Band: Danny Burns
Date: Friday, July 19 at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Listening Room of Mobile, 78 St. Francis St., thelisteningroommobile.com
Tickets: $20 artist donation (Call 251-367-4599 for reservations)
Danny Burns will be bringing the sounds of his debut album, “North Country,” to The Listening Room of Mobile’s intimate setting. As a member of a family of working musicians, this Irish-born singer-songwriter’s life has gained an extensive amount of experience both on the stage and on the road.
After 20 years as a professional musician, Burns took time in between gigs and sessions to carefully formulate the tracks found on this album. He also had a little help from some of Americana’s most notable artists, which include Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush, Critter Fuqua (Old Crow Medicine Show), Dan Tyminski (Alison Krauss & Union Station) and many others. The end result is a collection of pure, traditional Americana folk that is beautifully haunting. Burns took time from the road to give Lagniappe readers a glimpse into the creation of this album and his years of musical experience.
Centanni: You know, I’ve talked to a ton of artists who say that they come from “a family of musicians.” You say that you come from “a family of working musicians,” which is a different dynamic on many levels. What was it like coming up in a family of working musicians?
Burns: I think that I got a slightly different perspective. Of course, they took great joy in what they did. I think there was a little more discipline and a little less lackadaisical things going on there. If you were getting gear or buying instruments, then you better be able to justify why you’re buying them and pay them off. You better be gigging and earning some money to do that.
Centanni: Over the past decade, folk has made this huge mainstream comeback in the U.S. How would you compare the current American folk here to the one in Ireland?
Burns: In Ireland, my parents would’ve been growing up listening to traditional Irish music, which is instrumental folk music. In as much, they would be listening to George Jones and Johnny Cash, and all the country music that was coming out, and rock ‘n’ roll like ’50s/’60s Elvis and soul music. Whatever was being piped into the radios, Irish people were accepting and into all of it.
I’m living here in Nashville now, and I have tons of friends who are tour managers. They always tell me wild stories about going to Ireland. No matter who they were with, there was always great attendance. People in Ireland love their music. They love their songwriters and their songs. I was just listening to NPR yesterday, and there was a young Irish guy talking about Bruce Springsteen going over there a lot. Everybody you talk to always has a good experience touring in Ireland. It’s a little different from the rest of Europe. They’re a little more jovial and passionate about it.
Centanni: What made you want to finally make the leap across the ocean?
Burns: Well, my family had been touring America in the ’80s. We did lots of touring out there. We’ve lived all sorts of places. Then, we moved back. When I finished school, I was trying to do a studio/engineering course, but I couldn’t get away from live music situations. I was gigging around Europe and got the offer to be a side guy. So, I came out here and the rest is history.
Centanni: When you struck out on your own without your family, what was it like touring across the American scene?
Burns: I was in the backseat watching my parents do it. So, I was pretty hip as a 10-year-old or even a 5-year-old. We had done an awful lot of traveling. I had seen it all. I had seen the bar gigs and the bigger gigs. So, it wasn’t like it was brand new. I had family members who stayed. My oldest brother stayed, and I would stay summers with him in New York and New Jersey. I was always back and forth. I kinda knew what I was going to be doing when I got here.
Centanni: After spending years writing, touring and performing, you finally released your debut album, “North Country.” What made you finally decide that it was time to release your first album?
Burns: Well, I had been working on it for a very long time. Some of those songs are coming up on being 18 or 19 years old. I had done so much studio stuff over the years that some of the stuff I was happy with and some of the stuff I wasn’t happy with. I definitely tried to put out records before, and I pulled back in my claws and teeth a bit after hearing the final thing for whatever reason, whether it was the songwriting or whatever.
I was also a full-time, working musician with other people. I decided that when it was time to put out my own thing, then I would be very particular about it and not rush it. The production of “North Country” took about four years to track it from beginning to end. I was doing it independently as well. So, I had to take my time with it. I couldn’t be happier with the way it came out. I had done sessions in New York and Chicago and L.A., but for whatever reason, I didn’t want it to go out there yet.
Centanni: Taking your time seemed to be a winning decision, because it’s a beautiful album. One thing you did on this album is recruit a number of special guests to join you on each track. What made you want to take that route with the album’s creation?
Burns: I had done lots of sessions with top session players. I had done a lot of that stuff where you’re playing with people live in a bar gig or a festival or whatever you were doing. There was a personal thing going on. You were enjoying the time that you were spending with other musicians. There was a bit of a bond though. When you go in and hire a bunch of session players, I think there’s something that gets lost there, depending on who you’re hiring. I wanted everybody to bring their personality to it. All those people who I asked, I was a fan of theirs first.
Centanni: I’m one of those people who feel that the music industry has stretched Americana and folk as far as it could. Before I listened to this album, I thought that I was going to get an Irish folk-heavy album. When I sat down with the tracks, I got this beautiful, traditional collection of Americana. How does a guy from Ireland come up with such a poignant Americana album?
Burns: I think I had some pretty strong references. I was definitely listening to all the great Alison Krauss & Union Station records, not even trying to go there. It’s a different world altogether. All the guys and girls featured on the album were super cool. [Dan] Tyminski and Sam Bush and Tim O’Brien all helped to guide the ship. It wasn’t just me going into a session with my mind made up of where it will go. It was me, Tim O’Brien and Sam Grisman over in The Butcher Shoppe, which is John Prine and Fergie’s [David Ferguson’s] place. The three of us separated and knocked out “Darling Roisin” and did the overdubs for “Great Big Sea” there. I think that the engineering was great. Sean Sullivan engineered those sessions. I think the songs had been around a long time, which is why they turned out the way they did. I had been gigging these songs for many years. So, it wasn’t like they were new songs. They were tested on the road. Also, being surrounded by these killer players took its own direction into Americana.
Centanni: Will we have to wait as long as the sophomore album?
Burns: [Chuckles.] We have started on it already. I was just in the studio with Sarah Jarosz and Shani Gandhi again. We are almost done with that song. We’re trying to not to leave too much from “North Country.” We’re experimenting with the Americana stuff and Celtic stuff. So, that will be a new little twist on it. It’s very artsy and rootsy. We added a dobro and upright and a fiddle and mandolin. I have sessions booked, and we’re hoping to put out the next record before the end of the year.
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