I first saw Danielle Howle in the parking lot of the Moon, a college kid mini-arena thing in Tallahassee, FL. She drove up to a small group of us lowly stagehands and asked, “Is this the Moon?” We all answered her in the affirmative and went back to having our stupid conversation. A few minutes later she approached us and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Danielle.” We all looked at each other, very confused about why some girl would walk up and start talking to a group of losers like us. We sort of blew her off, not knowing what to say. Then we saw her on stage later, opening for Ani DiFranco. Oh.
Do you have any formal musical training?
Once upon a time as a child, a piano came to our house. My Mom and sister could play it like champs. My sis learned how to read music. I, too, was enrolled in piano lessons, but to no avail. I would not practice and could not read the notes and would not learn. Poor piano teacher. I feel bad for her now. All I would say is, “hey teach, listen to this tune I made up. It sounds like birds to me.”
What do you think about school?
School does its damage to all individuals, but also teaches us valuable reasoning skills that are acceptable ways of communicating ideas to other beings. Many a teacher opened my eyes to the value of having a work ethic. I had some good teachers. I was an army brat and went to army base schools until high school. Then my father retired in Columbia, SC, where I went to my first public school. Quite a shocking nightmare. I got used to it and found some things I liked to do, like theatre and journalism. The key to school for me was to keep an open mind and try to find some things there that inspired me. I did not have many friends back then. Most of this was my fault. I was not outgoing and did not know how to communicate well with others. I guess school is good for coming out of your shell, or knowing how to get back in it when you need to. College was a good thing, too. I took all the classes I wanted to take and learned many things. Then I quit and went into music. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed and graduated. I still can go back, but it sure would have been better in hindsight to get that degree. I was a young, impulsive fool.
My favorite parts of your live shows are when you goof up, break a string, forget the words, drop your guitar, trip over a cable, etc. There’s none of that on this album. Any comments on that?
There are tons of screw-ups that us music folks are keeping secret from the rest of the music people like you. I did not know how to make a studio record, and this one is just practice for the next one later. People have said they miss these very same things you missed. I feel like I need to learn better how to get the groove on tape. I sort of fell short on this goal, in some ways. There are things about recording in the studio I like. But then again, a lot of this stuff was recorded in one sitting. We added a keyboard or something sometimes.
I hope you didn’t take offense to that question; it wasn’t meant that way. I just wanted you to express your philosophy, sort of. The album is really good. In fact, I usually have that trees song stuck in my head.
No way. I didn’t take offense at all over that question. This album is definitely different than live shows. I don’t think I have made my best record yet, and I am my own worst critic, so pardon me if I sounded a little hard on myself. I am.
How many hours of sleep do you get per night?
It depends on the drives and the chores I must accomplish for the band or touring solo. Usually about five right now. But it is going to get better. I am learning how to organize myself and relax. These will be useful tools. I am 31 years old now, and I have got to start acting like it. I likes to stay up late. Bad vice. Bad bad vice.
Are you still driving that car around on tour?
The Camaro never made much of a touring car. I have spent my money on rentals so so much. Camaro was strictly a South Carolina touring vehicle. But all good things must come to an end. He was sold when things got hard. As I cleared away the leaves from his windshield, to spruce him before the final sale and pick-up, the wiper blade caught and cut my finger hard. The rubber had turned hard on the wiper blade from the car sitting so long. It sat six months because I was on the road with the band and stuff. The car was ready to leave me. I did not have the money to fix it up pretty. It went to a nice man to be resurrected. I hope that car loved me, but in the end, I don’t know.
What’s the biggest goof-up you’ve ever made on stage?
1. Mispronouncing the name of one of my friend’s bands would have to be the worst. 2. Falling down while trying to do interpretive dancing in front of 500 people. 3. At 701 Gallery in Columbia, SC, many people came to the CD release show for this last album. I had to stop mid-song and cough for a good two minutes. 200 people sat quietly in their chairs and I was all teared up and about to barf. When I caught my wind, I said, “Damn allergies — they are killing me in this old dusty room.” Then I continued in the song where we left off and all my hometown friends just started laughing. I sounded kind of rusty for the next couple lines. But what can you do? I really thought I was going to hurl from coughing so hard. Thank the Good Lord peoples can be forgiving.
What’s the worst thing about being a musician?
Being a musician can present some financial problems. Worst for me is wanting a keyboard, because I used to play and write music on it. I hear it that way in my head a lot. Need dough to get keyboard box and cannot. OH! I almost forgot, there is an element of fear that people won’t like you anymore — that you become a has-been or yesterday’s old news. Or maybe it could be that they will never like you. But the good thing is, I will always be playing and writing. And bad things are always outweighed by the birth of a song or moment that comes from somewhere unknown inside and materializes through music.
Do you have a lucky pair of socks?
I have lucky underwear. If I need real power, I put on the old elastic-shot bright golden yellow pair of cotton Haynes Her Way that come in those 6 packs that can be gotten at most Target or Wal-Mart places. If I need super high power, I have to take my old-school punk and folk underwear from the teen years out of the back of my drawer. These cannot be worn anymore, only carried like a priceless artifact.
What kind of stuff are you reading these days? At the Orlando show last year, you said you were standing in a pool, reading a book. What book was it? I used to know a girl who reads books.
The Redneck Way of Knowledge by Blanche Macrary Boyd. She has other books too. [The] Pool book in Orlando [was] Alice Walker’s book The Same River Twice (Honoring the Difficult) . That’s what it says on that book. Now that woman can write. I also like Gloria Naylor a lot. No, I read books men write too — promise. But I don’t read all that much. It goes in stages. Sometimes I like to read about gardening or herbal remedies and different religions. It’s just a lot of fun. What girl did you know that read books?
Some girl. I tried to spend time with her, and she would always be like, “I READ BOOKS.” No matter what I said, she always emphasized that. When I’d say, “I love sleeping” she would say, “I LOVE READING BOOKS.” “Hey, I saw a movie yesterday” and she’d say, “Oh, I READ A BOOK YESTERDAY,” or “I BET THE MOVIE WASN’T AS GOOD AS THE BOOK.” I’d say, “Hey, you wanna go on a trip out of town this weekend?” and she’d say, “YEAH, I WILL BRING A BOOK.” Eventually, this led me to hate books, but what is the use in that? It’s like bibliophobia or something. So I left her to her damn books. It’s odd to compete for attention against a small, rectangular stack of papers. But if that is what she wants, then hey, that’s good. Maybe someday she can get a degree in reading books, wearing trenchcoats in the middle of summer, and making friends just to be an asshole to them.
She sounds really boring and NOT WORTHY OF YOUR CREATIVITY AND INTEREST.
Hey, thanks. That’s funny. Speaking of funny — have you ever been to a high school reunion?
Yes I have. As people got drunker, the same cliques started to develop all over again, just like magic. But a lot of us geeks didn’t feel strange like we used to. All the geeks turned out pretty cool. I guess I turned out pretty inquisitive. because sometimes I love social fanfare. The coolest people were probably not there. I have a certain nostalgia for that which kicked and made me turn out kicking ass. And after it all, it’s just another fun experience to thank. Can’t wait til the next hell-raising event.
If you could change one thing about the US Government, what would it be?
I worry over something I have little knowledge on. I know it is really easy to change the title of lands. If a land is deemed a wetland, it should stay that way. Sometimes the land’s titles get changed so people or companies can build on these lands. Wetlands are part of the filter systems. We need them.
What’s your favorite movie?
It is called To Live . It’s a Chinese-made film, which has subtitles on it. It has the best music and acting I have seen. I don’t know much else about it. I have seen it seven times. When I get done looking at the film part, I shall read the credits and learn more about the people involved. It is truly the best movie in the world to me right now.
Ever think of being an actress?
Well, I was in theatre for a good long time, and I probably will be again. I like Christopher Durang shows, and Allen Brown, too. I like a lot of stuff. Acting is fun to do. It is fun to create a human and pretend to be them. Acting as a profession seems really hard. Sure glad I don’t have an inclination to be professional about it. Actors and painters — they seem like hard things to deal with.
Anything else you would really like to talk about?
Sure, there is always more to talk about. I would like to talk about silence for a minute. It seems there is not enough silence in my life. It is something I am working on. I just hope that all the humans in the world have a good time and have good lives. Hope you yourself are having some good fun and inspiration from this grand planet. I feel blessed [that] a few people listen to my music. I’ll be around making music in the shadows. Good luck to you and to all humans.