An Interview With Singer-Songwriter ADDI MCDANIEL ON Her Debut Solo Album, ‘After The News’ and More!
Posted On 28 Jan 2019
“When I’m singing, I’m searching,” says Addi McDaniel. “Every song, every performance is a search for answers, an exploration of what it means to be a whole person.”
On her captivating solo debut, ‘After The News,’ McDaniel points her search inwards, channeling the pain of loss and regret into a transformative work of beauty and strength. Hailed as “a dynamo with a brass-plated voice” by the LA Times, McDaniel is both an extraordinary singer and a gifted interpreter of song, and ‘After The News’ finds her breathing vivid life into a raft of original songs from collaborator Tom Siering, whose material she deftly pairs with covers of tracks by Andrew Bird and Bruce Cockburn. Backed by an all-star cast of musicians including drummer/producer Marco Giovino (Robert Plant, Norah Jones), McDaniel blurs the lines between roots, blues, soul, and jazz on the album, inhabiting each track with the range and empathy of an actor taking on a role. Smoky and sincere, gentle in its insistence, her voice conveys a daring intimacy that feels tailor-made for Siering’s candidly honest reflections on sorrow and regret, hope and forgiveness, pain and transcendence.
“There’s an imprint that loss leaves on your spirit,” reflects McDaniel. “How you deal with it ends up becoming a part of your DNA. There’s a piece of you that doesn’t ever fully let it go, and so you’re always searching for ways to live with that pain and to still be present and human in the time you have. I immediately connected with Tom’s lyrics because he’s not afraid to explore that full range of darkness and light in his writing.”
McDaniel grew up in a vibrantly musical household in St. Augustine, FL, where she enjoyed a childhood surrounded by instruments and an endless series of impromptu jam sessions. The oldest of four siblings, she was captivated by the songs of Rufus Wainwright, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen (“I’m drawn to any voice that conveys pathos, honesty and depth” she says) and fell in love with singing and writing her own poetry from an early age. After attending a performing arts high school and studying music and theater in college, McDaniel relocated to New York City to hone her craft. In 2012, she teamed up with virtuoso harpist Jacqueline Kerrod to form the genre-bending duo Addi & Jacq, which would go on to be crowned “Best Emerging Band in New York” by WNYC and perform everywhere from National Sawdust to the Apollo Theatre.
Learn more about Addi McDaniel in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now?
Feeling incredibly grateful, ready for what 2019 has to teach me!
Now that 2019 has started, what musical goals do you have yourself this new year? Did you make any new year’s resolutions?
I recently came across a post that re-framed the new year’s resolution as “new year’s evolution” – I love this, because it makes the start of the year a great time to contemplate how to continue evolving into who we want to be, staying present and open-minded along the way. Musically this looks like collaboration, surrounding myself with musicians that I admire and want to learn from, performing regularly, traveling and sharing music with new communities, recording new music that I feel proud of and excited about!
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make? Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else?
I was born into a very musical home- it was a big part of my life from the very beginning. I remember seeing Les Miserables with my grandparents and being totally enamored with live performance and live music. It was the most thrilling thing I had ever seen. Singing has always felt intrinsic to who I am. It never really felt like a choice. I do lots of other things outside of music, and that creates a healthy balance for me!
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
In today’s climate, I think artists often have to get creative in the ways they support themselves. At first I felt like I had failed in some way when I couldn’t support myself solely through my art, but I actually find that I feel much more grounded having stability from work unrelated to music, I feel a much greater sense of freedom to work on music projects that I want to do. It’s liberating and has changed my relationship to my creative practices in a positive way.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
I feel incredibly grateful that I was surrounded by music growing up. My parents were often listening to Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, k.d.lang, and so many others that have played a huge role in developing my own musical tastes and singing style. My hometown of St. Augustine, FL also happens to have a very supportive and thriving music community. Environment plays a huge role of course in how we experience the world, probably in ways that I’m not even conscious of. It’s an interesting question– I think during my time living in New York (a city that can often generate lots of anxiety and overstimulation), music has been an incredibly healing outlet.
How does it feel to be releasing your debut album, “After The News” later this month? Did anything surprise you about putting this collection together? How will you celebrate the release of the album?
In 2018, I had the great fortune of recording “After the News” – an album of a heart-wrenching collection of songs written by Tom Siering that explore the darker side of our human experience, particularly regret, loss and grief. Tom lyric’s were full of vulnerability and honesty and I really wanted to match and honor them in the vocal performance. I think what I discovered throughout this process was just how necessary our vulnerability is, how healing it can be. I also find great joy in giving life to someone else’s words- finding the point of entry, taking on someone else’s point of view and making it my own. We will be having an official release February 16th at the St. Augustine Distillery in my hometown, and a concert at The Standard, East Village on Feb 19th!
While it’s difficult, can you pick out a few of your favorite songs on this collection and talk about how they came to be on this album and what it was like writing them?
While my contributions to this recording are as a singer and interpreter of these beautiful songs, it was very easy to connect with Tom’s lyrics. We are both drawn to the same kinds of poetry and songwriting. Some of my favorites are “Sorry” and “The Lacuna”.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
Ah yes, the blessing and curse of social media! I’m very interested in the ways that technology and these platforms (that sort of function like slot machines) are affecting our brains and ways we connect in the world. I have found that its healthy for me to take periodic breaks from these tools altogether- unplugging for a weekend, etc. Without that I think I would find it all incredibly overwhelming. (I’m also a huge fan of using grayscale for iphone- look it up- it’s life-changing!) I am very fortunate that I have the support of a team who helps with managing all these outlets as we gear up for the release. I find all the platforms helpful in different ways, but at present I suppose I may be partial to Instagram!
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
There are so many. Some of my favorite albums of all time are: Paul Simon’s Graceland, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Rufus Wainwright’s Want One, Ben Sollee’s Learning to Bend, k.d.lang’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, Joni Mitchell’s Singing with any of these artists would be a dream come true!
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the mandolin, so that seems like a good opportunity 🙂
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
Black Mirror or any Wes Anderson film.
What has been a favorite show of yours in the past? What do you think makes an ideal show for you? Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about?
Performing at National Sawdust was pretty cool– it’s such a beautiful and unique venue, but honestly I love performing in any space that can create a feeling of intimacy. My favorite shows are the ones where I can really connect with individuals in the room. Singing is one of my favorite things in the world, and feeling an emotional connection with an audience adds a whole other layer of joy and excitement! Right now we’re gearing up towards the FL/NY release shows in February, but more in the works!
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
Many of the songs and singers that have been the most important and influential in my life convey authenticity, pathos, honesty and depth. For me, these are some of the qualities that make music timeless and universal. I aspire to offer the same when I’m singing and performing.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I love meeting and connecting with talented and kind creatives! Find me at com and all the social platforms!