“People were saying ‘You needed experience, and you needed to get some stage performances under your belt. We’re all pretty young,” says Danielle, now 16, of her seven-member band. “We’re all growing up in the process, but it’s been a great ride so far.”
The Brooke Danielle Band debuted in February 2012. Under the guidance of its fearless leader, the band has performed in Alabama and Tennessee, and their calendar is steadily filling up.
“We won’t have a show booked one month and then all of a sudden the next week we’ll have six phone calls,” Danielle says. “I know this is what I want to do or all these opportunities wouldn’t keep happening.”
The talented songwriter also made it to the top 100 in the 2012 International Songwriting Competition semi-finals for her song “Dancin’ in the Rain,” which will be included on the band’s upcoming EP. As the band prepares to take the stage Thursday at Brother’s in Jacksonville, Danielle took a moment to share what she’s learned from the business, what keeps her sane, and why the last thing she wants to be labeled as is “normal.”
Q:You’ve done a lot for your career in a short amount of time, and though you have a manager, you are the frontwoman and unofficial ringleader of the band. How, at the age of 16, are you handling everything?
A: My parents, they support me a lot — they help me and they support the band. They get us places. The oldest guy in the band is 24, so it’s a teen band. We went to Nashville, and we were playing, and some guy that was talking to my mom goes “The band — who drove them here?” because not really any of us can drive!
I know I’m the leader and I have to take responsibility for a lot of things. It’s kind of hard, me being as young as I am, dealing with them. Some of them are older than me, and I guess it’s kind of hard for them to be under submission from someone that’s younger than them, but I try to balance it out and let them know that I take their input and I listen to what they have to say. They respect me and they understand where I’m coming from.
Q:You do the majority of the songwriting for the band, and your songs tap into a range of young emotions. Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I’ve written around 45 to 50 songs, and nine of them are on my first album. There’s going to be four of them on the EP. My inspiration probably comes from music that I’ve listen to. I like country — Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. They’re love songs and breakup songs, mostly. The band, they laugh at me a lot because I’ve got some breakup songs. They’re like “You’re so young — you don’t know what you’re talking about!” But I have been there.
Q: Do you find it therapeutic to put it to paper and then put it in a song?
A: Oh yes, I love it. If I didn’t have that I would probably be insane. It helps a lot. It’s a good vent to let your feelings out. I’ve also written four novels. It’s a more detailed version of a song. I actually use some of the songs — I wrote them and then I went back and wrote a book more in detail based on why I wrote the songs.
I think I’m going to hold on to them for awhile, because it’s more of a bigger package for a label to sign (me) when they see that I’m not just musically marketable ... I want to do a bunch of different stuff. I don’t just want to limit myself to just one market.
Q: What have you been able to pick up on and learn now that you are, more or less, “in the business?”
A: Mostly managing people is what I’ve learned — how to manage people, how to work with people, how to listen and use their input. I’ve grown a lot from that. I’m pretty positive that this music is gonna work out. I’ve put all my eggs in this basket — this is what I want to do. But I do have other things that I can fall back on, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I can use in business and managing and marketing. I know that I’ve got another option, but music is definitely what I want to pursue.
Q: With the band and your writing and school, is it hard to have a normal teenage life?
A: Well, I’m homeschooled — me and my little sister (who is also in the band). We’ve been homeschooled for about five or six years. I’m graduating a year early so I can focus more on my music.
Being a normal kid is — I’ve always seen that option, but I’ve never liked the idea of being normal. Why just limit yourself to that when you can do more? I like the life that I’m living. I don’t feel that I’m missing out on too much.
Q: You might be a “teen band,” but you’re already got your own tour bus. Have you gotten behind the wheel yet?
A: I got the bus for Christmas last year. Since we’ve had it we have put the band logo on the outside, put in eight bunks, a couch and a booth with a table for us to eat and play cards on. We have taken the bus to Nashville three times, and we are taking it to Mobile at the end of the month.
I’ve never driven it. You have to have a CDL license. I’d be scared to drive that big thing! We call her “Black Betty.” Her name is actually on the front of the bus... Every time we pull up somewhere every one looks at us differently like “Who are those kids? I bet they’re famous!” It’s really hilarious.