How Staying Positive Shaped Danny Starr As A Songwriter

Danny Starr is a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from London, UK. His music has been featured on BBC Introducing, Amazing Radio, and major blogs and radio worldwide. His exceptional songwriting and heartfelt vocal delivery have garnered him scores of high profile fans.

It’s that same exceptional songwriting that caught the attention of the promoters at Camden Rocks Festival where he was selected through one of our opportunities to headline the acoustic stage there.

Check out this interview with Danny Starr where he shares how his songwriting has evolved, how almost giving up actually helped him develop as an artist, and what’s up next for him including the release of his new single Double Red Line (listen below).

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start, how long have you been performing, what kind of music do you play, etc.

About 6 years ago I dug my mum’s old guitar out from storage after seeing a friend of mine perform Wonderwall at a school concert. If it wasn’t for him I may never have started songwriting… so cheers Max. I learnt upside down guitar off youtube until I got my first lefty guitar, which is when I started writing. I was about 14 when my first song surfaced, and I hope it never returns to the surface again, for reasons I’m sure you can imagine. I was 14 years old and heartbroken by a long lost holiday romance. (If anyone still has a copy of that song on their phone I ask you please to delete it as soon as possible.)

My writing has gone on a bit of a journey over the 5 or so years I’ve been doing it now. I think the changes in direction and imagery can actually tell a bit of a story about my teen years and my journey to adulthood. Now being almost 20, I can listen back to a song on my first EP, which I wrote when I was 15, and then I listen to the music I’m recording now and the difference between the two makes me feel very reminiscent of times gone by. I might still mostly write about romantic difficulties, but I find it interesting to see how those difficulties have changed a bit over the years. There are moments in my songs which mention moments that have shaped who I am today, and going back and remembering those moments when I hear the songs makes me just want to keep writing more and more.

My biggest inspirations in my early writing were Passenger, Ben Howard, and Dry the River. Those three step out from the crowd when I think about what I was listening to a few years ago. Nowadays, Alex Turner, Jack Johnson, Jeff Buckley, and Amy Winehouse (among many others) fuel me with ideas all the time. The sound I’ve ended up with after all of this is a bit of an acoustic rock vibe. I think the clarity of my more recent acoustic sound on record allows the focus to switch to the honest and sometimes ruthless lyrics I’ve started writing more recently. I want people to hear and be moved by what I write. I love sharing emotions with people through my music.

Without the help of a big team what has been the biggest struggle for you as a DIY artist?

Getting into a studio was the first real struggle. I am not in any way, shape or form skilled enough in music production to build my songs to release quality by myself. I’ve tried. I’ve failed. So getting into a studio ended up being a real target for me because I really wanted to put some of the stuff I was writing out there. At 16, I met my now manager, who helped me write for about a year, then got me into his studio, and eventually put out my first set of tracks. From there, just being noticed was the struggle. One of the hardest challenges as an artist is not being absolutely overcome by negativity when your new music, which you are so passionate about, goes unnoticed. I myself have fallen victim to this negativity, to the point where I’ve come close to giving up entirely. Things can go quiet for a long time, interrupted only by the occasional bit of exciting news that keeps you going. A radio play or a big gig for example. I love writing music, and I’ll never stop doing it, but many artists find it very hard to keep sharing something that is very personal with the world when it may not be received well. I think I’ve come to a realisation, however, that this is something most artists battle with throughout their careers, no matter how successful. I can’t really imagine myself writing a song which isn’t in part hard to share with people, and really I think that is a defining feature of my songwriting.

Gigging is another major part of the life of an unsigned artist. Getting from empty pubs to playing industry shows has been a lengthy journey. I’m supporting an amazing singer-songwriter, Riley Pearce, at his headline London show at The Borderline on July 18th and when I think back and compare it to some of the shows I’ve played to a crowd of two bartenders and a sleeping homeless guy, it is a bit nuts. The same goes for playing empty gigs as I said above about going unnoticed when releasing new music. But, I think without the hundreds of empty rooms, I wouldn’t appreciate the handful of full rooms I have had the opportunity to play so far.

Staying positive and carrying on through the quietest times definitely shaped who I am as a performer and writer over the last four or five years. I think coming close to throwing in the towel has actually helped me develop as an artist more than anything else, because it forces you to go back to your bedroom, be honest about your faults, and work on them until you’re ready to go back and have another go at taking that step.

How did you hear about ReverbNation and our opportunities for labels and artists?

I heard about ReverbNation years and years ago. Probably through another band’s social media posts or something. When I was in my early teens I was signing up for everything. I wanted my name to be on every music site everywhere. I started applying for opportunities well before I was ready as an artist to be involved in any of them. But then, when I started getting blog posts about my music and getting booked for bigger shows, ReverbNation Opps started becoming more and more realistic. Since being invited to the CONNECT programme, ReverbNation has obviously become a pretty major gateway for my music. Being put forward for support slots, festival slots, and all sorts by the people behind the scenes at ReverbNation has been awesome. Some of my most significant achievements in music has been through those guys, and I’m sure many more will also come through them so big thanks to the ReverbNation team.

What was the submission process like? What was your reaction when you found out that you were selected to play at the Camden Rocks Festival?

There’s not much to say about the submission process as it’s so easy. You just make a profile with your music on it and submit the song you want to put forward to the opportunity, and it’s done. When I applied for Camden Rocks, it was like applying to any of the other opportunities that I’ve applied for. I really wanted the slot, but wasn’t overconfident, so didn’t think too much about it. When I got the email saying I was selected, I was pretty chuffed. The lineup at that point already had a few bands I had crossed paths with over the years, along with some legends of the rock genre. It was pretty awesome being on the same lineup as some of those guys.

Any advice for new musicians just starting out? How do you get your name out there, find new fans, keep fans engaged, get noticed by labels etc?

Just keep going and don’t overthink stuff. Post regularly online. Give people new stuff to listen to as often as you can. If you post a new song and it gets two likes, just post another one next week. Keep writing and working on your art. Compare stuff you wrote a while ago with what you’re writing now and build on the changes. Maybe merge old ideas with new ones. Just work, work, and work on your music. All this time, keep sending it to people. You’ll be ignored by an infinite number of people in the music industry. But you will find people who will back you, and maybe even get involved and help to develop you as an artist. Some may even reply saying “yeh this is cool, but not for us right now.” A couple months later send them something new. Dealing with negativity is key, and that doesn’t mean being positive all the time, but it means turning the bad patches into progression as an artist. The fans and labels will come with time and will come as the quality of the art develops, so just focus on the music and on yourself, and keep on going as long as the passion is still there.

What’s up next for Danny Starr?

Lots of new music. I’ve been writing new material since February last year when my last EP came out, and I can’t wait for you to hear what we’ve been cooking up. You don’t have to be too patient as well because you’re going to be bombarded by it for the next few months.

Danny Starr has just released his new single Double Red Line, which you can listen to below:


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