In the spotlight – Dany Horovitz

In the spotlight – Dany Horovitz

In the spotlight – Dany Horovitz is a Canadian singer-songwriter, based out of Toronto.

“I love writing songs, and most of the songs I release can be thought of in the singer-songwriter genre, a bit of folk-rock and pop-rock. I write stories to music, usually on a guitar or piano if that helps you think about the style – but don’t read about it, I hope you’ll go and listen and hear for yourself.”

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did your interest in music come from? Was it something that you always knew you wanted to pursue?

“There was always music in my house growing up. We had all these records and CDs because my grandfather owned a record shop that my dad worked at when he was younger. My dad also played guitar. He wrote a few of his own music and also knew a lot of oldies. So, even from very early on, I was exposed to a lot of music, and old rock n’ roll in particular.”

“I was an outgoing kid but music was probably the thing that I held closest to my chest, possibly for the very reason that it meant the most to me. So I always knew that I was going to play music in some way, but I did not think about releasing any of the music I wrote until I was much older.”

When did you start singing and making music?

“I’ve been singing since I was a young child because I accidentally joined the school choir in grade 4. What happened was, they called up the choir at a school assembly to give them stickers for their participation and, to be funny in front of my friends, I went up too. The choir director was nice, she gave me the sticker and only a bit of a knowing look. I tried to give the sticker back later because I felt badly but she suggested that I just join the choir to earn the sticker because the choir needed boys anyway. So that’s how I got started performing: the school choir and then school musicals.”

“When I was fourteen I picked up my dad’s guitar and, using a few tricks he showed me for developing calluses on my fingers and some songbooks with chords in them, I taught myself to play. I started writing my own songs when I was sixteen after I became friends with another student who wrote his own songs. I wanted to give it a go too. And that was that.”

Are you creative in other disciplines?

“I have a section in the notes app on my phone dedicated to poems. It is a way for me to write down things that I think are clever, or meaningful, or both. When I am stuck for lyrics, I’ll go there as a new jumping off point. It is a tricky question to answer because for me music includes writing, playing instruments, singing, and occasionally performing to a crowd. So it is a lot of creative checkboxes already!”

“I do act on stage from time to time, which is playing a character instead of being myself, or a version of myself, which is what playing music is. So I’ll say acting as the official answer.”

What are your fondest musical memories?

“When I was a kid, my dad set me and my brothers at the foot of his bed while he played guitar for us. Those memories are precious, and later as a teenager I taught myself to play music on that same guitar. We used to listen to the oldies station in the car, so listening with him on long car rides is another great memory.”

“My mom took the family to see musicals when we were younger too, and that was a big influence and some favourite memories. I remember Phantom, Fiddler and Joseph especially. I still love going to the theatre. You don’t always think about musical theatre when you think about songs, so it is a bit underrated but I don’t think it should be. It is no coincidence that so many rock stars end up putting their hits into musicals.”

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

“This is a cliché but its true: I draw inspiration from everything. I find myself telling anyone who asks, if you want to write then read. Although if you are living a busy life then you have a lot of your own experience to draw too. I read a lot, and think a lot, reflecting on my own life and also the things I have seen, done, read, or heard.”

“The other thing that really inspires my writing is playing, what Paul McCartney calls “noodling around” on the guitar or piano. The practice of, well, practice, is itself a self-regenerating kind of thing. Playing inspires writing, which inspired playing, and so on.”

Who are some of your songwriting heroes and do you think you can hear their influence in your music?

“By far the most important influence on my music is The Beatles. Me and everyone else, right? But truly, I still listen to their music all the time and find them as rich and engaging as ever, and I’m always changing what my favourites are because they are all my favourites. And I definitely think you can hear their influence in the songs that I write – in a few cases, I have even written songs because I heard or read something one of them said or wrote and thought, that would make a good title for a song.”

“So, the other musicians who inspire me are the ones who are often groups in with The Beatles for sound and influence, so the list is basically a list of the most popular acts from the second half of the 20th century. It is a long list but here are a few: Eagles, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, The Four Seasons, Meatloaf, Abba, Fleetwood Mac. I’m also going to throw in Weird Al Yankovich, not for songwriting but for cleverness. The list is broad, but the common thread is memorable melodies with relatable stories told with rich lyrics.”

“I’ll add a special shoutout in my heart for my Canadian musical heroes, Leonard Cohen and Barenaked Ladies. I still think of Barenaked Ladies as the best Canadian band of all time, the Canadian Beatles, really. They absolutely nailed memorable melodies and rich lyrics, especially in their first few albums. When I was at university, I discovered Leonard Cohen and his style of writing is so clear and so poetic. I was in awe listening to him at that time in my life, which inspired to bring more depth to the stories in my songwriting.”

How would you describe your songwriting process? 

“There are many ways to write a song but here is what is probably the most usually for for me. I will noodle around with some chord progressions or notes on the guitar or piano, and I’ll feel something. So I will try and isolate that feeling and put words to it. Now suddenly all of my experiences and skill are at my disposal to take those words and add more words, until a little story is fleshed out.”

“I personally have this little informal test too – if I can still remember the song the day after writing it, or whatever part of it I have done, then I consider it a good song and I keep it.”

Do you have a favourite time or place to write music?

“I find myself writing in the evenings mostly but that may be just happenstance. I try to play every day for an hour at least, and in the evening is when I am most likely to have that time. After dinner or before bed. I have a little music-and-reading room that I like to play in. I sit on my cajon when I am writing, and when I practice for a show I stand up and face the far wall as if the audience was there. My favourite place time and place to play is in front of an audience.”

I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?

“I just released a song called ‘Sorry From The Road’, which was written to be a bit like a Roy Orbison kind of song, with a sweet melody and sad lyrics. But in the studio we ended up changing the sound to be more energetic, producing something more like a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band song, complete with a glockenspiel and a saxophone solo. So if you like either of those artists I think you’ll love it.”

“My next song, coming out on 2nd June is called It’s ‘No Use Trying To Change Me’. This one is influenced a bit by the poem ‘Be Angry At The Sun’ by Robinson Jeffers, and a bit by the early songs of Bob Dylan. It prominently features the banjo in a way that you don’t normally hear. So, if you like early Bob Dylan songs and the banjo, and especially is you like that poem from Robinson Jeffers, well, have I got a song for you!”

“I also have four other releases coming out this year so follow me wherever you get your music. Search for Dany Horovitz. Or you cn follow me on instagram @danyhorovitz to get updates.”

What do you want to convey with your music?

“The short answer is, nothing in particular. I just want to make music that sounds great and rewards repeat listening.”

“The longer answer is, I think of myself as a storyteller. I love stories and meaning, so in each song I am telling a different story as poetically and engagingly as I can. An even longer answer might be something psychological, like how everything I write has a piece of me in it whether I realize it or not. But I don’t want to think about it too much or make anyone else think about it too much. Mostly, what I want is for the listener to be both delighted by the sounds and feel their own meaning in response.”

How would you define the word ‘success’ as a song writer/musician?

“I think you’ve got to write for yourself. If you love the melody and the words, and you want to keep playing and singing the song, then you’re a success. Anyone else’s definition of success does not really matter. I want the people who hear my songs to like them, but I have no idea what the audience will definitely like, so I write for myself. And if I like the songs, even if no one else does, I think of that as success.”

What musicians would you love to work with in the future?

“That’s a tough question. There are so many talented musicians out there and I don’t know who is available or has even ever heard of me. If I had to pick one, I’d go really big and say Barenaked Ladies since I’ve already highlighted them as my favourite Canadian band and they still record and tour. If the opportunity ever presented itself to work with them I would jump at it.”

What would you think the title would be if someone wrote a biography about you?

“Soul of a Poet. This title will make more sense once my song ‘Soul of a Poet’ comes out next year. I do like it when a musician’s biography is a callback to their music. It also evokes my intentions and aspirations without being overly declarative – it is a statement about how I feel about myself, more than whether I have actually achieved the goal.”

What does the rest of 2023 look like for you?

“I have a lot of releases and work ahead. I am releasing a new song every six weeks between now and November, from my recording sessions last year. The album, once every song is released, is titled ‘Phanerorhyme’.”

“I am also working on the vocals for music that will be released in 2024, also one song at a time, so always going to be new song to look forward to from me, on a regular basis, for a while.”

“My producer has also invited me to join a class he teaches at a local audio engineering school. So I am going to go into the studio and work with some audio engineer students, to play a bit of acoustic guitar and vocals on a few songs that have never been recorded. I’m excited to do it and to hear the results. I might even release them as a “studio sounds” kinda thing down the road, we will see.”

“From a concert perspective, I have a show in Toronto coming up on Canada Day, which is 1st July. That’s the last show for now that I have booked but I do expect to have a few more throughout the year.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“I like a lot of the artists and songs on the Cool Top 20! You know what you’re doing and that’s why I am honoured to be included. Right now, my favourite on this week’s list ‘To The Stars’ by The Future Us. I like the way it builds up, the song begins with a soft electric guitar solo and gradually becomes a rock song as the percussion and bass comes in. It is also a gutsy move to have that long an introduction before the lyrics kick in, and the fact that my ear stayed engaged the whole time shows the risk paid off.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“My song ‘This Side of the Looking Glass’. It is one of my lesser-streamed songs but one that my friends really like. It starts out with simple mellotron and a tender vocal delivery, and builds up warmly to include full instrumentation and harmonies. Since it is from my first album, it also shows a bit of my own journey, and a comparison point to the newer releases.”

Is there anything you’d like to add?

“You haven’t asked me if I want people to add my music to their playlists – and the answer is yes! Please do and when you do, let me know by sharing the playlist and tagging me in any stories.”

Photos by Neal Ganguli (@nealkg on Instagram)


Leave a Reply