Get to know LA-based artist Dani King through an exclusive Girl Gang Music Q&A below, but first, Check out her latest song, “Taste” here:
1. What was the moment of inspiration behind this record?
Honestly? I had just moved from Nashville to LA, and one of my best friends from Nashville was drunk texting me. She asked me to write a sexy song about her so Taste happened. This song is literally just about drunkenly making out with my best friend in college…classy, I know. This is one of the songs I wrote just for fun, and I didn’t actually expect to use it for anything. There isn’t a lot of substance to it, but that’s part of why I like it. My EP was really deep and dark, and this is a really welcome departure from that sentiment. It felt good to just let loose and write something ridiculous.
2. What was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue music?
I actually do not remember, but my mother does! Apparently when I was three years old, my parents took me to go see Beauty and the Beast live, and I told my mom when we left that I “wanted to sing on stage just like belle.” I was always a very music oriented child, so my parents put me in piano lessons to learn how to read music. I started voice lessons when I was 12 years old, and picked up a guitar shortly after. It became apparent to my family that I was not going to do anything else when I was about 15. I had started playing out shows in my hometown making $200 a night and was already writing my own songs. College is very important in my family, as my mother was the first women in my entire family to get her degree, and both of my parents have their masters. I chose to get a degree in music with a minor in music business with the blessing of my parents (they are pretty awesome) and I’ve been working in the industry since graduating.
3. You’ve obviously found huge songwriting success. Love love love your sound. What’s the key to good songwriting?
One of the things I never got to study in college was songwriting. There was no time in my schedule for it! After graduating, I bought a few songwriting textbooks and started doing the exercises on my own. One of the keys to songwriting for me is to just write a LOT. It doesn’t matter if you are writing lyrics or ranting about something random, just write it down or record yourself saying it. Read a lot too. Taking in other writers material can help develop your own personal style and expands your understanding of your desired subject. Finding inspiration from little random things create variety in your subjects. Nobody wants to write the same breakup song over and over again, so honing in on little details can build a whole new story. I’ve written songs about my friends, about my dog, about ex boyfriends, about playing hangman with my coworkers while bored, flannel shirts, my friends love lives…the list goes on. There is no limit to subjects. Nothing is off limits and nothing is a bad idea. Trying new techniques and brainstorming ideas is fun too! One of my favorites is to free write for as long as you can, and as soon as you run out of ideas, switch writing hands. Writing with my non-dominant hand I can usually come up with another page and a half of a subject. It’s crazy the ways you can trick your brain. Lastly…thesaurus.com and rhymezone.com. Those are always open when I am working. Finding new words to break out of classic cliche’s and using unexpected words is my specialty and these are key tools to creating something original.
4. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
This is a hard question to answer because I am pretty much an open book. I don’t really believe in keeping secrets! So I guess my friends know this but the general public does not… I am the nerdiest of nerds. I mean, in the last paragraph I just told you that I read textbooks for fun. I listen to audiobooks voraciously, and read every day (books, news, articles, textbooks, I don’t care). Audiobooks are my favorite way to go however because I can get so much done while listening. I can do the dishes, clean my apartment, send emails, fill out forms, go to the gym, all while tearing through a couple of books. I’ve listened to 17 books in the last 3 months alone, and I’ve listening to the entire Harry Potter series probably 5 times through. My current favorites have been Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Tiffany Haddish’s autobiography, Gabrielle Union’s autobiography, Bryan Cranston’s autobiography, Fire and Fury by Michael Wolf, and What Happened by Hillary Clinton. I really like non-fiction if you can’t tell.
5. What’s your one piece of advice you’d give to any young artist just getting started out there?
I have so much to say for this one. My number one piece of advice however? Just. Keep. Hustling.
Other things to take into account: Networking is key so make friends. Do not try to sell how amazing you are because it comes off as conceited, let other people do that. Be proud of your talent but let your work speak for itself. Never let anybody push you around, but take advice when it is offered or needed. Work hard everyday and recognize that this is a job, not a hobby. You can be passionate about your job, but don’t let it emotionally consume you. You have to be able to separate work from play or you are going to lose your mind. Have other things to take your mind away from work stresses (the gym is a great outlet). And lastly, get a good team around you.
6. Do you think being a woman in the music industry has affected your career? If so, how?
HELL YEAH. This will be a long one. There is a reason I moved away from Nashville. I started out working in a town that is notorious for being an “old boys club”. I would estimate that 60% of the men I tried to work with were not actually interested in working with me. I cancelled 10 cowrites in 3 months right before I moved to LA because of men making inappropriate comments towards me. My favorite being “come out on the boat with us this weekend, I would love to see you in a bikini.” They LOVE to gaslight women too. To the above example, I replied, “I’m sorry but I will not be able to join you in the boat this weekend as I have work, and I am affectively cancelling our cowrite on Monday because I do not feel comfortable writing with you when you speak to me that way. I like to keep my business relationships strictly professional.” I got back the classic responses, including “you’re overreacting,” “why are you freaking out,” “I didn’t mean anything by that,” “why are you blowing this out of proportion.” Why in the hell would I put myself alone in a room with a man who literally said he wants to see me almost naked?? I make a point of always being overly polite when dealing with these situations, but I still get blacklisted from certain writing camps because I won’t sleep with these people. I’m currently blacklisted from a huge DJ’s camp, but it’s not too tough to work around that. Plus at this point, I don’t want to work with people that disrespect me simply because I’m a woman. Judge me based on my body of work, not my body.
A lot of mansplaining happens too. That is very annoying for me. I’m blonde and half naked on my Instagram most of the time, but that does not negate the fact that I have a degree in music. I spent 4 years studying music and the music business and graduated with honors. I know how splits work, I know how to read and write my own contracts, and I own my own publishing company, yet many still feel the need to explain these to me in a simplified manner. When I permanently left Nashville for LA, I remember very specifically a man who worked at a publishing company was telling me that LA would eat me up and spit me back out. He said there were a hundred other girls just like me in LA and I would be a nobody. I would be a little fish in a big pond. Men would try and take advantage of me and everyone was going to try and use me for sex and on and on and on. I had already spent 6 months living in LA working for a record label…I had only come back to Nashville to finish my degree. No matter how many times I said I knew what I was getting myself into, he continued to feel the need to tell me why I shouldn’t. Guess what? In the 2 and a half years I have been here, I have never had to cancel a cowrite, and I have only had one man attempt to take advantage of me. Compared to 10 cancellations in 3 months, I like LA odds a little better. I’d say I’m doing just fine, little fish and all.
I don’t want these stories to detract from the fact that there are a lot of amazing men that work in the music industry. Some of the producers and writers I work with are seriously amazing humans. There are a lot of men in positions of power who genuinely want to mentor young people (men or women) and help them grow in their careers. This are the best people to be around, and I appreciate every minute they give to me.
Dani King’s Girl Gang Music Picks
“Niqa Mor. VHS. It is everything you need in life right now.”
“I will always been an avid Niykee Heaton fan.”