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Danielle Howle.

Interview With Danielle Howle, cont.

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Danielle Howle Live in Seattle

Danielle Howle Live in Seattle

© Kim Ruehl, licensed to About.com
KR: Would you say you play folk music? Do you identify with that at all, with traditional music?
DH: I really do. I really identify with traditional music - it’s hard not to, coming from this region. I consider punk rock folk music … anything that’s grassroots, people talking about what’s relevant in life. You know, when I listen to a Minor Threat record - they’re telling stories about where they live and what they do. But here in South Carolina, we’ve got a few regions. We’ve got the piedmont country and bluegrass region. [We’ve got] the coast, inspired by the Gullah people and African music. You can feel that throughout the south. There was a lot of jazz going on here way back in the day. You know how it is with any region - it’s who migrates there and how the people mix with each other.

A lot of my songs are from being in one place [for so long], and growing up here. I’m a southerner who had a farmer dad, you know. “Fields of Cotton” wasn’t written by someone who don’t know. [I write a lot about] being around the culture of people who work hard until the work is done. So you can call me a folk musician in that sense.

One thing I really dig about folk musicians is that they’re able to draw on many types of music. You know, bluegrass people influence traditional folk people; country swing people are gonna be influenced by people with West African influence … so it’s a melting pot. Folk music is a melting pot (laughs).

KR: You’ve played shows with, and toured with, some really incredible artists (among them, Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Indigo Girls) … is there anyone left you want to work with, or just get together and jam with?
DH: Oh well I’d love to meet Del McCoury. And I wanna play with Tim O’Brien real bad. I’m getting to play with Darryl Scott soon. I got to play with the Avett Brothers, so I feel better about that now. You might really like them. They’re like punkgrass. They’re spirited good. Just [seeing] them live – they’ve got the energy there, and you just can’t deny them.

KR: Are they from Columbia, too?
DH: No they’re from Concord, NC.

KR: Are you still playing with the Tantrums and Lay Quiet Awhile?
DH: You know bands tend to run their course. The drummer for the Tantrums is the percussionist now for the group Iron & Wine. Sam [Beam, from Iron & Wine] is from this area. Now when I play, I’ll go to other regions and meet people and they just wind up in my band. You know, when I’m in Nashville, I play with a band called Last Train Home. When I’m in the Northeast, I play with a band called Spottis Wood and His Enemies. And with Mark Bryan's influence, he tends to mix with an incredible bunch of musicians. Nobody in this world could love music like Mark Bryan loves music. He’s the one that got Sam Bush to play some violin [on the record].

Now here's a story about that song “Fields of Cotton.” Phillip was sitting on the couch one day and he said “Danielle, I don’t know how to play this song.” And I said to him, “Phillip, why don’t you just play Darlington County?” That’s this county here in South Carolina with a lot of agrarian life. A lot of farming and cotton fields in Darlington County. I said, “Just listen to the freaking fields, man.” And so he just played [how the cotton would play].

And then “This Kind of Light” – we recorded that four times, and they all sucked. So I just said I’m gonna go stand out on the porch and sing these vocals [and that’s the take that worked]. Sometimes I get it exactly how I want it. I’ll sit down with the musicians and I’ll sing [their parts] to them because I don’t read the notes. There’s all these different ways [to make the songs work with other musicians].

KR: Do you find more freedom playing with a band or playing solo - when you don’t have to kind of wait for someone else to play their part?
DH: Well, when it’s just me, I can control the pace more. I get more time to chat with people and tell my folk stories, and all. [But] with a band, it frees me up in a different way, to be a vocalist. So I’m trying to figure out a way to get those two twains to meet. So I feel like I’m getting to work on it. And I’ll be working on it my whole life, probably. Sometimes I don’t work on it at all. Sometimes I just get out there and flat out fail. And that’s what I love so much about both mediums [playing solo & with a band], is to be fearless and not afraid of failure. And I look for players like that. The Avett Brothers are really like that.

KR: Well I’m out of questions for you, Danielle. Anything you want to say, that you want my readers to know about?
DH: I want people to have a good time being alive. That’s really what I want them to do. That’s very simplified, and I could go further into that “good time” but I won’t. I just want them to have a good time.

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