Dane Hartsell’s self titled debut album, on 21 Music/Universal Music Canada, is all him — produced by Dane, played by Dane, sung by Dane.
The singer and multi-instrumentalist, who came to the attention of Chris Smith Management (Nelly Furtado, Fefe Dobson, Kreesha Turner) when he was on the same bill as R&B singer Divine Brown, went on to play in her band, as well as tour extensively with 2007 Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila. But now it’s time for him to launch his own project, one that he has been honing for a couple of years.
Produced by Dane on GarageBand in his small Toronto apartment, the vocals are packed with soul, the guitar with fiery intensity. Dane played all the instruments, except for the airplane engine heard outside his window that he kept in the song “Further Away” Sometimes, he’d even record his vocals while lying down on the couch, so he could capture that sleepy state for songs like “I Just Don’t Love You Anymore.”
The setting was so intimate in fact that his girlfriend was often just feet away for inspiration and support. The first single, the soulful ballad “A Little Love,” was written on his acoustic guitar late one night, as she was curled up asleep on the couch. “I looked across and saw her sleeping and started writing about the fact that I can just look at somebody and get that inspiration,” Dane says. “It hit me — that little bit of love can make all the difference. You can be in the worst situation and just having somebody pat you on the back and say everything’s gonna be okay helps so much.”
Love To Watch song that Dane wrote about a previous relationship he found difficult to leave, but knew he had to in order for her to find someone more compatible. “I hate to see you go,” he sings in the chorus, “but I love to watch you leave/I’ve finally found the strength to give you what you need.”
Born and raised in Woodstock, Ontario, Dane grew up listening to soul, rock, reggae and hip hop and got his start singing in the church. At 19, with the full encouragement of his parents , he moved to Toronto to pursue a music career. That first year, he played as many jams and open mics as he could and was quickly embraced by the local music community. While continuing to write and record his own songs, he worked as a side guitarist for Andrea Wasse, Hill Kourkoutis, and for two years with Eva Avila. One evening, he was playing a solo acoustic set at a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert when Divine Brown, due onstage next, saw him and told her manager, Chris Smith, to check out his MySpace page. Dane soon became part of the impressive CSM roster.
Dane’s first batch of material, written by himself and with various collaborators, was more rock-oriented. He completed two albums worth of songs, one set with producer Jeff Dalziel (Edwin, Alyssa Reid) in Toronto, the other with Dave Lichens (Fefe Dobson) in Los Angeles. He also worked with CSM’s Noel “Gadget” Campbell (Drake, Saukrates, k-os).
“I love both the albums. The songs are great. The producers did amazing jobs, but the label could tell it wasn’t really me,” reflects Dane. “It started becoming evident that it wasn’t showcasing what is good about me. The rock music was almost too loud to have the things that are special about my voice shine through. But all three producers taught me what I know about production now. I wouldn’t have been able to produce my own album had they not shown me those things.
“My music now is an amalgamation. It’s very pop-based, but when I produced it I drew the beats from old hip hop stuff and I drew the guitar lines from old Hendrix albums that I would listen to and when it came time to do the vocals I would sing like me – and what came out was a little more soul.”
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