Dani King Gives Us The Lowdown on Her Career as a Vocalist

dani king

We sat down with Dani King to discuss her transition from her acoustic roots to electronic music, latest releases, and more!

It has been quite the year for Dani King. This vocalist’s dreamy lyricism has recently driven many of the top bass tunes. She’s landed on legendary imprints like Subsidia and Monstercat and has collaborated with the likes of OMAS, Tynan, IVORY, Whales, and many others. From singing at local bars and restaurants to performing on stage at Lost Lands and Electric Zoo, Dani King has tirelessly worked to hone her sound and weave meaningful, relatable stories through her vocals.

Despite her beginnings as an acoustic songstress, Dani King eventually was pulled toward creating electronic music. Though the journey hasn’t been short nor easy, she has grown into a force to be reckoned with in the dance music scene. Sought out for her incredible vocal range and heart-wrenching lyrics, Dani’s golden touch has been featured on many dubstep and melodic bass tracks, and she continues to branch out from there.

Recently releasing “Bad For You” with IVORY and Hammerhead and dipping her toes into drum and bass, Dani King’s hunger to improve and grow creatively will never be satiated. Looking to gain added insight, we sat down to chat with her about her beginnings in electronic music, recently picking up producing, recent releases, and more. Check out “Bad For You” below and read on for an in-depth look at the dance music scene’s next big vocalist!

Stream IVORY, Dani King, & Hammerhead – Bad For You on Spotify:

Hey Dani, thank you for taking the time to chat with us! To start things off, we’d love to hear more about how your project transpired. What inspired you to make the transition from your acoustic roots to electronic music?

I grew up in a small village in Illinois called Hawthorn Woods. There, I started piano lessons and moved on to guitar and voice. I grew up listening to Santana, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Hootie and the Blowfish with my dad. We had no idea what EDM even was, let alone that it was a viable career for a singer. One of my biggest inspirations for songwriting is actually Sara Bareilles. “Love Song” came out in my first year of high school, and I obsessively consumed her music and learned from her writing style.

Growing up, I always envisioned myself working in pop, but hearing Skrillex for the first time in 2011 definitely changed all of that for me. I fell in love with the weird loud noises, hiding what I was listening to from my peers because they all thought it was so dumb. I continued to casually listen to EDM while attending school in Nashville, where country music reigned supreme. Consuming music by Nero, The Glitch Mob, Flux Pavillion, and Adventure Club quickly turned me into a fan.

Seeing Krewella’s Get Wet Tour in 2013 made me want to go full throttle EDM. Seeing those two talented women absolutely tear up a sold-out show was a transcendent moment for me. I’ve only ever experienced energy like that at an EDM event, and I feel like it reflects my own internal energy, which is why I am so drawn to it. It took a while to transition, but DAMN, it was worth it. 

The world has changed quite a bit since you released “Light Me Up” with Beatex in 2015. How have you personally?

I feel like I’ve done a 180-degree turn as a human being since 2015! I moved from Nashville to Los Angeles in 2015 and had no idea how to record myself (clearly because that song was not great). I was bartending at Saddle Ranch in West Hollywood, living with my friend, Kelly, in a cockroach-infested apartment in Koreatown, and learning how to use Garageband in my closet. Hell, I was still mostly focused on pop music at that point. 2015 was the year I graduated from college, moved across the country away from everyone I know, and took a huge chance on myself. I feel like it’s safe to say that chance is paying off.

Seven years later, I live in Laguna Beach with my wonderful partner, Benito. I have a full music studio that I put together myself, including acoustic panels that I built from scratch. I was very proud of that, but I don’t recommend doing it with a hacksaw. I have a rescue dog that I adore (she tolerates me), and I currently work full-time as an artist, topliner, and vocal producer.

I’m signed with an incredible manager who I have been working with for more than three years now, and our team is expanding at an astronomical rate. I get to work with my best friends every day making dope music!! It’s actually surreal writing all that out and realizing how far I’ve come since I started. I have a bad tendency to beat myself up about not working hard enough, not accomplishing enough, not learning enough, and this was a good reminder that I am doing just fine. So thank you. 

One thing about me hasn’t changed one bit, though, and that is my attitude and persistence. I am like a dog with a bone when it comes to achieving goals – absolutely relentless, will keep going even when I know I shouldn’t, and will have a smile on my face the whole time. I don’t think I would have grown this much as an artist or person if that was not a core part of my personality. Nothing ever gets me down for too long! 

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Let’s talk about how you make magic happen. What does your creative process look like when creating your lyrics and melodies?

I am honestly a f*cking machine when it comes to writing songs. I write about 100 songs a year, give or take. I already talk a lot, and I guess my brain just has way too much to say! This is the perfect job for someone who never shuts up. 

First and foremost, the actual creative process of each song is always different for me. I usually jump around from a few different methods depending on my mood. Sometimes I start by looking up random words that rhyme on Rhymebrain.com, make a list, then start writing the lyrics around that list. Sometimes I word vomit stuff into Evernote, then organize it into something cohesive. For example, “Sacrifice” with OMAS and Uberloud and “Toxic Love” with Bear Grillz are word vomit songs.

Altitude” with Soundr and Bear Grillz and “Under Pressure” with RENN and Kamas are some of my rhyme starting songs. Sometimes I go to thesaurus.com and find unique words to start with and go from there. “Without You” with Awon and “Heartless” with Swarm are examples of my thesaurus songs. Occasionally I start with a melody and build lyrics from there, but most often, I start with the lyrics. “Haunting Me” with OMAS and Uberloud is a track that began with the melody first. Whenever I get stuck on a melody, I play through new ideas on my keyboard until I find one I like and run with it.

As for the bigger picture, I have a whole system for toplining that has streamlined my process. Every instrumental I get sent, I usually write one or two fresh toplines and pitch one or two old ones. I will send the producer 3-4 verse/chorus ideas to choose between and then finish writing the song based on which one they like the best. I then add the leftover ideas to my “actively writing” folder. I save them to either finish out as a new topline to pitch or repitch until someone takes it.

I almost never throw lyrical ideas away and either rework them until they are sold or hold them for the right person. Just this year, I placed a topline that I wrote five years ago. I still love the topline as is, and the song turned out really great (it’s coming out on August 4!). This system is also great because I ensure that everybody is happy with the lyrics and melody well before the final vocal session. It usually saves me a ton of time, and by the end, I not only have a great collaboration but multiple other toplines to continue pitching out. I currently have about 15 toplines actively being pitched on top of 11 open collabs. By the end of these collaborations, I should have between 20 and 30 new toplines plus a finished song! 

Lastly, I work so much on my collaborative projects during the work week that I have to take additional time for my own personal projects. Whenever my boyfriend has a boy’s night, I shut myself in my studio and write something with no intention, goal, or purpose. I like starting with building an instrumental, and the lyrics flow once I have some chords shaped out. I will either write an acoustic track or produce something a little fuller – I have started producing my own songs, so these late-night sessions have been my practice creating my own tracks and getting more comfortable with production.

I work in Ableton for production and logic for vocals, and I try to incorporate as many of my skills as possible to stay sharp. Piano, guitar, harmony building, vocal stacks, as well as learning new skills and practicing them. All of this helps me channel my creativity in one way or another into fresh lyrics and melodies. I actually believe that the songs coming out of these sessions are some of my best work, and we are saving them for something special. 

dani king
Photo Credit: M4XIMUS

There’s a misconception that singer/songwriters simply provide the lyrics and a voice. Can you speak more about your hand in production?

I actually am producing now; however, most of my collaborations are still strictly the vocal aspect. I majored in music, so I do sometimes assist with chord structuring and chord progressions for people who need help with it. I have a couple of unreleased EPs with different artists where I assisted in this manner, and both projects were so much fun. I also give feedback throughout the mixing process specifically geared towards the vocals. I don’t think people respect vocalists in the industry enough, considering nearly all of the top hits are vocal-centric songs. I understand that not everyone uses vocals, but it either makes or breaks the song when the vocal is there. 

The nitty-gritty of working on vocals is that it is a ridiculous amount of work. I write all of the lyrics, vocal melodies, harmonies, and ad-libs, and I do all of my own vocal production. I just finished up a song that took me three weeks to edit because there were so many vocal layers to align, and I do it all by hand. I have recently noticed that many people are under the impression that vocalists just sing for a few hours, then leave, and the producer does the rest of the work.

In my case, that is the opposite of true. I usually work 10-15 hours a day, just trying to keep up with everything! I have spent thousands of hours at this point working on vocal production and perfecting the process so that I can do it quickly, efficiently, and well. I’ve learned from working with EDM producers that the last thing they learn how to do is edit and process vocals. This is a very underrepresented skill in the industry. I want to encourage other vocalists and producers to get to know the process and how to make themselves sound the best they possibly can!

Shameless plug here, but I have a Patreon where I teach vocal production, so if anybody feels like they need help, I would LOVE to help. This is a big passion of mine, and I want everyone to have these skills. If you write vocal-centric songs, you have to be able to make them sound perfect! 

From “Keep The Lights On” to “Sacrifice,” you’ve had quite a few collaborations with OMAS. How did the two of you meet, and what drives your evident synergy?

MY WORK HUBBY! I love OMAS. He hired me to work on a project in 2019, and the process was smooth and easy. He wanted to hire me again, but we agreed to a work trade where he taught me production, and I gave him vocals for his projects! He joined our management roster shortly after, and we’ve maintained an amazing symbiotic work partnership and friendship. He is not only a great producer but a genuinely kind and respectful person. I am very lucky to have someone like him in my corner. 

Congratulations on your recent release with Bear Grillz, “Toxic Love.” Where did you gather inspiration for the track’s lyrics?

Thank you! I won’t say who to protect privacy, but I wrote this song about a relationship one of my friends was in, combined with some of my own experiences. “Toxic Love” was one of those tracks. I write so many songs that I have to get creative about my subjects, so not every song is about me. I really like drawing inspiration from others and putting myself in their shoes to feel what they are feeling. I love writing songs for my friends as well.

My favorite line out of that song was, “Baby I’m water, and you’re oil, you were built to burn I’m made to boil.” That line specifically is actually about my partner and I – he is a VERY fiery individual, and I am a lot more controlled, so this metaphor is very accurate to us. Even though we are not in a toxic relationship, the description was too good to pass up for this particular story. 

What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve faced within the industry, and how did you overcome them?

A lot of my biggest issues have been from within myself. My biggest problem was my lack of knowledge of recording and vocal production until I buckled down and learned. You can’t work with high-quality artists if you aren’t providing high-quality vocals; it doesn’t matter how good the writing is. I simply had to take the time to learn and find the right people to help me. Omas gave me the intro, but Highlnd (another incredible artist on our roster) is the one who taught me all of the fine detail work.

I am a huge fan of YouTube University. I also have ADHD, and I am completely unmedicated. I am the hyper-productive kind of ADHD, but sometimes I fixate on the wrong things. I work best when I am put under a lot of pressure and given hard deadlines, so sometimes, I have to invent those for myself to push through and get everything finished. 

Regarding industry-wide, the biggest issue boils down to a lack of respect. I’ve been left off contracts more than once, had my royalty percentages cut down without approval, not been tagged in releases correctly, and so much more. Luckily my manager is amazing and deals with these issues quickly, but it’s still annoying. Many people also don’t respect the fact that vocal feature work is and should be paid work. People have told me before that I “should do this for free for the love of music” and other bullshit. Sorry but no. My studio, vocal lessons, time, and energy cost money.

Unless we are going after label advances or other strategic reasons, I can’t afford to do free vocals for random people I do not know. This is the only way I am currently making money, and it’s very stressful being freelance sometimes for this reason. I totally understand that people have budgetary restrictions, and I often do my best to work around those, but I don’t appreciate it when people try to shame me for charging. I have also dealt with some men in the industry using their position of power to try and get me to sleep with them, but that doesn’t happen to me too often. I have this theory that because I am taller than most, I scare them a little. [Laughs] 

All in all, the good outweighs the bad for me. I am fortunate to have a strong and supportive team that handles these issues quickly and professionally. Everyone needs a manager who can be an absolute shark to ensure you aren’t getting fucked over. Because of her, I get to focus on the fun stuff. 

What are some short and long-term goals that you have as an artist?

Okay, this is exciting, but this year I will hit my goal of a million streams on a song on Spotify! Based on how the song is streaming, it should be less than two months. I will also be getting my first tattoo when that happens because that is a massive milestone for me. I would also love to hit 200K monthly listeners on Spotify this year, but we’ll see what happens.

I also have an extensive list of artists I want to work with, and I have been slowly checking off that list. I’ve been writing some of my own music, and we plan on launching some DK singles hopefully within the next year. I have also been learning how to DJ, and at some point, I would like to start playing shows on my own, not just guest starring. I have some insane collaborations coming out, too, and I want to keep building up my collaboration list. Tynan, Hairitage, Hi I’m Ghost, Oliverse, Candyland, and someone whose name starts with R and ends with Ten.

Other long-term goals include going for a publishing deal, getting some sync deals, releasing sample packs, and generally increasing my revenue streams as an artist so I can build a long-lasting and sustainable career. My first and most important goal is to connect with others through music. I want my songs to help people through their darkest moments. I want my songs to be a couple’s love songs. I want girls to listen to my music while getting ready and feel like a bad bitch. I want to make people FEEL.

Lastly, what can fans expect from Dani King for the latter half of 2022?

Well, we just released some drum and bass with IVORY and Hammerhead on Monstercat last week, and I have a trance song coming out with JANPAUL on July 21 on Elliptical Sun. I’ve got a melodic bass song with Lost Wolves coming out on August 4 with Circus and a house/pop song with Kode PinK! I also have more songs with Omas and a song on Adam Jasim’s upcoming EP. I don’t think I can announce any others yet, but we have so much in store for the rest of the year. I will be singing with Tynan at Avalon in Los Angeles this weekend as well, and I plan on doing many more of these shows cause they are too much fun. 

Aside from music, I am currently working on my first merch drop! I am making T-shirts, all of them hand-painted and dyed by me. I’m proud of these, and I can’t wait to drop them, but hand-making each merch item is very time-consuming, so it’ll be a little while before I build up enough stock to sell. I also have DK stickers currently available for sale. If you see me at any events, please come and say hi! I love trading kandi and meeting new people. 

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