When no one knows you, you can be anyone and anything that you want to be.
Such is the life lesson learned by Montreal-born, Toronto-based songwriter Danielle Duval. Inspired by a series of trips she took with friends through Southeast Asia, California and other worldly locales, Duval — who performs tonight at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre — used the sojourns to help her realize that life could be what she made it.
“When I returned home from my trip to Southeast Asia, it totally changed me as a human being,” Duval says. “I had always wanted to start writing music but prior to the Asian trip, I had just never done so.
“It was when I was in Asia, immersed in a completely new environment and by complete strangers that I realized that I could be who I wanted to be in life. All of these little experiences I gained while travelling changed me for the best. I became more spontaneous and started taking more in the way of risks. I didn’t necessarily do everything the way that maybe people thought it should be done. You’ve got one life to live so you have to live it well.”
A planned sort of spontaneity could be credited for Duval’s debut effort, the effortlessly rocking Of The Valley. After a show at Toronto’s intimate Rivoli venue, Duval was befriended by Zeus band member Carlin Nicholson. Nicholson extended an invite to Duval to do some recording his group’s east Toronto studio, an invite that she was all too happy to jump at.
“The way that we started making Of The Valley was off the cuff but in a very intentional kind of way. Carlin and I musically clicked right away. I trusted him right away which isn’t something that is always easy to do given the personal, sensitive nature of songwriting. As soon as he and I picked up our guitars, we started recording right away, discovering that we shared the same background, the same passion and the same sensibilities.”
Much to Duval’s pleasant surprise, Nicholson’s pals in Toronto acts The Golden Dogs along with solo artists Jason Collett and Alfie Jurvanen (who plays under the name Bahamas) not only stopped by the studio to see how things were going, they ended up contributing to her record as well.
“It was mind-blowing to have these musicians who I had been listening to there in the studio, laying down tracks for my record. It was this explosion of musical experience that ended up taking the record to a whole new level. The way that those guys put their heart and soul into my music was something that I never could have imagined happening,” Duval says.
Music has always been a central part of Duval’s life. From the time she began playing piano at age 6 by poring over her father’s music collection to starting her first band with her cousin at age 14, she simply can’t recall a time when she hasn’t been surrounded by music.
Perhaps not surprisingly, once her tour with Serena Ryder wraps up, Duval has more music on the brain.
“I have a recording setup at home that I have been using rather faithfully to capture new ideas and songs,” Duval says. “I love recording songs when they are fresh. There is an urgency and immediacy to the songs that doesn’t always translate when you’ve had time to let the song sit. I’m actually really anxious to get a new record started sooner rather than later.”
Article published in the March 1, 2013 edition of The Times & Transcript