Schmidt was born 1970 in Austin, Texas, and grew up there. He started playing guitar at the age of 12. At age 20, he discovered he liked the blues after tracking the music of Jimi Hendrix back through Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, and Lightning Hopkins all the way to old country gospel and spirituals. He bought an acoustic guitar and eventually discovered the likes of Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Waits and John Prine who taught him about poetry and the melody of words.
After three years of college he joined the East Wind Community in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri for a year. He then became part of the Twin Oaks Community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for about four years, where he met fellow singer-songwriter Devon Sproule. At 25 Schmidt began writing songs—a developing talent which ultimately earned him the 2007 Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk award.
In 1999, he settled for a while in Charlottesville, Virginia where his songwriting flourished and he started sharing his songs with the public. That year he released his first recording, an album titled Live at the Prism Coffeehouse. In 2001 he released Enjoying the Fall. 2003 brought his third collection of songs, Parables & Primes, taking on mystical overtones and a sort of magical-realism reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Aesop.
He was part of the original King of My Living Room group of Charlottesville songwriters—which included such artists as Brady Earnhart, Danny Schmidt, Stratton Salidis, Jan Smith, Lance Brenner, Browning Porter and Jeff Romano—who would go on to do a series of concerts together, the first CD of which was recorded in 2001. He's appeared in each of the four performances since, including the latest November 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville.
The debut King of My Living Room performance in Charlottesville convinced fellow singer-songwriter, and future good friend Paul Curreri to make his home there. Schmidt, Curreri, and Sproule became housemates, with Paul and Devon marrying soon after. Curreri's wrote and recorded a letter in song form to Danny, who responds in yet-to-be-produced Two Guitars (which he has started to perform in 2009). Danny recorded his fifth album Little Grey Sheep (2008) in the Curreri/Sproule home, with Paul serving as production engineer.
2005 saw Schmidt’s music spread far and wide, with tours up and down the east coast and west coast, as well as tours of Alaska, England, The Netherlands, France and Italy.
Born into a Jewish family, he does not feel his religion is either distinct or critical to understanding his art. As he puts it, when discussing his song Sad Songs Walking:
As for any personal notes on this song... this is the first song that made me worry about how Christian imagery was gonna affect my Jewish family. Was I gonna be misconstrued as "goin' Jesus" on my people? This song's kinda campy, so I didn't take the concern too deeply to heart. But it certainly did cross my mind quite a few times as I shared the first recordings with various chosen family.
And it has been an issue for me, actually, with a bunch of later songs... the fear of being identified as something I'm not, or as believing in something I don't. 'Cause really, my religious, philosophical and political belief systems don't fit into any traditional nomenclature -- as I suspect most people's don't. But it's a vulnerable position, putting little snippets of expression out there for your loved ones, and others, to extrapolate from.
Danny Schmidt's writing spans from deeply-rooted Appalachian mountain gospel to haunted English balladry, from syncopated Piedmont country blues to vagabond protest folk-stumpery. He is considered a troubadour in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Dave Carter. He delivers his songs with a quiet power, informed by a complex understanding of humanity. In the Spring 2008 issue of Sing Out! magazine, journalist Matt Watroba noted that Schmidt's arrangements are powerful, his performances are laid-back yet energetic, while his lyrics are sheer poetry.
"Stylistically and musically, Danny's writing spans an impressively diverse reach, from deeply-rooted Appalachian mountain gospel to haunted English balladry, from syncopated Piedmont country blues to vagabond 60's protest folk-stumpery. He tackles universal themes of love, loss, and longing . . . restless discontent and grateful joy. And he captures both the sorrow and the beauty inherent in our everyday lives with the wisdom of a perceptive, compassionate elder and with the innocent awe and tenderness of a child."
"With beautifully crafted, lonesome pines music and complex beguiling words, he would've fitted neatly on the bill at any '60s coffee house alongside Townes Van Zandt or Leonard Cohen."—Andy Fyfe , Q Magazine
"The songs are fascinating and intriguing, even mysterious. The singing is warm and unassuming, letting the stories lead him. The melodies are captivating."—Marilyn Rea Beyer , WUMB
Awards, honors, distinctions
- He was one of six winners of the 2007 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk award selected from 32 finalists who performed during the 2007 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Concerts on May 26 & 27.
- He signed with Red House Records in November 2008, joining such other notable artists as The Wailin' Jennys, Loudon Wainwright III, Robin & Linda Williams, John McCutcheon, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott on the label.
- He was part of the original King of My Living Room group of Charlottesville songwriters—which has come to include such notable artists as Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule—the first CD of which recorded in 2001. He's appeared in their performances since, including the latest November 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville.
- Sixty of his songs, lyrics, and arrangements from five albums have been published in The Songs of Danny Schmidt: 1999-2007 (2008).
- Live at the Prism Coffeehouse (2000) The Orchard—ASIN: B00001ZWI8
- Enjoying the Fall (2001) Live Once Records—ASIN: B00005RTQX
- Make Right the Time (2003) Live Once Records—ASIN: B000CAGHXW
- Parables & Primes (2005) Live Once Records—ASIN: B000A2H5K6
- Little Grey Sheep (2008) Waterbug Records—ASIN: B000YHL8K0
- Instead the Forest Rose to Sing (2009) Red House Records
- King of My Living Room (2001) King of My Living Room recorded at LA.B Space Live Arts theater, Charlottesville, Virginia—ASIN: B000CAFY5Y
- King of My Living Room (2003) King of My Living Room recorded at Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, September 5, 2003; performed "Stained Glass"—ASIN: (unknown)
- Our Christmas Present (2008) Our Community Place, "Little Drummer Boy" performed with Carrie Elkin
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 2007 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk award
- ↑ King of My Living Room History
- ↑ Star Maker Machine "Drinkin' Songs: The Danny Schmidt Edition", March 11, 2009.
- ↑ Austin360.com review
- ↑ Sing Out! Magazine, Spring 2008
- ↑ South Padre International Music Festival Danny Schmidt profile
- ↑ King of My Living Room History
Articles, reviews, interviews
- "Danny Schmidt saves the best for last" review of Instead the Forest Rose to Sing by Brendan Fitzgerald, Issue #21.12 :: 03/24/2009 - 03/30/2009 of C-ville Weekly.
- "Danny Schmidt brings original sounds to Homer" by Chris Eshleman in Homer News September 15, 2008.
- "Danny Schmidt: Little Grey Sheep (Waterbug)" review by Matt Watrobain in Spring, 2008 Sing Out! magazine.
- "Red House Signs Danny Schmidt!" announcement Red House Records November 2008.
- "Austin-based Jewish musicians play every musical genre" by Andrea Abel, The Jewish Outlook, March 2008.
- Little Grey Sheep review by Jim Caligiuri in Texas Platters section of The Austin Chronicle February 8, 2008.
- "Danny Schmidt: Little Grey Sheep (Waterbug Records)" review by Darryl Smyers published February 20, 2008 in Dallas Observer.
- "Danny Schmidt: Little Grey Sheep (Waterbug)" review in January 2008 TexasMonthly.
- "Musician praises 'honesty' of folk during Alaska tour" by Erica Goff, September 12, 2008 Fairbanks Daily-Newsminer.
- "Danny Schmidt, with Louis Ledford" review of December 6, 2006 Gravity Lounge show by Brendan Fitzgerald in Issue #19.50 :: 12/11/2007 - 12/17/2007 of C-ville Weekly.
- "Reviews: Danny Schmidt--Enjoying the Fall" September 06, 2001 Indie-Music.com.
- Interview with Danny Schmidt in New York City, 2001 (uncited).
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