Dani Strong released her second album Undefined late October debuting at number 2 on the charts! Her album is so powerful and a true masterpiece. Dani is an exceptional storyteller and extraordinaire song writer. There is incredible depth and rawness to her songs and you can definitely feel such a connection with her music. Undefined spotlights Dani’s incredible capabilities as a musician, including her outstanding vocals.
It was an absolute pleasure catching up with Dani and diving into all about the album with her! I began by asking Dani how she felt about the album’s release.
“I feel so good! I am very very happy about it, it’s been a way different release then the first one and also way different the way I have posted and been on social media about it, but it’s been so great! I was number 2 under Luke Combs! So much has changed in the industry in the last 4 years and I just feel really really good about it all! Yeah honestly so great about it all and couldn’t be happier!”
Beaming with joy and so she should be so proud, I wanted to ask her so much about her songs. As a songwriter, these are your song babies, how did you bring them to life?
“They totally are my song babies and very different from the first one again. I had a way longer time frame and I was sifting through my life’s work and also trying to sound cohesive for the industry. This time around, it was all about this is who I am and what has happened to me or inspired me in the past 3 years. I am so connected to this record and just in heaven. I love seeing my husband listen to the album, when he listens to it, his eyes just light up and he’s just so happy. Really, just everyone who was involved in this album is just so proud of what it is and that just means a lot to me!”
Dani is extremely close with her band and I would be completely remised not to ask about them!
“Ahhh I love that you bring them up ‘cause they are so close to me and like a second marriage! They are literally everything! We’ve been together for over 15 years, Mike especially. They are just as much apart of this record and my sound and again really they are everything!”
I can definitely hear Dani throughout this album and after seeing them perform a time or too I can also definitely visualize them performing some of the songs, especially Mountains. (Because visualize and reminisce, you know that’s what we can only do these days, sigh.) After mentioning this, Dani went on to tell me about the recording of the track.
“You know what’s really cool about that, Mountains is one of two tracks that we recorded live off the floor. So we recorded it while playing, as if we were live performing it at a show playing all together, all at the same time which was very cool and fun and we hadn’t done this on the first record. Not too many people do this anymore, but I am so blessed with my band and they are so talented that I knew we would be able to pull this off and do a live off the floor.” Very impressive to say the least!
Without saying, it is obviously so hard during these times for Dani to be away from her band and she misses them so much! But like we all have had to do, is find the silver linings and for Dani that is the time she’s had with her family and they have been her focus. When the pandemic hit Dani was just about to begin her tour.
“I was just prepping to be away from the family and miss them. It was going to be a huge tour, I was going to be away from them for 8 weeks. So all of a sudden I wasn’t working now and at home and just like everyone trying to figure this all out and what things were looking like. My husband, Grant went off work and we were just all at home hanging out. We were very thankful that we had moved out here, and to be out here during this time, we are in a tiny community in the Rockies and it was a perfect place to be all together.”
The music industry has been so heavily impacted by the pandemic, but it truly is incredible and a ray of sunshine to still be putting out new music. I asked Dani how she felt about releasing new music during the current situation.
“I had planned to release the album a lot sooner. I had done a kickstarter and have these wonderful supporters that made the final stage of the album possible. I definitely felt the responsibility to give them the album in a timely manner. I believe everyone who supported me would understand but I just felt that I wanted to provide it. I was just dying to get it out there, pandemic or not so we went for it!”
There is so much depth, honesty, realism and connection with Dani’s music and it is always an honest to god pleasure to hear the stories behind the songs. I asked Dani about some of her songs and about working at Top of the World ranch which is a drug and alcohol treatment centre and if working there has influenced her music.
“I began working there 2 years ago and I will never be the same person again. It is a big part of my life. I give music lessons there and it is just seriously a big part of my life now. I was just driving there the other day and it is seriously just outrageous how stunning it is and still I can’t believe I get to go there and drive there for work. Yeah, definitely it has influenced my music! Well, Not Right Now the first single on the album was released in 2018. It was released November 2nd 2018 and I started working at Top of the World Ranch in October, a month prior. But I wrote this song while I was still living in Ontario, it was really outside of what I normally write like, it’s an extremely vulnerable song and communicating this helplessness and ownership of helplessness. It was just so different and I couldn’t even believe I was writing this and I remember sitting at the piano just overwhelmed with these emotions. I am usually so strong and the rock of the family but at that time I was not and I was not able to help anyone at that time, especially myself and I couldn’t figure where this was all coming from. Fast forward a year, I am living in a different province, working at Top of the Ranch. The day I released it I was doing a fortification program with my clients and I will never forget we were telling our stories and I just started weeping at some of the stories the clients were sharing. The leader asked what was going on, share your feelings this is what we do here. I had just realized why I had written the song and it all made so much sense and it just became all so clear to me and the treatment centre put it into perspective for me. Then Walk The Mile, I actually began writing at the piano at the treatment centre, never mind the beauty surrounding the place, so definitely yes influential to my song writing indeed.”
The final track on the album Holding Out for Love, for me is just so beautiful and I had to ask her about this one.
“Well, it is the most different I have ever sounded on that track. I did it in a lower key and Dan (producer) has always loved my voice at that register so we just left it there. That was actually in all honesty written when I was living in Ontario and worked for Redwood Park Communities, which provides safe housing for women and children. I became really good friends with a woman who was staying with us. So I was having coffee with my friend and another woman had walked in with her kids and she was all frazzled about her ex. Well my friend, a woman who has her own set of issues and troubles, she sat down with her, held her hand and said you have to learn to love yourself before you can ever truly be loved properly by anyone. You are enough. She was so sincere and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. My journey has just been so wonderful and I try to share these stories and what I witness.”
Very intriguing to me are the two different tracks, Mrs. Jones on the album, so I had to ask Dani all about the different versions, Becky and Evelyn!
“It began just as one version, the upbeat version Becky. I wrote that on my first radio tour in 2017 I was just crossing the country out on this and I was stopped in Edmonton at a hotel. I was listening to a lot of Kasey Musgraves while driving. So I was at the hotel room watching tv, which tv is never part of my life for no other reason then I just don’t have time for it. So I had just seen one of The Real Housewives shows and I couldn’t believe what I had just watched and I was flabbergasted that this was real and documenting an actual person and an actual persons real life. I just couldn’t comprehend it. So I went into the bathroom and went in there wanting to write an upbeat kinda Kasey Mushraves vibe poking fun at Mrs. Jones. The typical Mrs. Jones, keeping up with the Jones’s. (Side note, if you know Dani then you know all about her “bathroom sessions”, so awesome!) So it existed for a couple years on its own and then we got into the studio and we were recording it. My wonderful friend and fellow song writer, Gina Horswood was there singing background vocals and she said Dani this is a sad song, I hear it as a sad song. She was totally right! So right then and there in studio we re-wrote the song. My band was just looking at me dropped jaw that we were doing it. But we were doing it! When we were laying down the new version, slowed down, more chilled, laid back, empathetic view of Mrs. Jones, I was still trying to sing the same lyrics over this new vibe and the lyrics were just so outrageous and not giving Mrs. Jones any comfort at all so we had to re-write everything. I kept the chorus the same and gave a brand new verse to have a completely different light sine on Mrs. Jones, an empathetic one from Becky, so we gave her Evelyn.”
Another favourite of mine from the album, Wild Summer, was one we had cranked all summer long! It is a very special song to Dani, which she said holds such a special place in her heart and it is such a fun song!
It was an absolute honest pleasure diving into Dani’s album with her and finding out more behind her music. She truly is an inspiration and genuinely kind, loving spirited person. Her music is a reflection of who she is and this album delivers so much of her heart and soul. Like most, I can find so much solace in music and Dani’s music can absolutely provide that!
Music is definitely therapy and to quote Dani so eloquently, “Music is a coping mechanism, it truly is therapy, it’s a form of communication and it is the universal language.”
Thank you Dani for sharing your incredible talent and beautiful music with the world!