March/April 2015 Lyric Contest Spotlight: Winner Owen Danoff

Owen Danoff
“No Such Thing (As You And Me)” 1st Place Written by Owen Danoff Interview by Caine O’Rear 

How long have you been writing songs?
I started when I was 15, so for about 10 years now.

I see you attended Berklee College of Music. What did you study there?
I graduated with a major in film scoring.

Did you take any songwriting classes?
When I first went to Berklee I planned on a songwriting major, but then I find out about film scoring and then my plan was to do a dual major, but then I called my Dad – who’s also a songwriter – and he said that it’s not something you have to go to school to do. For example, John Lennon didn’t have to go to school for it. You can just write songs on your own from writing a lot and listening to really good music, he said. So I figured I would need school a lot more when it came to scoring a film [laughs].

Have you scored any films yet?
No films, but I just finished doing the music for some PSAs for the American Medical Association. I know someone who was in charge of putting them together and they asked me to do the music.

When did you write “No Such Thing (As You And Me)”?
I wrote it last June. I released my first album last May and this was the second song I wrote since writing that album.

Do you think this is a typical song for you as a songwriter as far as the style or genre goes?
I think it is pretty typical. When I was writing it I was thinking about a musical. I had this whole scenario of who would be singing this song and why they would be singing it, and it formulated like that, which was something that was new for me, even if it sounds like the things I’ve written in the past.

Did you move to New York for music career reasons?
Yes, that was the intention.

How have you found the songwriting community there?
There are some really, really incredible songwriters there. There’s a place called Rockwood Music Hall that’s free and has live music all the time. For me I’m still trying to ingratiate myself into that whole scene. I like it so far. I’ve been there since May but I’ve been traveling a lot and going to D.C., so it’s been a lot of back and forth.

So your dad, Bill Danoff, was a pretty successful songwriter. He wrote “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” right?
Yeah, he had a band called Starland Vocal Band and they did “Afternoon Delight,” which he wrote as well. And then John Denver ended up recording a bunch of his songs, I think it was 12.

Did you grow up under his tutelage as far as playing music goes?
When I was growing up it was sort of inescapable. I would go to shows with him as an 8-year- old kid and get up on stage with everyone. And there was always music around the house and at parties there would always be people around the piano at the end of the night and people playing guitar. So it was always a huge part of my childhood growing up, before I started writing.

Do you try to write every day?
I try to write every day. My phone is full of notes and voice memos because I try to break down ideas when they come to me. I have a stack of them that I can pull from whenever I want to write. I try to stay in the mindset of it and try to write as much as possible.

Who are your favorite songwriters?
Right now Paul Simon is the biggest one for me. Bob Dylan, of course. John Mayer is another huge, huge inspiration of me. Warren Zevon is another huge one for me.