Call & Response: Daniel Romano
Daniel Romano engages you in moments of sung conversation. On his LP Sleep beneath the Willow, Romano's frail voice (a voice reminiscent of Gram Parsons') sinks low yet sustains a mountainous presence within each song.
The Welland, Ontario singer draws you in with easy-sounding serenades and heartrending, lovelorn melodies. Sleep beneath the Willow displays Romano's fine songwriting and range and power on guitar, as he switches from quiet and gentle to rough and loud; his finger-picked, old-sounding stories expand and breathe life into themselves.
In our conversation, Romano remembers songs from his early life and talks about songwriting and his newest album.
Which bands did you grow up listening to? And what was one of the first country songs you remember making a big impact on you?
I grew up listening to folk music. My folks had folk in the house always. Also, Ry Cooder, Emmylou, Byrds, that kind of thing. I guess people call that Americana now? The first country song that got me going was probably Mother Maybells' "Wildwood Flower". My grandfather used to play it. It's a folk song, but it has the structure and length of a country song. From there I got a box set of Jimmy Rodgers visiting the Carter Family. Then I just started exploring country to see what I liked. George Jones does it the best, as far as I'm concerned. No one sings a country song better anyway.
How did you decide to make country music? What aspects of this particular genre do you find most interesting?
I find the songwriting style of 60's country to be the best and most straightforward writing I've ever heard in music. Brutal honesty. As I'm saying this, someone just told me Civil Wars just got nominated for 2 Grammy Nominations. Fuck.
You love writing songs and being a storyteller. How would you describe your writing process: Do you start with story or melody? Are you always writing songs or do you focus on touring and your current album?
Lately I've been starting with story. I usually just try to think of the saddest or stupidest thing to write about.
And when did you first start writing songs? Can you describe this period briefly and do you remember the first song you wrote?
I don't remember the first song I wrote. It was probably a punk song. I wanted to be in a band, but I didn't want to play other people's songs.
Most of the songs in Sleep beneath the Willow are love songs with themes of distance and place being predominant. What is the main feeling you get when you listen to this album?
I don't listen to it.
And though you sing a lot about being away from the one you love, there's a sense that things remain secure and anchored, like in the lyric, "Our love has a way of guiding me astray, but baby I won't let it." Does this sense of security carry over from your own experience?
Yes, it does.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the people who collaborated with you on this album, especially the arrangements on "Louise"?
Natalie Walker plays fiddle with my folk's band. I stole her for this recording and I have since stole her again for the new one. Misha (Bower), my lady who sings on the record with me, plays in the band Bruce Peninsula, and so does Tamara Lindeman, so that's how I stole her. I met Lisa Bozikovic through Misha as well, at a show in Vancouver. That's how I stole her.
Why did you decide to end the album with a live recording? Where was this recorded?
Neil Young. I don't remember where the recording is from.
You mentioned in a past interview that your ideal role would actually be writing songs for other musicians. Why is this? How differently do you work when you're writing for other artists?
I just don't think I'm a good singer, but I feel I can write a good song, so it makes sense to me to write a good song and then give it to a good singer who could make it all that it could be.
What can folks expect at your free show at The Dakota on December 16th - any special guests playing with you? And what's next for you in the new year?
The full Trilliums band. Some softer moments, some medleys, a whole lotta fun. It's free. What do they want from me?
Catch Daniel Romano and the Trilliums at Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Ave.) on Friday, December 16th. Free admission and band plays at 7PM sharp.
Photo by Milou Janssen
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