Who is Dani Cox? That’s the first question I pose to my newest female music acquaintance. Leading up to our scheduled interview, I didn’t prepare questions beyond that one. Once I asked it though, this bright, articulate, effervescent soul did not skip one beat during our robust 45 minute conversation.
“My work as of late has been to undo who I think I am. We tend to believe we are the things we do, the things we want to do, or we think we’re our parents carrying their baggage, to do them justice because we love them. I am a black, young, woman; intelligent, crafty and funny. However, those are ways I’d like for people to see me so they’ll like me and want to be around me. The reality is I am entirely without fault, love made physical. I believe that of everyone, and it is my job to meet and introduce love in its widest apparatus. I’m love eternal and I want you to discover me.”
Captivated, I ask her to continue: “Believing that love is the only real thing truly narrows my focus and so it helps me make decisions based on what is important and what is not. When I make music, I ask myself, what do I have to say through music? What do I want people to hear? If love is the foundation then all of the other stories that I want to tell, take a back seat.”
I probe for more clarification of that statement. I can’t help but reflect on the music I gravitated toward, 30 years ago when I was Dani’s age. After all, the day of the interview was her 33rd birthday. She explains that her journey right now beckons songs of hope; ones that may tell of strife, heartbreak and even tragedy but that in the end they are songs of revolution and resolution.
“We want to tell people so badly who we are, and of the beautiful struggle we’ve experienced. But I’m seeking a way of uplifting and bringing what I’ve been through toward how I can use it to do better, be better and stronger. If I’ve had a challenging experience and I want to sing about it as a way to let people know who I am, I will find a way within my story, to tell them what’s going on but I will also tell them through the music, what I plan to do with what I’ve learned.”
Writing music is her main source of creating. “I write some songs for other singers to tell the story because sometimes the story is not mine to tell.“
I risk pigeonholing her by wondering what genres she gravitates toward when writing and/or choosing others’ songs to sing. “Artists get caught up in labeling because they feel labels are limiting. People want to know what genre so they can figure out who your audience is, but it’s not about that. It’s about the process of creating or interpreting in freedom, and we see at the end when it’s done, what category it might fall into.”
Open to all genres, Dani enjoys writing country music and she explores Rhythm and Blues. It pleases her to hear Classical and Jazz music. She throws me when she exclaims, “I want to try more Metal, because it matches my very high voice. Coming from a musical theater background I understand how those stories progress with emotions throughout and when I hear Metal music it reminds me of musical theater. To me, they’re the same thing!”
When I hear Dani sing it makes me feel good all over. Her ability to find the nooks and crannies of a multi-note trill, and actually feel it is refreshing. While other singers show off these abilities, Dani has heart placement ability when she phrases. She knows her essence is what we want to hear.
Future goals include putting together an all-female band. While that dream percolates, she is concentrating on the “physical and mental work around freedom” and how that shows up in her music. “I’ve been a singer ever since I can remember but I’m an introvert. When I was little, I didn’t want to share my gift of singing, I just wanted to keep it for myself because it was pleasurable. What makes art hesitant for some is that we are driven to create it, present it and put it out there and then we move onto creating the next thing. We forget to enjoy it. By putting it out there it’s exposed to comparisons, criticisms and monetizing.”
“I’m in a place where I just want to get to know people and that has nothing to do with money. The benefit in meeting and getting to know certain people within the laws of attraction, allows for receiving money. “
The goal is to move through her voice with more ease and to continue to seek performance opportunities in order to create cyclically pleasing experiences. “When people say I’m a good singer it’s a confirmation of the hard work I’m putting into finding my true voice. Singers deserve the credit for what we do.”
“I’ve identified as being one thing for the last 30 years, but now I’m undoing what I think that thing is. When I sing, I’m feeling myself, my whole body. It doesn’t really matter what the other person hears as long as I am totally immersed in the expression of the emotion. Someone told me that when whales sing, sometimes it’s a mating call and sometimes they gather in a group to just sing with no apparent purpose. Researchers believe the only reason why they’d do this is for the pure enjoyment the vibration allows them for just being.”
On Thursday, March 10th, Dani will be presenting and sharing a mix of Soul, R&B & Jazz songs with anyone who would like to attend, at Isis Music Hall, 7:00pm. For tickets: isisasheville.com
Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at email@example.com