Danny Blueberry comes down from a Contact High in his new single and lyric video — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The latest release from the idiosyncratic Montreal singer-songwriter’s Isolation album, the dark, revealing number chronicles a friend’s unsuccessful struggle with addiction. But like much of Blueberry’s work, Contact High wraps its sombre sincerity in a surprisingly bright melody and joyfully singable chorus.
“The songs were not meant to be funny…” explains Blueberry (born Danny Fonfeder). “I was writing about deep, personal pain, yet the audience broke out in laughter.”
For some artists, a dramatic 180-degree pivot from their creative intention — especially one that involves such intimate, vulnerable feelings — would be devastating. But for Danny, it was another lesson in life. “This is what happens when you grow up in total isolation,” he reflects. “You write with the tools that you have without a frame of reference as to how the real world will react.”
The name of the release is quite literal; Fonfeder very much did grow up in total isolation as part of a strict, religious family. “I had little access to the secular world, but plenty of access to music in the forms of praise choirs and prayer psalms.”
An outcast from a very early age, Danny was electrified when in 1977 at the age of twelve he heard Walk this Way by Aerosmith in the car before his parents could shut off the radio. “From that point on, I knew I was meant to be involved in the world of music, and writing about how you really feel.”
It was also 1977 when a cousin told Danny about a band named Queen with their beautiful, operatic harmonies; the introduction and further digging lead to musical fandom for Heart, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. “I would sit in front of my record player and listen to the albums over and over again until the vinyl wore out and they were unplayable.”
In the religious boarding schools where Danny was sent to from the age of thirteen, listening to non-religious music was forbidden so he bought a cheap transistor radio and hid it in a tissue box next to his bed. “Late at night, when the dorm counsellors had left and my roommates were sleeping, I would use a set of spliced together Radio Shack earphones — so I could listen in stereo.” A guitar was gifted to him as a bar mitzvah present from his cousins, and has never left his side since.
Although he found himself in an arranged marriage at the age of 23 — with young children quickly following and being trained in the family business — Danny continued to write songs. “I could not pay anyone around me to listen to them,” he says. “To say I was discouraged from starting a music career would be an understatement.”
Eventually, Danny found his tribe, and met two “born again” religious musicians who entered his very secluded community; he convinced them to record some of his original songs professionally. The results of those sessions — from 1992 to 1994 — are among those found on this, his debut release — Isolation.