The interview originally aired on KWVA’s show “Umloud Radio” hosted by Julia Mahncke aka DJ Almost Exactly like Julia.
Danielle Ate The Sandwich (Danielle Anderson) is not impressed with the superficial layers of life. The musician from Fort Collins, Colorado released her sixth album in September 2016: “The Terrible Dinner Guest” presents to her audience a group of songs that show off her folk songwriting skills, feature humorous and thoughtful lyrics side by side and arrangements that will make your head bob.
You named the album after one of the songs: “The Terrible Dinner Guest”. What is the song about and why did it become the title track?
The song “The Terrible Dinner Guest” to me in a nut shell is a song about being shy. I was inspired to write this song when I was at a dinner with some really cool and interesting people. They were talking about something I didn’t know about. After a while the conversation turned to me. I had nothing to contribute and I had been spending a lot of time stewing my own regret for not having wonderful and interesting things to chime in about. I was mad and gloomy and grumpy. I started to write the song that night, as I went to my guest room and I was thinking: What’s my problem? I’m shy, I don’t know what to say at any given time. How am I supposed to be an adult, if can’t communicate with other adults? I kept going with the idea of not knowing what to say, feeling left out – even when you’re surrounded by people. I chose it for the album title because it’s an intriguing title, it’s kind of funny and because it’s a very important song for me. I find myself in this place a lot and I wanted to make it the title track to honor shy people and the shy person I’ve been a lot of my life.
What would a perfect dinner look like for you? Probably not with strangers and not with people who ask all kinds of weird questions?
On the contrary! I think it would be an excellent opportunity to dine with strangers who were asking weird questions. What hurts me is when I’m with a bunch of people who have something in common that I don’t have in common with them. I really like to get to know strangers. I feel like an ideal dinner would be to pick some random people off the street and have some “would you rather” questions figured out in the middle of the table. There’s a real beauty in getting to the underlying layers of people. Small talk is horrible.
I would love to know more about your approach to recording this album. Was there anything that you set out to do differently compared to your previous releases?
Yes, I wanted to do everything differently. I wanted to record differently, I wanted to work with new people, I wanted the songs to sound a bit different. I’m a folk singer-songwriter and I really like my style, very mellow and simple arrangements – but with this one I wanted to jazz it up a little bit. In some aspects make it actually sound jazzy and in other aspects make it sound more pop-y, more obviously feminine. In line with me growing up as a woman and performer, I kind of wanted the instrumentation and the production to sound like I had made my choice on purpose and was sticking with it. With the simpler arrangements and folk sound of my previous records I often find that it has come off as insecure. For these new songs I wanted to walk into the room and make a statement as compared to asking for permission.
You enlisted some help. How was the collaboration process?
I had written the bones of the songs and then I went to Norfolk, VA to record with my friends Skye Zentz, who is a singer-songwriter, and she co-produced this record, and Jacki Paolella, who is also a musician and she recorded and engineered the record. We talked about what we were going for and bringing other players and musicians in on it, they put their own spin on the songs. I usually want all the credit to myself and I want to say ‘Oh, you liked that? Well, I do everything on my own.’ Because I’m an introvert. And I have control issues. And I’m the best at everything I do, haha. And again for this record I wanted to knock that off and say ‘Wait, you have great ideas, Danielle, but so do a lot of people. To get out of this comfortable indie/folk hole you’ve been living in, it would really pay off to ask people for help and listen to their suggestions.’ And that’s what I did.
One of my favorite songs on this album is “Two Places At Once”. I remember you posted a version of it some time ago on YouTube and someone commented on it saying what a great cover song it was. It’s one of your originals, obviously, but it does feel sort of like a classic. What do you remember about writing it?
I wrote it a long time ago. It was a song I wrote when I was moving away from home. I moved from Colorado to Minneapolis, essentially for a relationship and for a new adventure. At the time my mom was having a hard time taking it personally. I wanted to write this song to clarify that I wasn’t moving away for any other reason than my own desire to taste every adventure that’s out there for me. I called it a goodbye letter – it’s a goodbye letter to my family and pep talk letter to myself, ‘It’s gonna be okay, you’ve gotta do this. Life is hard but life is good’. The sentiment of being in two places at once is that apology to my mom: ‘I can’t be two places at once.’ I wanted it to feel very genuinely folk song. I do that a lot. A lot of the new songs on the album are poppier, kind of jazzy or Motown influenced but it still feels very natural to me to write a folk song and to really draw back on my inspiration I got from my folk heroes.
Photo by Cooper James