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STAY IN TOUCH
Danielle Howle is a free spirit on a mission: “I want to be your friend, and I want to blow your mind,” she says. On her latest album, Current, the South Carolina songbird accomplishes both with tenderness, charm, and ease.
A lifelong artist and natural storyteller, Howle has lived a million lives in one, releasing well over a dozen studio albums in a four-decade career that has traversed genres, styles, and cultures, encompassing everything from country-swamp-blues and jazz to folk, southern rock, indie, and Americana – all while endlessly exploring the depths of the human condition. She’s opened for legends like Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt, and was a close friend of the late singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, but Howle doesn’t focus on, nor does she live in the past: Her head and her heart are in the present, as is made abundantly clear throughout her highly anticipated sixteenth studio album, Current (out November 2023 via Kill Rock Stars Nashville).
“I’ve been watching this Earth for a long time, and it’s still fascinating,” Howle says, reflecting on her work to date. “I find wonder in everything on some level. I’m still curious and captivated by the human experience; I’m a current reporter on that.”
Howle’s generation-spanning career began in the late 1980s as a part of Columbia, SC-based new wave band Lay Quiet Awhile. She later helmed her own band, Danielle Howle and the Tantrums, before finding her true calling as a solo artist. Current is a particularly intimate, up-close-and-personal record that puts Howle and her raw humanity front and center.
“I wanted to be folk as f***, man,” she laughs. “Staying very earthy and folky.”
Her vision is one of urgency and connection. “I’m just listening to what my spirit and the earth wants me to write right now,” Howle admits. “I feel like my songs are reminders that we’re not alone, and we’re part of something greater than ourselves, and there’s a responsibility there. That’s where I feel things, but I don’t want to say that out loud; I just want to live it through my observations and what I write about.”
Current exists at the epicenter of Howle's singular vision. “Producer Jeff Leonard, Jr wanted to record an album with a very intentional ensemble that highlighted my voice and flows with my sonic essence,” she says. Working with Leonard, Howle brought on bassist Kerry Brooks (Amy Ray Band) and guitarist Josh Roberts (Josh Roberts & the Hinges), along with accordion player Tony Lauria (Spottiswoode and His Enemies), all of whom added their own exemplary skills in great service to Howle’s songs.
"Some of these musicians met and played together for the first time virtually before we gathered for our in-person rehearsals,” Howle says. "I chose well! They gelled like magic and I realized this was a unique dream team situation. It was a beautiful collaboration among musicians, and I’m very proud of the album we created."
Current opens with “Live Through,” a rip-roaring introspection that hits hard and leaves an instant mark, all while the artist dictates a conversation with herself. “Why did I let all of that out of my mouth? Don’t you know I feel insane?” she sings at the start. “The purity of being that I keep feeling… let it stay within.”
“It’s about losing your ego enough to really be present and love people as they are, and have no expectations of them and of yourself – a lot of lyrical snapshots,” Howle says.
Living unapologetically in the moment, Howle packs her multifaceted artistry into Current with grace. On “Do That Again” she adds a Latin musical flare to the mix on a song dedicated to Columbia, South Carolina’s dance community. She explores the power of shock and devastation, and our ability to find deeper purpose in those experiences, in “Back in the Sun” and the achingly raw “The Damage Appears on the Frame.”
Howle balances those darker moments with lighter fares as well; the sweet folk song “I’m Alright” is an ode to seeing the good side of life, and not wasting time being angry or upset.
“In the past it’s been hard for me to talk about my work – about the songwriting process, so this is a new venture for me,” she says. “I’m older now, I’m confident in a lot of ways, and I’m successful as a human being. That might not seem like a big deal, but everybody’s got their own row to hoe and their things to move through. I feel confident in myself enough to completely steer the ship.”
Current is Danielle Howle at her most unabridged and unfiltered, sharing her innermost self for all to see, hear, and feel.
“I hope the music will inspire people to have a beautiful life. I hope my songs are their friends. I hope to make someone happy – for my music to be a blanket or a coat.”
© Mitch Mosk