Published Jan 01, 2006Danny Michel has great taste in cars. He used to be easily recognisable in his hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, tooling around in an old hearse (à la Neil Young). Now he's behind the wheel of an 80s Camaro, an admittedly more appropriate representation of his current status, not to mention his whimsical personality.
"It was kind of love at first sight," he says when we meet him at the garage; his baby has to get a new door handle. "I saw a guy driving it and I started bugging him to sell it to me. After about a year he gave in. It's really the only perk I've allowed myself for becoming a rock star."
Of course, Michel says this with tongue firmly planted in cheek, since for the past decade the mercurial singer/songwriter has been touted as a next big thing. But with his recent signing to Canadian super-indie Maple Music, and the release of his latest album, Tales From The Invisible Man, all the pieces now seem to be in place.
The beauty of it all is that Michel has done it on his own terms. Like nearly all of his previous solo albums, he put Tales together by himself at his home studio located in the wilderness off Highway 401 between K-W and Guelph, once again proving his skills as a multi-tasking musician and producer. Yet, it is the continuing advancement of his songwriting imagine Bowie and Tom Waits meeting at Joe Strummer's house that has got him this far.
"I've had a few people accuse me of this album sounding more commercial because I'm on a label now, but that couldn't be further from the truth," he says. "I made this record alone, and because of that the label got interested. So this record sounds exactly the way I wanted it to sound. If money wasn't an option, there are definitely a few producers I'd like to work with, but I find it really exciting how much I learn every time I make a record. Even still, I can listen to it now and think of things I could have done better."
There haven't been any complaints so far, especially since the first single, "Perfect," has been hitting mainstream radio and video. In fact, Michel couldn't be more pleased with the video, a charming piece directed by Ante Kovac, in which he plays a mailman. "We came up with the concept together where I'd be listening to the song on my Walkman while I'm delivering mail and that would be it," Michel says. "It suits the song because it's really about nothing, but at the same time it's about appreciating the beautiful things in life. So with the video, the idea is this mailman walking through a shitty world with people complaining to him everywhere he goes, but all he sees are the good things."
All in all, it's a fairly apt metaphor for Michel's career. With more than ten years of hard touring and five independent releases under his belt, he has never wavered from his craft, while maintaining much of the humour and vitality that was present from the first time he stepped on a stage in his hometown.
"It is interesting to see that I have a body of work now," he says. "When you're in the middle of it, it's like you're holding something so close to your face that you can't read it. But now I can sit back and notice reoccurring themes that I wouldn't have known existed if I hadn't made five records. If there's any small regret I have, it's that I probably stayed in Kitchener too long. But at the time it was so easy to play here and everyone was so supportive that it was hard to wean myself off that. I'll always be grateful, but it was like a decade-long frosh week."