Danny Leonard: Singer, Song Writer…and Judo Black Belt!?
By Ilija Sekulovski
How did you get started as a musician?
Honestly, my start in music is as uneventful as it can be. When I was 18, I walked into my brother’s room to check out his new birthday present. It was this classical guitar that my grandparents had bought him. I picked it up out of curiosity, and I never put it down since. That was 7 years ago today.
SO YOU STOLE HIS BIRTHDAY PRESENT!?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I still play that guitar today to practice my classical guitar chops. It’s one of two guitars in my arsenal, and I’ll never give that guitar up. It’s got a lot of sentimental value, and it’s an honestly a great sounding guitar.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from everywhere these days. I hate to say it, and so does everyone, but I draw the biggest inspiration from pain or sadness. It’s easily the greatest motivation for writing. Not happy that it is, but that’s just the way it is!
What’s your biggest challenge as a musician?
That’s a great question. For me, it’s making sure that I write no filler material. That everything I write has meaning, and it feels unbelievable to perform and to sing. There’s no greater feeling as a musician to know that you made yourself feel better, and even more, to know that you’ve touched the crowd. I just want to make good music, and it’s not something you can force. It has to flow naturally, and when it doesn’t, that’s the challenge.
If you could meet any artist or musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’d really want to meet all my musical heroes and let them know how much it means to me that they actually made the music they made, for more than a few reasons. John Mayer, Damien Rice, John Butler, Ed Sheeran
Also, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. They had such a huge impact on my songwriting. If you are a songwriter, I find it essential to study these two artists entire library
Awesome. What’s the most embarrassing song you have on your iPod? DON’T LIE, IS IT ONE DIRECTION?
Well I’d like to proudly say that I don’t own an iPod (I have a Microsoft Zune & Android Phone), but if I had to pick some of my guilty pleasures off my MP3 collection…. I have to admit to having some Backstreet Boys, one or two NSync songs from back in the day. You can’t lie that some of these guy’s songs have really catchy melody, or they did back when i listened to them a long, long time ago…
And by long time ago, you mean in the past week?
We’re expecting a live EP from you in the next few months. What can we expect to hear on there?
It’s actually going to be a full record of about 7 or 8 songs, so maybe not so much of an EP. It’s going to be live at The Blue Room, produced by Mike Berrios. I’m really excited for it, as it’s going to be my last record for a while as a solo artist. It’s going to have a lot of new material, and a really cool raw, live sound.
I’m very excited for everyone to hear the new stuff, and some of the old ones that people know
But I’m also looking forward to starting the next chapter in my musical career and working with a band
You said you write a lot about pain and sadness, are we going to see those themes in your new work?
Yeah, the past few months have been really difficult for me, and it’s been such a catalyst for me to drive these songs over the bridge and into the right lane. This new material is therapy for me, and through it I heal and become a stronger person
You really came into your own and grew up on the stage of Waltz-Astoria – how do you think growing up as a musician in such a tightly knit community space affected you as a musician?
Astoria has been such an important part in my development. The community there has been so unbelievable. Pedro Gonzalez of Waltz Astoria was specifically important, as he pushed me to be more confident in my early days when I had none starting out. He gave me my first real show. I feel like Astoria is so alive with music, and the people really want to hear it.
You’re also a black belt in Judo – do you think theres a connection between the two parts of your life?
That’s a great question, because I’ve thought about it myself. There’s sometimes a weekend where I’d have to play a show, and fight (one time in the same day). I’d hate it, cause I’d have to be a tough guy when I fight, then I’d have to be a big softie when I sing. But they’re both outlets for me. They’re both arts, and it took a lot of dedication on my part to stick with Judo after 18 years to attain a black belt, so I’m proud of myself for that. That dedication has helped me everywhere else in life.
What would you like to say to Astoria, and your listeners?
Thanks to anyone who’s ever lent me an ear when I’ve been on stage. I love you guys. Coming out with my last solo record for a while in the next few months, then I’m off to perform with a band of my own. Please like my page at dannyleonard.com so you can stay in the loop.
Watch Danny Leonard performing his hit Safety Net below!