Kevin Danzig: A lifelong musician with folk roots
March 24, 2011
There’s musical gold waiting to be discovered in Vail. Musicians with years of experience and tremendous talent perform at bars and restaurants all over town as part of the local apres circuit. Kevin Danzig, a modern folk and acoustic rock musician, is certainly one. He’s been writing and performing since he was 11 years old.
“Like a lot of kids in L.A., I wanted to be the next Michael Jackson,” Danzig said. “Once I discovered the Beatles (a year after they broke up), I knew that being a performing songwriter was going to be my lifetime passion. Thirty years later, I’ve performed at more than 1,000 venues and have seven CDs of original music, so I’m glad I never gave up.”
You can find him performing at the King’s Club in the Sonnenalp, and at Arrabelle in Lionshead, where he’s likely surrounded by a slew of instruments. Danzig plays acoustic guitar, ukulele, harmonica, and even the tambourine (with his foot, no less). He took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
1. Vail Daily: What drew you to music initially?
Kevin Danzig: I was lucky to be born in California into a musical family – my father, Dane Jenkins, released a record of his original songs when I was growing up. He was a lounge singer in and around the Los Angeles area for many years. My uncle, Wayne Parker, was also a singer songwriter and had a country hit in 1973. My grandfather, Richard Parker, originally from Oklahoma, migrated to California during the Dust Bowl era. He soon had a career in radio and managed such Hollywood starlets as Georgia Carroll and Linda Darnell. My grandfather bought me my first guitar and paid for some lessons and I was hooked. After that, I was pretty much self-taught.
2. Tell me about a recent song you wrote. What inspires your songwriting?
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My wife Freda and I have been writing songs for a National Parks commemorative CD called “Places of the Heart,” to be released in 2013 to call attention to the upcoming National Park Service Centennial. Our newest song is “Rocky Mountain Dreams,” about the Rocky Mountain National Park, where we were engaged and it is getting requested a lot. (Hear it at http://www.reverbnation.com/kevindanzig).
My songwriting is pretty much inspired by life itself, whether that be about a crazy character I met on my travels, such as Beatle Bob, or about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, which resulted in a song Freda and I penned called “Sweet Rain, Pure Rivers, Clean Seas.” Our favorite songs inspire us and make us question and we try to write songs with a message.
3. How many instruments do you play total and what are they?
I mostly play acoustic guitar and sing. I play harmonica Neil Young style, some piano, bass guitar and ukulele. I started playing the tambourine with my left foot in the early 1990s after seeing Chris Smither at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, where I’ve played three times. Chris has a wooden plank that he sets under his chair and he mic’s it so you hear his feet on percussion. I’ve never liked drum machines or prerecorded machines as backup. I guess I’m a purist when it comes to that. I think that comes from my folk roots.
4.You share your time between here and California. Why?
My wife (Freda) and I call San Clemente, Cali., a little Spanish village by the Pacific Ocean, our home. We love the town so much we wrote a song called “Sweet San Clemente” that was adopted by City Council as an official town anthem in 2008. When we are not in Colorado or touring for my performances around the U.S., we make a beeline for the beach, great Mexican and Vietnamese food and incredible sunsets … We fell in love in Colorado with 2004, and especially with Summit and Eagle counties, so when Chip Nelson at Vail Resorts offered me a steady gig at the Arrabelle in Lionshead three years ago, I took him up on it. I’m very grateful to Vail Resorts for supporting my music and career. … In Vail, we make our home in a carriage house with spectacular views surrounded by open space … it is so quiet and beautiful that it makes us feel like we live in a National Park.
5. You’ve had some songs featured on song tracks and on radio programs. Tell us about that.
One of my previous bands, the Danzig Band, was very popular in the South in the 1980s. When they were filming “Soul Taker” in Mobile, Ala., they asked us to be in the movie’s dance scene. Three of my songs are featured in that film. Another song I wrote about my van breaking down – unfortunately a true story – is called “Hey Dean” about my mechanic in Fort Walton Beach, Flor., and it was featured on the syndicated program, Car Talk.
6. Your new song, “On Public Radio,” is included in a collection of songs to promote NPR. You are obviously a supporter of NPR. Why?
Being an acoustic musician on an independent label, I love public radio and independent radio stations because they provide a venue for indies like me. Writing and recording “On Public Radio” was our opportunity to give back to NPR Radio. The CD is scheduled for April release. (Listen to it at: http://www.myspace.com/kevindanzigmusician).