Kevin Daniel is the modern Southern-soul-rocker you’ll wish you’d found sooner; with authenticity at the root of each song, it’s hard not to feel something when listening to his music.
As a proud Tarboro, North Carolina native and Asheville resident, it goes without saying that Daniel’s Southern roots stretch deep. The singer’s smoky, soulful voice is reminiscent of modern country heavy-hitters like Chris Stapleton, and the moody blues-rock sound Daniel administers is rich with passion and grit.
Since his first EP, FLY, released in 2014, Daniel has become a critically acclaimed artist, and continues to hone and craft his songwriting chops. With several EPs and an album under his belt, Daniel continues to put in the work, and expands his fanbase in the process. His integrity and strength as a songwriter is evident, and you get an immediate sense he sings what’s on his mind.
Daniel’s most recent single, “My Oh My,” which features Ashlee Joy, hits that roots-rock sweet spot and delivers the goods. The harmonies in the chorus offer a bright contrast to the dark, riff-driven verses, and notes of blues, country and Americana seamlessly weave throughout the piece, creating a unique yet familiar feeling. It takes precise talent to evoke such a specific feeling, but Daniel throws listeners headfirst into his emotions, making it impossible not to feel (at the very least), something.
We recently got to chat with Daniel about “My Oh My”, his career so far, and his plans for the latter half of the year.
So I was hoping you could discuss how you got into writing and playing music, and who might’ve inspired you most?
I get this question a fair amount, and I always find it interesting. I don’t really know anyone who has a way they “got into” music. To quote Gaga, “I was born this way.” It wasn’t a question of whether I would be musical, I just was. No one told me to write music, I just started. Singing just came naturally, as did exploring instruments like the sax, piano, and drums. There is no world in which I would not eventually have become a musician.
Current and past inspirations include (in no particular order) Jason Isbell, Langhorne Slim, Nikki Lane, Dolly Parton, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Queen, Sublime, Muse, Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, and many more I have yet to hear.
How might’ve the vibrant and artistic landscape of Asheville influenced your musical/writing style?
I love bluegrass, always have. I’ve played in a number of bluegrass bands in my day, the most recent being The Bella Boys in New York City. Playing and learning bluegrass is a great way to sharpen your teeth on guitar and strumming patterns. Asheville has a rich history of old time and bluegrass, and you can definitely feel some of that in the record. People around here call it mountain music.
You have a huge catalog of songs; do you have a more rigid songwriting process, or just kind of when inspiration strikes?
That’s the first time I’ve ever been told I have a huge catalog of songs, haha. I guess it’s not small. These days I’m on more of a writing schedule, carving out a certain number of hours every week to write. I also write for other people which is good practice and keeps my writing chops fresh. That being said, a lot of the good stuff comes to you at unexpected times, so make sure to have your voice memos ready. And remember to check them!
Your newest single, “My Oh My” has a very moody, country-blues vibe. What’s the influence behind the song?
The female verse and chorus were written by Ashlee Joy Hardee, former singer/keys player in Charlotte-based band Matrimony. She’s a really talented singer and songwriter and when she played me this song, or what she had of it, I was like, yeah, let’s do this. We went to a cabin in East Tennessee for the weekend and finished the song. I think it’s pretty straight forward – sometimes you love someone, and you just don’t want to because it hurts so bad. Honestly, if you haven’t had that feeling, you’ve never been in love.
There is a darker tone in this one compared to your other songs. What might’ve been different about the writing or recording process for this track?
Ashlee also helped produce this song, so she really laid the harmonies in thick. I think that’s what sets this song apart, is her take on my music. She kept the source but also was really a stickler for details on the harmonies and hits.
And might “My Oh My” be part of an upcoming album?
Indeed it is! “My Oh My” is the second single released from my upcoming album Been Here Before, which is out 7/16/21. It’s a 12-track album, half recorded in NYC and half in Asheville, NC. It features awesome artists from both towns and I can’t WAIT for everyone to hear it.
With things easing back to normal little by little, do you have any light touring or shows lined up in support of the new and upcoming music?
I have so many shows I’m freaking out. I went from basically being retired for a year, to booking half my month out every month for shows. I’m excited to get back in the saddle! All my shows can be found at thekevindaniel.com/tour. I’m really excited about a hometown gig I have at Grey Eagle in Asheville, and a show with 49 Winchester in Lancaster, PA. They’re an awesome band and I can’t wait to see them live!
What would you say is the most rewarding part of writing and playing music?
The most rewarding aspect of writing music is when people tell me the lyrics really touch them. That means a lot because I really try to write a song people can relate to on a deeper level. That’s why I love Jason Isbell and Langhorne Slim- they’re both incredible songwriters and really put thought into their words. I love playing music because I love being the center of attention. I am a Leo after all.
You’ve had such an expansive career so far, but what would you say are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?
Honestly, I know it should be some stage moment or something, but recently I had a couple fly me out to Waco, Texas, to play their 20th anniversary. The husband surprised the wife by flying me out and she was so surprised she was in tears. To be able to be a part of something like that, and create music that moves people in such a way, it’s pretty incredible. I don’t know a lot of other jobs I could do which would touch people like that.
Lastly, where might one find you grabbing a cup of coffee or bite to eat around Asheville?
So many places BUT if you want to knock them both out in one punch, stop by All Day Darling. They have great coffee, drinks, and really good food. I’m a big fan of their chicken sandwich and tater tods. Yes, tods, not tots.