Breaking the rules

Danny Michel steps out of his comfort zone

After 11 years, five studio albums and a handful of other live recordings and DVDs, Danny Michel just wanted to shake things up a bit.

Not that he’s complaining. He’s been nominated for Junos and earned the reputation as a foremost songwriter and performer, and now you can add producer to that list. His fan base is as loyal as anyone’s in Canada, and with the longevity that his career is showing, combined with it’s still-rising arc, you’d think Michel wouldn’t want to break the status quo. But with his brand new album Sunset Sea, he set out to do just that.

“I just wanted to do something different and get out of my comfort zone, and write a different style of record,” he explains over the phone. “So I rented a hut on the ocean in Belize for a month, sat there and wrote songs and recorded. I also let go of the reins, worked with another producer [Grammy-nominated producer Mark Stockert] just to do something different.”

With shocking modesty, Sunset Sea has a loose, laid-back vibe backed up by Michel’s own sharp sense of what makes a song great. With its positive, upbeat and thoughtful tone, he’s showing his cards with the maturity of an artist as accomplished as he is.

“I just wanted to write some songs that said something a little more with more meaning. I’m so sick of rock music. When I listen to what’s hip now, I don’t get it. I don’t fit in. I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear all this whiney shit anymore,” he charges. “And I point my finger at myself, I’m completely guilty of it, of writing whiney rock songs. Like, ‘Really? Really? I’ve got to have more to say than that.’ I just decided I do have more to say than that.”

The record’s other mandate was to check all egos at the door and let every song dictate its course while letting the audience in. You can check out a video blog of the making of the record; he also invited guests like Sarah Harmer (who sings with him on “Binary Star”) and a fan who offered up an accordion solo to appear.

“I’m completely open to that. A grade school teacher in Los Angeles just emailed me his solo, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s better than my solo. You win. You’re in.’ And that was the rule: no ego allowed. If you send in a solo, and if it’s better than mine, I’ll admit it, and it’s gonna make the cut,” Michel explains with a laugh. “So I thought it would be really cool to get the fans involved, to let them in. You have to let people see who you are, let them in to see how it’s all done, and I think they’re gonna be way more interested and on board.” V

Fri, Sept 24 (7:30 pm)
Danny Michel
Arden Theatre, sold out

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