Having spent the last year releasing folk-inspired pop hits, Nashville-based songwriter Dan Fuson is on a roll with his latest single, “Shallow Blue.” The artist plays with an infusion of sonic layers ranging from pop, indie rock, and Americana, and unleashes killer riffs on steady beats that you can’t help but to tap your foot to.
His most recent single feels personal, and a raw declaration of self. Comparatively to the artist’s earlier singles, like his primary and much acclaimed release, “The Architect,” Fuson seems to have developed his groove, seemingly reinventing himself as an artist. He focuses more on his own musical style rather than what he expects others might want to hear. That is not to say that “Shallow Blue” isn’t a pop bop. Fuson’s authenticity only adds to the track’s appeal.
Ever since strumming his first guitar as a middle school kid in the Midwest, Fuson has used music to express himself. Producing his latest track and forthcoming EP, Familiar, Brand New from his bedroom and playing nearly every instrument on it, he lays out his heart for his listeners. There’s a maturity in his vulnerability, one that fuses well with the playful jubilance of Fuson’s strumming. The pop-punk music Fuson cut his teeth on growing up in the mid-aughts might not be as obvious an influence as the John Mayer-like listenability, yet there’s a light punk rock charm that might remind listeners of an earlier time. There’s a lot to be excited about with Fuson’s upcoming EP, which is set for release this Friday, July 10th.
“Shallow Blue” is one of the pillars that make up the four songs on Familiar, Brand New, and we look forward to hearing the rest of the tracks that promise a small but mighty collection. As Fuson continues to grow, he won’t stop his roll. Constantly making music, he hopes to continue his career with full albums and tour dates in the future.
We got the chance to chat with the busy songwriter about his songwriting process, inspirations, aspirations, and much more.
As a kid from a small Midwestern town, how did you get into making music?
My brother had a friend who gave me a guitar when I was in about the 6th grade, and as soon as I started getting comfortable with chords, I started trying to make my own songs. Like most middle schoolers, I had a lot of feelings, so naturally there were quite a few sappy love songs that came out in those first few years of writing!
What inspired you to move to Nashville? And how do you think your youth in Bloomington and your experiences in Nashville have shaped your music?
Bloomington is a really progressive city, and had a lot of venues and opportunities to play music compared to other similar sized cities, so I was really lucky to have an outlet to play live music in my younger years and grow my love for playing to an audience. At the end of college, I was kind of lost on what I wanted to do with the next few years, and luckily a friend helped push me to really give music a try and move to Nashville with him. This city really forced me to practice and develop my skills on the guitar more and dive into the production side of things, which has allowed me to really craft my songs the way I want. There really is an energy in the music community here that’s palpable.
On a related note, you tend to mix ideas and sonic layers from different genres. How would you describe the tones and ideas you strive to portray in your music?
I really am drawn to big, anthemic sounding songs and textures, so I’m always trying to weave big guitar hooks and leads with the more singer-songwriter aspects of my writing. In my eyes, my single “Shallow Blue” from this EP is where I’ve really nailed that combo the best so far.
What artists (or generally, people!) have inspired you and your work?
The first artists that leap to mind are Oasis, U2, and Kings of Leon. Those bands have such a big sound that’s both accessible and listenable, but they never compromise their lyrics and are unafraid to explore new sounds, which is really a hell of a combo.
You’ve described your songs as “the purest musical expression of self.” Do you ever struggle being so vulnerable in your music?
At times I do! I try not to be overly specific with references or descriptions in songs because I think that while that can be an honest and revealing thing for a writer to do, it sometimes might make it less relatable for the listener. In my song, “The Architect” I couldn’t get away from being specific though. That song was written at a really vulnerable time for me, and I had to be honest to those feelings, which I think makes that song one of my favorites.
What does your songwriting process look like?
I’m really inspired by different guitar pedals and effects, so as stupid as it may sound, I just turn a bunch of sounds on and jam until I find something I like! The song “Flood” for example was sparked from playing around with a delay pedal cranked up to epic proportions. After the music is started, I try to find a melody that sits right and write lyrics that feel honest in that particular moment. I try not to over-analyze the words in the moment and just let them flow. Editing myself while I write can really stop a song cold, so I try to take off my critical hat until after I have a first draft done.
When you started making music back in 2011, you were still a teenager! How do you think your music has changed as you’ve grown as a person?
Hopefully it’s gotten a little better! But honestly, I think I’m writing about the same kinds of things as I was then: relationships. I’ve had higher highs and lower lows since I first started writing, and that’s matured me a lot which I think shows in the songs. There was some innocence and naivete to those first tunes which can be quite beautiful really, but I’ll gladly trade that for the songs now, which are based on more complex and meaningful ideas and relationships.
What excites you most about making music, and what gets you out of bed in the morning to keep working on it?
I love the chase of finding a song, you know? I can hear all the instruments in my head when I’m initially putting pen to paper so it’s almost like I’m rushing to keep up with my mind when producing the tune. It’s a bit like building a LEGO set: you know how cool it’s going to look all assembled, so you’re just rushing to get it together.
What’s the inspiration and influence behind your latest track, “Shallow Blue”?
“Shallow Blue” was written following a period when I was feeling a bit incomplete and I was starting to get things together. I had a little bit of apprehension feeling good and settled again, but every time I might start to question things I had someone in my life who constantly reminded me of the positive. The verses of that song are really the self doubt creeping in and when the chorus hits the mood changes and you’re feeling that light. A little bit of a yin and yang you know?
You’ve got your debut EP, Familiar, Brand New set for release this Friday, July 10th. How many tracks can fans expect to see on it?
There are going to be four tunes on it! I wanted to keep it tight and focused – all killer, no filler. I really do think people will get a sense of wholeness from this release.
Is there a common theme throughout the EP?
All the songs are really just about different relationships. Some are autobiographical, others aren’t, but either way there’s something in each tune people can relate to.
Is there a specific track you might be most excited for the public to hear or perhaps most proud of?
I really do love them all, but the song “Run” is one I’m really excited about at the moment. It’s a proper rock song with huge drums and a big ol’ guitar solo. I’m usually in favor of subtlety with guitar, but sometimes you’ve just gotta shred right?
Where did you record it, and who was involved in its production?
I recorded everything except for the drums in my bedroom! Very minimal equipment and DIY, but I think it works. I recorded all the guitars, bass, keys and vocals myself first and then needed some help to get the tunes to the finish line. My friends Kendall Theile and Sarah Menefee (who sings lead vocals on two songs) came to town to record additional vocals on the EP, which added a lot of character to the songs. Brandon Davis and Jeffrey Anthony tackled the drums and really exceeded my expectations. (Jeffrey’s bridge on the song “Flood” is going to blow people away. Jonathan Korzelius over at Echo Mixing in Nashville was my hero on this project though. He helped produce the tunes with me and took my initial mixes and made them really pop. Can’t wait to work with him on more music.
What are your realistic hopes for your musical career in the next five years?
I’m going to keep putting music out at a steady pace and grow things naturally. I feel confident that I can make each release better than the last, so it’s onwards and upwards from here. Full albums and touring are the goal absolutely. I hope to be able to fill a place like Exit/In here in Nashville in five years – that’ll be a peak moment for me for sure. In the meantime, more songs will be coming fast and furious so fasten your seatbelts.