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Danielle Miraglia

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

Photo credit: Joshua Pickering



How old were you when you started playing guitar?


13.

What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?

My first guitar that was my own was a White Dean Z Jammer. My mother’s boyfriend at the time gave it to me for my birthday. I don’t have it anymore. He was also the one who let me borrow a guitar to try when I first wanted to learn. It was this cool looking unmarked wood finish electric guitar that he said was a Kramer. The first thing I did when my mom brought that guitar home was figure out “Iron Man” (single note)...by ear because...no YouTube back then!



Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?


My grandpa (on my mom’s side) was a trumpet player in the big band era. His father was a piano tuner and I found out recently from an older cousin that they would have family jams. If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is go to one of those jams. I never got to hear my grandfather play because he’d lost the lip for it by the time I was around, but I have his trumpet and it has a note inside the horn asking that we not ever sell it because it meant a lot to him. His older brother had got it for him.


Danielle's grandfather playing the trumpet and his twin brother on the right, with the saxophone.


What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?

The guitar that really got me pickin’ was my Gibson J-45. It’s the only acoustic guitar I’ve ever played that has incredibly low action without sacrificing sound. It’s magical. For years it’s been my A guitar along with my 1967 Gibson LG-0 that I use for open tunings and slide.


Photo credit: Michael S. Males


Photo credit: Jason McGorty


But the larger body has started to mess with my back over the last couple of years, so I’ve been using a newer Gibson 00 (smaller body) that’s settling in nicely.


Photo credit: Evan Moscariello


For my electric rig, I use a red Mexican Fender Telecaster and my Gibson LG-0 through a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp.


Photo credit: Denise A. Maccaferri




What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?

I use D’Addario 12’s for my acoustic guitars and a combo of 9’s and 10’s on my electric guitars. I don’t change them as often as I should!


Photo credit: Bob Tanner


Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?

I mostly use my fingers, but when I use a pick, I use a Fender heavy.




Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?

I’ve gone up and down that rabbit hole and I’m never satisfied. At the moment, I’ve simplified my pedal board to a Boss Blues Driver and a Boss Sustain/Compressor. But now I’m re-introducing a Fender '63 Deluxe Reverb pedal into the mix. The search for the sound never ends!



Do you work on your own guitars or do you bring them to a guitar tech? Are there any guitar techs that you would like to recommend?

Jim Mouradian was my guitar guy from the beginning and one of my favorite people. He was the best luthier around, but honestly even if he hadn’t been, I’d have stopped in just for the conversations. He and his son Jon worked together and they were warm and welcoming to where you’d look forward to needing something repaired. I miss Jim terribly as does the whole community. Thankfully, Jon has kept the shop going in Wilmington, MA.

Jon and Jim Mouradian.


Also, Bob Stubblebine at Stubblebine Lutherie in Somerville, MA is a friend and does incredible work. He’s my go to now!


Robert Stubblebine of Stubblebine Lutherie.

Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?

With so many of the independent guitar shops gone, I’m grateful for Mr. Music in Allston, MA, Music Emporium in Lexington, MA and Guitar Stop in Cambridge, MA.




At what age did you start writing songs?

When I was 10, my best friend and I decided to start a band, even though we didn’t play instruments. Her dad played guitar, so she borrowed his, I had a Cassio keyboard and we recruited another friend to play drums, though all we had for her to play on was a single snare drum. I wrote some cheesy pop songs that were supposed to be in the vein of pop groups of the time, like Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, The Jets, Pebbles. Stuff like that.



I started learning guitar a few years later and wrote some silly comedy songs in high school but didn’t really start writing songs I would play in front of people until after college graduation and a bad breakup.


Photo credit: Nate Dow


What is your songwriting process? Is it the music or the lyrics that usually come to you first? Do you write old school on paper, or electronically?

When I first started writing songs for real, I was a writer first, so it used to be the lyrics first, but now it varies. I’ll do free-writes on the laptop, which can bring out a line or two and that might come up while I’m noodling with a guitar part.




Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?

Prince, Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones are my three favorites of all time, bringers of joy for me in the visceral sense and they’ve all definitely influenced me.



The biggest influences on my guitar-playing would be Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, Bonnie Raitt (Bonnie is an overall influence).



For songwriting, it would be Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell.


If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

I would say Prince, but I think I would crumble into a puddle in his presence. More realistically, but still in my wildest fantasy, I would love to hang and jam with Keith Richards.




What are your top three “desert island” albums?

Prince – “Sign O’ The Times”

Cyndi Lauper – “She’s So Unusual”

Rolling Stones - “Some Girls” or “Let it Bleed”



What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?

My first concert - Tiffany at the Worcester Centrum.

Last concert – Paul McCartney at Fenway Park

Photo credit: Lindsay Sullivan


The Beatles or the Stones?

I hate to think of a world where you would actually have to choose. The Stones are my favorites of all time, but the Beatles are the f#cking Beatles! I love them both. Objectively, the Stones are physically still a band and possibly have had the most longevity of any band in existence. I saw them last year and pushing 80, Mick was dancing across the catwalk like a teen. But the Beatles have remained relevant all these years, with two members dead and only having been together as a band for 7 years! Just a longer way of saying, you can’t choose!



Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?

My first gig that wasn’t an open mic was Herrell’s Renaissance Café in Allston, where I met my husband, who booked me for that gig! I think it was a tips gig.


Danielle and her husband, Tom Bianchi.


What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?

There have been highs and lows all around and there’s joy in just making music with friends. Honestly, don’t know if there’s been one big highlight. I’ve had the opportunity to open for some incredible artists/musical heroes (Buddy Guy, Bettye Lavette, Johnny Winter, Chris Smither, John Hammond Jr...the list goes on) in beautiful venues, so those are of course highlights, but my favorite moments have probably been with my bandmates or friends on small local stages.




What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don’t have to name names).

I’ve had a lot of bad gigs over the years. If you play out for long enough, you collect a book of them. One time I had to play in an open outdoor barn during a polo match in 18 degree weather. There was only one little useless space heater and I thought my guitar was gonna crack. Then there are a collection of nightmare bar gigs where the people are reaching over you to put money in the jukebox while you’re setting up to play live music. Or they yell stupid shit at you or try to talk to you in the middle of a song. I did those gigs for some years and every musician should get those in for the experience.



What are some of the venues you enjoy performing at the most? What things make the venue enjoyable for the performer (location, equipment, setup, organizers)?

The Burren, Somerville, MA, The Narrows in Fall River, MA, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY. What makes a venue enjoyable is when you walk in and feel welcome. When it’s obvious the staff digs music and the venue puts care into the sound and lighting.


Danielle with her talented husband, Tom Bianchi at The Burren. Photo credit: Lindsay Sullivan


Danielle performing at The Narrows. Photo credit: Rick Farrell


Danielle at Caffe Lena. Photo credit: Eric Jenks

How do you work out your setlist?

I start with a song that’s upbeat, short and that I’m super confident in. It’s a great warm up and gets the momentum going. Then I make sure there aren’t two together that are too similar in vibe or key and I try to build up to something, make it feel like a story and not just a random bunch of tunes.


Photo credit: Jim Sabitus



Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?

Probably to set a clear goal and be more ambitious, but I think someone probably did tell me that and it just isn’t in my nature.


Photo credit: Briana Atkins



Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?

Don’t forget to listen to music and continue to be a fan of it. You have to take in art to make art. This is something I have to remind myself to do as well. I get busy gigging and then on the off hours, I don’t feel like listening to music. Playing music for a living can ruin it for you as a fan. When this happens, I go back and listen to the music that brought me pure joy from childhood and it reminds me of what drew me to it to begin with.




If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?

The other two things I thought I might do at one point is write novels or be a painter, so guaranteed wealth of course! (I’ll put “sarcasm” here in parentheses in case it’s not clear in print).


Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.


All info at daniellem.com

10/27 – Godfrey Daniels – Bethlehem, PA w/ Marc Douglas Berardo

10/28 - Moore Music House Concerts Rockville, MD w/ Marc Douglas Berardo

10/29 – Lucky Penny House Concerts – Washington, DC w/ Marc Douglas Berardo

12/8 – Menino Arts Center – Boston, MA w/ Jim Infantino and Terry Kitchen

12/22 – Fallout Shelter – Norwood, MA w/ Peter Parcek


Photo credit: Jim Sabitus




Photo credit: Larry Brown



Photo credit: Joshua Pickering




Photo credit: Heather Kanser

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