Denny Strickland is an artist that should be on your country music radar y’all! The independent artist has racked up over half a million streams on Spotify, been named Rolling Stone‘s ‘Ten Country Artists You Need To Know’ and his latest single We Don’t Sleep has sat at the no.1 spot on CMT‘s 12-pack Countdown feature for three consecutive weeks. We caught up with Denny to discuss his biggest year yet, what’s in store for him in 2018 and the concept behind his debut album California Dreamin’.
Tell our readers a little about yourself. Where are you from originally?
Well originally I am an Arkansaw native. So many ties from Arkansaw; Johnny Cash being one of them. That was my stomping ground and then I was moved out to California at an early age and then moved back. A lot of my family stayed out there.
I just released my full-length album California Dreamin’, I’m so excited to have that project finally out. Those projects, full-length albums, take so long to make and then once you’ve made it you wait for the release. California Dreamin’ has come to be from my love of the West Coast. I’ve been dreaming of California, and I was like, ‘well, let’s flip that around and say California Dreamin’. That’s perfect for a title on an album’, and that is the first track on the record, which I didn’t want to let out any secrets, but i’m having a feeling that that may be my next single following We Don’t Sleep, which is my current single.
You started out as a competitive horse rider. What made you make the switch to music? That’s quite a contrast!
The connection with Johnny Cash-That was my transition. One of his band members (Marshall Grant) found me and ended up showing me the industry. I loved it from the start and I have from the get-go.
How has this had an impact on your career? Has Marshall Grant being a mentor influenced the way you have directed your career?
He was very impactful on his theories and he had a lot of experience under his belt having worked with Johnny Cash and all the acts that he was part of. That whole perception, I think I was able to take the old-school and make it new and with the way the business is, I was definitely influenced by so many genres and i’m glad that country is so open-minded.
Yes, there are a lot of different ways you can go with country genre-crossovers etc.
You’re so right, it so is. And with our current single We Don’t Sleep, we’ve been able to use those tools.
Being an independent artist, and having had such a successful 2017, does it suit you being your own boss or would you ever sign with a label?
Well, we’re independent with a major push. We’ve had support with Rolling Stone Magazine and CMT. I love being independent, as I am my own boss, like you said, but the market has definitely changed quite a lot. I think a lot of people are leaning more towards being independent, because of the freedom to do what you want to do and you can pick and choose what you like and dislike, but with the support of major publications (CMT, RS) I feel like a major and they’re so inviting here in Nashville. But, you’ve got to be heavily guarded in many ways wherever you are.
Going back to your album, were there any specific artists that influenced the sound of California Dreamin’? There are some pop/electronic elements to it, which makes it slightly different from other current releases.
Thank you for noticing. The West Coast has been my biggest influence and I’ve been painting that picture, making my world; that is my world. The album revolves around the West Coast and what it has to offer. In my world, when I close my eyes, I see myself going down the beach, cruising into Malibu and doing all of the things like surfing..
You take an honest approach towards your songwriting. Do you feel as though this has helped in your success, as the lyrics are relatable and honest to your fans?
Yeah, my emotions – I just display them for the world to see and it’s evident in all the songs. I am so hands-on and a very particular artist purely from a songwriter perspective – (in co-writes) they want you to have something to bring and not waste their day on something they have to work full on, you know, so when I walk into a write, I normally have a pretty clear direction on where I want it to go. With the producing, with the videos, everything – i’m just all involved with. You have to be.
Do you have a specific writing process and do you prefer writing independently or co-writing?
I do both. When I find people that I like, that share the same vision, it’s easy. When you don’t, you move on and explore and you see who is a key component and who is not and you build your list, just like every other part of the industry, the playing, the travelling, the producing, or strictly lyricists, you know.
Is there anyone in particular that you would like to collaborate with?
I really like the work of Lana Del Rey. I think it would be a really good collaboration. It would be similar to ‘We Don’t Sleep’. The female voice on it, her name’s Jaida Dreyer, and it kinda has that dark ambiance thing to it on both spectrums. I think Lana Del Rey would be a good fit, both sonically and vocally.
We think your music has great commercial potential – especially for the UK market. Any plans to play the UK soon?
I haven’t had a formal invitation yet, but I would love to share my world with yours.
With New Year fast approaching, what’s in-store for you in 2018?
Well, with so much momentum that we’ve had, with Rolling Stone naming us as ‘Top artist to watch’ and CMT’s no.1 spot 12-pack. With all that, I think 2018 will be a year for us, for me, doing some touring. With plenty under my belt, I think it’s a good foundation for the year.
A ‘Lyric Magazine’ question for you to finish off with: Name your favourite lyric from any song, any artist.
‘Cruising down the coast goin’ ’bout 99.’ I think that’s cool and Lana does that. I kinda take a little bit of it and put it into my song.
Keep up-to-date with Denny:
Out Now! Listen here.