What happens when an budding audio engineer goes to Berklee and catches the songwriting bug? Some really incredible crossover RnB.
Danielle Walker, professionally known as Inez, did just that. This extremely talented audio engineering student enrolled in Berklee College of Music and caught the song writing bug. I have had the pleasure of being able to watch her grow through the last couple of semesters of school, up through her graduation and better yet, got to hear the results of all that growth at the Big B!
Danielle has released her first single and is currently working on finishing her first album. You can check out her single right here: http://smarturl.it/LoveXInez
Suzanne: Do you have all of your songs written?
Danielle: I never wanted to be an artist. I just wanted to be a producer, I loved engineering, I just wanted to be behind the scenes because I’m a low-key person. But I started going through things and found myself writing, not necessarily writing songs. I hated journaling, too. That was like OOHH too much work. I took a course at Berklee, two courses actually, Creative Writing…I cannot remember her name for the life of me – slam poet, award-winning teacher…
Suzanne: She actually has some YouTube videos up on songwriting…
Danielle: Yes! Yes! Caroline something…I want to say Harvey.
Suzanne: I have watched her videos and you are right. She’s amazing.
Danielle: Literally having her give me such positive feedback – one of the things she said to me in one of my final classes was “You’ve written this in perfect Iambic Pentameter” and I had no idea what the hell that was. I was like “OK”. She said “You really have a knack for writing and maybe you should look into songwriting.” I was never able to write songs. I was always able to do poetry but like when I tried to do songs they were corny and cliched and terribly written. So then I took my first songwriting course and got the bug. I got the bug. Berklee’s really strong in object writing so we did a lot of timed writes, making sure you’re just using that muscle everyday. So that got me looking at the world in a different way. Basically that allowed me to start expressing myself in a way that wasn’t cliched or corny. So to answer your question succinctly, or more succinctly, I guess, is no they’re not all written, but I do have a lot of pieces from things that I’ve gone through that I’ve already written, things that I’m able to read. I’m able to take a poem that I wrote and pull out imagery to write a song and pull out the emotion to kind of help my process along. While things aren’t written, it’s not like I’m starting absolutely from ground zero.
Suzanne: You did just graduate from Berklee.
Suzanne: Like LITERALLY just graduated from Berklee!
Danielle: I walked in May and received my diploma in June on June 24th. So I’m fresh!
Suzanne: I remember streaming that while I was over at my other job.
Danielle: It was a really interesting experience being called Daniel 3 times. And not caring! People were like “I’m not walking across the stage until you get my name right!” And I didn’t care. I was like “DUDE! I made it this far!” I literally pushed the guy in front of me, there were two guys in front of me who they didn’t call. They were supposed to get the order right, but as soon as I heard “Daniel Walker” I was like “Move out of my way! It’s my time to shine; it’s my time to walk across the stage.” I didn’t care. My family was fuming they were like “Daniel! That’s not your name!” I didn’t care. I was like – I’m here with frickin’ Nile Rodgers, Neil Rodgers…It’s Nile Rodgers, why am I saying Neil?? Esperanza Spalding…
Suzanne: I guess we should go through a little of how we met.
Danielle: It’s blurry.
Suzanne: It is blurry…something about invoicing and trucks…yeah, I don’t know.
Danielle: Some of it may have had to do with Michael – rest in peace. He and I had really intense conversations about albums and music and records and he was even going to give me one of his turntables. So he was one person in the office who definitely knew I made music and was into music. I don’t know. #00:05:08-7#
Suzanne: My ears perked up. We were in a meeting one day and I heard you talk about Auralex being one of our customers.
Suzanne: And I was like…
Danielle: “No one would know that – she has to be a musician.”
Suzanne: EXACTLY! So, basically, we do work together at the day job. Well, we used to work together at the day job. Then I got voted off the Finance island and kicked over to Claims. But still, we occupy the same building between 7 and 3ish
Suzanne: So you don’t have songs written and ready yet, but you are actually working on an album and you have actually already recorded.
Danielle: I have the concept, I have movement, I am in the process of recording. So I know where the end is gonna be. I’m just working to fill in the middle while not putting too much pressure on myself creatively. People say “It’s just one of those that develop organically.” I feel like the best music I’ve ever made has been accidental or I can’t explain how I did it. But there are some pieces that I already know I want to put in and incorporate. WIP – work in progress.
Suzanne: WIP – you’ve already released a song.
Suzanne: That went live on August 9th.
Danielle: MY BIRTHDAY!
Suzanne: Happy birthday! She’s like 12. She’s a prodigy.
Danielle: I’m 27.
Danielle: Even saying that sounds weird. I’m 27? Oh, God! I’ve been here (at the day job) almost 10 years.
Suzanne: I used to be 27 once.
Suzanne: That was a long, LONG time ago…
Danielle: That was an interesting couple of weeks. I announced on July 31st that I was releasing it. It wasn’t mixed yet and I had to get it to my distributor so that it would be live. So literally 4 days before it was supposed to live I uploaded it. And prayed that I didn’t just blow gas up everyone’s ass. And lo and behold at midnight on August 9th, it was there and I was just like so relieved.
Suzanne: And that was one of the accidental songs, right? One of the happy accidents?
Danielle: That was one of the happy accidents. I took Music Therapy for Wellness in my last semester, actually a wonderful Suzanne, as well, was my instructor.
Suzanne: That’s a great name – love that name.
Danielle: Super, super dope name. Had to write a song. She was like “You don’t have to write lyrics, you have to come up with a song that represents you and how you feel about yourself.” Basically positivity or how you’re feeling in the moment and allowing your emotions to take over. So I pull up GarageBand and throw some loops together. Wrote the song in 10 minutes. Recorded the demo in one take. I was just being lazy and I was like “I don’t care.” Posted the song. My classmates are like going apeshit over it. It was really how I felt. I can’t be like “Oh, it was just something I slapped together.” It was really how I felt at the moment but I didn’t expect people to receive it like that. So then I really listened to it and was like hmmm…
Suzanne: I know I have several friends who have heard the song and everyone has responded that they purchased the song and that they love it. A happy accident, indeed and hopefully the start of a very long and fruitful career.
Danielle: YES! I’m just trying to work it. Word of mouth has been really good to me. Everyday I’m on Instagram or Twitter and someone’s like “Check out this song by Inez, it’s really good!” If 5 people listen to my song, I’m like “Wow! I’m so appreciative.” The love I’ve been getting from people all over the world, most of them by way of Miss Suzanne, which I so appreciate. I’m looking at my stats and analytics and I’m like why is someone in Denmark, Norway, Germany, Finland, Iceland listening to my stuff? I don’t even know people in Pittsburgh, let alone someone halfway across the world. That’s what I want. I want people all over to feel like they can relate to it.
Suzanne: It seems to be very cross-genre. A lot of my friends of are metalheads and everyone really, really likes it.
Danielle: I just think it’s really interesting that is cross-genre because it’s like Soul and RnB and has elements of current hip-hop in it. Even the process of making the song was like a patchwork quilt. I’ve got a guy who has an Emmy award who mastered it for me, I mixed the record myself. I have you on it and you play metal.
Suzanne: That was the most metal guitar I’ve ever played, too, by the way.
Danielle: In Starbucks, mind you! That was the coolest thing about the record like telling people “The guitars? We recorded them in Starbucks.” They’re like “What?” Yeah, we took over a little corner. Had some people trying to bother us while we were working.
Suzanne: Yes, yes, that was funny. The really funny is that it turns out I knew the lady that was sitting in the corner with those two guys. What is the next step for you?
Danielle: The next step for me is…
Suzanne: Maybe upgrade and record in Panera?
Danielle: You know what – we should definitely record in Walmart.
Suzanne: Walmart – there we go.
Danielle: Just to say we did it. Don’t know what we’re going to record, but…
Suzanne: We’re gonna have to find a Walmart that still has a McDonald’s in it, because this one doesn’t.
Danielle: It doesn’t?
Suzanne: No, it doesn’t have a McDonald’s. Either that or we could go back to the lawn chair section.
Danielle: And we can make them pay us for that. “They recorded a hit song in our Walmart?” We should get free Joe Boxer draws for life…or something. Next up, finish the album, I’m working on my artist webpage. I need to get my marketing team together; do some roll out stuff. Traveling. I want to go to Expos I want to really put a face to the music. Some promo videos. Allowing myself to enjoy my music. I think when you have deadlines, you don’t really get to enjoy the process. I received a grant from the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation, so I’m on a deadline to use my grant funding before the grant period is over. So that’s pressure but still I think I have enough time to ease into the rest of the album and not feel like I’m just throwing random songs that don’t make sense or mean anything to me.
Suzanne: And I think you might have an extra guitar line or two.
Danielle: I have a thousand guitar lines from Suzanne because she sent me 50, while I was looking for the perfect one. And the crazy thing is she sent me emails on emails on emails of guitar lines “This is recorded on DI, this one is just straight” so I can actually have an entire album of…
Suzanne: Guitar lines
Danielle: Guitar lines – because…yes. So that’s my next step. And doing more live shows. I haven’t done a live show or even a live performance in probably a year. So I’m probably going to hit up some open mics. I have really cool friends who are doing shows and I’m going to see if I can hit the stage with a few of my peeps. Get my feet back wet and keep it trucking. Keep it trucking.
Jana Lee Macheca - Lady Jaye - Is the founder of First Angel Media as well as a photographer and writer for not only her own company, but Chimera Magazine out of New York. Passionate about music and driven to help the local scene she works to connect those within it, as well as working behind the scenes on various projects. You can find her photo collection at www.firstangel.smugmug.com