Determining a genre for Austin, Texas’ singer-songwriter Danny Malone is like nailing jello to a tree. Floating between the lines of folk, indie, electronic, and even hip-hop, Danny has categorized his music as “future folk / sexy depression.” Releasing his second album Balloons back in June, A Music Blog, Yea? caught up with Danny to talk about recording in a haunted castle, an upcoming “super fun video”, and massive plans for the future.
AMBY: Hello Danny, cheers for speaking with us. What have you been up to lately?
Danny Malone: I’ve been working on a lot of videos that will be released in the future. Also, I’ve been writing a lot and recording some demos of new songs. I’m kind of always doing that, though. Mostly, I’m just working on creating a lot of visual content, as well as audio content, rather than focusing on playing a bunch of shows. I know I, personally, don’t go out and see a lot of shows. I like to watch videos, and listen to music at home, usually alone. So I’m making a bunch of stuff that people like me can enjoy at home. I’m a homebody. Always have been. Soon, I imagine the demand will be there to a degree that I’ll feel selfish if I don’t get out and start touring more. So, I’m planning some tours and getting ideas on how to make it financially possible for me. I’m pretty poor. But I’m gonna make it work. Fans: don’t worry! I’ll be there eventually :)
AMBY: You’ve been recognized as “unwilling to commit to genre” with your mix of folk, pop, and electro. How would you classify your sound to all your listeners?
Danny Malone: It’s not really that I’m “unwilling.” It’s just that it seems to never fit in to one certain genre. I don’t know why this is. Somehow, I think this is just an aspect of my personality. For instance, in high school, when people all chose their crowd and sat at a certain table in the lunchroom, I would be the floater; I never sat at one table every day. I just kinda sat down wherever I saw a seat. And I seemed to get along with everyone, no matter their race, or social status. I was just neutral in the lunchroom. I had no title, no membership card. I thought that was dumb. Everyone in the school had something I found interesting about them. I’m a sponge, and I just soaked up all the personalities, enjoying the differences at all the tables. This analogy has gone on too long. What I’m saying is: I think I’ve taken some aspect of every kind of music I’ve ever heard, and thrown it all together, by no design of purposefully avoiding genre. I’m just kinda weird, and my music is quirky and a bit dark, melancholy, but will make your ass shake if you’re in the mood. People tell me that no matter what mood they are in, my music seems to match it.
The production from album to album has certainly changed quite a bit. The delivery of the songs, that is. But I think this quality of fitting in to any kind of emotion…I think this has remained.
AMBY: Your latest album Balloons came out in June. What is the significance behind the title?
Danny Malone: Well, my very good friend Jarrett Killen started calling me Balloons as a nickname around the time I was writing the songs on this album. I assume it came from sort of distorting the pronunciation of my last name, Malone. Like slowly slurring my last name more and more until it’s just mush and the rebuilding the syllables into the word Balloons. I don’t know. Dude’s a nut. But he called me Balloons (still does), and when I was getting ready to record the album, I knew that I was going to call it Balloons. Because in the time that I was writing the songs and building the idea of the album, I think I was living, by a definitive choice, recklessly and with abandon. I decided, at some point after my previous album Cuddlebug, that I was going to live my life in a certain way. I was going to try anything and not back away from any good or bad opportunity to experience something different. In doing so, I became an exaggerated caricature of myself. I fell in-love with SO many people. I experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I felt everything as much as possible, and didn’t hide from effects of this lifestyle. I abused drugs, and I also used them to their full potential. I made love like a tiger of catharsis, and I cried as hard as a thousand angels. I just went to the extreme of everything I did. And when I pulled myself together, and cleaned up my act in order to record the album with a sober recollect of all that I had seen, I realized that this character I had been, this method-actor in the my life movie…he was Balloons. Not Danny Malone. So that’s where the name came from. It’s a chronicle of my life as Balloons.
AMBY: Balloons was recorded in a haunted castle in Denmark. Are there any interesting ghost tales to tell us? Or was it for the acoustics?
Danny Malone: I knew that it would sound fantastic at the castle. I had been there before and heard what the rooms sounded like. So that was definitely part of it. But yes, I also went because of the intensity of the place. We would record in certain rooms that matched the emotion of the song we were doing that day. That’s how we did it: one song a day, start to finish. Oh, and I say “we” referring to the co-producer Mattie Smith, and myself. Certain rooms were bright and full of a resonant elation from literally centuries of energy trapped in its walls. But other rooms, like the basement (or really, the dungeon, I should say), were as dark and gloomy as any place I’ve ever been. San Diego and Lee Woke Me were both recorded in this small corner room in the basement/dungeon. I think heard later that people centuries ago were tortured and left for dead in this room. It was specifically used for that purpose when the Danish King at that time (a dark time in Danish history) was trying to get information about his enemies from opposing soldiers or messengers. I don’t really know the full story, and I don’t really want to know. I do know that Mattie and I could not wait to get out of that room when the two songs were done. We would go in to the room in the morning feeling fine and happy, and after only half an hour or so, we would be feeling awful. Our hearts would sink and the emotion of the songs would be channeling through this terrible shroud. He and I would bicker and argue about things, and lose track of time. Then we’d leave the room at night and immediately feel fine, and be best friends again. I’m telling you. There was something in this castle that had a life of its own. I did take some photos that have those orbs that I’ve seen on ghost shows on tv. They are supposed to be lost souls I think. Maybe they’re right. But the most poignant attribute of the hauntedness of the castle, was the energy swells and the effects it had on our moods and emotions.
AMBY: I absolutely love the feel of your song Sugarwater. What inspired the track?
Danny Malone: Man, I wrote that song so quickly, I’m not sure what inspired it at the very moment. But I had noticed at the time how so many people I knew and didn’t know were using pharmaceuticals to hide from the reality of their lives. I’ve done it too at times. It’s about this epidemic in the world of using anti-depressants or mood stabilizers or uppers, downers, whatever, to avoid actually fixing the things that are making people unhappy.
And the funny part is it’s all legal. Doctors and Psychiatrists are just government endorsed drug-dealers these days. Not all of them, of course. But more people are on these Mental Health drugs now than ever before. The percentage of people in America on these drugs is remarkable. It’s like the book 1984, and the fictitious drug SOMA that Big Brother hands out to people in droves so that they will play their tiny role in the grand machine of society without complaint. Also, I just knew of many people who would just go from doctor to doctor until they got whatever prescription they were looking for from the start. Say, they try it first by getting it from a friend who is prescribed. Then they go to their doctor and ask for it. He or She says “no, I don’t think it’s right for you. It’s a bad idea to be on that drug.” So then they just go to another doctor and another until they finally hear “yes, we can put you on that.” This is just what happens these days. I’m not judging or really even making commentary on how it should change. I’m just pointing it out to be funny. It’s the pink elephant in the room. I’m guilty of it myself. Not sure what to do about it but sing and have a good time while we’re here getting messed up daily, just to get by. Life’s come a long and weird way. I’m not complaining. I’ve no high-horse. Just grounded like the rest of us, right? mentally stable. doing my job. contributing. eating right. avoiding gluten. using my blinkers.
AMBY: The video for Sugarwater is coming soon. What can fans expect to see from the film-clip?
Danny Malone: It’s a super fun video. I think it’s really charming, and also non-judgmental. It’s not trying to change things. It’s just grooving right along with the flow of it all. You get to see me with a lot of my friends, truly just hanging out. It tells a poignant story about someone with a fatal affliction, who upon receiving the news from his doctor, decides not to take it so hard, and to live it up while he can. I dance in it. I can dance. Did you know that? Brad Linton, the director of this video and also the video for Spiderlegs, did a brilliant job of creating something that’s real and surreal at once. He’s brilliant. And he’s captured exactly the essence of the song itself. I don’t want to say too much. But to me, it’s a work of art. More of a short film than a music video. He really put me through an experience in the making of it. Making this video with Bradley (who’s been my best friend since we were 6 years old) will remain a very special memory for me. I’ll never forget it. It made my life richer. I can’t wait for people to see it.
AMBY: Does living in Austin have an influence on your music? And if so, how?
Danny Malone: I don’t think so really. I guess the musicianship here is really at a level I’ve never seen anywhere else. If you say you “play the guitar” in Austin. It doesn’t mean you know a few songs that you can play at parties. It means you’re in the top 90th percentile in the world of talented guitarists. Same goes for any instrument. And for the songwriting. So, in that way, I supposed I did realize I needed to get REALLY good to be noticed at all. So I worked super hard at getting good enough to poke my head out above the crowd. But the traditional “sound of Austin” doesn’t really apply to me. I just make music that’s playing in my head. And I don’t leave home very often at all. So I just don’t have anything to compare my stuff to. It just is what it is. I think I do have a little southern quality to the sound of it, just because I guess I have an accent? I don’t know. I just like to dance. And I’m really sad a lot. So the combo makes my music sound how it does. I think I influence Austin more than it does me. Is that bad to say? If so, then scratch that just kidding.
AMBY: Which other artists from Austin should we keep our eyes on?
Danny Malone: Christopher Denny, he has a voice that makes me crumble inside. He’s a country-ass MotherF’er, too. He’s my good good friend. I love his music. Ummm…Jinx McGee is another friend of mine. He’s making fantastic pop music. It competes with what Dr. Luke and them do. Super dance-y radio friendly stuff. Like eating sugar straight off a spoon. He knows it’s just what it is. For people to get down and dirty and hook up. But he’s sooooo good at it. He also makes some of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard. Completely ridiculous slapstick comedy. Look up “all the dirty things” by Jinx McGee. You’ll laugh your ass off.
AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?
Danny Malone: Queen – Greatest Hits, American Football – self titled, Balloons
AMBY: What’s the best release of the year?
Danny Malone: Balloons. C’mon. What do you want from me?
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about Danny Malone that nobody knows yet?
Danny Malone: That I’m gonna be far far more famous after I die than when I’m living. I have plans bigger than anyone could imagine.
Thank you Danny Malone, for giving us your answers!
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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout