"Link couches his lyrics in well-crafted, often piano driven arrangements that seem to draw influence from Counting Crows and Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac...a sound that suites his introspective vocal style very well."
It's been three years, a five song EP and one review in Billboard since Austin's Daniel Link set out to find his footing in the not-so stable world of pop/rock music. An interesting three years at that. After all, not many newcomers to the Austin music scene find a South by Southwest acceptance package in their mailbox on the first try. The sell out SXSW showcase that paired Daniel with Indigo Girl Amy Rae turned more than a few heads. And the crowds at Saxon Pub waiting to see Bob Schneider have been pleasantly surprised as well, seeing Daniel and his band put forth a performance equaled to that of Schneider's Lonelyland. "It feels like a good start," Daniel says, "I'm just grateful people are receptive to me and my music." More than receptive, Daniel has managed to build an impressive fan base across Texas without the vehicle of a major record release. Not to mention Austin's Mayor Gus Garcia declaring July 11th as Daniel Link Day in Austin, Texas.
So how does a relatively "unknown artist" achieve such notoriety? "It's his karma," says Tom Johnson, Daniel's co-producer on the new Ghost Stories CD," he's one of the most focused guys I know...and he's got a lot of genuine talent. That plus the fact he really knows how to treat people. Those three things are very rare to find in one artist." In truth, Daniel seems to have a very good instinct about music, business and people. He has organized a vibrant street team of enthusiastic volunteers spanning from Raleigh North Carolina, New Orleans, Saint Louis, Dallas, Houston and Austin. All of who are rapidly spreading the word about Ghost Stories. He has surrounded himself with a talented array of players and professionals who have pulled together to produce an independent pop/rock album that matches the quality of many major releases.
With his new concept CD Ghost Stories, Daniel has accomplished a very ambitious recording under his own label Link's Open Air Music (LOAM). "I wanted to make a straight forward rock album...something that sounds good and has something to say." Following the standards set by his major influences, Daniel brings the marriage of sophisticated, poetic lyrics with solid rock and roll. Link laughs that while his friends went off to college, he was locked away in his room consumed by albums from Fleetwood Mac, Dan Fogleberg, Wings and Tom Petty. "Actually, in a very real way, I was studying song writing from our contemporary masters." Indeed, that time was well spent. Not only does Daniel demonstrate keen pop/rock sensibility in his song writing, but he has a distinctive feel for sequencing the tracks as well. This album tells a story. The opening track Ghost sets up the album. "The ghost is that part of us that has been forgotten," Daniel explains, "that essential essence of ourself. But because of the dark things that happen in life, we sometimes forget who we really are because we build walls to protect us. Sometimes we protect ourselves too well...we become angry...cold and distant. But that ghost deep inside us is there haunting us...trying to come back...trying to remind us of who we really are, and what we are capable of doing." While Ghost Stories does begin with dark story lines, the album resolves with a climatic end.
Link spent a year in the studio recording and polishing Ghost Stories. After assembling his band in the spring of 2001, he refrained from booking live shows so that the band could cultivate their sound in the safe environment of the studio. "I have a very loose approach to producing," Daniel says, "I chose my players based on their talent, intuition, and compatibility. They are all excellent musicians. And I believe that allowing them to be creative artists is the best way to get the best performance from them."
Since Daniel was going for a rock flavor in the new album, the songs were first filtered through lead guitarist and co-producer Stewart Cundy. A long time veteran of the Austin music scene, Stewart has opened for The Police, Omar and the Howlers, and Lou Ann Barton. "It's pretty easy to figure out what direction Danny is going with his songs because he writes in a way that establishes the mood." Cundy says. "Plus he plays piano in guitar friendly chords, so it really was enjoyable to come up with cool riffs." While Daniel's rhythmic piano playing is the underlying bed throughout Ghost Stories, it is the big "wall a guitar" that brings out the energy and accents this album. Most notable guitar performances include Tangled, Storm in My Heart, True Perspective, Séance, Be Home Soon, and the album finale Good Life...a song that one would expect Mick Jagger to strut out on stage to.
To further capture the feel and spontaneity needed for rock and roll, Daniel chose to record the rhythm section and piano tracks live. "We brought in the entire band, "Daniel says, "and the bass, drums and piano tracks were all recorded together so the band dynamics would shine through." Because Daniel's bass player Rich Nordenberg, and drummer Coy Fuller have played together for years, they were able to achieve a very organic vibe that resonates throughout Ghost Stories. Nordenberg also locks in with drummer Tom Johnson on the hypnotic tune Telepathy.
The album is well balanced with striking ballads strategically placed in the set as well. Someone in Austin (co-writen with lyricist James Odle Jr) opens with piano and a hint of viola courtesy of Eugene Goft of the Austin Symphony. The longing tug of steel guitar (Charlie Richards) echoes just below a beautiful vocal performance from Daniel as he sings about a girl who packs up her guitar and heads for someone else. Another showpiece on the album is Christine. Completely arranged with acoustic instruments, this song spotlights Link's strong sense of melody, and his eloquent lyric writing: "Christine, there's a flower on the table...there's a message in the rain...there's a fire in your halo...there is lightening in your veins..."
The icing on the cake is the intricate harmony vocals layered in the songs. To punctuate Daniel's tenor vibrato, alto vocalist Chelle Murrey and soprano Cheri Chilcote are featured on the album. The most notable vocal performance of the three singers is found on one of the album's first single, Séance. "It's Karen Carpenter smooth," Daniel adds with a big smile, "when we went to mix down Séance, we soloed out the vocals to set the levels and effects...and the hair stood up on the nap of my neck...I just couldn't believe how lovely the voices melted together. I'm very proud of the work we did on that song." The momentum of Séance builds as a blast of B-3 organ swells in the solo. While Daniel notes classic rock icons as his influence, Séance resonates with a freshness more akin to Counting Crows and Rob Thomas.
So, with Ghost Stories finished and the band all prepared Daniel plans to tour beginning in late 2002 through most of 2003. A major radio campaign has been rolled out to target AAA, college and community radio stations across Texas, parts of California, the Saint Louis/Chicago area and New York City. It will be very interesting to see what the future holds for this up and coming artist.