To say Marie Danielle has a backstory would be an understatement. The Pennsylvania born singer/songwriter released the incredible Hustler last year, and it came with a heavy amount of personalization that fearlessly delved into her past while looking at her future unflinchingly. Rawness was shown when wounds were unveiled. Restraint and maturity ruled when those moments were looked at in retrospect – turning away without forgetting, growing without detaching one’s self from one’s roots.

With a new album in the works, we talked with Danielle about her journey to now – and what might lie ahead.

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“I needed to take some time to figure out where I belong. And I think I’ve found it.”

I’m going to rewind a while if that’s okay – Harrisburg, PA. What were you listening to growing up? Was there a particular artist or sound that you were drawn to that led you into your musical journey?

I listened to a bit of everything when I was little. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, so I was just as likely to hear Frank Sinatra as the Rolling Stones. My grandfather was a musician, so he would play the organ a lot, and that was my first taste of real live music. I listened to a lot of the typical rock stuff, but it was when I found people like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young that I fell in love with music and especially songwriting.

Did the music take you to NYC, or was it something else, and the music just so happened to come along?

I went to school to study music production and moved to NYC as soon as I graduated and started assisting in a studio. Then I moved on to studio design, laying out the gear, running cables, building patch bays… I am a total tech nerd, I love that part. And I would spend my nights all over the city seeing bands. I played and wrote songs a bit at home, but I never had the guts to take it to the stage.

You then ended up in LA where your life became incredibly turbulent. After the domestic violence incident, was there something that made you specifically reach out to Simone Felice, or were you just hoping someone on the outside might hear your story?

I love Simone’s music, with The Felice Brothers and his solo stuff; he has that same kind of songwriting power that moved me when I was a kid listening to Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan for the first time. He is definitely one of my favorites, and he had recently begun producing at the time I reached out to him so I figured I’d give it a shot. Then all of a sudden, I’m on the phone with him and he’s quoting my lyrics to me.

You seemed to turn your life in LA into a creative positive – maybe positive is the wrong word, but it became a catalyst for you to pursue this life of music. How did you harness that strength to make that decision, coming out of a circumstance that crushes dreams more often that creates them?

I wish I could say what it was or how I did it. I really don’t know. The fact that none of us knows how much time we have left became so clear to me for obvious reasons. And I didn’t want the life I was living. If I had died that day, I didn’t have much to show for it, just a steady paycheck and a bunch of debt – that’s not really a life.

The decision to keep writing, recording, and touring is something I still struggle with; every day I question the sanity of the choices I’m making, chasing the music, this chaotic and weird life. But I feel like I can’t stop, regardless of the risks. I’m either incredibly driven or totally self-destructive, I suppose. Maybe a little of both.

Your support network seemed pretty solid as well. Simone Felice had your back, Christian Wargo went to Woodstock NY with you… did you allow yourself time to take a break, or did you just move as quickly as possible to make that change?

It seemed to have a life of its own. And after everything that had happened in my recent past, I just went with it. The songs kind of spilled out, and kept coming, so it seemed I was on the right path.  It was cathartic. Writing songs helped me make sense of so much confusion in my life. It still does that for me. I write songs about the things that keep me up at night and the people who rip my heart out. People I’ve wronged, mistakes I’ve made. It makes recording tough. Rehashing all that hurt and fury until you get it just right. It’s exhausting, but so liberating.

Hustler was intended as an EP – a lot of artists are content with that format then branch out later as needed. What was the decision behind going full steam ahead with a full-length? Was it a shared decision, or did you did the content keep coming in a way that made it obvious to create a full-length?

I think it was Simone and I that decided to keep going. The first five songs went so well, and we were fast friends, so we started writing together some and I kept going on my own and within a couple months it was a full length.

Were there any tracks that you were unsure where they were heading, or was the flow pretty consistent when it came to creating the album?

Nothing was too much of a curve ball until I wrote the song Hustler. I had the melodies and some lyrics done, but couldn’t wrap it up quite right. Simone and I finished that song together and it was a better song for it. I think a lot of songwriters are so stubborn about what they’ve written and can’t self-edit or be directed into allowing the song to be better. I’m not so precious about that. I’m pretty open to suggestion, the quality of the song should come before who has ownership of it.

Now that you’re touring and recording full-time, how has that pushed and changed you creatively? It seems like you have a clearer vision of the past, but a more direct understanding of you and your future.

I feel especially pushed to write songs now. Before Hustler, I had no pressure I wasn’t really thinking of recording or touring, just writing music for its own sake. Now there’s all sorts of things to consider. Deadlines can be good too – I suppose each way has its own pluses and minuses.

For the new record, I knew a few months out that I was going to record it, was in a good space with ideas and finished songs. But it just didn’t come. I was freaked out, I didn’t really have enough material ready, so I was going to have to write in the studio. Which was terrifying for me, I don’t usually work well under that kind of pressure, but it seems like the way it was meant to be. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Speaking of the future, Hustler was full of some magnificent moments – some lush, soaring overtures, some songs that tug at your tear ducts, and some that are reverent and chilling. With that in mind, can you give us a hint at what we might expect sonically from the upcoming album and the lead single “New Myth”?

The upcoming record, which will likely be called Mississippi, is a departure from Hustler sonicaly and in style. The sound that we achieved at Dial Back is amazing; it’s lush and big. And the boys in the band have a real knack for background vocals. I love that – it can really make a song soar. There’s a bit of that on “New Myth” and some other tracks. But stylistically it is fairly diverse, some Memphis soul, a little lounge vibe, a murder ballad, and there is still definitely a sadness to some of it. But this record is harder, the darkness comes from a different angle.

How about in terms of the stories on the upcoming album? Where have the past couple of year taken you as a writer?

I think the stories are reflective of what I was going through, being done with LA and leaving, what I saw as my future, maybe killing off a couple characters from the past.

I co-produced this record with the engineer and co-owner of Dial Back Sound, Bronson Tew. Who is just damn brilliant, as a producer and engineer, surely, but his help with the arrangement and flow of the record was invaluable to me since I did a fair amount of writing in the studio. I could not have made this record anywhere else or with anyone else.

“I’m either incredibly driven or totally self-destructive, I suppose. Maybe a little of both.”

Speaking of sounds, there’s been an incredible revival of the 70s singer/songwriter alt-country/folk family tree. Do you think there’s something beyond just how damn good that sound is that has drawn so many to it? Are there any contemporaries that you’re particularly inspired by (similar sound or not)?

Oh man, that’s gonna be a long list. I mean, my number one dude as far as songwriting goes has always been Conor Oberst. No one is better lyrically, and I admire how he continues to reinvent himself all the time. And I love all the folkie stuff so much, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Rayland Baxter, John Moreland, Father John Misty, Jeffrey Martin. Laura Marling’s new record is fantastic. I love Jason Isbell – his songwriting is just achingly beautiful. I dig boys with feelings. Lately been listening to music a little outside of that. Andrew Bryant, The Dexateens, Cate Le Bon, stuff that’s a little rougher around the edges. I think you can hear it in the new record, too.

Just a couple of more – it looks like you’ve got a lot of shows in the central PA area again later this summer. Are you back there? Have you reconnected to your roots, or are you just passing through as a nod to home?

I have been in my home town temporarily. I needed to take some time to figure out where I belong. And I think I’ve found it. I’m about to move to Mississippi permanently. There’s a real sense of community there on the whole and in the music scene in particular. Spencer Thomas, Dylan Lovett, and Ethan Frink from the band Young Valley backed me up on the record. I’m really digging their stuff and a lot of other bands local to Mississippi.

Finally, what else can we expect from you in 2017? More tour dates? Will the album be released this year? Possible features on other artist’s works? Anything else we may not be thinking about?

The plan keeps changing by the day. I’m recording another EP in July. Then I’m likely going to move to Mississippi full time. I will be announcing dates in the US. Europe and Scandinavia for fall and winter. The record will probably come out in early ’18. My goal for now is just to get out and get my music to as many people as I can, one by one.