Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community
By Autumn Sauer
My interview with Daniel began with us sitting in chairs, which is pretty standard for an interview. However, I quickly learned that this would not be a standard interview. Instead, we would spend the next two hours talking, laughing, performing, and learning. Daniel quickly moved from the chairs to his drum set, then to the piano, and then back to the drums. I, a very untalented and inexperienced musician, also found myself at the piano and the drums during this time. Music isn’t something that Daniel wants to keep to himself.
He was insistent that I also try my hand at making music and painstakingly listened to me butcher Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on two separate instruments. Daniel’s music is about more than just listening: it’s about watching, dancing, and experiencing. Before you watch him perform at Charlotte Street’s Open Studios event on Saturday, April 20, you can get to know him a little better through this intimate interview below.
[Autumn]: I know you’re not from Kansas City as you’re from Denver. So what brought you to Kansas City? What’re you doing out here?
[Daniel]: I finished school in Denver at Metro University and I was playing a lot of gigs out there with a lot of bands, but I just wanted to move to a place where I didn’t know anybody—see if I could still do my thing. Plus, I had been on tour out here a couple of times and I know the cost of living is really good, so it’s easy to get out to Nashville and LA from here just because I’m not paying a huge house bill and that’s cool.
[Autumn]: So how did you get plugged in with Charlotte Street?
[Daniel]: A friend of mine told me about it and I just went online and applied, which was cool. I didn’t think it would be possible when I first got here to do my music. I mean I could do some studio stuff at home, but I can’t hit the drums.
[Autumn]: What has this residency been like for you? What’ve you gotten out of it so far?
[Daniel]: A lot. I feel respected as a musician by having a space to work things out and try new things—I can do what I want when I want to.
[Autumn]: Are you in here late at night?
[Daniel]: Oh yeah, sometimes. I also do some video work and sometimes I’ll be up here doing videos with people or doing my own videos. I just did a video by myself. It took awhile just to set-up the camera angles right, but I was just kind of experimenting. Being in this black room makes it easy to set up a light and have everything black behind you. So that’s given me the opportunity to just come up here and shoot video. I also got a bunch of mics recently, which I might not have done if I wasn’t up here.
[Autumn]: So are you doing a lot of video work then, along with your music?
[Daniel]: There’s this rapper named J. Prince and I’m trying to go on tour with him and do some video work, hopefully do some drumming too. I also work with this podcast called Street Wave and I’ve been doing all of their videos for them. I’ll do a simple video and then all of the editing. I just learned how to do that stuff and so I’m trying to use it as another source of income.
[Autumn]: Do you do a lot of collaboration with people here or other people in the city?
[Daniel]: I do a lot of gigs around town, as well as collaborations with recording and producing and stuff. I also have my own group. I’ve had to serve people for so long, from going on these tours and I’ve been playing with one of Tech N9ne’s producers. He does a lot of other producing so I’ve been hanging with him.
When I got to Charlotte Street, one thing that was dope was they were like, “Man, you need to come up with your own vibe” and my response was, “Okay.” I started doing more writing of my own, which is cool. It lets me see what inspires me and think about the things I gravitate towards and what I want to write. Then, I came up with my group St. Hogans and I’m trying to just go with that. One of the dudes is Corbin Jones who lives in LA right now. The other member is in Denver and his name is Solomon. I’m trying to fly both of them out for Open Studios. I’m going to try and write some more music for that. The goal for that is to make very easy music that hopefully makes people feel good.
[Autumn]: Who are you looking to when you make music like that? Are there any specific inspirations?
[Daniel]: Yeah. Michael Jackson, PJ Morton, Prince, etc. You know that song “Kiss?” Let me play it [Daniel walks over to drum set and begins to play “Kiss” by Prince]. I sat down and played this track to see if you could hear the music in just the drums without everything else going on. [Daniel goes back to the drums and continues to play “Kiss” by Prince.] I am just trying to come up with really easy songs… Do you like jazz? [Daniel begins to play jazz on the drum kit.] What else have I been working on? I am trying to be more relaxed when I play, instead of being so stiff. I try to dance with it… I think what messes me up is when I play something really impressive, like some chops or something, and that gets in the way of my mood. I’m not afraid to mess up but I’ll mess up because I think, “I just want to be the greatest drummer.”
Although he’s no native, Daniel is making his name and sound known to the KC music scene.
[Daniel]: When I moved here from Denver, I had no gigs. But within the first couple weeks I started gigging and making enough to pay my rent right away. And the reason why that happened was I went to every gig that was in the city, which was not hard. You just go every night and you can enjoy yourself. I just went to everything in the city and it was just that easy, just like showing your face and people talk so quick.
Prepare to be entertained at this year’s Open Studios. Daniel will be there, drumsticks ablaze, with new music that everyone can enjoy. Don’t be afraid to dance, sing, and shout. Maybe, if you ask really nicely, Daniel will even play the piano for you.