Most of Danielle Anderson’s videos are shot simply in her bedroom, other rooms in her home or just simply where she sits down. Her silly, sometimes childish sense of humor comes through right away. Her musical moniker, Danielle Ate The Sandwich, is a perfect example of that very fun personality. The music that comes with that, however, is beautiful, heartfelt and instantly relatable.
Currently touring the United States, the ukulele-wielding, Nebraska-native took a little time out to chat with me about her work:
(GREG) I’ll come right out with the major philosophical question right of the bat: What makes ukuleles as awesome as they are?
(DANIELLE) I don’t have enough schooling to answer that question correctly. I am not on a high enough plane! I just feel it. I just believe in the awesomeness of the ukulele. I think it doesn’t hurt that they are small and cute. People love small things and they’re easy enough to play! I like them because I think they are friendly. So many instruments are fancy and snobby, but the ukulele is for every man. I feel like it is a direct reflection of who I’m trying to be as a musician or vice-versa: kind and approachable and a mixture of layers of fun stuff and serious stuff.
So you started posting videos on YouTube six years ago, what was it like in that first period starting out?
It was very fun to start out, because I had no idea what I was doing and what to expect. I saw other musicians on YouTube and thought, “Oh. I make songs, maybe I should post a video.” And so I did, as simple as that. The beginning always seems so fun and simple looking back and I miss it, but I’m sure I was racked with worry and insecurity back then as well. Now that I’ve climbed some ladders and am working on staying relevant, it’s great that people are listening and paying attention, but I look back and think about how fun and nice it was to be the underdog. It was nice to come out of nowhere and just surprise everybody!
At what point did you transition into writing and performing music full time?
When I got back to my “day job” after my very first tour to New York City in 2009, I realized that I didn’t want to work there anymore and that I should try to be brave and pursue music. I’m a very cautious person, so I applied for several part time jobs, but said no to all of the offers I got, just not wanting to commit to anything. I figured eventually I’d have to get a job to cover my butt. That worked out, too. I didn’t have to get a part time job. Music gave me what I needed! (Thanks, music!)
What do you find really inspires you in your writing?
Everything! The big emotional things I go through in my life–breakups, death, questions of religion and existence. I write a lot about my insecurities about EVERYTHING. Sometimes those insecurities are really vapid and selfish, but other times they are just questions to the universe and hopefully relatable to a lot of people. I’m also inspired by other people’s stories. I’ve always got my ears open for things that people are saying and going through. I’m a pretty curious person and like to tell other people’s stories from my perspective, or tie in how I relate to what they’re going through-that’s kind of vain, but it’s an attempt to get out of my own realm, while still empathizing, I guess. A friend of mine is going through a divorce and I like asking him questions and talking through the experience with him. I think there is a cliche in songwriting to only write about these BIG, IMPORTANT, ROMANTIC, SWEEPING moments, but I also believe in the smallest moments becoming important subjects of songs. Whether or not they become the “message” of the song, the small moments in life help tell my stories and paint the scenes in my songs.
It’s one of my favorite things about being a musician! I take it as a giant compliment and love to think my music moved someone enough to sing it and learn it and record it, like so many songs have inspired me. It honestly makes me feel like a legit musician, more than most things. And I love the idea that young kids are being inspired to sing and write their own songs because they’ve seen and heard me. That is cool, cool, cool!
In kind of a hard left-turn style-wise, you recently released the EP Dance Club Thursday featuring, well, dance music. We get synths, beats and even a little rapping. What prompted that?
Dance Club Thursday started from a desire to be creative and productive, while going through a bit of a writer’s block. I wasn’t producing as many new songs as I wanted and decided to make a fun song, without the pressure and seriousness of my folk songs. I try so hard to make all of my “real” songs perfect and complete, which I think is important, but it can slow me down. I wanted to make songs and sing and have fun without worry. I’m so flattered that you actually pay attention to that!! It has proven to be an exercise in letting go and just having fun. It’s also teaching me a lot about production and recording–like, about how hard it is to do a good job with that! I really love Dance Club Thursday.
Of definite interest to the gaming fans on our site, you also starred in a trio of comedy shorts based on the game Portal, Science Time with Susan Tiemann. How did you get involved in that?
A couple of friends of mine, who own a production company called Synthetic Picturehaus asked me to be involved with their fan film- ‘Aperture: A Triumph of Science.’ They created the character, Susan Tiemann, I think loosely based on what they knew of me and a realistic Aperture scientist, as well as a twitter fan who was posting as her. They write, shoot and edit all of those videos and do an incredible job. To be honest, I’ve only played Portal once and hardly know the whole world, but I like the people who like it. They have been very nice to me and I like Susan Tiemann. I definitely see myself in her AND we just got done shooting another Susan Tiemann video in July! So stay tuned!
Most recently you have been hired on to score the Edith Lake Wilkinson documentary Packed in a Trunk. How did that project come about? Will the soundtrack have its own release?
Another awesome pair of friends who make films, asked me to be a part. They’ve known of my music for a few years and thought I’d be right for this project as it came about. I completely agree and am so honored to help tell Edith Lake Wilkinson’s story! I’m not sure how things will advance. The soundtrack will definitely have a digital release, but depending on how it all develops I’m not sure it will be pressed and printed. I am so inspired by her story and my own feelings and emotions already attached I can see writing plenty of songs, that may turn in to an album for me, whether or not those songs are all used in the film, or end up as a companion piece to them film. I just really love having a subject that makes me feel something.
Can we expect any more music releases this year?
I don’t think so. That’s just the worst thing to say. The publicist in me is yelling on the other end of the phone, but I don’t know what I’ll do the rest of the year. It’s always harder than I remember to make an album and for me, it’s hard to split my focus equally on the promotion versus the creation. Also, I hate the studio. I hate working with other people. I hate leaving my bedroom. HA! Deciding to make a new album is usually a last minute decision for me. All the sudden I’ll decide I’m ready and then try to assemble the whole thing and hope to get it made in a month. I work best under pressure. All of my best ideas happen twenty minutes before I have to go do something. That’s why I’m always late.
Any parting thoughts?
I’m really grateful to get to do what I do for a living. I say I am a musician, but I am really a performer and a social media guru and an amateur marketing exec and on the best days, I really just get paid to be MYSELF. Which is incredible. The world is a good place and I am thankful.