Photo by Darragh Foy.
Intro >> Watch video>>
I am a band leader of my own group which is called Danny G and the Major 7ths. That’s my vehicle for my own songs. It’s my creative passion project and I make money from a bunch of other different things.
I’m working for TikTok during the day and then I sometimes play weddings with a wedding band/events band called The Goods. I’m the singer and I sometimes play flute in this band.
Depression >>Watch Video>>
I think most Irish lads go through this. (I don’t wanna generalise but I say “lads” because it seems like women have a more screwed on head when they start adulthood – like they’ve a longterm plan in their head) When a lot of lads start being an adult and don’t know what to do, they fall into a depression. I didn’t realise at the time but looking back maybe ten or twelve years ago this happened to me.
I studied music. I consider myself a singer now but at that time I was singing backing vocals – I was OK on a few instruments, but I wasn’t really good enough to be making money from it. I was doing a few restaurant gigs but I didn’t really have any purpose.
The band I had been playing with in college had broken up and also I was in this toxic relationship as well which was giving me low self esteem – all these things came about at the same time.
I suppose it happened by accident – I started just writing all these songs to try and get all this pent up whatever-it-was out. Because I had the songs, I had to have a band.
I started headhunting all these musicians who I thought were deadly, which looking back was very bullish – I don’t think I’d do that now. It was a bit over-confident but it kind of worked out. I had this band and this thing to look forward to – this thing that gave me excitement and an outlet on a creative level. I think that’s what it was that helped me out of that depression. It wasn’t a conscious thing, it just happened.
Now, whenever things get tough, I always have my original band in the background. Even if I don’t gig for months or I don’t do anything creative for a week or two, I still have it in the background and I know it’s there waiting for me. That’s important I think.
Do more of what makes you happy. It seems like a simple thing but if poetry makes you happy, do more of it. If music makes you happy, do more of it. It’s like free therapy.
Success >>Watch Video>>
I’ve had to temper what success means. When you start doing music – while a lot has changed in the past ten or fifteen years years – there’s still this idea that you have all these steps to go through to be successful.
To be successful to your Mam you have to be on The Late Late Show, to be successful to your peers you have to be playing Electric Picnic, or you have to be reviewed in whatever blog or you have to get on Other Voices. There are all these things that are gatekept. Or you have to have a certain amount of streams – that’s the thing now. You have to get on whatever playlist.
Once you conform to whatever idea of success you think you should have, it’s not about the music, it’s just about setting your mast on something, and even if you achieve that, will it make you feel better? There’ll just be a next thing. You’ll just say, “Oh I have to play Jools Holland” or “I have to play Glastonbury”.
I think there’s a path that everyone takes and they’re all different. When I had my first album out, I used to get annoyed when I’d see these lineups for festivals with people who barely had singles out and I was thinking, “Oh, how does that work?” Now I just think, “If it’s meant to happen, it will happen”.
Trying to get onto a certain festival line-up or popular playlist, those ideas of success gave me a lot of anxiety before it took me years to realise that releasing an album or a single is the success, anything else is a bonus. It’s so hard to get to that point of releasing something as an independent musician. That’s the success. You have to figure that out yourself.
Money and Art >>Watch video>>
What works for me is keeping money and art separate. I’m not trying to make music to sell (maybe that’s why it hasn’t sold). If you start worrying about whether the music will sell, you won’t be authentic to your vision and the art won’t be as good. You won’t enjoy it and it won’t be satisfying.
Every situation is gonna be different. I live in an apartment in Dublin with my wife who takes care of our two young children. In terms of paying rent regularly, I look after that. Everything I earn from my day job goes towards paying the rent, so to fund my own creative stuff I have my wedding band. That funds my mixing, mastering – it’s so expensive to make and release music – PR, you have to think of all that stuff. The wedding band money also goes towards our savings.
In terms of making money, you have to have a balance and be open about it with your partner if – you have one. That’s what works for me.
Competition >>Watch Video>>
I went for The Arts Council Agility Award – I went for a few things really and I haven’t gotten any of them. What that funding model does is it puts you in direct competition with the next band or the next artist. It should be the complete opposite. We should be working together, collaborating, sharing knowledge, helping each other out.
Having competitive rounds of funding creates jealousy or envy of this person because they got this thing and you know there’s only so much to go around. I did go for the Basic Income for the Arts too which isn’t competitive but all of those schemes are just like a tiny little ant fighting against this big mountain of capitalism.
Art doesn’t make money and people don’t value it – with money anyway – in this modern capitalist system. That’s probably another conversation. It is great that public funding for art is happening at all.
Wedding band >>Watch Video>>
It’s kind of an acceptance of how Ireland values music. A lot of people won’t pay 99c for a song but they will pay a few grand to have people sing at their wedding – songs that they know. When I first realised that I was like, “Oh this is kind of depressing”, but once you realise that – why not get in on it? It’s something you could use to your advantage to support your own stuff. I had this snobbery about it but now I love being in a wedding band.
Some people I know in wedding bands are not happy about it but I think it really depends on the set you have. You need to keep the set fresh. I’m lucky I play songs I like: disco & funk – the stuff I listen to anyway. If I was playing stuff I wouldn’t be into, then the wedding band wouldn’t give me the same level of satisfaction.
While the wedding band doesn’t involve composing music, it’s still creative because you’re playing music. It keeps me on my toes as a performer and it keeps my voice in shape but it has another side effect.
I hadn’t realised that there are so many session musicians in Ireland, if someone can’t make it you call a dep to stand in. Now I’m getting to know this whole scene of brilliant musicians who are playing weddings up and down the country and they’re amazing.
The first thing I learned from playing in the wedding band is how to put on a show. It improved my own original band basically. In my head I have: pre-me-playing-in-wedding-bands and post-me-playing-in-wedding-bands. Beforehand when I did a show with my own original band I would play the songs through as they are, but now I’m planning the performance like I would a wedding set – lots of medleys, tempo changes, maybe cut some of the slower songs because it’s a show, you want to entertain people. It depends on what kind of music you play. If you play solo acoustic stuff maybe that’s not the way to go but my original band is a soul/funk, it’s a big band. For our last gig we had two horns and three backing vocals so we treat it like it’s a show.
I meet people I know from social media who are doing their own creative thing and I see them in wedding bands as well to make money. That gives me a bit of validation – “Oh they’re doing the same thing, they’re doing their own creative thing and they’re also doing this thing to make money.” It’s reassuring to see that.
I was really lucky because this wedding band had already existed for ten years and the singer wanted to take a break so they wanted to get someone else in. I just arrived on top of this well oiled machine. All I had to do was learn a bunch of cool songs and this brilliant band were playing behind me. I was really lucky that this landed on my lap… actually not so lucky because it was just at the start of the pandemic so everything was cancelled. It’s just getting going again now.
The only downside is, because I’ve got a day job, weddings are late nights and a lot of travelling. It’s tiring. Well, I already am tired all the time with two kids… it’s a permanent state of tiredness but you have to make some sort of sacrifices if you want to do what you want to do. Just finding the time to record that’s my main frustration.
New project >>Watch Video>>
This week I’ve been trying my best to record vocals at home – you can’t see it with this background of everything’s fine in flames but I have a homemade set up with a pop shield, a cheap mic, and a stand. I have it in the corner of the room set up waiting for the chance to record which has been difficult.
I’ve got two kids in the house, with me and my wife and I’m working from home in my bedroom. The odd time if they’re all at schools, if my wife’s at the gym, if I don’t have a work meeting, I can do a half an hour recording here or there but this week the neighbours have been drilling so I couldn’t do anything.
I’ve been trying to put vocals on this new project with an Irish beatmaker who goes by the name of The Expert. We connected on Instagram. I’ve just been a fan of his for years and I asked him if he has any beats lying around. We met up and decided to do this project. It’s cool, we’re two songs in already. It’s really exciting because it’s totally new for me to work like this. We’re playing the long game. I think it’s either do it this way or else book a studio so I’m trying to do it on the cheap first. Also when I’m at home I can try things and it’s relaxed as well so I’m getting a better performance. I can layer harmonies and voices without having to worry about studio time so it’s good. Just finding the spare hour here and there is the hard part but once you finally do get it done, it’s more rewarding.
Browse Danny G and the Major 7th’s music catalogue here: https://www.dmajor7ths.com/music
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