Spotlight – meets DanaMaria (13th October 2020)

When you look at European country music, you very often purely focus on British artists. However, the German country music scene has some very promising acts. The Cumberland River Project, for example, produced one of the best albums of the year 2020 in my point of view. One of the most promising German acts is definitely DanaMaria, who even made it to national TV appearances. On 23rd October 2020, she will release her debut album, Desert Diamond. I felt very happy to chat with her before the release of her new record in my Spotlight interview category. meets DanaMaria

FLYC: Dana, you are from Neu-Isenburg close to Frankfurt (Main). What is the typical reaction of people when you tell them you are doing country music?

DanaMaria: Most of the time people are actually interested. A girl from Germany doing English-speaking music, especially Country. That‘s still something that people pay attention to. Although I feel like there is some kind of skepticism when it comes to Germans doing English music. People need to hear some songs first before they are totally convinced.

FLYC: And what did you fascinate most about the genre?

DanaMaria: Country, for me, is about those simple four chord songs about the real life. It‘s about sitting around the campfire with an acoustic guitar and letting all out that happened during the day or that you’ve been dealing with lately. It‘s the craft of songwriting that is being championed in this genre in particular. And in my eyes it‘s all about the songs.

FLYC: You emphasize a strong Texas country influence in your bio and your social media, mainly driven by an uncle living in Austin. How did the city change your music?

DanaMaria: Well, I would say it lit the fire! I grew up listening to Austin musicians because my parents did. And I always felt so home over there. As a teen I looked up to these guys playing music all night long in the clubs. And there‘s Austin City Limits which still is my dream to play one day. Willie Nelson is my dad‘s hero and so I learned a lot from his music, too. Austin‘s been a place that I knew from childhood on so I guess it felt more relatable to me than other music cities. And I felt like I could really get in touch with the people there, which is a good feeling…

FLYC: Is there any favorite place you love to go when you are in Austin?

DanaMaria: Sure, there are! I always visit some legendary music clubs like C-Boy‘s Heart & Soul, the Continental Club or Antones where you can always find amazing musicians. And I like to spend time outside of town in the Hill Country. But I definitely lost my heart at Chuy‘s which is my all time favorite tex-mex restaurant – it’s a MUST.

FLYC: When you enter the stage in the USA, introduce yourself as a female artist from Germany – how is the reaction over there? Rather sceptical or even more interested?

DanaMaria: I always felt really welcome – that‘s something I like about Americans. I never faced any kind of skepticism. People are really interested in what I do. They are very kind and excited to hear someone from Europe singing her songs. But I don‘t think it‘s the fact that I do the genre country music as a German girl. People really honor good songwriting. They notice a good song and are not afraid to show their support and their joy about it.

FLYC: Desert Diamond is somehow your second album. Your 2018 Light Up Your Light is flagged as an EP on Spotify, but contains ten songs. A song I especially liked is the title track. What is the story behind it?

DanaMaria: Most of the time I play rhythmic strumming on acoustic guitar. On this one I wanted to bring in a little bluesy lick on the acoustic and combine it with a catchy Sheryl Crow inspired chorus that kind of opens up the song. The lyrics just came out in like thirty minutes. I felt a little hopeless on all the negative things happening in the world. The fact that you sometimes feel like you can‘t do anything about it might bring you down. And it was somehow a memo to myself. It should remind me to “light up my own light” that may make at least a little change in my own community.

FLYC: What are your (other) favorite tracks of Light Up Your Light?

DanaMaria: Trip Down Memory Lane is one of my favorites. It‘s so close to my roots with its country rhythm and the acoustic structure. And it‘s also a very emotional song for me, that I wrote when a lot started changing after childhood.

FLYC: The “EP” closes with three live tracks. How is DanaMaria like on stage?

DanaMaria: You‘re gonna get some country vibes – of course the acoustic guitar plays an important role but we also have banjo and slide guitar currently. I’m a songwriter in the first place so I always love to do some simple acoustic pieces. But still there are those groovy rock n roll moments that the band loves.

FLYC: Comparing concerts in Germany to concerts in Texas, what are key differences?

DanaMaria: As I mentioned earlier, people in Texas are less afraid to show their support and they do it loudly for sure. They honor a good song and listen carefully. Of course they get every bit in the lyrics properly which is kind of challenging for me but I really like the feedback and practice. On the other hand, people in Germany don‘t usually understand every word of my lyrics. They depend on hearing the sound and feeling the emotions. I like how sometimes a listener gets the message of a song without even understanding the words but still feeling it. That‘s really exciting for me!

FLYC: While in the USA, there is currently quite some discussion whether male and female artists have equivalent chances to promote their music, in Germany, you are already thankful if major media is taking notice of the genre at all. How is your music recepted by fans, media, radio stations etc.?

DanaMaria: That‘s an interesting question. Personally, I haven‘t yet experienced any kind of gender issues or unequal chances the way that female artists in the US especially at country radio do. The bigger problem for me is, as you said, to get attention from media in general as a country artist. People and fans, on the other hand, are definitely open for this kind of music. I get a lot of feedback from different listeners that are not quite into the genre itself and don’t know much about it. But they come up to me, saying „I didn‘t know that this was country, it‘s so cool, it sounded real great.“ This shows me that most people don‘t really know what country can sound like today and how wonderful it works when it comes to mixing music styles with it. And, I mean, there‘s some country themed concert series and festivals coming up right now. That‘s a good sign.

The media is starting to offer more and more spots for country music and artists. I feel like the press is slowly opening up to that world and I am so happy about that. I want to help show the genre‘s versatility. And it seems like major media is starting to realize that it‘s probably a big thing in other countries already. But still, it‘s just starting. I received some really nice feedback from magazines so far and there are some smaller radio stations that are interested. Besides that, live venues and event organizer are starting to search for artists like me – that’s exciting. Over all, I think there is definitely potential and capability for country in Germany in the future. So I‘d say, let‘s keep doing it. I really see a silver lining!

FLYC: Let’s focus on the 23rd October 2020, release date of your album Desert Diamond. When you started working on it, did you have a special target or a mission for the album?

DanaMaria: We started the recording process in 2018 right after my EP was released. I had most of the songs already written. I wanted to do a real LP record that combines all different aspects of me as an artist. All the influences I had while finding out what I wanted to say as a songwriter. I wanted to capture it on this record. It‘s kind of a portrait of what makes me who I am today. Kind of an introduction to get to know me, if you like. So the goal is to let people participate in my journey. There‘s so much more to discover when it comes to country music. I hope to be able to get some people joining me on the ride.

FLYC: Desert Diamond is also the name of the third track on the album. What did it make the title track of your album?

DanaMaria: I basically wanted an album title that is catchy and easy to understand. That creates an image in peoples heads. I liked the image of a shiny little thing in the middle of the rough desert landscape. I kind of identified with it, I guess. Feeling pretty lonely sometimes as a newcomer artist in this big world, especially as a woman.

FLYC: Is there a song you especially look forward to get critics and reviews – a song where you are most nervous about the reactions?

DanaMaria: There is one song called Girl With The Guitar. This one is very personal and close to me. I feel like this is one of those that you don‘t write every day. Just a sweet simple song but so true. I‘m really excited about the reactions to that one.

FLYC: The album also contains a musical love letter to Austin, State of Mind. How is it like for you that you are currently limited to travel to the US / to Austin?

DanaMaria: It‘s strange, really strange. I can‘t really imagine that it might be difficult to enter the US. It‘s always been so normal to do that. We’ve been there last October, which is already a year, and we spend time with the family. It was so sweet again, it still feels like yesterday. But now, everything is crazy. I don‘t know, I just hope to be able to do it again next year.

FLYC: Any other track you feel the audience should definitely focus on on your new album?

DanaMaria: There is one song featuring a band named Romie. The girls are doing vocals on this track and their harmonies are insanely beautiful. Creating magic every time you hear these two ladies. They and a cello add some Irish-folk feels to it which matches perfectly. I really like it a lot. You should definitely pay attention to that one. It‘s called Kingfisher.

FLYC: You are a singer-songwriter. In the whole process of writing a track, recording it and performing it on stage, do you have any favorite part?

DanaMaria: That‘s hard to say. Every part is exciting and nerve-wrecking and fun and so much more. It’s like growing a child (or at least what I think it might be like). There are beautiful moments on each step of the way. I‘d say, I really love the feeling when you finished a song and somehow you know, that‘s a good piece of work. There‘s nothing like this extremely warm and happy feeling. But also the recording process is one of my favorites. The moments when you are surprised of your own song. When it suddenly sounds so different and so good and you discover new facets and soundscapes you couldn‘t have imagined on your own. But at the end, when you play it life and people react to the song in reality, that‘s just great.

FLYC: Let’s look forward: what are the next steps after Desert Diamond? I guess you are aiming to tour the album in 2021 – but apart from that any other plans?

DanaMaria: Yes, we thought of a little album tour through Germany. But due to the Covid-19 situation, we have to wait and see how things develop. But there will be some special events, some merch and media, for sure. I have so many ideas of cooperations and new productions. I try to find other songwriters and producers to keep working on new material. And I would like to develop the business side of things, keep working on relations in the industry and so on.

FLYC: Two more personal things to close the interview: when you are not working on your music and enjoy an evening in Frankfurt, what is your favorite activity?

DanaMaria: I like to sit by the river or visit venues like „Hafen 2“, get a cold beer and just enjoy the sunset with friends or family. Also I love our traditional pubs, that‘s a highlight about Frankfurt.

FLYC: I follow a couple of blogs and vlogs about German living in the US or vice versa. One key difference almost everyone states is that Mexican food in Germany is terrible. Is there anything else you look forward to when being in Austin again?

DanaMaria: Yes, that’s so true! I don‘t know why Germans won‘t get the hang of it… Besides the fantastic Tex-Mex food and real Texas BBQ, I love to visit antique shows and flea markets in the countryside of Texas. That is so inspiring and you always meet those old farmers ladies with nostalgic stories about the past. Seems like they come straight from the old wild west. And there’s always an authentic Mexican taco food truck nearby. 😉


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