Danielle Martin is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter out of New Jersey. She recently released her first EP Wanderlust independently and is growing her following in the tri-state area. She is shaping her own genre which she calls “alternative soul”, a push away from the contemporary styles. Last week, Danielle took some time to sit down with Colossus for an interview!
Colossus Music: Start off by telling us a little about yourself and your music! You’ve described yourself in the past as making “alternative soul” music. Could you explain that for people who may not know what that is?
Danielle Martin: I’m Danielle of course! I am from New Jersey and have been making music for about ten years. Only in the last few years though have I been trying to do this more professionally. Before that, I was just doing live shows here and there and collaborating with some other artists. For me, when I say I’m “alternative soul”, it’s really more about how I started. The first person I worked with was actually a DJ, DJ IRS, and he was producing beats for hip-hop artists primarily. They were very different for me…I can imagine it would be easier for a hip-hop artist to find the beat but he was sending me beats that may not have worked with another artist but worked for me. A lot of the songs on the EP I worked on with him. At the time, it felt unique to me to be making songs that were more soul and R&B over these crazy hip-hop beats. From there, we coined it “alternative soul” and it has just stuck ever since!
CM: So having done this for almost ten years, obviously you were inspired by something. Where in life did that inspiration come from? Was it a certain artist, song, album, etc.?
DM: Honestly I have just always enjoyed music ever since I was a kid. I think the first song that ever really opened my eyes was Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. I was in a cab with my mom when I was really young when I heard it for the first time and I really don’t remember listening to music before hearing that song. It’s weird to say but that was the first time where I thought to myself, ‘this is awesome!’ Ever since then I have always loved listening to music. I have been writing poetry since I was 8 or 9 and from there I started writing music. It’s just something I always did. I used to have journals but I am not a good journalist. There are some people who can write about their whole day and that is just boring to me. I had all these journals that I would start writing in but then abandon because it felt so tedious, but then I started writing poetry in them and that lead to writing music. It’s just something I have done my whole life.
CM: Branching off that, you are mentioning your lyrics and poetry and we are curious to know where that comes from? On your latest EP, you demonstrate a lot of vocal emotion and some beautiful lyricism but is that mainly coming from a lot of personal experience or somewhere else?
DM: It’s a mix. When I sit down to write a song, I am not one of those people who say ‘I am going to write about this topic or this emotion’ because it can be such a struggle to focus on it. It’s almost like once you start you want to talk about everything other than that thing. I usually just sit down and let my mind wander. More often than not, I will write out the song and as I do that it makes me think about maybe a fight I had with someone yesterday or something that happened to me last week. That flow helps write the song. I mainly wait for inspiration to strike but I have to be careful cause that can be a downfall. If you wait too long you can get distracted by other things.
CM: And when you do write out those songs, are you doing in the studio, at home, or a happy medium of the two?
DM: Studio is the last part for me honestly. When I was starting up music was just a solo thing that I did. The studio was just something that happened over time as I got introduced to different people in the industry. Like when I met DJ IRS, I was at an open mic and was friends with the host who helped me make that connection and we went to work from there. With the other guys I worked with on the EP, it was pretty much the same thing. Other than that, I am usually at home writing.
CM: You recently opened for Boyz II Men! That was probably a huge moment for you!
DM: It was a huge moment! It was surreal for me!
CM: How did you get that setup?
DM: Well it was through Bergen PAC in NJ. They still didn’t have anyone to open for them. A friend of mine works there and the center knew me from other work I had done with them, so my friend suggested me. From there, it led me right up to opening for Boyz II Men.
CM: So we’ve touched on your style of “alternative soul” but we can’t help but talk about the work you did with the R&B singer Jonny Parks and the rock band Crimshaw earlier this year. To us, that seems the opposite of what soul is, right?
DM: I kind of disagree! I understand that it is not the traditional soul music. Georgi Feldman is the lead singer of Crimshaw and I love his voice cause it has so much soul in it. I get what you are saying because it is a rock song. But besides rock, it has funk and all these other really dope elements to it. I am a huge fan of those guys so I was really excited to work with them. I didn’t know them beforehand so after we worked on that song “Black Lagoon”, I just became a big fan.
CM: Is that something your fans should expect more of is you experimenting outside your traditional genre? Should we expect you to be making more collaborative songs with other artists and bands?
DM: Absolutely! I love it because I am a creature of habit. I find I push myself outside of my own boundaries but it is always great to collaborate with other artists and see how they work and hear the music they are producing. That is so inspiring honestly! It makes me feel more creative working with other people and I love it! Definitely, people should expect me to do that more!
CM: Now to switch things up a bit! If you could get dinner with three musicians from any era, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
DM: Definitely Whitney Houston because, as I said, she is my hero. Amy Winehouse because she is also such a huge influence on me. Her albums are perfect because they are just simple. I would love to pick her brain cause I admire her a lot. I think the third would be Michael Jackson. He is the king of pop and he is fascinating because he has been famous since he was a child. I feel like he would have a lot of stories to tell and a lot of wisdom to share. Especially all three of them would be crazy!
CM: Follow up to that, is there a specific place you would take them?
DM: I am tripping now cause I am trying to think where I would take them! You know what, I’m not tripping, I would take them someplace we could make some music together. Probably like a live venue, like it’s not there anymore but maybe The Village Underground in the city where you could wail in front of a huge band and just be free and creative as hell!
CM: So what’s next for you? Are you looking to tour more, drop new solo music, or be working on more collabs?
DM: Right now I just released my new music video for “The Wanting” and that was a long labor of love. I recorded it a year ago but wasn’t really happy with where it was so we had to sit for a while and literally wait for the seasons to turn to do reshoots. That just recently happened. Other than that, right now I am just hibernating and writing a lot. I just signed a music licensing deal with MTV so hopefully, you will be hearing from of the songs off the EP on some of your favorite TV shows. Fingers crossed! I think as I am writing and expanding on what I want for my next project, I definitely want to focus on collaborating with more artists as we were talking about because that definitely helps with the creative process and it is also really fun. Jonny Parks, the artist you mentioned before, he just released a new song called “Young God” and I feature on that!