Five Questions With… Dani Strong
Rising country music powerhouse Dani Strong is poised to make a lot of noise with the release of her second album, Undefined, available physically and on all streaming platforms on Oct.
By Jason Schneider
Rising country music powerhouse Dani Strong is poised to make a lot of noise with the release of her second album, Undefined, available physically and on all streaming platforms on Oct. 23. Working with Juno-winning producer/engineer Dan Brodbeck, who also produced her 2016 debut album Time To Breathe, Strong lives up to her name on the new collection of 13 songs, which offer messages of strength, hope and empowerment.
Fans received a taste earlier this year when the single Wild Summer was released in time for the change of season, racking up over 600K streams on Apple Music. Undefined’s opening cut, Not Right Now, was also featured in the Amazon Prime movie Hometown Holiday. The album’s latest single, Mrs. Jones (Evelyn), displays the full range of Strong’s storytelling skills by painting a vivid portrait of a woman whose pursuit of material wealth has left her alone.
Splitting her time between B.C. and Ontario over the past several years, Strong has earned consistent praise for her performances at such prestigious events as Boots & Hearts, the Calgary Stampede, Canadian Music Week and Burlington, Ontario’s Sound Of Music Festival. She has also opened for a wide range of country stars, including Luke Bryan, The Road Hammers, Meghan Patrick and Tebey.
Strong’s plans to hit the road again this year were set aside after she completed Undefined just before pandemic restrictions were put into place. However, now settled in Kimberley B.C., she embraced having more time to spend with her husband and children, hiking, camping, and generally embracing her new digs, a feeling captured on one of Undefined’s most uplifting numbers, Mountains.
Still, rest assured that as soon as she is able, Strong and her longtime band will be back out there, demonstrating that she is one of Canada’s most exciting and dynamic country music singer/songwriters. For more info go to danistrong.com.
What makes Undefined stand apart from your past work?
Each of the 13 songs on Undefined has its own backstory and purpose on my journey. My producer Dan Brodbeck and I decided that on this record we were going to produce each song for the song, not produce songs to fit on a record. So, considering I am the sole songwriter on the record, this made for a very diverse compilation of sounds since I’m a pretty diverse character. The album as a whole certainly blurs the lines of any one particular genre—hence the album title Undefined—although storytelling is the common thread throughout the whole record.
Life has changed quite a bit since my first album came out. For the past two years, I have been on a journey to find out where I fit in the music industry and how to keep a smile on my face while being there.
Which songs on the record have particularly special meaning for you?
If I had to pick one in particular, I would say She Sings is the song that currently holds the most meaning for me. I have so much hope for that to be heard, and I don’t care if it’s me that sings it or someone else. It’s just a message that hit very hard while I wrote it, maybe because I am a mother to a daughter, or because I have three wonderful sisters and five beautiful nieces. I don’t normally speak boldly on topics such as politics, immigration, racism or misogyny, but I touch on all of that in this song. And I don’t regret one word of it. It’s a simple message, one that I am proud to sing loudly.
What inspired you to write two versions of the song Mrs. Jones?
Mrs. Jones (Evelyn) was actually born in the studio. I was in Toronto recording my fun, silly and sassy song, which is now known as Mrs. Jones (Becky), and during the session, my friend and backing singer said, “I actually always felt this should be a sad song.” So I thought a little deeper about the silly lyrics I had written and decided that Gina was right, the story behind Mrs. Jones is pretty darn sad. So right then and there we put together what I wanted to sound like a more empathetic view of the quintessential Mrs. Jones stereotype.
Sonically I wanted to have a Maren Morris vibe—the clean but aggressive electric guitar and vocal taking centre stage. Lyrically, I had to do a serious renovation. My existing Mrs. Jones lyrics were not going to work, so I had to re-write and make sure I gave Mrs. Jones the empathy she deserves. After we completed the recording I picked two names that I honestly had no affiliation with; “Evelyn” for the sad version and “Becky” for the sassy/silly one. Lo and behold, seven months after recording Mrs. Jones (Evelyn), the song won Best Country Song at the 2020 Independent Music Awards in New York City.
How have you adapted to engaging with your audience over the past few months?
Just like everyone else, I have had to accept the crappy sound quality of virtual concerts. All I will say is that I cannot wait to get back on the road. Playing live, small venues, big stages, my neighbour’s living room… I don’t give a flying fig what the show is, I just want to sit in front of people and sing these damn songs!
What's your mindset looking ahead to next year and the prospect of hopefully playing live?
Mindset is key with most things, I think. So, I’m just moving forward. I’m actually already booking my next nationwide tour, hopefully for next summer, and I’m keeping it small. Me, my guitar and my piano, playing small rooms across the country. I think that’s feasible. I just figure if I keep it to small intimate shows then there’s a better chance that the Covid restrictions will allow it by then. I hope. So if you want me to play in your backyard, now is the time to ask!