Last fall, (Phil) Danyew, one of the standout new artists of 2009, went on his first major tour
to support David Crowder*Band on their Church Music Tour. JFH's Roger Gelwicks had the privilege to sit down with Phil
at the Indianapolis, IN tour stop to talk about his two EPs, his musical influences and aspirations, and what lies ahead
for the singer/songwriter...
This interview took place on: 11/5/09.
Jesus freak Hideout (Roger Gelwicks): What were some of your musical ventures like
before pursuing this solo career? You were in a band called Farewell Down, correct?
I sure was! Well, that was a high school band. I kinda always did solo stuff. I was doing music in the church growing
up in high school. And I think I was in 9th grade when I joined that band. Well let me see, 9th or 10th grade, can't
really remember, but that lasted actually until about two years out of high school. So I was with them about four years.
During that time, I was doing solo music still, but I was playing bass in that band kinda doing a dual-vocal with the other
leader of the band. That was fun, and I actually think about it a lot. There's a lot of good memories about that.
But about two years out of high school is when I quit that band, and kinda just pursued what I was doing.
JFH (Roger): Your debut EP, Danyew EP, has such a unique electronic
rock sound to it. What would you say is the influence behind that?
Well, my favorite band is Radiohead, and I love Coldplay; obviously they're not really electronic. But I'm totally drawn
to electronic music. I like Imogen Heap, I love Bjork, and that's very much the influence behind that. Or like Air.
Do you listen to Air? (Roger: I think I've heard of them but I haven't heard any of
their music.) Just very digital music; it's all synth and electronic drums, like no real drums. I love that, and
I'm drawn to that sound. And probably the future of what I'll be doing be more and more electronic. I'm trying to find
the balance because what I've found that's really connecting live is kinda the more stripped back acoustic songs like
"Nothing Without You" or "Beautiful King." I'm trying to find the balance because I'm writing stuff when it's been
all electronic. I've been trying to find where that line is for me, but I definitely love the electronica, it's
JFH (Roger): What's your favorite song on the EP and why?
Um, I really like "Close Your Eyes," not just because it's electronic but because what it meant when I was writing it. I
wrote it, like, first year of college, so I was right out of high school. I grew up in a Christian school, Christian
family and grew up in very much a Christian "bubble." And I went to secular college and it was not widely accepted that
God is the Creator of the universe and people actually think you're an idiot, or you're just naďve and you're using God as
a crutch. I really struggled with it, and kinda started doubting the things I grew up believing. The story behind it is
I did a little soul-searching escapade, and at the end of the day, I realized, "There's no way that I cannot be created."
I was just studying the complexity of the human body and just how everything in the eye or in your lungs, everything has to
be working in perfect order, and it's infinitely complex! It's like there's no way that it could be chance. That's
kinda what it's about.
JFH (Roger): I thought it was interesting that the song was very apologetics-based.
Yeah, very much. What I believed in was simple until I questioned it. There's a line in it that's kinda the turning
point of the song, "I looked in the mirror, I was breathing". I remember the moment, and I don't look in the mirror
a lot, but God sorta touched me in that moment, like "Look what you're doing right now. How in the world are you living if
it's by chance?" And we're connected to something bigger; we're connected to God.
JFH (Roger): I've heard there's a really interesting story behind the song
"Beautiful King". What can you tell me about that?
Danyew: Well, I have a twin sister named Rachael Marie, and that's what it originally was.
I write all these songs, and my sister was like, "Why don't you ever write me any songs?" So I was like "Good question."
I would stay home and write all day, and she was like "I want a song!" So I started the song which was
"Rachael Marie, has anybody seen such a spirited girl?" And I got to the prechorus which was "And you'll always be
my only one." Which was kinda weird... Then I got to the chorus, which I really felt was the money, "Every word
that you say wields the beauty of angels." Man, my sister is a great person, don't get me wrong, but it just seemed too
epic for any human to be on the receiving end of. It took about two years to write, and I just realized that
God was giving me a worship song. Despite growing up in the church and despite leading worship for a big part of my life,
it's always been hard for me to write a congregational worship song. And even now, it's hard; I can't do it! It was kind
of a surprise attack that I got this song and God just hit me over the head with "Hey, here's a worship song!" So
"Rachael Marie" became "Beautiful King," after tweaking some lyrics. (Roger:
And I would never have guessed either!) *laughs* Yeah, and it was definitely a surprise to me, and it
took me awhile to realize what was happening.
JFH (Roger): Since you spent a lot of time touring with other new Sparrow artists
this year, like Josh Wilson and Sarah Reeves, are there any weird or memorable stories from the time on the road?
Danyew: Oh my goodness… Yeah, also with Michael Watson with Above the Golden State. I first met them not
this last September but the September of last year in the "New Faces" tour. We all instantly clicked, and going into it,
I remember thinking, "Aw, man, who knows how this is going to be… Usually artists are just weird." But we all clicked.
And it was cool because we were all separate pieces of the pie, and each person was different, but we instantly became
such good friends. There were some goofy moments, for sure. One of those I remember off the top of my head is on the
first tour, when we were all in the 17-passenger bus, and it was REALLY cramped. But the second tour we actually had a
[real] bus. It had these buttons that controlled these doors between the kitchen and the hallway where all the bunks are
and the back lounge. So there were these buttons to go in and out. One of us was just sitting in the doorway and the other
person (I think it was Josh) would hit the button and he would click it again right before it got to the person's face,
just to freak them out. Gosh, that was pretty lame and funny. Yeah, they're all just goofy people and there were a
thousand memories with them, but that was the one that came to mind right now.
JFH (Roger): Would you say you clicked so well because you were all on the same
path, being newly signed to the label?
Danyew: Yeah, I feel like it's even a testament to the sort of people Sparrow signs. We were very
like-minded, and there's a depth to all of them. It wasn't all fun and games, but they are real people with amazing
hearts to want to serve God, and do more than just play music, but accomplish something and do something good with their
music. I feel like that's the main part, but they are all great folks.
JFH (Roger): If you could tour with any artist, who would it be, and why?
Well, this is very much never going to happen, but I think it would be amazing to tour with Coldplay or Radiohead.
I don't know why I'd want to tour with them, because I'd be destroyed by comparison. *laughs* That would just be
a dream to do it, though. I feel more realistically down the road would be to tour with Switchfoot; that would be
super-duper fun. Just to have a stadium full of people all singing your songs I think would be the most ridiculous feeling
anyone could ever feel in the world.
JFH (Roger): Is there a full-length album from you in the works, and if so,
will it be of completely new material or an extension of Danyew EP?
Actually, this month we're releasing a three-song digital EP called the Wake Up EP.
We recorded thirteen songs; we were going to release a full-length, but then we decided it would be better to put out an
EP first. So out of thirteen songs recorded, we put out the six. And then the Wake Up EP, which is coming out this
month [November 2009], will include "Wake Up," a song called "Twilight" (which I'm actually playing tonight), and then
"Silver Lining." So that's coming out this month. I'm going back into the studio actually in December when I get back off
the tour and finish up some dates that I'm doing. We're either going to put out a full-length or another EP probably
"early next year-ish." I'm hoping for a full-length. It'll all be new stuff for sure. I definitely want a full-length.
I read a lot of reviews, and the big downfall is "We love the EP, it was just too short!"
JFH (Roger): What has God been teaching you lately?
I feel like lately God's been showing me how He's been faithful. Even in this tour, He's opened this huge door to let
tons of people come and hear my music. There's times where I crush and think "Am I doing what God really wants me to be
doing? Am I just wasting my time and does He want to be doing something else?" But He says, "I'm faithful. You don't need
to worry about what doors are going to open because I gave you this talent in the first place and I'm going to open the doors
I want to open." In seventh grade, I would never have thought I'd be doing what I'm doing today. But I definitely thought
God wanted me to start playing music. I feel like this music is my baby, and I just want it to be perfect, and I want
to convey the right image to people, and I get consumed thinking about stuff, and God's like, "You know what? Don't worry
JFH (Roger): It's like a pursuit of excellence, but you don't want it to be
clouded over with the wrong motivation.
Yeah, exactly! I don't want to strive over something and then mess it up. God's gonna help me do what He wants me to do.