Heard on Soul Saturday

Dani Darling Explores Psychedelic Concepts on “The Future” EP

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Image credit: Noah Elliott Morrison/Metro Times

Her position as an Amplify fellow enabled her to experiment with new creative processes and styles.

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Dani Darling describes herself as a “lush chanteuse, guitarist, producer and songwriter.”

The Ann Arbor-based performer got her start performing when she was young. “I played violin. I did choral music,” she says. “I’m an identical triplet, so I grew up singing with those girls. And then once we kind of branched off, I started playing guitar. I started singing back up and a reggae band and a lot of other stuff until I started to find my own way with kind of the lo-fi scene.”

While she has formal training in vocal performance, Darling’s style requires more flexibility than what she was taught in school. “For what I wanted to do, I had to eventually unlearn all of the technique that I learned in school with vocal music, because you can learn so much and then it can hold you back creatively,” she explains. “I’m a reformed, trained vocal singer.”

Looking to The Future

Darling’s new EP, “The Future,” is the culmination of her work as through the Amplify Fellowship, which aims to cultivate African American creative talent in Washtenaw County.

They allowed me to record my own EP, or project and gave me recording time and resources,” she explains.

The formal support provided by Amplify was a departure from her normal process. “Usually, I’m tinkering on my own late night in a room,” she says. “This time, it was like, ‘OK, what do I want to do?’”

She used the opportunity to explore the fun, psychedelic concepts that can be found throughout “The Future” EP. Her previous EP, “Mage,” addressed the loneliness that resulted from pandemic-related isolation, so she viewed her more recent project as an opportunity to talk about tapping into imagination. 

We decided to do a lock-in for New Year’s Eve. Eight hours,” she recalls. “It was very ambitious, and a lot of ideas came out of that jam session. But I think the biggest idea was [the single] ‘The Future.’”

Holding a jam session on New Year’s Eve allowed for a sort of catharsis and the inspiration behind the new EP. “It was the end of a really tough year — 2020 was really hard,” recalls Darling. “We were all finally with each other, which hadn’t been happening because of the pandemic, so I think in that moment, we were just kind of waiting on the future.”

The future is still looking bright for Darling, who recently had the opportunity to collaborate with internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Flint musician Tunde Olaniran.

Yo-Yo Ma is doing a residency at U of M, and he’s been working very closely with Tunde Olaniran … who is a favorite of mine in the area,” says Darling. “Tunde asked me if I would be willing to put together a collaborative performance art piece to reflect on what Yo Yo Ma is going to be releasing.”


Listen: Dani Darling on making her new EP “The Future” and collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma.


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Nick Austin, Host, Soul Saturday

Nick Austin hosts Soul Saturday, merging genres like soul and hip-hop with electronica and funk into a rich tapestry of sound that is uniquely Detroit.

naustin@wdet.org Follow @nickaustinwdet

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