Say hello to July’s star performer, as part of Ticketmaster Rising in association with Busk in London.
Singer-songwriter, Danny Starr, thanks the likes of Passenger, George Ezra, James Bay and Hozier for his folk-pop sound, having taught himself guitar just two years ago. Read our full chat with the London-based musician here…
What artists do you look to for inspiration?
“As a singer-songwriter I look at others in my genre, as well as other completely different genres for inspiration. For example, I first started songwriting after I listened to Passenger for a few years alongside a band called Dry The River, whose lyrics are just incredible. Hozier is also an amazing songwriter both lyrically and musically in the way he portrays emotion so strongly. For inspiration on live performance, an obvious artist is Ed Sheeran – his live sets are remarkable (mainly due to his skill with a loop pedal) and he has massively inspired me for my gigging techniques. I also listen to rap artists like J. Cole and Eminem as their lyric writing is so strong. In a rap song you have to write so many lyrics to fill the time, meaning that only really strong lyricists can write for that style and genre.”
What made you want to perform in public?
“The feeling of somebody hearing your music and smiling is honestly one of the best feelings in the world, and if that didn’t happen when I performed live it just wouldn’t be the same. Every time I finish writing a song I just want to get out there and play it to people to hear and feel their reactions. You can tell when somebody has emotionally connected to your music just from the way they are watching and listening to the song, and when you know that someone has really tuned into your message, it is an incredible feeling. There’s no point in songwriting if you don’t share the songs and emotions with people out in the world. Also, seeing how others react to the songs help you improve and work on your songwriting in the future.”
How do you prepare before a performance?
“Before a performance I go through a full vocal warm up, I check all my strings to make sure none are close to snapping, check all the electricals in my setup, and then just imagine myself on stage and imagine the faces of people listening. This helps to boost my confidence and calm me down. I often think of the best reactions from crowds I’ve had to certain songs and gigs to help to boost my confidence as well. I’ll also sometimes rap through my songs and throw out all the lyrics really fast to make sure I know them all. I can get through a half an hour set in about 5 to 10 minutes with this technique and it irons out any pre gig nerves caused by stress over lyrics. I think the most effective stress reliever though out of all of these is just imagining doing a perfect show for the couple of days to hours before you step on stage. It just makes you feel good about yourself.”
Do you have any good luck charms that you have on you during a performance?
“I never cut the ends off my guitar strings when I put a new one on. This is kind of a lucky charm as none of my strings have ever snapped when I have left them uncut, but when I used to cut them it happened quite often.”
Did you begin by performing your own material or covers?
“When I first started performing I did only covers, and gradually as I got more confident and managed to attract bigger audiences when I went busking or did intimate gigs, I would incorporate originals. Doing covers lets you concentrate on the performance as you aren’t worried about what people think of the song as well.”
Who did you look to for inspiration when starting out?
“Ed Sheeran, Hozier, Dry The River, Passenger, Mumford and Sons, Of Mice and Men, James Bay, Jack Garratt and JP Cooper.”
Do you suffer from stage fright and where does your confidence for performing come from?
“I used to but not any more. I just imagine myself doing a perfect gig for a couple of hours before and imagine a perfect crowd reaction and my nerves go straight away. Once I start playing I feel amazing.”
What are your three favourite albums of all time?
“The EPs from JP Cooper, James Bay’s demo disk (which I have a signed copy of) and Flaws by Bastille.”
How would you describe your sound in three words?
“Emotionally, heart-wrenching and enjoyment.”
If you could tour with any act, who would it be?
What is your dream venue to play?
“KOKO in Camden.”
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you while busking?
“Three managers and one producer came up to me in one day and gave me their business cards. The same day I had a group of about 10 Italian tourists dancing around my spot while I sang.”
Are there any other buskers who have caught your attention?
“Passenger busked for years and I’ve seen him busk. Tom Butler was amazing in gigs 2014. I always see a busker in Hammersmith and Richmond who plays reggae music. I know him relatively well now as I have seen him so many times. Simeon Baker is also an incredible busker; I have stumbled across him three times in London.”
What would be your advice to new artists starting out in busking?
“Appeal to an audience. Think about what somebody would enjoy hearing when walking down the street and want to stop and listen. Don’t play depressing love songs. If it’s gonna be love, play happy songs. Play dance songs! Or ballads that everyone knows. Things that people can sing and dance to and make people smile. Enjoyment and happiness is extremely important, and look like you are enjoying it. If you smile at people when they walk past they should smile back and give you a listen. Just be happy and show you are happy and the people around you will also be happy.”
Have you any top tips for busking and performing live?
“Always look happy and full of enjoyment. If you realise you are getting tired and less people are listening, pack up for the day. Don’t exhaust your voice. Busking is one of the most exhausting activities for your vocal chords so don’t over-busk. If you’re having a good day on the other hand, carry on through and enjoy yourself. The feeling when you get home, knowing how many people you have influenced with your music, is amazing.”
For all things new talent, Ticketmaster Rising and Busk in London, head to Ticketmaster.co.uk/rising.