Though he’s just released his first-ever single as a musical artist, LA-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Daniel Corey is hardly a stranger to the entertainment world. Already an accomplished writer and graphic artist, Corey (also known by the moniker, DangerKatt) has been netting dozens of awards for his screenplays and assorted writings, and penning titles such as ‘Moriarty’ and ‘Red City’ for coveted comics publisher Image Comics.
His new single “Nearsighted”–written during the pandemic–is a deeply introspective piece about the uncertainty, loneliness, and isolation he felt during quarantine. Released today along with an accompanying cyberpunk-style lyric video, the 70’s-flavored tune is a “love letter” of sorts to artists who have inspired Corey, such as Daniel Lanois, U2, and Peter Gabriel.
We spoke to Corey about his writing process and how it felt to produce something in an entirely different entertainment avenue.
You’re known largely for your comic book writing. This is the first time you’ve ever released any music as an artist, however. Had you ever recorded anything in a studio before?
Yes, I have recorded in a studio before, back when I was in school. Those were small projects, in the days before streaming services. While not much came of it commercially, the experience was invaluable. When I decided to dive back in as a recording artist, although the landscape had changed, I had an idea of the creative challenges before me.
It was a great experience working my producers, Dennis Morehouse and Alexx Calise, because they are both such veterans of the process. In creating my first single, Nearsighted, it was just a matter of all of us putting our heads together and doing what we know to bring the song to life. We accomplished a lot in a very small amount of time, and I am more than happy with the result.
How do you shift gears between writing comics and now writing songs? Is your process drastically different?
Yes and no. My background as storywriter goes back some years, when I started writing plays for a regional theater group in Florida. In doing that, I learned about structure and creating story through character moments. I would go on from there and adapt my skills to screenwriting, and then comic writing. Story structure from plays to comics was always the same, but presentation and pacing would change. So, each of those formats have commonalities, and you just have to come at them each with a slightly different approach.
On the stage, everything is in real time; there are no edits. For a comic, you isolate those individual moments and place them in three to five panels per page. In that sense, a song is like one panel of a comic. Writing a song is like entering a character’s head and pondering their inner monologue over the course of what would be just a few lines of dialogue.
What new things have you learned about the music industry during your time in the studio and prepping to release your new material? Did anything surprise you?
It was just astounding to me how much we could get done, given how tools have progressed. First, I was very happy with the fact that I had written a song that was so standalone and recordable. After discussions with Alexx and Dennis, we settled on keeping it simple, just two guitar tracks, my lead vocal, and then Alexx laying down several tracks of backing vocals. Thanks to the power of Logic and Dennis’ amazing editing abilities, the song came together rather quickly.
Another thing was the process that one goes through to prep for release. Registering with ASCAP and CD Baby, putting together the press materials, that was all a first-time process for me. While I won’t say it was easy, it really wasn’t that difficult. I mean, listening to streaming music every day, you do have a sense of how available music is now, and what it must be like for independent artists to get their work out there. But actually going through that process and seeing how the sausage is made is another thing, altogether.
At the end of the day, what I’ve really learned is the importance of starting off with a good song. The rest of it just flows from there.
Have you found any parallels between the music and comic world?
Definitely. The commercial aspect of art has commonalities across all media. An artist will create something, having no idea if anyone will notice or care. Then you go through an amazing amount of work to get it into the world. At some point, you are always going to be dependent on certain machinations to come together. People that are dealing with labels are definitely going to have some of the issues that I had working with publishers.
What do you feel differentiates you from other artists in the folk/acoustic/alternative genre?
I like to think of myself as an overall artist and creative, and that the visual and written work that I create bleeds into the music, and then back again. In 2007, I formed my company, DangerKatt, meant to house all of my creative projects and bring them under a single brand. The music that I’m making now is an outgrowth of that.
A few years ago, I started a quarantine photography project called Map of the World, (now an award-winning series) which was meant to give hope and encouragement to myself and others. My love of sci-fi and films like Blade Runner inspired me to take macro shots of my eyes, and then combine those images with other things that I love. It was an attempt at metaphorically finding and fixing problems in the world. I have the same philosophy in songwriting, and “Nearsighted” itself deals with an issue of vision and how we’re seeing the people and relationships in our lives.
The songs that I will be putting out over the next several months have a ’70s acoustic/Americana feel to them, but the visual aesthetic that I create around them will have an urban and futuristic feel. I’m calling this “Cyber-Americana,” a retro-futuristic way of thinking that tends to blend the past with the future, and vice versa. I didn’t want to just write nice folk songs that would be accompanied by bucolic photos of myself sitting on the banks of a river. That’s just not me, not at all. I like urban, and I like chaos. But I’m also compelled to find order in that disorder. I’m hoping that my music is a sort of scalpel that cuts through the noise to help find meaning.
Your guitar playing style incorporates a lot of fingerpicking and tapping. Where did you learn this technique and which artists would you say inspired you to play in this fashion?
I have developed what I think to be a fairly unique style of playing acoustic guitar, which alternates between ’70s fingerstyle and percussive tapping. I’ll perform whole songs in a Paul Simon Travis pick (Paul Simon being a huge influence, for sure), and in others I’ll go in hard with an “everything but the kitchen sink” style that alternates between picking, strumming and tapping. While none of those methods of playing are completely new to the world, when I combine it with my songwriting and vocal style, I think the result is something pretty unique; it will remind you of several artists that you know, but still has its own life and defining characteristics.
One of the things that really helped me develop was watching Daniel Lanois play; he never uses a pick. My playing doesn’t sound much like his, but I decided at some point that I was almost never going to use a guitar pick. That limitation brought invention. It really advanced my playing style, and it gave shape to my songwriting.
Other influences include U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Elbow, Beta Radio, REM, and Ray LaMontagne. In particular, Paul Simon, Daniel Lanois and Elbow have had a lot of influence on my lyric-writing. Phil Keaggy, Kaki King, and Andy McKee have been a big influence on my playing style.
How many more songs do you have in the queue? Can we expect more releases in the coming months?
I have written somewhere around 50 songs over the past few years, and right now, I am in the process of narrowing them down to about five, for an eventual EP release. I’m hoping this first album will embody the philosophy that I’ve been describing, which will pave the way for more music to be made in the future. And I certainly hope that people will get something from it and come along for the ride. Life can be lonely, but sometimes you just have to draw a colorful map of the world over your face and get into the adventure of it all.
Nearsighted is now available across all digital media retailers including iTunes. Learn more about Daniel Corey via dangerkatt.com, and be sure to follow him via Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.
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