Dani Wilde recently ventured North to Sedgefield Rock and Blues club for a show in support of her fourth studio album Songs About You.
National Blues Review caught up with Dani after the show to talk about her new album, her work in Africa and her memories of Johnny Winter.
NBR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Blues Review. So you’ve just come off stage at Sedgefield Rock and Blues club how was it for you?
Dani: It was really good fun. Lovely venue, lovely audience, good sound onstage, it was fun.
NBR: You’ve been on tour across Europe most of this year. How have the shows been going?
Dani: Really good yeah, we’ve been doing quite a lot in Poland this year which is quite a new territory for me, but yeah Poland and Germany mainly. It’s always good fun to travel.
NBR: You’ve got Tabitha Smith out on tour with you at the moment. How did you two come to meet?
Dani: (laughing) I’ve known Tabitha since I was 5 years old. We went to primary school together, we went to the same university at different times, we ended in the same city … in Brighton.
I really don’t know why I didn’t think of asking her to come on tour with me before. We’ve both been doing our own separate things, she has been touring and did Glastonbury recently. I suddenly thought why don’t we do this together, and so that’s what we are doing now.
NBR: Tonight you brought Tabitha up on stage, which was really great. Do you have any plans to collaborate?
Dani: I don’t think so, other than this big European tour that we’ve got coming up, but not recording wise as of yet. We have a massive tour of Europe next year with Tabitha opening for me, which is lovely.
NBR: You’ve played all over the world from Times Sq to the slums of Africa, but if you could play anywhere in the world, where would be your dream gig?
Dani: Ooh goodness, that’s so difficult to say. What would be my dream gig? I’m not sure. I’ve played a few dream gigs, I’m not sure what would be next thing maybe Wembley would be amazing. Of the gigs I’ve done playing to kids in Africa was amazing, the Royal Albert Hall was another big one.
NBR: Speaking of Africa you’ve been actively involved in the ‘Moving Mountains’ charity in Kenya. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you got involved with them?
Dani: It was my university project a long time ago (laughing) and I’ve been doing it for about 8 years. My project was to use music as a fundraising tool to provide musical education for the children in Kenya, but it has really developed since I’ve been out there to include providing the basics, food and drink, shelter, education, pens, paper and just the simple things that they are really lacking.
Education is the main one especially for girls that’s quite a new thing in Kenya for girls to be given education. So that’s what we are really pushing, and it’s just brilliant to see the enthusiasm from the kids and how much they are really getting out of that it’s brilliant. We are just trying to reach out to more and more kids every year.
NBR: You recently released your latest album Songs About You. Can you tell us a little bit about that and your inspiration behind it?
Dani: I wanted to do something that was a lot more organic and real to me than any of my other albums. Juice Me Up had a few songs that really meant a lot to me but it was also very fun, because my life was fun at that point, I hadn’t had my heart broken. I had seen things in Kenya that were upsetting but I had less to say and by the time I came to write Songs About You I had a lot to say.
Yeah, so just to make something that was real to me. I play less electric guitar on it, much more acoustic guitar but with a really great band. There’s Kula Shaker’s cellist, Chaka Khan’s bass player and Eddie Floyd’s guitar player. That was just a real treat to be surrounded by such great musicians for that record.
NBR: On the new album the sound is a little bit different compared to Juice Me Up, like you mentioned it has a lot more of an acoustic sound. Is that the direction you are going in?
Dani: No not really, it’s the direction of that album. Live I really like to play songs from all of my albums, but I want every album to be different from the last one. My favorite artists are artists where I’ve enjoyed all of their albums, they are artists who haven’t made the same album over and over and that’s what I wanted to do I want it to be, a journey to keep expanding and try new things. Who knows what I will do next.
NBR: Did you have a different approach to writing and recording Songs About You?
Dani: Yes, I spent a lot longer writing it. It was a bit of a nightmare. I said onstage tonight ‘never date your guitar player’, it was difficult because I was working with the guitar player in question on this album and it was really just an emotional time in the studio. It was hard to keep it together, but the good thing about that was that the emotion in the songs was real, we captured something real, we captured a moment in time.
NBR: If you could collaborate with any artist in particular who would be your dream collaboration?
Dani: It’s such a tough one, there’s just too many. Buddy Guy I guess is our last living blues legend now, I think he turned 79 this week, that would be amazing in regards to blues. Al Green, I love Al Green. Lyle Lovett, so many I don’t know who to choose. Contemporary artists, Bruno Mars i like him (laughing) but so many, I just love music of all genres I can’t pick.
NBR: Speaking of all genres of music, I read on your website that you also sing high soprano in a Russian choir?
Dani: Yeah, I haven’t done it recently because my tour schedule got really busy with my blues stuff. That was something actually that Tabitha got me into, she is really great at harmony and choir music.
It was really good, just really inspiring to do something completely different from the blues and to sing in a different language as well was wonderful. With the gigs in Russia recently I didn’t try out my Russian, not much of it, not singing, I didn’t sing in Russian to the Russians.
NBR: I’ve got to ask you about Johnny Winter because I know you are a bit of a fan of Johnny and also that you got to open for him in New York and Spain. What was Johnny like?
Dani: Lovely, really nice, really kind and his whole band where absolutely lovely to us. At that time he was quite frail and you know it was towards the end of his life. He was really kind, he let us go backstage before the gig. We had a separate backstage area, he let us into his backstage and we were hanging out. He let me have my photo taken with him and chat to him for a bit.
He played an amazing gig, like I said he seemed quite frail and then he really got into it and the last few songs of the gig he got up off his chair and he was standing up and rocking out, it was brilliant. So I just feel really, really lucky to have met him. Really a kind and very gentle soul.
I’ve heard lots of amazing things about Johnny Winter and a friend of mine, I won’t name her but a fantastic black soul singer who was in a white studio in America in the 60’s recording a country song, Johnny Winter was on the same session and she was experiencing a lot of racism in the studio and Johnny Winter was the one who stood up for her and said ‘don’t you dare treat her like that or we are leaving’. So yeah, just everything about the guy as a person and as a musician, everything he did solo and with Muddy just wow. Very lucky to have met him.
NBR: So what else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Dani: This and that (laughing). I’m looking to do some more recording. I would quite like to get my Songs About You album released on vinyl. I’ve got a little bit of stuff in Spain that I’m doing later in the year.
Really I’m looking forward to the start of next year, that’s when the big touring is going to start, we’ve done most of our big touring for this year already it seems, but next year we are really going to be busy.
NBR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, we look forward to hearing more of what’s to come.
Dani: Thank you very much.
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