Star Sign: Aquarius
Currently reading: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, & Waking Up by Sam Harris
Hopes her last meal will be: Pint of Cookie Monster ice cream from Creole Creamery in New Orleans
Danielle Ryce is a violinist, singer, and songwriter. She teaches, performs, and has freelanced for other music-related businesses. She is the band leader of the group Dianella & the Arrows, she co-leads a band called Nyce!, and she runs an art series called Who Arted?! – which features performances & displays from various art mediums, ranging from dance to music.
When did you first know that this was your calling?
I wonder all the time if it is my true calling, honestly! But the moment I decided to pursue music was in high school. We were all choosing the major we’d study in college, and I had no idea what I wanted to study. I was going around to all my friends performing a very casual aptitude survey, and I’ll never forget my friend Angelo who answered with a completely sincere, “music, duh.” I grew up playing the violin, learned a small amount of guitar in high school, which led to writing songs and singing to myself, daydreaming about being on stage in the comfort of my home. Despite that, I hadn’t ever truly considered it as a career. Soon thereafter, I realized you could major in music, which I imagined would only strengthen my songwriting, and the rest is history.
How did you get your music off the ground?
I feel incredibly fortunate that I always seem to meet the right people at the right time. I really owe a lot to my class/orchestra-mates from college, specifically the co-leader of my band Nyce!, Nic Lefebvre. Outside of developing original music, working with Nyce! also played a huge role in learning how to work the “lucrative” music scene. Nic did a great job at booking us paying gigs playing jazz on Frenchmen street plus weddings and corporate events. These gigs were a huge foundation for my musical repertoire and education on what it takes to be a professional musician. My bosses, Paula & John, at Keller Strings, a New Orleans’ violin shop, advertised my teaching studio to everyone that walked in looking for a teacher. The network of string players from Loyola University also kept growing and developing as time passed. For me, it all seems to boil down to meeting the right people, treating them with respect, and accepting as many opportunities that suit your skillset as you can!
Find the path that makes the most sense for YOU. There really is no ‘right way’ to be an artist.
What makes your music unique?
All of my songwriting is a direct or indirect result of my experience performing and enthusiasm listening to many different genres of music. My main project, Dianella & the Arrows, is a band with a traditional rock rhythm section, guitar, keys, bass, drums, plus a classical string trio, violin, viola, and cello. It certainly felt like an orchestra on stage whenever we played a smaller venue, haha, but because of the instrumentation, the sound is huge and dramatic, just the way I like it 😛 I feel like a song is incomplete until I write the string parts. All melded together, the result is grandiose and I always feel like a daydream has been brought to life when we play together! My goal is to definitely inspire a sense of wonder and hope.
What are the pros and cons of being an active musician in New Orleans?
Wooo, tough question. Also, an ironic question, because I received these interview questions when I was still living in New Orleans, and now I’m living in Eugene, Oregon (it’s a long story…)!
Pros: The community. So. Many. Magnificent. Musicians. Everywhere. The talent is unbelievable.
Cons: Not the best place to grow an audience for an original music group. Hard to stand out when there are at least 20 shows going on every night! Plus all of my friends were musicians, so they are usually performing when you are performing.
What is the biggest challenge for you as an musician?
The biggest challenge is maintaining confidence in my art. I’m a workaholic, so I can practice, rehearse, send the emails, plan the events, promote the shows, all of that stuff, no problem. But shutting up the tiny little voice in my head that keeps telling me that no one cares, I’m not “cool” enough etc.is HARD. Those dips in self-esteem fuel my perfectionism, so I try to combat that by giving myself timelines and deadlines.
What inspires you to continue?
The lack of direction I feel when I try to stop. Anytime I think “maybe this isn’t for me, let’s try something else,” I feel lost, and then when I’m inevitably led to writing a new song about the experience I’m overcome with an overwhelming sense of security, contentment, plus a little playful pinch of mischievousness. Always motivates me to run back onto the path with a new fervor.
What is your life motto / what mantra do you live?
The tortoise wins the race (aka move at your own pace). And when I say “live by,” it’s definitely a try-my-f’in-hardest to live by motto.
How do you ensure a good work-life balance?
This is a HUGE work in progress for me. But, I deal with it the same way I try to handle my perfectionism. I give myself timeframes to work within and deadlines to meet, try my hardest to let it go if it doesn’t go quite the way I planned, and honor the time I scheduled to relax.
How has the Coronavirus affected your work?
I have not performed for a live audience, in person, since March. It hurts. No amount of streaming can account for the shared feeling of a musical performance.
What can people do to support you and others in your field?
Buy music! Interact with our content online! Share social media pages, share Spotify profiles, watch Youtube videos, join in on the conversation during a live stream performance, send lots of virtual hugs. These are very weird times. If you are a business-minded person and you have ideas about how we can shift our focus from concerts to whatever it is the American music industry will become, share your ideas!
What are your plans for the future?
Certainly asking myself this question a lot lately! Taking it day by day. Coronavirus has definitely forced me to slow down and think about my art being, well art as opposed to a business. I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of this slower pace by practicing and writing lots and lots. I prefer performing to recording, so COVID is also thrusting me out of my comfort zone to focus on recording. Working on producing a full-length album of original content and more videos.
Do you have tips for people who want to start a career (in this field)?
Find the path that makes the most sense for YOU. There really is no “right way” to be an artist. If you want to have a full-time job doing something completely different, do that. If you want to only play music or draw or write, do that. If you want to do a combination, hell, do that. There can be a pinch of an “elitist” attitude in the music scene that leads you to believe that you should only do this type of music, this kind of way, and that caused me a lot of stress when I first graduated college. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I let go of all of the typical expectations of auditioning for orchestras or trying to get every jazz-singing residency on Frenchmen street, yadda yadda. I made the choice to focus on the styles of music and types of gigs that made me happy. Your art loses meaning when you are trying to display it the way you think it needs to be received. Plus, it uh, just really sucks for you as the artist, haha!