Q&A with British Blues and Country musician Dani Wilde, also recognized for her humanitarian work fighting to prevent child poverty in Kenya

"I think the blues community is just that, it really is a community of like-minded people around the world who share a passion for music – but more than that they are a loyal and caring bunch of people."

Dani Wilde: Blues, Folk & Love

Over the past years Blues and Country singer-songwriter Dani Wilde has performed at thousands of venues and festivals across Europe, America, Canada and Africa; from the main stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to the slum communities of Kenya, to Times Square – New York City. On October 11th 2017, following BBC Radio 2 airplay and the support of many independent radio stations, Wilde hit the Number 5 spot in the UK I-Tunes Blues Charts, placing her alongside her contemporaries Van Morrison, Beth Hart, Joe Bonamassa and Jonny Lang. In September 2015, Wilde was awarded 'Best Female Vocalist" at the British Blues Awards. On her travels, Wilde has performed as the opening act for Jools Holland (with the Chris Holland Band), Nazareth, Johnny Winter, Journey, Foreigner, Maddie Prior (Steeleye Span) and Robben Ford, to name but a few.

Dani Wilde / Photos by Philip James

Wilde has performed on The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise alongside her hero’s Bobby Blue Bland, Bobby Womack and Taj Mahal. Live collaborations have included sharing the stage with Pee Wee Ellis, Christopher Holland, Samantha Fish (Girls With Guitars) and Sue Foley as well as recording with top producers Mike Zito and the legendary Mike Vernon. Wilde has released three solo studio albums plus a ‘Girls With Guitars’ album for Ruf Records. She also manages her own independent record label “Bri-Tone Records”. In 2017 Wilde signed to VizzTone Label Group in the USA. Her new album “Live at Brighton Road” released in June 2017. A passionate advocate for the charity ‘Moving Mountains’ Dani Wilde is also recognized for her humanitarian work fighting to prevent child poverty in Kenya. The first (“Howling At The Moon”) of three new singles will be released at the end of March 2020!

Interview by Michael Limnios            Dani Wilde's interview @ blues.gr, 2012

How has the Blues and Roots Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think the blues community is just that, it really is a community of like-minded people around the world who share a passion for music – but more than that they are a loyal and caring bunch of people.

Many of my older fans fell in love with the blues back in the 1960’s with the British Blues Boom and the U.S Invasion, whereby blues became popular again on both sides of the Atlantic. They remember the counter culture movement of the 1960’s, where artists like my hero Janis Joplin stood for so much more than being an amazing female blues singer – she symbolized the counterculture hippie movement that was anti-war, pro experimentation with drugs and sexuality and music, and pro-civil rights.

When I toured in Russia a few years ago, I saw how society can be oppressive, especially for minorities. I experienced how blues clubs like BB Kings Club in Moscow provide more than a place to hear great music, but also a place where people can come together to enjoy themselves, escaping the oppressive political climate. I feel very lucky to have seen so much of the world on my travels as a musician. It’s also made me understand how lucky I am to call Brighton in England my home, as I feel we really celebrate diversity here.

I’ve also seen how the blues community support their artists above and beyond: such as holding benefit concerts for artists when they have been sick, funding tombstones for blues legends who might otherwise have faded into obscurity (as Bonnie Raitt and John Fogerty did for Memphis Minnie, who was quietly buried in an unmarked grave), and in my case, donating at my gigs to help fund the projects I work on in Kenya, Africa – to help children in the slums and orphans with HIV.

So, I know this was a long answer, but I would say the Blues and Roots counterculture has shown me passion, spirit and kindness.

How do you describe your new E.P's sound, philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?                      Dani Wilde / Photo by Philip James

The sound is blues meets folk. The first single has a rock influence. It’s guitar driven and features acoustic and electric guitars. I feel it’s my best work as a vocalist to date.

I’ve extended my contract with Vizztone records so that I can release three new singles, which I feel are my best work to date. I self produced the tracks because I wanted full creative control and having watched and learned from some the best when I’ve worked with the likes of Mike Vernon on past releases, I felt I could do a great job. That was my inspiration. I read a study recently that explained how researchers looked at the 700 top songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018, and found that women make up 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters and just 2.1% of producers! I wanted my 2017 release on Vizztone (which was a female heavy team), and my new 2020 release to both showcase female talent. My bassist Victoria Smith has the most incredible feel and there is no one I would rather have worked with then her. I’m also excited to have Vizztone’s Director of Publicity and Communication Amy Brat pushing my new music – She and the Vizztone team helped me to get over 2 Million spotify plays on my last single ‘Bumble Bee’ which is really great to see! The new tracks feature Jack Bazzani from my live touring band on drums and he also has fantastic feel creative input.

The first single is called Howling At The Moon and vocally I was inspired by British Pop/Soul singer Sam Brown whereas my guitar playing had been inspired by Sean Costello, Albert Collins and Paul Weller.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I got to work with Pee Wee Ellis at Womad Festival in 2010. That was amazing. He told me “Music is love” – and I needed to hear that – because it reminded me why I became a singer in the first place. The blues scene can feel quite competitive at times, but as an artist you need to remember it’s not about being better than the next guy or girl – it’s about creativity, passion and love for your craft.

Working with producer Mike Vernon was another dream come true for me.

What were the reasons that made the UK from the 60s (to nowadays) to be the center of Blues/Roots researches?

Well, the British Blues Boom was important, because when British Jazz musician Chris Barber brought the likes of Muddy Waters to England, it inspired a whole young generation of British kids to get into the Blues. When the Rolling Stones went over to America during the 60’s civil rights movement, they explained on national TV how they were inspired by their hero Howlin’ Wolf, and then they sat at his feet in admiration whilst Howlin’ Wolf performed. It helped American blues musicians to reignite their careers and to find new European audiences who adored them. So, culturally speaking, the British Invasion was important. For me personally though, I love African-American blues music far more that the British take on it. I love John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins. And I love Ma Rainey and Dinah Washington and Etta James. The Blues is America culture – the Brits just borrowed the music and fell in love with it! I am a Peter Green Fan though – as BB King once said, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard!”

"The sound is blues meets folk. The first single has a rock influence. It’s guitar driven and features acoustic and electric guitars. I feel it’s my best work as a vocalist to date." (Photo by Philip James)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I miss hearing more organic voices and instruments in the pop charts. I feel music is often over-produced.  I’m not a fan of auto-tune and I don’t think music needs to be so quantised and compressed. That’s what’s great about blues and soul and roots music – It has dynamics, and feel, and emotion. It breathes and the imperfections and rawness can come across as pure emotion – It captures the human spirit.

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

When I write a song, it comes from the heart. I try to perform it with soul and sincerity. When I’m in the studio recording the song or working with my band to arrange the song, that’s where the brains come in. So, all three of the above is my answer.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I’d bring Sean Costello back from the dead. He died of a drug overdose in 2008. His album ‘We Can Get Together’ is just so great. I would love to have seen him live.

How important was/is activism in your life? How does ‘Moving Mountains" affect your mood and inspiration?

It’s very important. My university project back in 2006 was to use music as a fundraising tool to help build classrooms and provide music education for children living in poverty in Embu in Kenya. Moving Mountains is an amazing Irish charity who helped me to plan and carry out projects to achieve this. Currently I’m fundraising to raise funds for Toto Love Orphanage in Embu Kenya. It’s an orphanage for children with HIV and Aids that I have visited several times. They need money for healthcare and also for building larger accommodation so that they can help more children. The Kenyan lady who runs the orphanage, Ruth, is an absolute inspiration.                 (Photo: Dani Wilde in Kenya, Africa)

"I miss hearing more organic voices and instruments in the pop charts. I feel music is often over-produced.  I’m not a fan of auto-tune and I don’t think music needs to be so quantised and compressed. That’s what’s great about blues and soul and roots music – It has dynamics, and feel, and emotion. It breathes and the imperfections and rawness can come across as pure emotion – It captures the human spirit."

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

In regards to my three new singles. The first ‘Howling at the moon’ which will be release this March is a more self-reflective song.

The second single ‘Brave’, I wrote having become a mother and having learned that as a parent you have to be brave and strong for your child. But more than that, I hope the song inspires inner strength to anyone who is going through a tough time who might hear it.

My third single, which won’t be released until Summer this year, is a cover of Bob Dylan’s Masters of War. I feel this song is as relevant today as when Dylan wrote it. When I became a Mum, I felt more than ever ‘the fear to bring children into the world’. Here in the UK we are the 2nd largest arms exporter, arming and supporting repressive regimes. When I sing Dylan’s words my heart is going out to those in wartorn countries - the innocent victims of the international arms trade.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Honestly, if I could go back anywhere in time, I would go back to Year 7 in High School, and I would stick up for my friend Tabitha when she was being bullied. If I have one big regret in life, it was that. I love my mate to bits – we grew up playing music together, and I was too busy trying to be cool when I was 12 years old instead of being loyal to my lovely friend. Thankfully she forgave me and as adults we are very close. She is also a fantastic singer, songwriter and guitarist whose music which is inspired by blues and folk I’m sure you would enjoy. She came on tour in Europe with me a few years ago.

Dani Wilde - Home

Dani Wilde / Photos by Philip James

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