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Who is Daniela Sloan? Chicago singer/songwriter speaks from the heart

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The CD Release Party is on Saturday. Those who know Sam Wahl and Daniela Sloan will be there. Anyone who knows good music, and who is interested in supporting local musicians will be there.

But who is this Daniela Sloan? When the lights go down, and the space is empty...

Daniela, please tell me the story of how you got into music?

My mother would lull me to sleep by rocking me in her arms to Colombian salsa's and folkloric music when I was just a babe. I have a strong memory of this. It is an aural memory but more especially, I recall the feeling of swaying in her arms to the rhythm of the music. Growing up I would sleep to music ever since I was conscious of having my eyes open and I would dance to music ever since I could walk. Singing came a little later around age 6.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was the first song I learned and I would perform it to everyone's pleasures but to a point of annoyance! I've always loved singing. My actual music career began really just 4 or 5 years ago. But, growing up, I always found myself gravitating towards choir, musical theatre and just singing on my own. Guitar was an instrument I'd dreamed of playing for years, and one beautiful afternoon in my Rogers park apartment, I finally got the guts to borrow my father's dusty Ibanez and teach myself.

Over the past handful of years, I developed my guitar playing skills hand in hand with the process of writing original music. You see I have been singing all my life and performing recently but, I began writing original lyrics and melodies when I was age 15 seated in the sunny spots of my parents living room. Every year I began to incorporate more writing and singing into my life but always separately.

One day, rather spontaneously, the creative outlets I used daily; writing poetry, journaling, and singing; were all brought together into one form of art - songwriting. My really getting into music has been a process but my interest in it was really ignited once I taught myself guitar and had the ability to support my voice to share a way of expression that, for me, only comes through singing.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

I grew up on a pretty steady diet of Colombian music. But, the musical environment that surrounded me was always colorful! In my house records were often playing and they ranged from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to Michael Jackson but in truth, I didn't pay them much mind. I was interested in singing. My personal taste as I grew older leaned towards R&B, soul, and Hip Hop. Tribe Called Quest for example and later, Outkast. But Chicago House made it's way into my tapes for while as did REM, Nirvana, and Jimi Hendrix. I was also in a Flamenco dance company from age 13 to 17. My exposure to music was all over the map.

Who would you say is your biggest musical influence?


That is a tough tough question and I am going to answer it by telling you two things. The first album I learned from to back front was Erykah Badu's album Baduizm. The artists which I cover when occasionally doing covers are Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye. Ella Fitzgerald is another artist who is incredibly inspiring to me. Her natural ability with tone and rhythm is astounding and she has a grace in singing that is... well it is hard to meet but beautiful to look up to. All of these artists have one commonality that I dream of emulating and that is the soul they sing.

There was a specific moment in time when I felt a very sudden urge to play music and in particular, learn guitar. I was 17 and living abroad in Turkey and a very fuzzy MTV channel popped up with Lauryn Hill doing her Unplugged set on MTV. I felt incredibly drawn to the style of her music as she played “Just Like Water”. I kept searching for it in the evenings when I would lay down and occasionally another fuzzy MTV clip of the song would appear.

You see I wanted that rhythmic acoustic style. I didn't know how to play it but, I kept looking. My music is littered with syncopated rhythms coming from hip hop and Latin rhythms that I tuned my ear to while growing up. I am not sure if I am answering this question correctly so I will circle back to say in short, the artists that are my biggest musical influence are women like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday, and the acoustic soul of Lauryn Hill. The richness to their voices and their unique vocalizations are a kind of beauty I hope I share.

The other big musical influence has been the constant exposure to music from around the world and people I have met in my travels. I have had a lot of exposure to different styles of music but no real training. The world has influenced me, as cheesy as that sounds.

You say that Sam Wahl was a big influence for you...

A couple of years ago, someone suggested I contact Sam in regards to his Songwriter Series 'Get Off the Couch'. After two brief but warm email exchanges, I had dinner with him and his wife Jeni and a lasting friendship was born. Sam has not been so much an influence on my music as much as he has been an influence on my ability to play out and get to know really great people in our city Chicago.

The reason I recorded with Rax Trax studios was because Sam connected me to a wonderfully talented musician, producer, and touring artist Ben Joseph. Sam linked Ben and I together believing we would appreciate each other's music and way of being. Sam was 100% correct in his assumption and from that relationship, I recorded my debut EP.

There is a talent some have in bringing good people together. Sam has that talent. He is a good man, he attracts good people, and then he steps out of the way to allow these wonderful musicians to connect and create rather beautiful music together. Not every songwriter series founder accomplishes this. The reason this has happened with 'Get Off the Couch', I believe, is because of the kind of man Sam is, and he is someone who likes to lift others up and shine light on their creativity.

Can you share the process of how you write a song?

Well it begins out of thin air really. I find myself often singing a melody line and lyric spontaneously. It is like my own personal ear worm of subconscious thought that replays itself in my mind until I put it on paper and give it accompaniment. When I first started writing and wasn't very familiar with the guitar, I would write a full song, melody and lyrics, and then I'd find the chords to match it. Now I will often find a chord on the guitar that will inspire a song. Either way, I work on a song heavily for about a week and I work through it mostly while walking.

Walking is my dearest companion and it is where all the fine tuning of my songs takes place. But once a song is started, it stays with me when I awake, in the shower, while at work, and before I go to bed. It isn't tiring, but a very natural process that my brain seems to need and enjoy. It just does not stop until the song in complete and I am ok with that. It takes me about a day to have a whole song written and a week at most to get it to the point where I am happy.

How would you describe your music?

I will keep this short because I am not quite confident about my answer. Acoustic Soul is what I say when asked and it is what I fill on social media outlets for music. It seems to cover enough bases to keep people interested. In truth, I would rather just suggest you come see a show to find out because myself and others have a hard time describing it! Let me know what you think when you do. Perhaps December 7th at Fizz for my CD Release if you are free:)

What will we hear when we come to your performance?

I am all heart, soul and smiles. You will hear honesty, openness and a whole hell of a lot of soul.

How do you want to be remembered?

Aw geez that question is for the legends! I am just getting started and have many passions to see through and many steps to take. I will kindly leave this question for another time perhaps.

What kind of music do you listen to now, to relax?

To relax, I write and play music. Ok, truth is, I listen to different types of music at different times depending on my mood. In the a's alone I've got Al Green, Adele, Alabama Shakes, Alexi Murdoch, Alt-J, Amadou and Mariam, Amy Whinehouse, Andres Segovia, and Ani DiFranco to name a few.

What advice would you give those who dream of doing what you do?

Try and try again and listen to what your gut is telling you when faced with a crossroad. I've wanted to do music for a long time but, the point at which I arrived to performing took a while. I found I had to be in the right place mentally and emotionally and It wasn't something I could push. When I began following my own pace of readiness, I naturally started pursuing further ways to develop myself professionally. Patience is key and from personal experience, I will say that exercising patience has allowed me to follow my heart and gut more easily. Baby Steps. Music is very personal.

What is your music to you?

It is like another language I speak only the most beautiful I am capable of uttering. So, with it, I express all of the emotions and ruminations I might otherwise never say aloud. I'm a bit of a nerd you see, and for some reason, expressing how I think about things through music is a more comfortable route for me to say what I mean and feel. In my mind, if things are communicated beautifully, they are better heard and understood, even the too deep or too nerdy thoughts. The CD that is being released is a reflection on my perspective of change and the process of change as an individual, as a member of society, and in love. With music, I feel capable of expressing these perspectives in their entirety because I am not shy of nakedness when I write. By this, I mean naked words and thoughts, things I would have a hard time saying on their own. Music clothes those words. It is to me, a true outlet for freedom of expression.

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