Dan, founder of the project, Paper Lights and I have been “Instagram friends” for a good two years. Ever since I heard my first Paper Lights song, ” I have been eagerly waiting for the next release, then the next video, then the next album. Dan’s a guy who never stops working and never stops impressing with great music and projects.
You know that we at Knewyu are constantly on Instagram looking for new talent and are very grateful for the great friendships and networks that have been made online and that we all support each other and learn from each other.
I’m happy that Dan and I have made friends through our mutual love of music and that he was kind enough to do an interview with me discussing Paper Lights, touring and tips for the aspiring singer/songwriter and musician.
Knewyu: How did you get into music? Do you have a musical family?
Dan: No not particularly. I can remember my parents occasionally singing together but they weren’t career musicians or anything. My dad likes to tell a story about me as a baby. I was holding my ear to the floor trying to hear the neighbors rock music in the apartment below us. So I think it was something I was always interested in but there just weren’t many opportunities to perform where I grew up.
K: How did Paper Lights start? Does the name have a meaning and how did you come up with it?
D: It started as a fun little recording project with some friends in a cabin. It really just began as an excuse to go hang out with friends and ride four wheelers for a week. I never could’ve guessed it would become a band.
The idea for Paper Lights came from the paper lanterns that people sometime use for celebrations. It seemed like a good name to use in celebration of life in general.
K: I have been listening to your music for years and have shared endless song and album reviews on my blog (You can read them here and here). I would love to ask you how you keep producing great songs, but I will settle for asking you what your song writing process is like and what sorts of things do you enjoy writing about?
D: Well thank you so much! The process and even the band itself has changed almost with every record we’ve done. With the newest release Great Escapes, it was up to me to write everything on my own with some production help from Josh Stewart (keys, drums). I really enjoyed the process of writing and producing at the same time. After finishing a song I would just pass it to Josh and he would add his ideas.
We only had a two month period to write and produce most of the record. Most of the inspiration came from travel and the outdoors. This time I also got a lot from John Muir’s journals about discovering the National Parks.
K: What is a typical day like in the life of Dan and what is a normal recording day like?
D: Right now no two days are alike which is exactly what I enjoy about our lifestyle. My wife, Katie and I have a home base in Atlanta but we both travel a lot and have become somewhat nomadic. Touring is taking a large part of our time these days. I really enjoy waking up in new places and never knowing what the day might be like.
A typical day of recording is usually by myself in our home studio. I like to play with samples of different sounds and then write lyrics to them. Days seem to fly by really fast doing this so I try to get songs written fairly quickly.
K: So you have been touring quite a bit and you are set to do another tour in June. Do you enjoy going on tour and what tips can you give to any artist considering it? What have you learned that you probably wouldn’t if you didn’t go on tour?
D: Yeah I love touring more than anything. There’s nothing like the challenge of not knowing what you will see tomorrow, who you will meet or what the conditions will be. I feel like each trip just makes us stronger in general life skills.
I’ve learned a lot about interacting with different types of people and personalities. I think that just traveling anywhere gives you a more rounded sense of empathy for people who aren’t like you. I don’t think you can ever gain that by staying at home.
For an artist wanting to tour, I would say be willing to play your music in unconventional spaces. The art of live music is culturally under-appreciated right now but there are tons of ways an independent artist can still make a living if they’re willing to do something a little different.
K: What has been your favourite memory so far or greatest achievement to date that you will never forget?
D: I would have to say that traveling with my friends and making music in general is the greatest thing I’ve ever gotten to do. I had some crazy every day free of those jobs like a huge victory. Anything else that happens with the music is just a bonus.
K: What would you like people to take away from your music?
D: Ultimately I wrote these songs for myself. I would hope that it translates to accommodate the listeners own story but for me it came from a very hopeful place. Ideally I would hope that it inspires people in their own way. If that connection is made with enough people it buys me time to write more songs for myself, and that’s kind of the goal.
K: What tips can you give to an aspiring artist/singer/musician/producer?
D: It’s great to be inspired by another artists work but don’t imitate them. Originality is rare but if you write something you enjoy, something honest, people might relate and identify with it. Just be you and you’ll achieve the type of connection that doesn’t come when your art has an identity crisis.
Thank you so much Dan!