Danny Black’s shift in style

Guitarist Danny Black
Danny Black’s latest album, ‘Black Ryno,’ is due out Nov. 13. For his longtime fans, expect a dramatic shift in tone, voice and style. | Image: Kirby Sybert

When he was only 8-years-old, Philadelphia-based guitarist Danny Black began learning to play guitar and sing harmony.

Music quickly developed into an obsession, and by the time he was a teenager he was playing in multiple touring bands, and spending nearly every waking moment developing his craft. 

After years of hard tours and recording sessions, Black found success as a founding member of the band Good Old War and as Joshua Radin’s sideman. He has shared the stage with artists like Alison Krauss & Union Station, Brandi Carlile, Counting Crows, Josh Ritter, Guster, The Head and the Heart and many more. In between commitments, Black found time to record two instrumental solo albums that sent him on extensive tours. In contrast to Good Old War’s brand of folky-harmony laden pop, these solo albums are made up of intricate guitar pieces that take the listener on cinematic adventures in sound.

With the release of his last two instrumental albums “Adventure Soundtrack” and “Themes,” Black has generated over 5 million streams and featured on numerous Spotify playlists like Electric Relaxation and Indie Folk for Focus. After developing his immersive instrumental soundscapes, he found a new sound to build on with his third solo album, “Black Ryno,” due out in mid-November.

On “Black Ryno,” Black’s listeners will immediately hear a shift in musical style, most noticeably being no instrumental pieces. He now evolves from his signature solo guitar pieces by adding on lead vocals and performing all the instruments on the album, aside from drums which are all performed by Ryan Zimmaro (of Vacationer). 

PW recently chatted with Black about the new album and his career.

You jumped into music early in your life. Who were some of the people who encouraged and influenced you in your younger years?

I definitely did. My original hero is my dad. He played guitar and wrote songs and I tried to be just like him. I was lucky to find other kids right away who had musical parents. We started bands and wrote songs. By the time I was in high school, I was playing in basically every local band and touring up and down the east coast. 

I was also fortunate to start getting into music just as the Seattle scene exploded, and I took a lot of inspiration from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden etc. At the same time, I was obsessed with the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Clapton. Basically what became known as classic rock. 

At the same time, there was a killer punk scene happening in LA and I got deep into Bad Religion, NOFX, Lagwagon and then east coast bands like Fugazi. Of course I expanded into so many other kinds of music as I grew up but these were the artists that got me started.

“As far as why I made this record instead of another instrumental album, really it’s just that it happened and I couldn’t fight the inspiration. It was almost like the songs were guiding me and I just let the music go where it wanted.”

Singer-songwriter Danny Black

“Black Ryno” is scheduled to drop Nov. 13. It’s a new venture for you, following your first two instrumental albums. Talk a little about how it came together, and why did you change things up since your first two albums were so successful?

I never really planned on making this album, to be honest. I had been jamming regularly with Ryan Zimmaro of Vacationer between tours and always wished I could record his playing and write to it. He’s a spectacular drummer. He’s incredibly original and solid as a rock. 

One day I got him to come over and play to different click tracks for an hour. Somehow that was all I needed to write an entire album. I just dove so deep into it. Originally I expected to have other singers resing my parts or write new melodies, but I ended up feeling pretty good about my vocal and now I couldn’t imagine anyone else singing these tunes. 

As far as why I made this record instead of another instrumental album, really it’s just that it happened and I couldn’t fight the inspiration. It was almost like the songs were guiding me and I just let the music go where it wanted. I’ve also always been a fan of artists that do what they want to do as opposed to what people expect of them. While some will always prefer certain sides of an artist, I want to surprise my audience at every turn. I’m fortunate to be at the beginning of my solo career and I’m enjoying the exploration. There will surely be more instrumental music to come, but there might be more albums in this spirit as well.

Have the pandemic and all of its closures impacted your career? How have you spent your time in self-isolation?

They sure have. As any fan of Good Old War knows, we have always toured hard. We became known as a band that spent much of its time on the road. In addition to that, I’ve spent the last year or so as a sideman for Joshua Radin, who also tours like a champ. Beyond that, I’ve been lucky enough to get in some good solo runs as well as join in on guitar for Maps and Atlases occasionally. 

Without touring being a possibility, I experienced a little bit of an existential crisis. I didn’t really know who I was without that side of my life. Luckily, my wife and I had just started renting a house in Conshohocken so I set up a home studio and dove deep into a million projects. In a lot of ways it’s been the most productive time of my life. Besides recording a new album of my own, I’ve worked on a myriad of projects for film, collaborations and TV. My main source of income now is teaching lessons, which I absolutely love and I teach students virtually all over the world.

Philly’s Danny Black spent his downtime during the pandemic recording a new album of his own and working on a myriad of projects for film, collaborations and television. | Image: Kirby Sybert

After the album is released and the pandemic clears, what’s ahead for you? New music? Live performances?

All of that! I can’t wait to hit the road! More music, more tours, hugging my friends and family

What are the best ways for your fans to hear your music and stay up to date with everything you’re doing?

Please follow me on Instagram! @dannyblack. I post on there as much as I can to stay involved. For listening, please listen on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and I sometimes put up some random covers and interesting music on my SoundCloud. For videos, I’m on YouTube.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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