Q&A with British blues phenomenon Dani Wilde, fuses roots genres including blues, country, gospel, soul and Americana

"So, I guess the point I’m making is, The Blues has never been ‘A Man’s World’! Today there are so so many great blues women, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the bill with; Susan Tedeschi, Shemekia Copeland, Samantha Fish, Debbie Davis, Gina Sicillia and Joanne Shaw Taylor to name just a few..."

Dani Wilde: British Blues Belle

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. 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.

(Dani Wilde / Photo © by Adam Kennedy)

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. A passionate advocate for the charity ‘Moving Mountains’ Dani Wilde is also recognized for her humanitarian work fighting to prevent child poverty in Kenya. December 2022, released the single "You Are My Sunshine/Didn't It Rain", features her talented friend Christopher Holland on Piano. British Blues Award winner Dani Wilde releases a new single, “I Miss The World” (2023, Vizztone) featuring her brother, celebrated blues harp player Will Wilde. Dani says: "I wrote this song when I was feeling a mixture of nostalgia for the childhood Will and I had growing up in Wiltshire in the 80s and 90s and a sadness about the world now. Its about missing a simpler time, before the internet, and mobile phones, when kids played out in the streets on their bikes until the street lights came on and then we would venture home, before COVID and lockdowns, before Brexit when musicians could so easily tour in Europe, before we had war in Europe."

Interview by Michael Limnios        Archive: Dani Wilde, 2020 interview @ blues.gr

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I think I’ve grown a lot. It’s been 16 years since I signed my first record deal with Ruf Records. I feel I’m a far better musician, songwriter and singer now than I was at the beginning. On my first record, I was so young, and I got to work with world class musicians, but I didn’t really have my own identity within the sound the producer created for me.

Since then, I’ve had the huge privilege of touring the world over and working alongside so many musicians who have inspired and encouraged me: Laura Chavez and Deborah Coleman taught me guitar licks on my first Blues Caravan tour, Candye Kane showed me how to sing about things of importance with feeling, Pee Wee Ellis showed me to always perform with love in my heart. I’ve shared festival bills with my blues and soul idols from Koko Taylor to Bobby Womack and soaked up all I can, just from being in their presence.

Today, with my records for Vizztone, I have the creative control; I MD my material and I have the confidence to do that now. Vocally, I’m a better technician now – I have the tone I want, and the diaphragm control to sing things that I would’ve struggled with when I was 21. My ears hear things with a precision I didn’t have when I was starting out and I listen back to my own work throughout the creative process with a more critical ear these days. That being said, I always try to push myself to grow more – It's an ongoing creative journey.

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

Integrity, I think. I’ve always tried to deliver the emotion I feel in my heart. There is no point to technique if there is no emotion. For me it’s all about making human connection.

"That’s been my musical journey over the past 16 years of being a professional recording and touring artist – I am much happier with the music I’m making now. I feel I know my strengths better and I play to them. These days, I don’t try to be something that I’m not – Especially since signing to Vizztone Label, I've found my identity as an artist." (Dani Wilde / Photo © by Adam Kennedy)

Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?

Recently, I’ve been inspired by Ray Charles, Patty Griffin, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and a more contemporary artist called Yebba. What I love about all of these artists is how they blend my favourite genres of Soul, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, Country and Jazz into great popular song-writing. And I love how these artists have both amazing technique as well as emotional integrity and the ability to really make you feel the lyric.

How did the idea of song "I Miss The World" come about?

I was feeling quite low, as I suspect we all were having come out of the covid era to find that that Russia was now at war with Ukraine. The news headlines were just dire. I was also struggling to get the help and support I needed from the understaffed NHS for my son who had been quite poorly since birth. The music industry I work in, which had been on its knees from Covid Lockdowns, was now caught up in a maze of Brexit challenges. There was so much hatred around too that I took to heart, such as online hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the trans community – It seems people have the confidence to spread hate online, on social media, in a way that they probably wouldn’t dare face to face. I wonder if those people spreading this hate have ever met a trans person? Hate comes from a place of fear and lack of understanding I think. I can’t bear the thought of the young people I teach who identify as LGBTQ having to read these hateful, discriminatory comments online. And through all of this, I was finding I was actually becoming addicted to my mobile phone – hooked on scrolling through all these unpleasant news feeds – allowing myself to be pulled into this cyber world, missing out on all the beauty that was right in front of me; my children, my friends, nature and the great outdoors, music! And then I started thinking from a very nostalgic perspective about my wonderful childhood, before Wi-Fi and mobile phones, growing up in the countryside with my Brother Will in Wiltshire and the freedom we had, the imagination, and the adventures and the fun. I miss those days! Our parents kept us sheltered from the politics of the era, Thatcherism; we’d play out in the streets on our bikes with the neighbourhood kids, and it felt like a simpler, better time. That’s what this song is about.

"To be humble and to treasure every moment. It’s about the journey, not the destination. For me, It’s not about trying to be famous." (Dani Wilde / Photo © by Adam Kennedy)

What touched you from Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell's "You Are My Sunshine"?

I’ve always loved this song. It’s a song I’ve sung to both of my babies as it has a lullaby like quality. I’m a fan of the Ray Charles version and so I took inspiration from that more rhythm and blues approach. I decided to turn my version into a bit of a medley, fusing it with Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Didn’t It Rain.

How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

Well, I am a proud Mama to two beautiful young children. My kids are a blessing, but they also take up so much of my time, it is very tricky at my home to focus on music. So, when I go into the studio, it feels like really treasured and much needed ‘me time’ - It is escapism, and it is an absolute joy to just indulge in music and creativity. I tend to go into the studio with a rough plan in my head of what I want to do with a song, and then I enjoy experimenting with lots of creative ideas when I get there. I don’t like to over-prepare, rather I like to have the time in the studio to be creative with lots of ideas.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

I think you need both. When I look back on my early albums for Ruf Records, I can hear that I put my heart and soul into the music but it didn’t always translate because I needed to improve my technique as a vocalist and instrumentalist, and I needed to be true to my own sound, rather than impersonating others. That’s been my musical journey over the past 16 years of being a professional recording and touring artist – I am much happier with the music I’m making now. I feel I know my strengths better and I play to them. These days, I don’t try to be something that I’m not – Especially since signing to Vizztone Label, I've found my identity as an artist.

"Well, I am a proud Mama to two beautiful young children. My kids are a blessing, but they also take up so much of my time, it is very tricky at my home to focus on music. So, when I go into the studio, it feels like really treasured and much needed ‘me time’ - It is escapism, and it is an absolute joy to just indulge in music and creativity." (Dani Wilde / Photo © by Adam Kennedy)

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Well, the first Blues record, was recorded by a Woman. It was Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues in 1920. That record started EVERYTHING. After that the major labels of the time scooped up ALL the great female touring acts of the time; classic blues artists like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter... The 1920s was dominated by female blues  - It was ‘A Woman’s World!’. The men didn’t really get a look in until the 1930s. As guitar blues came into fashion, there were sadly less women, but those that existed made huge contributions. Memphis Minnie in the 1930’s played guitar just as well as her male counterparts and she was a prolific songwriter whose songs have been covered by Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. I covered her song Bumblebee and it’s my most successful recording with over 4 million Spotify plays. Also, in the 30’s and 40’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe was singing gospel songs whilst pioneering electric guitar. Her guitar style was blues meets rock’n’roll - actually she was playing rock’n’roll guitar over a decade before the genre even existed. Elvis and Chuck Berry learnt many of their chops from her. She is a huge inspiration to me. Big Mama Thornton had her R&B hit with Hound Dog in 1952, just 4 years before Elvis covered it as a Rock and Roll Classic. So, I guess the point I’m making is, The Blues has never been ‘A Man’s World’! Today there are so so many great blues women, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the bill with; Susan Tedeschi, Shemekia Copeland, Samantha Fish, Debbie Davis, Gina Sicillia and Joanne Shaw Taylor to name just a few...

What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs and music?

I hope people feel an emotional connection to the music I create, and I hope they enjoy it and respect me as an artist.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?                                   (Dani Wilde / Photo © by Adam Kennedy)

To be humble and to treasure every moment. It’s about the journey, not the destination. For me, It’s not about trying to be famous. The treasured moments that mean the world to me are when I’ve worked with my heroes – Like when Mike Vernon produced by 2010 record Shine, or sitting backstage at BB King’s Club in New York City hanging out with Johnny Winter and his band, or dropping by Louisiana Red’s home in Hamburg and having him play guitar in his Pyjamas for myself, Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor and the head of the label Ruf Records.

I have so many lovely memories of performing on the Rhythm and Blues Cruise along the coasts of Mexico and California alongside Bobby Blue Bland and Bobby Womack, or sharing the stage with Pee Wee Ellis at WOMAD Festival, or opening for Jools Holland at The Royal Albert Hall as a guest of his amazingly talented younger brother Christopher Holland. And it’s the food and the drink, and travelling and seeing the world, and enjoying being creative in the recording studio. Performing music to children in the slums in Kenya was an incredible experience. I’ve learnt music is never ever a competition, it is just joy and love and self expression.

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