Piano isn’t all about learning how to perfect Chopin’s compositions or becoming a carbon copy of your old classical-obsessed music teacher. Sometimes, piano can be just as hardcore as an electric guitar plugged into a wall of sound systems. Just ask Nutley, NJ native, Danni May. I’m sure she can find a way to get people to headbang to “Chopsticks.”
New Jersey is teaming with fresh talent just itching to be heard. Take singer/songwriter Danni May as an example. This musician has a wealth of talent beyond the keyboard—and thankfully puts them all to use. While working on her next album, Danni has been cooking up a storm on social media with her zines, which she writes, illustrates, and photographs on her own.
Since she is just beginning to bloom in the music scene, this talented artist is working nonstop to achieve her goals and quench her thirst for a lifetime of playing some good tunes. I was lucky to be able to interview Danni during one of her breaks and shed some light on her new ideas, music, and what she’s plotting for the future.
How did you get into playing music?
When I was six years old, I asked my parents, “Oh, can I have piano lessons?” It was on a whim and they let me. And so I started, but after a while of being given assignments, I would go home and add things to them. Like, put them into different keys and all, so I wasn’t exactly into learning as much as experimenting with music. As I grew up, I started using music as a coping mechanism. So it turned from composition to song writing when I got an iPod and discovered the world that is alternative rock and pop.
How did you get into singing, then?
Singing is kind of funny because when I was really young, this girl that I was friends with would give me singing lessons because she had a vocal coach. I was really self-conscious about my singing for a really long time and I joined choir and things like that—I actually had a fear of singing in choir. But that’s when I sat down at the piano and started singing and that’s when I got more comfortable with my voice. So that’s how I started singing.
But I saw you were also in marching band. What did you play in that?
I played clarinet (laughs).
How many instruments do you actually play?
(Laughs) Okay. So the instruments that I have and that I can play don’t match up. I think I have more instruments than I can play! So I play a little bit of guitar; I know my way around it enough to learn songs. I play the ukulele, piano, and the clarinet!
Your family is made up of musicians, too. How did they feel when you told them that you wanted to start playing?
My parents were definitely into it. They went with the approach that, “If our kids grow up to be musicians, that’s awesome and we’ll support them no matter what they do.” But I think they were happy that I became a musician. They pushed me at one point to keep going because I was going to stop piano lessons. But I’m glad that they did because I probably wouldn’t have become a songwriter. They’ve really helped me and a lot of kids don’t have that. My parents were able to step in when I was struggling with a piece I had to learn and were able to tell me what was what, and I’m grateful to have that advantage.
That’s so good to hear! So do you have any shows coming up?
On February sixth, I’m playing at BoonTunes in Boonton!
Where have you played before?
I started at the Meatlocker, the Glitter Box, and the Spider Saloon, which is an awesome place in Little Falls. Two friends own it and it’s really cool.
Would you ever consider driving out of state for gigs?
Yeah! It actually may be happening a little bit sooner. So, it depends on how things happen. I’m trying to save up money so I can do that in the future. I think it would be a scary experience at first, but well worth it.
Oh yeah. When you travel, how do you manage to get to a piano? It’s not as small as a guitar…
That’s funny because somebody once said something in a little blurb that was like, “There’s more instruments than people.” But I have an 88-key keyboard and I lug it around in my car—my tiny car—and then sometimes, I bring the guitar.
What do you play when you’re out?
I play mostly my own stuff which is theatrical-like sounding on the piano. I also do covers.
You have an EP out now Pick Me Up. Are you working on releasing anything else in the near future?
Hmm. I think the EP was out in June? I should know these things. It’s a very straightforward pop EP. It was really fun to do and now I’m trying to figure out what I should do next because I write in three different genres. I can go with a folk album… I write a lot of cabaret stuff. But mostly, I’ll either be releasing a piano rock or a folk album.
You could do a mix.
I’ve thought of that; it really depends. I would want some kind of connection between the songs. Even if it’s just like subject matter, I wouldn’t want all of the songs sounding wildly different.
I saw that you also create zines. How do you do all of this?
Zines are basically ways to get out political information that people in the punk scene cared about. So it started to spread and now metal scenes have zines, rock people have zines. Anybody could make them. I hadn’t read one before I started to make one. I’ll speak from my own experience and I lay out what I want to say. There’s a lot of cutting and pasting and gluing. And once that’s all done, I bring it to the copy shop and make a bunch of copies. So then I’ll release them on social media. And I do all of the drawings, the writing, the photography. It’s fun! And I got an email from someone who’s been reading my zines and they said that they wrote a couple of songs about my little characters. So, they inspired that person to write music. It was just an awesome feeling. It’s so rewarding and I feel so honored.
I can imagine! What can people expect from you within the next year?
Hmm. Within the next year, expect a lot of shows, a lot of experimentation with stage presence, and a lot of zines! And lots of hugging and new faces. As for an album, that has yet to be determined. I’m still compiling lists of songs and playing with various combinations so I can come out with an EP.
Don’t miss Danni May as she rolls into BoonTunes on Feb. 6 in Boonton, NJ. Her EP is now available on reverbnation.com/daniellelouise. For more on the singer/songwriter, visit her at facebook.com/dannimaymusic.