Danni Ri Isn’t a ‘Cliche’ in Nashville

danni ri, beaverdamusa.comWhen it comes to songwriters, Danni Ri is no cliché.

Sure, she does all the Nashville things to promote her music. But, in her downtime, you can find her working in her garden or tinkering in the woodshop. She and her husband even built the house they live in.

How’s that for being original?

Maybe it was that appreciation for originality that helped her write “Cliché,” the title track off of her first full-length album released in 2014.

danni ri, beaverdamusa.com

Danni Ri and husband/producer Edward Croker.

“I started listening to the radio quite a bit in recent years — more than I used to as far as current radio,” she told us recently. “I grew up on the ‘90s on that kind of country. That’s when Shania was big, and loved it.

“So, I started listening recently. I mean there are still some great artists, great writers, great songs that you hear. But, I didn’t care for some of the trends I was hearing.”

She specifically mentioned, “the overwhelmingly pro-male, pro-bro trend that’s going on right now.”

As a response, she put her songwriting skills to work. “I do probably most of my best writing while I’m doing something else. So, I was actually working out in the garden, and my brain was going. And, I had the radio on, and for about a 2-hour stint all the things I put in that song played on the radio that day — the clichéd lines.

“Multiple times, I would hear four songs that threw the word moonshine in, or six songs that talked about ‘hey baby, get up in my pickup truck,’ and it got hilarious. And, that’s what got the ball rolling, and I think I had the song written that afternoon, and so I went in, picked up the guitar and ‘Cliché’ came out.”

Although she wrote it a year before she ever heard of Maddie and Tae, fans ask her if the duo’s “Girl in a Country Song “ served as inspiration for her single. “I love their song, I absolutely do, but that’s natural for people to assume that, I guess.”

When Danni was 1, her family moved away from Florida. She grew up in various places in Georgia, graduating from high school at a Christian school near Atlanta. She would eventually marry a classmate, Edward Croker, but, it wasn’t exactly a textbook high school relationship.

“We didn’t roll in the same circles,” she said. “Then, mutual friends got us together after high school. They talked me into coming out hearing his band – this garage band out in Alabama — so I drove out with them, and dang if it wasn’t the boy from high school,” she laughed.

danni ri, beaverdamusa.comEdward produced the “Cliché” album. “In every respect,” she said, “my husband has been my partner in this. He encouraged me to go for this, even when I doubted it.” She also credited her family – especially her father-in-law — with giving her encouragement. “The ‘Cliché’ album wouldn’t have happened without either one,” she said.

She also credits her father-in-law for introducing her to carpentry, by virtue of the family’s log cabin manufacturing company in Heflin, Ala., where she and her husband currently live.

“I guess it is this way for a lot of girls — I was always very arts and crafty growing up,” she said. “I love my daddy, but he has this notion that little girls shouldn’t play with power tools because we could get hurt.

“But, as I got older and met my boyfriend who I later married, I came down to Alabama to see them while we were dating, and it was a lot different over here. His dad believes in teaching people how to do for themselves, and he taught me all kinds of skills, carpentry being one of them. So, I really kind of fell in love with it.”

She said, “I enjoy building furniture among other things. We built our own cabin that we live in. I remember my mom called me up one morning and asked me if I have an extra router, and I said, ‘Sure, what size bits do you need?’ And she was like, ‘What in the world?’ I speak a different language now,” Danni said with a laugh.

She routinely makes the 4-hour trek to Nashville, where she co-writes and works with her publisher, Dallas Gregory. She singled out Sheree Spoltore of Global Songwriters Connection as a catalyst in her career so far. Unlike many other budding songwriters, Danni said she is amazed at the pace of her career in the 2 years since she started pursuing it full-time.

“We hit the ground running as soon as I signed with Dallas Gregory,” she said. “And, he’s been working hard for me pitching. And, I have a real strong feeling it’s coming soon. I know you’ve got to pay your dues and I expect to, but just the speed things have been happening, I realize how fortunate I am,” she said.

“Every time I come to a co-write, my co-writers are all extremely talented and have been doing this for years, the first question out of their mouth is, ‘How did you get a publisher?’  I’m just like, he liked what he heard. But, I’ll be perfectly honest, there was some luck involved, and being the right place at the right time.”

Danni called herself a “songwriter-slash-artist,” explaining, “I’m in my early 30s, and I just decided that it might be smarter to try to get my foot in the door as a writer first, and I really love it. I mean it’s honestly probably my favorite part of the music creativity. I (also) enjoy being an artist. And, if that door opens at some point, I’m going to go through it. But even if it never happens, I really love behind the scenes, and actually creating the songs themselves. So I would be happy with either option.”

To learn more about Danni, visit…

Her Website     |     Facebook     |     YouTube

iTunes     |     Amazon

Sheree Spoltore: Music’s Most Passionate Mentor

tunes logoCall Sheree Spoltore enthusiastic, and she will reply, “Enthusiasm is the fuel for our machine.”

Ask her why she evolved from musician to mentor, and she will answer, “Instead of just one dream, I could see thousands of dreams.”

Ask her how impacting those dreams affects her, and she will say, “It’s about as close to seeing God on earth as you can get.”

Sheree – along with her unbridled passion and charisma – has been a fixture in the Nashville music business almost from the moment she arrived from Little Rock, Ark., in 1994. She knows virtually everyone on Music Row; and, many if not most have been touched by her contagious enthusiasm.

Since 2013, Sheree has operated Global Songwriters Connection (GSC), a personalized mentoring service for singers and songwriters all over the world. Prior to that, she worked at the executive level for years at the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA“My three words on my website are encourage, equip and empower,” she told us recently. “People have always been great mentors to me, and I’ve always tried to do that for others.”

When Sheree first came to Nashville, she was a touring singer-songwriter under the management of then-CMT head Paul Hostaba. “I came here for my dream, but I’ve always been a ‘teamwork-makes-a-dream-work” kind of person,” she said.

Her desire to help others would soon overtake her desire to perform. “I found having a lot of joy positioning others to succeed. I love to do that, and I am very gifted at that. I enjoy that,” she said. “I never felt a sense of ‘they’re my competition’. And then, what I got to see was, wow, instead of just one dream, I could see thousands of dreams.”

Instantaneously, her voice took on an ethereal quality — as it so often does. “If you can imagine that, just take a moment and imagine how privileged I am to be a part of – and to see – thousands of dreams. I mean for me it’s about as close to seeing God on earth as you can get. It’s just amazing I get to be included and hear the hearts of so many people… probably in the total of my career, I mean tens of thousands, right?”

Then she whispers for emphasis, “Tens of thousands of dreamers.

She said, “I love it and never take it for granted. It’s just so awesome and so powerful. I appreciate it very, very much, people entrusting me. Can you just imagine how it feels to know I’m on the other end (of the telephone) with a stranger? Probably someone who doesn’t know me and they’re going to entrust their songs and their dreams to me? I mean that’s just the ultimate, and I never take that for granted. I appreciate it very, very much.”

Suddenly, though, she snaps back in the moment and laughs, saying matter-of-factly, “All those creative personalities… I’m very challenged, and I love it. I often say the joy of my job is everybody’s completely different. The challenge of my job is, everybody’s completely different.”

That’s Sheree’s way of explaining that the mentors at Global Songwriters Connection encourage their clients, but it’s not all rainbows, puppies and pom-pons.

“We do get real,” she said. “And, that’s one thing that might be a little be challenging. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to discourage you or anything, but we do get real.

“That’s because there’s probably not anything more frustrating for a songwriter than to have a lot of nice meetings with industry professionals, then 5 years later not feeling like they’re any farther along in their progress than they were 5 years before.

“There may be a reason for that, and sometimes the reason may be your songs aren’t just there yet. And, it’s not the publisher’s role to develop you. It’s your role to get developed.”

Sheree founded GSC following her resignation from NSAI in 2013, where she had served 7 years as Assistant Executive Director of Membership. She exited around the same time as several other staffers parted ways with NSAI. The details of the departures were never made public.

“I loved my work at NSAI incredibly,” she told us. “I think if anybody actually knew me, I was just thankful and grateful for that opportunity. But, I felt the need to resign from NSAI, and I didn’t have a job. And I needed to work.

“I often say I’m not good at a lot of things, but I’m an expert at this, and it’s because I love it, and because I study, and because I apply. I may have had natural (musical) talent like a lot of my members. I may have had natural talents and gifts, but I’ve really also had to work at it.”

Being a household name among songwriters obviously helped her new company get off the ground. “I did have a brand for creating success. My name was branded with placing songs. You know, I’ve had over a hundred and I’m getting closer to 200 publishing opportunities. If I can help you, I will help you. I love doing that, and I love helping people move into their place – into their space that is uniquely them.”

She spoke about the challenges of becoming self-employed. “Anytime you’re starting a new company, there’s a lot to get done, and it’s laying the foundation. But, fortunately I had a really good reputation of creating results and creating success, and, man I just dug in. And, honestly I’ve just worked from — as my husband will tell you — I work from 8 o’clock most every day until 9 o’clock at night frequently. It’s what it takes. If you’re going to be a success in this business you have to work really hard to put those parts and pieces together. And that’s what I try to do as a connector is really listen.”

Sheree’s husband is Lou Spoltore, a Vice President at Live On Stage, an entertainment booking agency. She said her business complements his, and vice versa.

“They have at any given time over 700 shows going on across the country,” she said about Live on Stage. “Between the two of us, it’s pretty much a full-circle range of services we can offer. We’re used to working with strictly just artists through his company, so often I’m bringing artists to him because I meet people while I’m out and about that are just artists.”

Of her music-business marriage, she said, “We are a couple working in the industry, and it’s hard to separate those two things because we are constantly trying to help each other’s businesses to do well to bring excellence to the table. If I hear of an artist that’s just amazing, I do what I can to bring them to Lou’s attention and vice versa. If he’s got a band and they just lost their guitar player, I may know some people who can help, that kind of thing.”

Sheree said GSC helps her clients answer the “now what” question. “That question changes in every level of their career as I help them to connect and move forward,” she said. “It means, ‘okay here’s where I am and here’s what I’ve done this far. Now what do I do? Okay, I did that,  and now I just signed my first single song contract, now what do I do?’” She continued, “‘Okay, I just got my first cut, I’ve never had a cut before, now what do I do? All right, I got a cut but I haven’t had another one in 2 years, now what do I do?’

“She explained how her GSC team guides their clients, saying, “They need somebody in their corner to help them. You know, it’s hard to mentor yourself, and so we act as if we are a publisher. We act as if we are your songwriter manager until you find your home. The (GSC) web site says, ‘Everyone longs to belong.’ And I just try to be a place for people to belong while we help them find their real industry home. This is home until we help them find that good fit.”

Though based in Nashville, Sheree’s company serves singer/songwriters in all genres all over the world. “It is called Global Songwriters Connection,” she said, “And that’s because I personally believe music is a one-world language, and we just speak it in different dialects. And we call those dialects country, pop, Americana, those types of things.

And, her organization welcomes artists who don’t write their own material. “As a matter of fact, I love it when somebody is an artist and not a writer. We need them,” she said. “So many times, artists who are truly just artists, come to town and feel pressure to write, and that’s not their gift. Their gift is their vocal interpretation of a song, so I always encourage artists to just stay an artist — remain an artist, you know be the best vocalist you can be. Michael Buble isn’t out there writing, he’s actually making a career off of cover tunes. So if your gift is being an artist, then yes, be the best vocalist you can be.”

Sheree prides herself on GSC’s interactive approach to serving clients. “One of the most frustrating things I’ve heard over the years from people who do not live in Nashville is that music industry people tell them what to do is you need to network. If you don’t live in Nashville or New York or LA that’s really a challenging task for someone. We work through Skype, we work online, everything we do, you connect directly with the industry professional. We also have genre-specific services. Even though it’s a one-world language, there’s a big difference in pop music and country music and how you approach that writing. There is truly no one size fits all.”

She added, “Courage is the root word of encouragement, and it takes a lot of courage to play your songs in front of people, to play your songs for strangers, to put yourself out there to be coached, to receive instruction, direction and perhaps correction from a stranger, so I try not to be a stranger.”

Her voice transcended into that mystic tone again. “Now this is the personal part,” she said. “My goal in my life – when all is said and done – is to encourage, equip and empower all the songwriters I can in my lifetime.

“And we’re all pretty temporary.”

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