I sought out an interview with Dani Marine. She’s a local girl (Auburn Hills, Michigan), has a Myspace account and more or less seemed to be the most approachable. She doesn’t have a record contract but she and her group have played with many great artists in Country music. Some of the artists she has worked with are: Reba McIntyre, Kenny Chesney, Billy Ray Cyrus, Clint Black and Dwight Yoakam. She travels to Nashville often and searches publishing companies for songs as well as penning many of her own.
That night, Dani Marine and the band did about a 50 minute set that included solos from all of the musicians. It was a 7 piece band that had an acoustic guitar, a steel guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards, a fiddler (violinist?) and a woman singing background. Listening to the band I suddenly had a moment of clarity. Maybe I was becoming a fan? The wonderful thing about Country music, and this is coming from someone who has never considered himself a real fan, is that the members of the band get a chance to solo. Improvisations that are sorely missed in Pop music. I left the show on a high note. Not sure if I’m a fan yet, but I’m open to anything that sounds good. Now let’s hear from Dani Marine.
the detroiter.com: Your father introduced you to music at a young age by playing piano as you sang. Was he or your mother professional musicians?
Dani Marine: My mom and dad could both sing. My dad sang in many Southern Gospel Quartets…he was my biggest influence and still is! Music was a big part of our family. It was just something we always knew and loved.
thedetroiter.com: Gospel music in the Metro Detroit area has a long and storied history. Who in this genre has inspired you? You have CeCe Winans, among others, listed as an influence on your Myspace page.
Dani: I can remember even as a little girl belting out Whitney Houston songs in my bedroom. I’d crank my tape player (what I had at the time) and try to hit all of the high notes just like Whitney or CeCe. I loved the singers that put their heart and soul into their singing and they sure did! I wanted a voice like that!
thedetroiter.com: You state that you sing your best when you believe in the music and lyrics. Many of the lyrics in Country music, as in Blues, concern heartbreak. How well is the emotion of your songs received?
Dani: This is a tough one. I would rather sing about hope and conquering the impossible. I am a strong believer in that and having God in my life is something I always shared in my music and my emotions. Now having also transitioned into Country sometimes you find songs that are just fun to sing and it doesn’t go any deeper than that. That doesn’t mean I don’t pick songs with deeper meaning and emotion. I try and do that for the most part and can only hope my emotions will touch others. There are so many experiences in life and if the song means a lot to me, I will sing about it…even heartbreak.
thedetroiter.com: How much of your material do you write yourself?
Dani: I have a handful of songs that I’ve written. That is a goal for the coming year to do a lot more writing and being able to share what I have inside through my music.
thedetroiter.com: There’s a quote associated with Miles Davis that says, ‘There’s no bad music, only bad musicians.’ With this adage in mind how would you describe Country music to someone who was completely unaware of this style?
Dani: Today, Country music includes so many styles, I hate for people to cross it off their list without giving it a chance. It definitely grows on you and many country songs tell really good stories while some are just fun…but once it grows on you, you’re addicted.
thedetroiter.com: How did your transition from Gospel to Country music come about?
Dani: Growing up singing Southern Gospel, it was an easy transition. It’s not a huge leap, especially with Country songs out there like Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel.” I wanted to pursue a career doing what I love and Country music offers many more avenues to do that without compromising my beliefs.
thedetroiter.com: There are purists in all genres of music who insist on rigid standards for the style to be authentic. With the influx of many younger artists to Country music, how have the “powers that be” accepted you?
Dani: I’m definitely not a rebel and would lean more towards the traditional side of Country but at the same time I don’t pick songs based on what I think the “powers that be” would accept. I listen to songs and if they touch my heart in some way and I hear myself singing it, then I add it to my catalog. It’s as simple as that!
thedetroiter.com: In Country music, who would be your Top 5 favorite artists?
Dani: Martina McBride (even before she was a household name), Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood, and Winona Judd.
thedetroiter.com: Let’s do a “Deserted Island Discs” thing. You’re on an island and may not get rescued for a while. What 3 albums would you have with you? 3 albums that you could listen to and never tire of hearing?
Dani: CeCe Winans (Alone In His Presence), anything from Martina and probably Rascal Flatts.
thedetroiter.com: Thank you very much!
Jazzcook was born and raised in Detroit and is old enough to remember when Downtown used to jump and young enough to appreciate the Raconteurs. After graduating from Mumford High, he left for San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art before continuing on to Seattle to watch Starbucks, Microsoft and the Grunge Movement(!) grow very big. From there he lived in Atlanta before and after the Olympics, and then onto Savannah. While in Georgia, he wrote a column for Creative Loafing Magazine called “Life Is A Trip.” If he were to declare a vocation it would be Cook, Writer, Artist, Cyclist (in that order).
A rather unlikely but capable front woman for Ted Nugent’s warm-up act comes in Alex Winston, a petite teenaged rocker who both sings and plays guitar, performing a brand of catchy, femininely-charged Pop Rock. With a backing band composed of Chris and Drew Peters, the masterminds at the award-winning 40 oz. Sound studio in Ann Arbor, Alex Winston has been making the rounds in the Detroit club circuit opening for local and national bands. Before hitting the road on a summer-long U.S. tour, Alex talked to thedetroiter.com contributing writer Leyland DeVito about her band and her newly released E.P., By The Roots.
Who are you touring with, and where are you going? Is this your first tour?
Starting next week I will be on the road with Ted Nugent and we will be playing all over the U.S.! This is my first tour and I can't believe the awesome venues we are going to be playing...I'm most excited about Ryman Auditorium in Nashville...People pay just to see the place because it used to hold the Grande Ole Opry and so many legends have played there. I don't know that I deserve it yet, but I can't complain.
What was your musical career like up until now? Were you in any other bands before? When did it become a full-time gig?
I never was in a band before this. I wrote songs on my own but that was about it. I think it became a full time thing when I started to not have to time do anything else! I'd say right after high school it became clear that I had to make the choice of either going to school or taking my chances with this...the latter just seemed way more appealing.
What was it like opening for Ted Nugent at DTE Energy Theatre last summer? Was that the largest audience you've played to? Were you nervous?
Playing the DTE show was a really surreal experience for me; not only was it my first show with my band, but it was at an amphitheatre! To be honest with you, I wasn't all that nervous about the singing...I was more nervous about Nugent fans pelting me in the head with beer bottles! For about a month before the show I was getting prepped for being booed off stage, but fortunately we went over really well...hence I'm now doing a full tour with Ted!
Do you have any stories to tell about the Motor City Madman?
He said he brought a machine gun to the show and that he'd show it to me...The scary thing is that I really wouldn't put it past him!
How important do you think it is to have a strong musical community in Detroit?
I was in grade school and high school when groups like the White Stripes, Electric Six, and Slum Village were really starting to explode nationally and internationally. I wasn't really able to see them when they were just local acts on the scene. Now there is a new generation of bands from the city that are starting to get attention outside of Detroit. Tally Hall, The Love Arcade, and The Satin Peaches are all doing well and I have played shows with those bands and become friends with them. It's kind of cool to be involved with the next wave of bands coming from around here.
Do you have any favorite Detroit musicians?
I really love The Satin Peaches. I've had the chance to play with them and not only do they make great music but they are great to be around as well. George Morris is an awesome front man.
Bassist Chris Peters is a former member of the Electric Six. What are the histories of your other band members?
All of my band mates have been in various bands and musical projects throughout the years. Chris and Drew Peters do a lot of collaborating with me on my songs, aside from also being in my band. Drew has a studio in Ann Arbor [40 oz. Sound], where we record everything.
How would you describe your sound?
I just went to see Little Richard a few weeks ago and have loved his music for a long time. My dad had Yes and Heart records playing all of the time. I also love Sheryl Crow and other female vocalists like PJ Harvey and Sarah Mcleod. So I guess in some weird way, my music sounds like all of that crammed together...except for maybe Yes.
What can you say about the new E.P., By the Roots?
I can say that we worked really hard on it and the songs that made the cut are the ones that I've really grown to identify the most with out of all my songs. I recorded almost all of my vocals by myself, so I had the chance to have them sound the way I wanted them to.
What's next for Alex Winston?
Well, lets see...besides the tour and the E.P., I guess just playing as many shows as I can with all different bands in all different places. That sounds fun.
Alex Winston has several upcoming Michigan dates:
6/22 W/ Ted Nugent
@ DTE energy music theatre
All ages; 8:00
6/23 W/ Breathing Underwater
@ St. Andrews Hall
All ages; 8:00
7/13 @ AJ's Cafe
All ages; 8:00
For more information about Alex Winston, check her out online at http://www.myspace.com/alexwinston.
Leyland DeVito is studying illustration at Detroit's College for Creative Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.