What more can he say?
He was never born to lose. It just took some time to get here. A voice both angelic and born of the earth, the Nashville rabble-rouser breaks melodies over his electric guitar, letting them heave and soar. He unabashedly rides the line between classic rock and alt-country, and you could try to define him — but that’d be downright fruitless.
“Well, it sure ain’t been easy, the way I been living / But it’s all the life I’ve ever known,” East Nashvillian Kyle Daniel pops the lid almost instantly with his second EP. What’s There to Say? is a monster five-song manifesto chronicling boldly relevant themes, from clawing out of addiction (“Born to Lose”) to finding his place in an ever-shifting world (“Somewhere in Between”) to making a statement of compassion (“What’s There to Say?”). Daniel’s voice naturally morphs from and into each artistic imprint, often shedding the towering bravado for intimately-wrought confessions and matter-of-fact resolutions.
He often inhabits the role as narrator, as he does so with rallying cry “Born to Lose,” but each story unfolds from deep within
his bones. “I have grounded myself over the past few years and really tried to take a hard look at myself, internally. I think that has allowed me to open up with such honesty and vulnerability in order to relate to others,” he says. “I once heard a very well-respected songwriter discuss empathy in songs, and that really started to resonate with me as I looked at myself. I wanted to believe in every line I sang, and I feel like this EP is a very good representation of the belief that I have in these songs.”
What’s There to Say? is Daniel’s second EP, a decision owed largely to the shifting music model. “When I initially released the first EP [2018’s self-titled], I really just wanted to test the waters with what this project was. I wasn’t completely sure how it would be received, and in today’s world of on-demand content, I didn’t feel like a complete album was necessary to do so,” he explains. “In order to stay current and continue to stay connected to the fans both new and old, I wanted to release more content. We started working on the full length before this EP even came out, so my goal here is to work as hard as possible to deliver the best content I can without having a huge gap in between releases.”
Beck spoke to The Globe about his artistic intentions, endeavors to spark change, spotlighting what it means to be an American and dark emotional times.
VIDEO Kyle Daniel– God Bless America (Damn Rock and Roll)
“Born to Lose” is about addiction in its many forms. You’ve stated how you knew a couple different people who had struggled with different things. So, was there something specific which provoked you to write this song?
The very first band I played in, I had a bandmate on guitar who was my biggest influence and teacher when I started playing guitar. He taught me a whole lot in a very short amount of time. I will never be able to repay him for his wisdom and knowledge through the early years. Although he was a great mentor, he had his fair share of abuse problems. He experimented with a lot of different things and was addicted on and off with a few different substances, and I never knew how to help. I felt helpless in a sense. A few years ago, I received word that he had overdosed, and it really hit a nerve within me. I had lost touch with him through the years, but that didn’t help it hurt any less. I feel like maybe that was my initial gut thought when I sat down to write this song: what would it feel like to be trapped in that sort of situation?
From the outside looking in, do you feel you came closer to understanding those close to you who’ve been struggling?
Somewhat, yes. Other parts of me want to say I’m still trying to understand. I have never turned my back completely on anyone who has been struggling; although, I may have had to separate myself for my own well being. It’s not been something I have allowed to stop my forward motion with my career or life.
It almost feels like an appropriate underdog rallying cry for you, as well. Do you feel that energy when you perform it live?
I feel every inch of energy within my songs when I perform live, not just this one. I feel as though I have to have that sort of emotional attachment to the subject at hand, or it will come off phony because it is. I try to concentrate on issues or instances that really speak to my soul in some form or another. After all, these songs are an extension of who I am, what I feel or what I believe in.
Addiction is an unfortunate epidemic in the country right now. When writing and releasing songs with such strong messaging, is that your way to spark conversation, awareness and change?
That sure was my initial intention. It’s been all over the news for years now, and I feel like it’s something everyone just kind of throws their hands up like, “Well, what are we gonna do now?” I think it’s high time we find a solution and try to better serve those who are struggling the most. I just really wanted to be a voice of change or reason.
“God Bless America (Damn Rock n Roll)” is the other surefire anthem on the record. In discussing this song, you’ve said how the first half is your story and the second half is your co-writer Seth Rentfrow’s story. This one is especially vital right now, in terms of the discussion on what being American means. Was there any trepidation to release this song?
Totally. I feel like everyone and everything is under a microscope these days and everyone has a strong opinion one way or another, which in itself was frightening when thinking about releasing this song. This was the first song Seth and I wrote together, and although we weren’t completely sure what this mantra stood for initially, it has been apparent as we have walked through the song from start to finish. This song truly is about the rebellious nature of being an American.
What is most striking about this song is how you approach the topic. It is simply a reflection of your experiences and growing up. What memories were you reliving or recalling when you wrote this?
For me, this was about how I went from being an all-star baseball player to the kid who hung out in bars six nights a week playing music. I was trying to find myself during those times, and I felt like it was easy for me to tap into. For Seth, it was about the fact that people go through generational ruts, and eventually, someone stands up to make a change. That is the rebellious nature he speaks to within the second verse.
VIDEO: Kyle Daniel – What’s There To Say?
One of the EP’s most moving lyrics comes in the title song: “I thought salvation could never feel so far away.” I know you’ve said this song is about a relationship and how you might be to blame sometimes. This is your therapy song. So what’s the emotional journey here and has that changed since you first wrote it?
I have always had relationship issues as long as I can remember. I think a lot of this stems from being a musician and some of it from my own doing. I feel like this song was my way of acknowledging the fact that this is true, and I’m not exactly proud of it. It was a very vulnerable and honest song to write, but it was like a weight was lifted off of me to see how others have been able to relate to such a heavy song. I think it will be an emotional struggle I will deal with for the rest of my life. Some things you just can’t take back.
Musically, it walks that nice balance between traditional country and the classic style of ’60s and ’70s rock. This batch of songs also feels like it has a stronger identity in that regard than your first EP. Was that something you really tried to work toward?
I think a lot of that stylistically happened naturally. I grew up listening to the southern rock greats of the ’60s and ’70s as well as classic rock, so that has definitely left its mark on my artistry and writing. I played electric guitar on this record as well, where on the first EP I did not. I think that probably helped give a little more of that stylistic flare, as well.
I know “Don’t Give Up on Me Now” works as both a relationship song and a pep talk to yourself. Being a working musician, have you undergone some pretty dark times, emotionally?
Man, if you only knew. [laughs] I feel like, as most writers would probably agree, the best material comes from those valleys in life. Those dark times shape your character and give you a reason to be better or do better if and when that same situation comes back around. I’m really hard on myself and have been as long as I can remember, which probably puts me in a more of a sensitive emotional state than most at times.
When your career is uncertain or you feel you’re always waiting for something that might happen, what things do you remind yourself to keep you on the right track?
That I’ve been doing this over half of my life, and it’s all I have ever wanted or known how to do to the best of my ability. It’s something that I have never fully been able to walk away from, no matter how big of a dream it may appear to others. I have grown to celebrate every victory, no matter what size, while I’ve been in this waiting room of my career.
There seems to be an immense amount of buzz around you and this project. Has it all been worth it to get to this moment?
I have had numerous different positions within music over the past decade, but have never done anything else. I think even the moves that weren’t ideal for me at the time, helped shape my understanding of what is currently happening and has often served as a blanket of security vs anxiety as this project grows. I feel very blessed to have had the buzz around this project that has been displayed so far.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
I see a lot of touring, writing and hard work. I don’t ever stop working, because I can’t sit still for too long. It drives me crazy. I want to see the band continually grow as a live unit just as we have been over the past few months in order to deliver the highest quality performance we possibly can. I want to continue to write songs that mean something to me with conviction and honesty. I want to tour and see the world and those who are connected to what it is we are saying. It all feels like it is finally catching some wind, and I’m more prepared than I have ever been to do whatever necessary to make this fly.