Things seem to have been quiet for Dani Wilde since her 2012 release ‘Juice me up’ on RUF Records. In fact, Dani has been pretty busy touring, writing, and making sizeable dents in the Country music charts. Things seem to all be coming together right now for the belle from Brighton, and with the release this week of her new CD on Bri-Tone ‘Songs About You’ and a concert scheduled for Cologne’s Yardclub (28 April) this seems to be a good time to catch up with whats happened since my previous interview in 2012.
Prepare for tales of growing up, falling in love, out of love, and growing old. Like I say, it’s been a busy last couple of years for Dani Wilde…
Hi Dani, it’s been a while since we last met up but anyone who keeps in touch with you via social media will know you’ve certainly been pretty busy in the last couple of years. Amongst other things, touring with a one eyed dog? Tell me more about the dog. About how you came to work with Todd Sharpeville,and indeed about the tour itself.
I met Todd at a British Blues Festival a few years back but we didn’t keep in touch. Then we became facebook friends and he invited me to London to do some songwriting; and that is where I met his absolutely gorgeous dog Genghis. Genghis is a handsome little Shiatsu who suffered an accident that left him with one eye. He is a proper blues pooch who loves being on the road, sitting onstage with the band and meeting the audiences. We performed in the UK, France and Russia together last year. Todd and I quite quickly drove each other insane on the road and have vowed not to work together ever again but I really do miss that dog!
What music were you playing on the tour? Did you record anything with Todd for release?
We played a mixture of blues and country music; songs from our individual albums and songs by our hero’s from Van Morrison to John Lee Hooker, but no, we didn’t make it to the studio – I was busy at the time recording my new solo album which was really important to me.
I specifically asked what music you were playing because you made the European Country Music charts not so long ago with your version of ‘Love Hurts’. How did you feel about having a Country hit?
I was really happy and excited about that… My name was literally next to Taylor Swifts which was a bit crazy! I love all roots music; Blues, Country, Gospel, Folk, Soul. I’ve grown up listening to a lot of Patsy Cline and have a big appreciation of artists who have fused blues with other genres such as country and gospel like Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin and Ray Charles.
Your musical background goes deeper than Blues and Country. I discovered you are also high soprano in a choir. Not a local one in Brighton either, but in Russia of all places. How did that come about? and are you still a part of it?
Ironically, I’ve been playing British Blues over in Moscow and singing Russian Choir music back here in England. A good friend of mine, Tabitha Smith, who is a wonderful singer and songwriter whom I’m hoping to bring out on the road with me this autumn as my support act, asked me if I’d be interested coming to a Russian Choir Practice with her. We sing Russian Folk songs and Classical music. It’s really interesting, challenging and a world away from the blues having to sight sing in the Russian language. The high soprano parts when sung well sound like angels and its really magical how all the parts come together. I was raised on blues and roots music; classical music is a joy I’ve found as an adult.
Music is obviously a passion of yours. So much so that you are lecturing at the British and Irish Music Institutes. Who are you lecturing too? – and maybe you could give us a peek into what your lectures are about?
I’ve taught a big mixture of students from young and talented 16 year olds to older degree students. I’ve lectured on songwriting, vocal performance and even on the music business. It’s good to be able to share what I have learnt on the road with these kids.
I hope that as well as learning from the positive aspects of my career they can also learn from mistakes I have made along the way so that hopefully they wont make the same mistakes themselves.
I have seen some huge talent at the Brighton College. A group of five girl students I’ve taught who perform under the band name ‘Expozure’ performed an a capella vocal harmony song at their end of term concert last week. I was so proud but I take no credit for their talent and hard work; that was all them! – These kids are only about 17 years old but they have so much talent and I sure hope the world gets to hear them one day.
Your own student days saw you attain a BA Hons with a dissertation on Music as a Fundraising Tool for musical education in Kenya’s slums. Your involvement actually eventually went beyond musical education to involve fund-raising for basic improvements such as sanitation in Embu particularly and the focus also shifted to child poverty.
If you compare your original dissertation to what you have experienced in Embu since writing it, how do the two compare? How did the theory and practice weigh up against each other?
Well, I chose Kenya for my project because there was no drought and no floods there, it was a safe place to go at the time (before the more recent terror attacks) and primary education had been made free and compulsory for all children (not just boys) which was a fantastic step forwards. With all these kids now in school though, the schools themselves lacked facilities. I managed to find a school in Embu’s slums with 1000 children and a fantastic music teacher called Felix. My plan worked well in that the children got so much enjoyment from learning to play piano, guitars and recorders. Many of these kids walk miles to school, many are HIV positive, many are orphans, all of them live in the slums, many don’t really have a childhood as they have to look after their younger siblings. Music brought them joy.
They also performed in the National Kenyan Music Festival Competitions and reached the Finals. This meant that we send the extra curricular music group off on a big bus to Nairobi to compete in the Final and as a group they came 3rd which is a feat unheard of for a ‘Slum School’. They were competing against privately funded boarding schools. One little lad performed a solo performance piece and won a first prize. Music has given them happiness, pride, and taught them that hard work can pay off. It also allowed them to travel and to see their capital city, which hopefully will inspire them to work hard to escape the poverty of the slums.
Things got a lot harder in Embu though when floods hit, and drought – The price of food went up and I realised at that point that they needed help with very basic things like having ways to collect and store rain water off of the classroom roofs etc. During my visits I also realised that they lacked things like paper, pens and pencils which we now collect and take with us when we visit. I work alongside a wonderful Irish charity called moving mountains in Embu – Please do look them up!
What is the current situation with the project? You seem to be busier than ever, so is it still possible to keep involved with the ‘Moving Mountains’ campaign the way you used to?
Well, I’m still fundraising but the last time I was about to book my flight coincided with the terror attack in the Nairobi shopping mall and there have been more killings since then whereby if you aren’t an expert at reciting the Koran to the Al-Shabaab you could lose your head. I’m not so brave! I’m missing the kids though. My Kenyan friends tell me it is much safer now and so I am hoping to visit later this year. I’m also fundraising for Toto Love Orphanage for children with HIV in Embu to ensure they get the best nutrition possible and that the older children can attend secondary school. If you would like to help then please visit My Website for more details.
You have a new CD coming out titled ‘Songs About You’ which sounds like the perfect title for a romantic disc full of love songs. I’m guessing there is a fair bit more to the disc than that though. Can you tell me a little about it please?
Well, most songs in this world are about love. It’s a topic I used to shy away from though; I preferred to sing about lust, sex or Africa or politics. Then I fell in love for the first time; I didn’t know if was possible to love someone so much who wouldn’t feel the same way in return. Over a few years he slowly broke my heart as he reminded me that I wasn’t “special enough” for him. What made it harder was that I respected him so much for his talent and was gigging and recording with him.
He was my best friend and when it all ended I just fell apart. I wrote this album throughout this time. I was often in pieces in the studio when we were recording it – Most of the vocals were all recorded live with the band because I wanted to capture something real but I remember on one take the band just nailed it but we couldn’t use my vocal because I’d started crying too much. I think that was on the song “Cruel World”. So really a lot of the album is about my journey.
Actually, lecturing to students really empowered me. I could see that some of them were going through a lot of shit in their lives and I’d tell them to throw all their energy into their music to get through it. I’d also see some younger girl students being knocked down and treated bad by men and that’s what led me to write “Begging for love” where I tell the girl to “Have some pride” and “Don’t go begging for love”. I realised I needed to take my own advice.
The places I sing about in the album from “The Hudson River” to the “Texas County Line” were all direct references to my journey on the road over the past 7 years. I like singing about the places I’ve been and the people I have met.
There is a song on the album called ‘Time’ about an inspirational and very old lady who I met who told me her story. When I think of my own grandmother too who is in her 90’s I think it’s important to see her not just as a sweet old lady, but as the child she was and the young woman who still lives inside her, and for everything she has been through in her life; from falling in love, to the war effort, to raising her children in poverty, to seeing her loved-ones die before her. That’s what my song ‘Time’ is about – a portrait of a long, sometimes sad, but so very beautiful life.
I was blessed to work with some fantastic musicians on the record too. The record was produced by Stuart Dixon. We had Fergus Gerrand on drums (Madonna/Sting), Roger Inniss on bass (Chaka Khan), Janos Barrista on piano (Jimmy Ruffin), Greg Coulson on Organ (The Selecter), and Bethany Porter on Cello (Peter Gabriel/Kula Shaker). I had some great backing vocalists too including Ross Alexander and sensational world music artist ‘Katey Brooks’.
The album is all self written and I would say it’s popular song-writing that is inspired by Country, Blues and Gospel.
Will it be available at your show in Cologne (Yardclub 28 April)?
What else can we expect from the show, billed as a duo with your brother Will
(besides excellent Blues-harp of course)?
Well, there’s only two of us but we know how to create a big sound. Lots of Blues, Gospel and Country. Lots of vocal harmonies. Foot stomping, audience clapping and sing along songs and some soulful ballads too. Songs from both our albums and some songs by our hero’s. We will be trading instruments – yes, I’m looking forward to playing some harmonica too – and Will is a passionate and tasteful lead guitar player too. We’ll bring the Cajon (Box Drum) too, and my loop pedal… So lots of variety, lots of emotion, and hopefully something for everyone!
And last but not least, a video of the new single…