In a time when traveling isn’t as easy as it’s been in the past, it is beyond refreshing to press play on an album and feel like you’ve been transported to another place. In this particular case, Daniel Halaby’s debut album, Bluish Purple, sounds like Los Angeles when you close your eyes.
With plenty of funky bass lines and relaxed vocals, it’s like you can hear the songs coming from a tiny speaker sitting on the sand while you tan by the beach. This was birthed by both Halaby’s adoration of Revolver-era Beatles tracks and the talents of producer Frankie Siragusa. Both of those factors– tinged with Halaby’s individualist nature– created the cohesiveness that’s so ever-present on Bluish Purple.
This is also one of those albums where it’s difficult to pick just one song as a favorite to represent the impressive range of the record. While the track “In Retrospect” is full of the coolest unpredictable key-changes and interludes, “Hey Summer” is the song that plays over the part of a coming-of-age movie where a teenager is standing through the sunroof of a car as it speeds down a beach highway. As a whole, though, Bluish Purple is multifarious in the sense that it’s vibey but complex– its listening experience is completely up to what the listener is looking to get out of it. Having already accumulated over 12,000 streams on Spotify, it’s clear that people are starting to catch on.
We sat down with Halaby to talk about influence, intention, and how he measures his success as an artist.
So where did you grow up, and what got you into playing and writing music?
I grew up in the suburbs of LA, so I feel like the music scene has always been a short drive away from home. Growing up, I was really into bands like Blink-182 and Avenged Sevenfold. I must have been like 11 or 12 when I bought my first Hal Leonard music book. It was the “Blink-182 Greatest Hits” book, and I was such a huge fan as a kid that I learned every song in the book.
Do you have a specific atmosphere or pastime that aides in your songwriting process, or does it often just happen sporadically?
It’s sporadic, for sure. I never understood how artists could sit down and tell themselves they were going to write a song, and then just write it. It’s bizarre. The writing process for me goes something like this: find a chord progression I can work with, ad-lib the vocal melody, bask in deeply rooted internal doubt, question my existence in the universe, find the motivation to complete the song, and revel in its awesomeness. I’m not even really exaggerating. If the song can make it past the existential part of the process, I’m usually happy with the final product.
So you recently released your debut full-length album, Bluish Purple. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this collection of songs?
In some ways, Bluish Purple is an homage to Nick Drake’s, Pink Moon. Not in a stylistic sense, but in the way created symbols to represent his emotional well-being. Revolver and Rubber Soul are two of my favorite Beatles albums, which certainly influence the sound of my music. I can listen to Salad Days by Mac DeMarco on repeat, easily making him a source of inspiration. It’s tough to really know for sure which albums were the “most” influential since I don’t think my music really sounds like anything else out there.
What artists would you say were your biggest influence when making this record?
The Beatles; no question. I remember listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows” off of Revolver, and wanting to learn everything I could about how it was produced. I’m fortunate to have a producer like Frankie Siragusa. There would be times where I’d ask him what vocal effects George Martin used on Lennon’s voice on a particular song, and he’d know on the spot. Few people have an ear for music the way he does, and in a way, it kind of inspired me to think outside of the realm of creativity I was living in. Knowing that we could achieve any sound I could imagine was a highly motivating force in and of itself.
What do you hope people take away from this record?
Sometimes, your best course of action is to seize the moment with your eyes closed, and middle fingers raised.
What can you envision people doing when listening to your music?
I think it depends on which song you’re listening to. For some of the more energetic songs on the record like “Kaleidoscope” and “The Contrarian” I can totally envision people sort of rocking out to the guitar solo in the mirror. For the more vibey songs on the record like “Hey Summer,” I imagine people hanging out on the beach with friends. Each song, I feel, captures a unique emotion I was experiencing at that point in my life. There’s something for everyone.
If you weren’t playing music, what could you see yourself doing?
Music has always been a big part of my identity. I can put aside music for months or even years at a time, but I always find myself falling back into the writing process for one reason or another.
What do you hope to have achieved as an artist five years from now?
I mainly want to continue growing as a musician. Popularity is a pretty awful metric for achievement in the music industry; it tells you more about an individual’s access to exposure than it does the quality of their art. Yet, it’s difficult to reconcile the need to affect change in as many individual’s lives as possible with the realization that it requires a level of public exposure endemic to success.
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process? (or perhaps neither)
I’m fortunate in that I’m able to work from home during this strange time. Self-reflection is very important to me; asking myself if I’m content with the trajectory of my life and how I can improve as an individual. It almost feels like the pandemic has stopped time for a brief moment, allowing me to be more introspective than usual. Introspection is an important part of my writing process, so in some sense, the pandemic has helped my creative process.
Have you picked up any new hobbies throughout it or tapped into other creative endeavors?
I’m the Ponce de León of discovering new ways to distract myself. Recently, though, I’ve been getting into meditation and mindfulness as a pastime.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I write and perform all of the music myself. Usually I pick up a guitar and lay down a few measures. Then I’ll write a bass melody, and work on a drumbeat to tighten up the rhythm section. But that stuff’s all technical and boring. Let’s talk about cold brew.
What might fans expect from Daniel Halaby to close out the year?
I really didn’t expect to reach as many people with my music as I have. I’m working on a new EP that’ll be out hopefully before the end of the year. So keep an eye out for that!