motorcycles. I have an obsession with going very fast."Danni Leigh


What was the last time you jumped?

"Oh my! Probably in 1990. Long time ago. Too long!"


What was the most precious experience for you while working at the Bluebird Cafe?


"Yes, it was a very special time. I think I was extremely fortunate to get that job and it introduced me to the people that started my career. So it was a very good thing for me to be able to do."


What was it like to meet all those big names, songwriters, artists and be just a waitress with a big dream?


"Well, intimidating at times. But I'm not very easily intimidated but only when I'm holding the credit card of the President of the Sony Records then I get a bit intimidated because my first instinct is to wanna go tell him 'I'm the one! You want me!', but can't do that. It was a very impressionable time for me and I learnt a lot about the business so I'm very very thankful."


Sometimes they call you 'female Dwight Yoakam'. Do you like the nickname?


"I love it!"


Your previou
s album was produced by Pete Anderson but have you ever worked with Dwight himself?


"I did a tour with him in the States in 2000."


2000? Wasn't
it the Tomorrow's Sounds Today tour?


"Yeah, it was great! Fantastic! I love Dwight's music, I love his songwriting. I think that Dwight is one of the best things that happened in country music since our heroes. I think he's the one that's doing it pure and he's fantastic, he's got a lot of class and I'm honored if someone says I remind them a female Dwight Yoakam. I remind them of Dwight Yoakam."


You have toured with so many great artist such as Alan Jackson, George Jones, Sawyer Brown. What tour was really remarkable for you?


"Dwight Yoakam. That's where I felt the most comfortable. I felt like it really fits. I also had a great time with Charlie Daniels. I did only maybe 5 shows with Charlie but he's so humble and just a pleasant person and it was a great time... George Jones, of course! But I would say my favorite tour was Dwight."


You also
Danni Leighrecorded two Rick Trevino songs - "Poor Broke Mixed Mess Of Heart" and "He Used To Say That To Me". Is Rick an inspiration for you?


"Well, I don't wanna say no, but honestly at the time I recorded these songs I had no idea that Rick Trevino had also recorded them. What brought me to those songs were the songwriters. Merle Haggard and Tommy Collins - "Mixed Of Mess Of Heart", and "He Used To Say That To Me" is by one of my favorite artists/songwriters of all time - Jim Laudermile. I love love love him. I praise his name and with John Scott Sherill they wrote that song together. If I look for songs I go to these certain catalogs. I found those two songs without knowing that Rick had also cut them. Oops! Someone should have said something!" (laughs)


What make
s your new album different from your previous records?


"Actually this album is one that I wrote or co-wrote all of the songs and it was produced by the first guy who started my career. The first guy that I met at the Bluebird Cafe, Michael Knox. It was produced by him in my early days in Nashville. All of these songs are honest as I can possibly be. They were written a long time ago and I've never got the chance to put them on a CD. There were different producers who liked different songs, you know, but I've always had a very special place in my heart for all of these songs, and I feel like this is one of the truest CD's I've ever made as far as what comes out of me as a songwriter. I'm honored and thrilled to have all these co-writers on a CD with me. I'm really excited for the CD."


Were the songs recorded at the same sessions as 29 Nights?


"Yeah, the demos. When we were making the songs, we did a lot of mastering sessions back in the day and right after I wrote the songs, we'd go in and record them and then master them and yeah, they were recorded at about the same time."


What is your favorite song on the album?


"I think "Masquarade of a Fool", the title track. I like the lyrics."


Do you have
any special relationship to the song?


"Well, just a feeling that knowing what you felt when you wrote the song. And it just becomes very special. When I sing it now it just feels really comfortable. I remember very well when I was my mind and where my heart was but I tell ya, it's really difficult to pick out a favorite since there are a lot of them on there and every single one I adore."Danni Leigh


What do you think that the best song you've ever written is? What song are
you extremely proud of?


"Well, that's a tough question. I'm very proud of '29 Nights'. I'm sad about the fact that song never saw too much radio airplay and video play. It makes me very sad and it makes a lot of other people very sad. I would say that's probably the proudest moment as a songwriter. Any many more to come!" (laughs)


No doubt about it! How do you actually write songs? Do you just sit down and write?


"It's always different. I honestly don't have a method. There's a madness about what are the methods. I don't know. It hapens when it hapens."


What is the hardest thing about staying in the business?


"Selling CD's because touring for us is simple, I mean that's what we do for a living. It's trying to continue to get a record label to put your CD's out. And nowadays with the Internet everything's changing. The hardest wariness is trying to continue to find a backing. That's what's labels for."


Can you see any difference is the approach of the audience in Europe and back home?


"Sometimes it seems like maybe they appreciate a little bit more the traditional sound in Europe. Because nowadays in the States it's very commercial. And my music is not commercial. That's my problem there. So I think that's probably the biggest difference. The radios, the labels, the crowds maybe appreciate more the traditional sound which I also appreciate."


Thank you.

 

Danni Leigh & Petr Mečíř

(Danni Leigh & Petr Mecir - Hamburg, Germany, 06/01/2007)

 



(C) Petr Mecir 2007. All rights reserved.