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20 Questions With Kevin Daniel

The Southern roots-rocker talks juggling, spiders, condiments & The Carter III.

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Turns out you can go home again. Just ask Kevin Daniel. The southern roots-rocker and Brooklyn resident moved back to North Carolina in 2020 to record his aptly titled new sophomore album Been Here Before. Not surprisingly, the disc has a warm, lived-in feel, with a dozen earthy, handdwritten tracks that run the Americana gamut from ruggedly twangy rock to swampy southern soul, Appalachian a cappella gospel, fingerpicked folk, blistering blues-rock and more. Before he pulled up stakes to return to the endless road — his home away from home — Daniel took a trip through my absurd questions. That’s somewhere he hasn’t been before. Let’s see if he finds his way out unscathed:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
Hi! My name is Kevin Daniel and I’m an Americana rock musician making sad bastard music in Asheville, NC.

What is your musical origin story?
I’ve always been a musician, singing since I was a kid and always in some kind of band. What started as classical and jazz saxophone studies turned into a love of bluegrass and old time music. All my favorite genres blended together to form the kind of tunes I play today — country-tinged rock with horns and harmonies.

What’s your latest project?
In 2020/21 I recorded an album in both Brooklyn, NY at Southern Sounds Studio and Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, N.C. The album is titled Been Here Before and I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done and it features some seriously talented musicians from N.Y.C. and N.C.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
Probably not that much. I have lived, I have loved, and I have lost. Those are huge feelings and facts, and if everyone recognized that we all share these traits in common, we might be a little bit more happy and a little less angry. Also I have two dogs.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
The first song I ever wrote was called Walk Another Day. I wrote it about my girlfriend at the time. Her name was Haley and the song is kind of comet-themed. I think I was 14 when I wrote it and maybe 16 when I recorded it? It actually kind of slaps, not gonna lie!

What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
Oh man, so many. I’ll just list off some of my favorites in no specific order — Elvis, Tom Petty, Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce Springsteen, Jason Isbell, Langhorne Slim, Marcus King, Elle King, The Ronettes and of course Weird Al.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
I’m pretty into hip-hop, not that should surprise anyone since I’m a child of the ’90s. I love People Under The Stairs, MF Doom and Lil Wayne. The Carter III is one of my favorite albums of all time. I also REALLY like old-school Motown and super-old bluegrass.

What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
This made me laugh because you can’t control what people think about you and it’s one of the things I work hard on accepting. But I hope people think I’m relatable. I try to be honest and open with my music and my life, and I hope people can connect with that.

What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
I’m actually pretty good at juggling. I learned at Jewish summer camp growing up. I am also pretty obsessed with surfing. I go to Costa Rica like three times a year to surf and I used to surf every week when I lived in New York City. Shout-out to Rockaway Beach 92nd street!

What do you collect?
Nothing. I have too much crap because I run sound, have instruments, all my merch, and two dogs. There’s no room in my world for collecting.

If money was no object, where would you live?
Malibu. I want a house right on the ocean but I also want to be in a city. Malibu makes that happen and it’s amazingly beautiful. Sometimes when I’m in L.A. I just sit on the beach or surf in the water and pretend I own one of the houses on the beach. Not creepy at all.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
Not sure either of those actually exist. I don’t believe in perfect happiness and I believe there is always some thread of hope you can hang on to even in the worst of times. Airports do suck though.

What are your pet peeves?
Hell is a plane full of people who clap when you land.

What’s your greatest regret?
Sadly, I cannot share my greatest regret with you since it’s a bit too private, but I do regret not being nicer to people in my life. I have, in my past, let my temper get the best of me and I regret it every time. It’s something I try to work on every single day.

What are you afraid of?
Ending up alone and spiders. Or being alone with a spider.

Photo by Nathan Lopez.

What would the title of your autobiography be?
Everything Must Go.

Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Myself, duh. Or Shia LeBeouf.

What’s your motto?
Life is short, get shit done.

What’s always in your refrigerator?
Condiments, condiments, and probably some wilted lettuce. I live alone and I travel all the time. So ya know, lots of ketchup and soy sauce.

What’s the silliest thing you believed as a child?
You can do whatever you want in your life. That’s demonstrably not true. But you can be a good person and leave the world a better place than you found without being the president or a world-famous rock star.

What was your favourite class in school and why?
Well, music of course, but barring that, I liked English. I read a lot and always have. I’m also a writer and English came pretty easily to me in school. Hate math.

What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
The best advice anyone in the music industry ever gave was, “Don’t be a dick. People don’t want to work with dicks.” The worst advice anyone ever gave me was to “ignore your critics.” Don’t ignore your critics, learn from them.

Listen to Been Here Before above, hear more from Kevin Daniel below, and meet him on his website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Art by Olivia Gossett.
Photo by Nathan Lopez.