Video Feature & Web-Exclusive Interview


Video:  “Black & Blue


Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin will be the featured artists this Thursday (August 20) at Blue Rock aLIVE!—a unique virtual summer concert series—featuring iconic Austin-based artists every Thursday this summer. Blue Rock’s innovation, quality and creativity is evidenced in concerts produced in broadcast quality audio-video from their renowned Texas room—streamed straight to you. The Season Pass was $105, but now you can get the rest of the season for only $60 (or $25 for this concert): What makes a Season Pass unique is that you send in your headshot and they place it on a seat, so you will literally be sitting in the room.

Between 2009 and 2014, Schmidt released three albums on Red House Records. His incisive, poetic, poignant lyrics are insightful while revealing his truth in the form of a story. His commentary touches on what it means to taste and capture the emotions of real life. Of these unique times, he says “We’re living in real time through what’s likely to be the defining event of our generation. Without the benefit of hindsight, 2020 is blurry and astigmatic—its outcome anything but clear.”

We talked with Danny Schmidt about his passion for songwriting, the unique way he narrates his story in song, what continues to inspire his creative process, fill his head and keep him humble and hopeful.


with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

Tell us about one of the songs you’ll play at Blue Rock this summer.
There are two new songs: “2020 Vision” and “Black & Blue” which I wrote, recorded and released during quarantine. It’s a montage of impressions and observations from this most peculiar time we’re all living through. It only seems appropriate to play it at the Blue Rock show—this immaculate small concert hall completely empty of audience members and broadcast to listeners via the internet. It’s a microcosm of our whole conundrum—the tragedy of our distanced lives, overcome by our creative ingenuity and our spirit of connection and community.

What did you learn about yourself after completing your last album Standard Deviation.
That’s my most recent full record, but I’ve been recording and releasing songs as I write them in quarantine. I’ve had three recent singles released: “Black & Blue,” “2020 Vision” and “A Prayer for the Sane.” I’m working on another right now. The thing I’ve learned the most in the juxtaposition of Standard Deviation and these two singles is how nice it is to release songs as they’re written—when I’m still in the headspace I was in as I was writing them, and as the world is still in the same relative spiritual state it was in when it inspired the songs. With the typical album cycle, songs will pile up for a couple of years until you can record them all at once and call it a record. Sometimes, by then, you’re two years removed from the state which conjured the song in the first place. In the case of a topical song, the world itself has moved on and is in a different state, so the songs mean something different, if not something less.

Who originally inspired you to write songs?
I was a huge fan of songwriters long before I ever had any notion of writing songs myself—Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt. But I would consider them all more influential to my life than to my craft. I didn’t start writing songs because of their influence. I started writing songs because I fell in love with a girl who I found could be influenced by my writing of songs—and that was powerful reinforcement.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
Good or bad, it’s easy to be unduly influenced by people who like what you do and say nice things about elements of your songs, or influenced by criticism. It’s hard not to let compliments be a magnet and start doing things towards where you are receiving them, or to avoid things based on criticism. Instead, you should just follow your own artistic compass.

Which Top 5 Musicians inspired you to become a musician?
There’s different sorts of inspiration. Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan inspired by setting a bar so high you would strive for your songs to reach greater heights, even though you knew they’d never clear the bar. John Prine inspired by giving you this sense, and this pat on the back, that you just might be able to write a song too—all you’ve got to do is pick your three chords and say what you mean. Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young inspired by showing you say what your bare feet felt on the cold stone, even if your brain never understood it. I could list a thousand songwriters. Every one I’ve ever known, in some respect.

What are your Top 5 favorite albums?
Desire (1976) – Bob Dylan
Nothing’s Shocking (1988) – Jane’s Addiction
Are You Experienced (1967) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Graceland (1986) – Paul Simon
Funky Kingston (1972) – Toots & the Maytals

That’d get me through a desert island life.

What is the best advice you’d like to give upcoming musicians?
You don’t have to be a musician to be a Musician. Meaning, you don’t need to make your living from music to be a real musician. In fact, you might maintain a more passionate love of music if your livelihood isn’t so woven into it—as it is when you’re a professional. But then, if you’re going to be a professional musician, you really can’t believe what anyone else thinks is good or bad about your art. Your internal barometer is the only gauge that matters, and the only one you can trust to follow. It might lead you to a lifetime of under-appreciation and poverty. Or it might lead you to absurd stardom. But it’s the only thing that will lead you to artistry.

What instruments/equipment can you not live without?
My Martin 00-28 Custom Shop guitar. They were going to only make 10 of these unique guitars and use them as giveaways at retail outlets. They made seven of them before they changed the program, and I got one of those seven guitars. My fingers loved this guitar—especially the gentle fingerstyle songs. I also use a 12-fret Shubb capo because the guitar I have has a slightly wide neck which helps with the fingerstyle stuff.

How do you get your guitar to sound full?
For all the guitar nerds out there, I just started using a Grace Design FELiX instrument preamp on the guitar. The company is in Colorado and they make beautiful preamps. I have a fairly complex sound system in the guitar that needs two input sources. The Grace is a stereo preamp so I can blend it. It gives a control freak like me nice, extra control. (Laughs)

Tell us a “pinch me” moment when you thought “Wow, this is really happening to me!
Carrie and I got to play with Emmylou Harris at the Ryman back around 2014-15. The Ryman has always been on my list of all-time venues. I wanted to get on that stage. Emmylou is the best voice ever. I’ve always been in love with her. So, for the Ryman and Emmylou to come together on one night was pretty magical. Everything about this business fills your head and humbles you at the same time. One day we’re opening up for Emmylou Harris and singing with her, and the next day we’re driving for hours to play at a public library. (Laughs)

Have you always been based in Austin?
I grew up in Austin, but I got my musical start when I was living in Virginia for about 10 years. Didn’t play music for about five years, and then started playing music professionally at the end of that time. Then I moved back to Austin and met Billy and Dodee Crockett shortly after they completed their stunning Blue Rock studio. Before you even see the gear in the studio, you can tell a lot by the detail of the stonework and the landscaping. It’s almost like it was built by monks, where there was mindfulness put into every tiniest detail of the whole place.

What’s so unique about performing and recording at Blue Rock?
The music hall where they do listening room concerts is amazing. Then, when you see the actual studio, it’s the same kind of attention to detail—with the finest gear. Some studios have incredible gear, but the box room where you are recording doesn’t seem special. But the cutting room at Blue Rock is inspiring. It feels like it could be a 14th Century Italian villa or something. The more elements you find inspiring in a space, somehow transfers into the songs, the recording and the spirit of what you’re creating. It’s a world class studio.

What makes Dodee and Billy Crockett special?
When you are there at Blue Rock, you can tell that Billy and Dodee understood all of those intangible things that make a place magical—and that’s why they put so much love and attention into the creative space. You can see it all in everything they do from the SXSW events and the birthday bash to the literary book they publish and the gatherings to present the book. The same amount of mindfulness and detail goes into everything they do. It’s all in the name of trying to connect people. If you think what art and all its forms is all about—they pay honor to all of it.

How do you remain hopeful in this strange, unique time?
I have a three year old daughter. Three year olds are so relentlessly alive that it’s inspiring. Trying to keep up with her every day, forces me to stay vital. Also, seeing the ways that people have found to stay connected. If you ever doubted our innate nature as social beings, this strange unique time should convince you.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?







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