Danielle Howle sings it her way 

The Veteran Songwriter

Danielle Howle is a career artist, a songsmith determined to create something expressive and effective. She's more interested in creating a melody than making a pile of money or grabbing media attention. That artistic determination is at the heart of her story.

"I love challenging myself," she says, speaking from her home in Awendaw, where she recently landed after years in Columbia. "I love music so much. I love what it can do for people. I love the way that music is a language that brings us all together to basically spread joy and talk about things that are going on in life. I think a lot of musicians are talking about the history of the time they're in — talking about the world. I think a lot of bands out there are helping everybody stay awake. I'm just watching the earth and commenting ... watching society, watching the good things and the bad things, and documenting what I see."

Howle can boast loads of experience touring, recording, and collaborating with others. From her early rock 'n' roll days fronting Columbia-based band Lay Quiet Awhile through her recent solo projects, her welcoming style has been a breezy mix of Americana and Southern-fried pop.

Over the last few years, she's opened for Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Edwin McCain, and Hayes Carll, and has toured with the late Elliott Smith, Indigo Girls, Throwing Muses, Ani DiFranco, and Hootie & the Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan. In 2005, she recorded with Bryan and released an excellent collection of songs titled Thank You, Mark.

Howle has released a total of seven studio albums across a variety of record labels — Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars, Daemon, Simple Machines, and Southern. Her forthcoming, independent effort is titled The Swamp Sessions.

"It's just me and some microphones in a hut in the swamp," she says. "There's nothing on there except for that. I like playing in different band situations. It just depends on the mood. I love playing with a full band, but I can't always afford to tour with a full band. It's economically hard to do. I might add players here and there where I can, but most of the time, I'm out there by myself in a car."

Over the last few years, she's increasingly taken on more work outside of the club circuit, performing and lecturing on local college campuses, taking part in panel discussions, and penning jingles and theme songs for television programs and independent film projects.

"I make weird shit happen," she says of the various side projects and assignments. "I've recently written songs about washing your hands and pregnancy for ETV projects — plenty of stuff, signature songwriting types of things outside of the regular indie rock music business. There's that angle of my career.

"I love the challenge," she adds. "I try to respect it and do well. It's not difficult, but it scares me because I want their needs to be met and I want them to like what I'm creating. In other ways, it's just another way to challenge my skill set and see if I can bring it!"

Her strong personality as an onstage performer and her fiercely independent approach as a veteran songwriter certainly inspires younger musicians.

"Influencing other musicians? How could it not happen — from the person who's played their first gig to the person who's played their 40-millionth gig?" she asks. "We all help each other. We all have something to teach and say. I've learned more from my failures than my successes. Success is an interesting thing, but, man, if you're out there slugging away and messing up, that'll teach you a lot real quick." —T. Ballard Lesemann 

2008 Music Issue

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