AMHERST—There was an atmosphere of strain, and fervor in which papers were being printed and textbooks highlighted when I met with Danny Monger.
Amidst finals season, I sat down with the singer/songwriter in the basement of Du Bois, observing all the students bustling to finish last minute final projects and essays, as we had a polarly relaxed conversation about his music.
Daniel Lewis Monger Jr. “Danny Monger” is a 21-year-old public health major minoring in information technology as a junior at the University of Massachusetts. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a full plate to you, the Scituate native is also an incredible musician, using his music as a cathartic act of release, while providing the world with his soothing vocals.
I’ve found with many musicians, their focus may shift to whatever will get them more listeners, more views or more money and while these are all very beneficial things in the world of entertainment, there comes a time when the artist becomes corrupt if they do everything for these reasons instead of what originally got them into the music.
After talking with Monger, it became very evident from the jump that he was an artist that created music because he needed to for himself, not for any other reasons attached to clout.
We have had so many great acts popping up over Mass recently, but it seems they don’t get the exposure they deserve until they leave. Being from Mass, how do you feel about this?
Monger: I feel like that’s kind of the next step for a lot of artists to get greater exposure, through travel. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the band Vundabar but they are a local band from my town, and they really blew up in Europe first. It took them there, and since then they’ve come back, played a bunch of Boston shows, and they’re always on tour. They’re really great, a great example of why artists may need to travel. ‘Cus it’s just a good way to expose yourself and I feel like you definitely grow as an artist.
Do you see yourself moving to expand your music?
Monger: If I gained a following outside of Mass I would love to travel, but MA is always going to be my home.
How long have you been making music?
Monger: For a long time, since I was in maybe like fourth grade. When I was in fifth grade I had the opportunity of sharing a song I wrote with the frontman of Guster, Ryan Miller. It was really cool ‘cus he wrote me a letter back, and that’s back when letters were the main way of communicating with people you didn’t know. Yeah, that was really cool, and it inspired me a lot to keep going with it.
That’s dope. What initially made you want to start making music in fourth grade?
Monger: I had my first guitar when I was in third grade—I forget the name I think it was like a Jay Turser Stratocaster. It was like a prepackage where you get the guitar, the little amp, the strap, everything. My dad plays guitar. He suffered a back injury and that kind of led to him playing. I think that’s the main reason why I wanted to learn as well. I also really enjoyed learning other people’s’ music and playing songs. I think the first song I learned was “Time of Your Life” by Green Day and “Hey There Delilah.” I mean those songs were pretty big around the time, but there’s something cool about writing your own music. Just the self-expression of it all.
Who would you say are some of your musical inspirations?
Monger: So, growing up I listened to a lot of rock music primarily and alt-rock. I listened to Weezer a lot ‘cus my dad really liked Weezer, I’m also a big Foo Fighters fan and Nirvana. In middle school, I started a rock band with my friends and we did like an 80s hair metal type of thing like Van Halen, we did Rat, we did all these bands. Since then I’d say my biggest influences overall have been people like John Mayer; James Bay is really good and a new band I discovered recently, Car Seat Headrest. I saw them play at MASS MoCA and I just think their sings are really honest. Their songwriter, Will Toledo is just a very honest musician, and I think that’s something I aspire to be as well, just genuine.
Are you behind the production of your songs?
Monger: So, I do have a producer — and you should look him up @bglid on Instagram — he masters and mixes my music. But, I record all the tracks, and the most recent song I put out was the first one I tried to record with like drums, bass, backing vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and piano. I tried to do everything that could be experienced from a full band perspective. But it just sounds so much better once I get my full mix back from him, he’s been such a big help to me.
How many instruments do you play?
Monger: I just play guitar and sing. I used to drum a little bit in middle school, but I wouldn’t say I “drum” or anything.
From the songs you have put out so far, love seems to be a central theme in your music. Such as “Glow” which you wrote about your girlfriend — if I’m not mistaken. How would you say relationships influence your craft?
Monger: I’d say they have the biggest impact on my music in general. These kinds of flashbulb emotions that I feel in certain moments definitely carry over into my songwriting, whether that be anger, frustration—and this isn’t only just with my girlfriend or anything. Like my latest song is not about my girlfriend, I’ll say that. But that one was definitely more angry I’d say. Relationships are definitely a huge part of my songwriting, just cause its these intimate moments that everyone has and everyone can relate to, and I just draw from it.
How would you describe the songwriting process for you?
Monger: I usually write the music first—I write the guitar. Then, I spend about a day just spitting out lyrics—freestyling almost until something sticks. I also write lyrics without music and every day I try to practice that and sometimes it’s like putting a puzzle together. I’ll like have lyrics I’ve written that I think will match a certain guitar riff that I’ve written, and I can kind of piece it together. But other times, I really do sit down and try to write the whole thing.
So would you say your lyrics are drawn from real life experiences?
Monger: Oh yeah definitely. I always wanna be honest with my lyrics and my music. So I’d definitely say they’re drawn from my real life experiences.
Where do you see yourself after graduation? Still pursuing music?
Monger: I think I’m definitely gonna continue to pursue music. It’s something I hope to continue and plan on continuing regardless of where it goes—if I gain popularity or not. I’m always gonna do it. It’s a form of self-expression and that’s very therapeutic, but I definitely will be pursuing a job in public health, maybe working as an epidemiologist, best of both words ideally.
In this last year, what have you learned about making music and being in the industry?
Monger: It’s very difficult. It’s not something you learn overnight, I‘m still learning the best methods of recording myself. I’d say probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is making connections is super important. Whether that be the producers, people that can share your music, you just find different opportunities with every person you meet, and it can really help you and that person grow together and I think that is really important.
Who would you say have been some of your most vital connections so far?
Monger: I’d say the producer I mentioned before, my friend Robert Martino. He’s a rapper that’s starting to blow up, and he’s helped me so much. He’s done all my artwork for me too and just been a big influence in helping me get my music on Spotify and Apple Music.
You post a good amount of covers on YouTube. Recently posted a cover of “Stealing Cars” by James Bay—which was beautiful by the way. How would you say YouTube’s platform allowed you to grow as an artist?
Monger: Thank you. I’ve been using YouTube since I was really little, I mean even before music I would just make little videos with my friends and put it on there. YouTube is just a great platform overall for sharing music. Whether it be covers or originals, it’s just another platform to gain a following. And that’s not the main purpose of it, but it is a great way of sharing my music with people that may not see it if they didn’t follow me on Instagram or something like that.
When can we expect more music from you?
Monger: This summer definitely, I have 10-15 songs ready. It’s just tough with finals to have the time to record. I have the material. I think this summer is gonna be a good few months of music for me.
Maybe an album?
Monger: I think an EP. I think I’m gonna aim for five to six songs for single release first, and I’ve already written a few albums. I’ve got so much music I wanna put out. It’s just tough recording it, but I’m figuring it out more and more with each song that I put out.
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Email Astghik at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @astghikjourn.