Interview with Dan Verner
Last summer, you debuted your first album “From The Fold” to a sold out crowd at your release show. How was that feeling?
Since it was my first album, it was something that I was looking forward to for a long-time. To have so many friends and family there to see the show felt really great. The support was fantastic!
The album has been featured on CBC radio, how was the experience of hearing yourself on the radio for the first time?
I’ve been lucky enough to have had my album featured on CBC radio in Cape Breton, NS where I was born and in Saint John, NB where I live now, as well as other radio stations in Atlantic Canada. The first song that hit the radio was ‘Roots’ and it was a pretty cool feeling. I had friends texting and calling me all day saying they heard it, which was pretty great too.
If you had to pick a favourite track from that album, could you?
I have different favorites for different reasons, but I would say that ‘Radio Storm’ and ‘Calgary’ are my two favorites.
I wrote Radio Storm at 2am on the edge of my bathtub in Calgary with all the lights off. There was something about the echoey bathroom sound and the dark quiet environment that allowed me to create a little world in the song that I could picture really vividly as I was writing it. I recorded myself playing there on my iPhone and basically wrote the entire thing in 10 minutes. The initial recording of the song was over 8 minutes long when I wrote it, and I refined it a bit afterwards. The song is about pushing toward a goal and once reaching it realizing all the things, good and bad, that you left in your wake. It’s also about appreciating the simple things like good friends and family, over material things.
I started writing ‘Calgary’ about 5 years ago, and never really finished it or named it, but every once in a while I would gravitate back to it. When I was living in Calgary in 2016, I sat down at the piano one day and started playing it again and realized how much the lyrics and the tone of the song really resonated with me and the place that I was in my life at the time. I finished it that day and called it ‘Calgary’.
How did you pick the songs that would going on to “From The Fold”
Considering this was my first album, I wanted to include a bit of an array of songs from the past number of years and also stylistically present some different themes. I ultimately chose 6 of my songs that I really liked and during the process of recording the album, wrote 2 more (‘Roots’ and ‘Shepherds’) and decided they should be on it too.
You’re Nova Scotia born but now living in Saint John, New Brunswick now. What brought the move?
I moved to New Brunswick for work after graduating from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s a great place to live, and feels a lot like where I grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
You also lived in Calgary, Alberta for a little while. How did you find the differences between the Atlantic and the Prairies?
I did! I moved to Calgary in 2015 for about two years. Calgary’s music scene was pretty great. There was a particular venue called The Ironwood Stage & Grill that I really liked playing. I met some interesting music people there that I ended up writing, playing, and recording with too. It was especially nice to live in a bigger city for a while and get exposed to some bigger acts coming through the city so often. Being from Atlantic Canada, you would get one or two big acts play per year, as opposed to weekly in Calgary, so I really enjoyed that part.
Coming back to New Brunswick still felt like coming home though. There is something about the people and the culture in Atlantic Canada that has some magic in it, for me at least.
Did that trip influence your music?
Absolutely. Folk-pop and country music are pretty popular in Calgary, and I think some of that got into my bones. Sometimes I will finish writing a song and when I kind of step back from it I am surprised to hear some country influences and some folky melodies tucked neatly in there that I associate with Calgary.
What do you think of the New Brunswick music scene?
The music scene in New Brunswick, and especially in Saint John was been growing a lot lately. It’s a very tight-knit music community and there is some fantastic talent out there right now. Music festivals like Area 506 festival and the Quality Block party are some great new festivals in Saint John that are helping to elevate the scene even more. New Brunswick is especially interesting for music because of its francophone community in Moncton and in northern New Brunswick, so there’s a lot of diversity as well.
What a few of your favourite venues for live music in Saint John?
In the past few years I have noticed a real resurgence in the live music scene in Saint John. New venues like The Five and Dime uptown are great for live music, and some older venues are now being rediscovered by the music community like the Sanctuary Theatre (an old church sanctuary converted to a music venue – my personal favorite).
Can you tell us about your songwriting process?
I generally write songs with a guitar or piano, and usually start with playing some kind of tune or chord progression that makes me feel something, and then I sit down with pen and paper or my iPhone voice memo recorder and start writing. It’s not always the same process, and the creative juices tend to flow at random times and you’ve got to embrace it when it happens. Lately I have been writing with some other artists/producers from New Brunswick too, and I’ve found it really great for finding new ideas and coming up with new stuff.
You’ve been writing music since ten years old. What got you started?
I have played piano since I was around 5 years old, and took lessons for a long-time. Honestly, I hated music lessons, and I didn’t like practicing songs from a page, so when I was around 10, I figured out that I could start making my own music, which I liked playing a lot more than pre-written classical music. From there, I started writing lyrics to some of the songs (most of which were quite terrible), but over time got better and better.
If you could go back and give ten year old Dan one piece of advice about music, what would it be?
When I was young, I distinctly remember thinking that I didn’t want to play by the conventional rules of songwriting (like common song structure, chord progressions, etc), and that’s not to say that I was a 10-year-old prog-rocker. But I wanted to write with a clean slate and make music that just simply sounded good to me. Because of that, I tried not to focus on the technical theory aspect of music. I still look back at that pretty often and am happy I did that because it really kept me thinking openly when I write; however, sometimes I wish I had focused a bit more on learning and remembering the music theory, because it would make my job a lot easier when talking music with other musicians in my band or people I am writing or playing with. So, I would tell my 10-year-old self to focus a bit more on learning music theory and stick with it, even if it isn’t the most fun thing to do at the time.
Where can people find your new album?
‘From the Fold’ is available on all online music retailers and streaming sites, like Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, YouTube, etc.
Hard copies are also available at my live shows or by ordering directly through me (Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org)
What do you have planned for the summer of 2018?
This summer, I plan to play some shows throughout Atlantic Canada and potentially release a few new tunes. Stay tuned in to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/danvernermusic/) for tour dates and new music!