Danyew:: Following the Streetlights

Photo by Aaron Redfield

It started out as a song for his twin sister, but after two years of tinkering, Danyew’s hit single, “Beautiful King,” morphed into a worshipful song about God.  “Her name is Rachael Marie, which rhymes perfectly with ‘beautiful king,’” jokes the 23 year-old recording artist, who released his debut album, Danyew, (Sparrow) in April. “I got to the chorus—‘every word that You say wields with the beauty of angels’—and I was like, my sister’s an amazing person, but this is epic.  This could be a totally amazing worship song.  After I realized that, the song just flowed.” And it continues to flow, including at Phil Danyew’s concerts, when the audience starts singing “Beautiful King” right along with its writer.

While going to college and working as a graphic designer for Chik-Fil-A, Phil felt God calling him out of his current life to pursue music full time.  So he left college and quit his job, said goodbye to the band he was in, and broke up with the girl he was dating seriously to follow God.  “Something magical happened when I did it, and God was in it. I quit everything and dove into music,” shares Phil.

Danyew began recording with producer Pete Kipley (Phil Wickham, MercyMe) as an independent artist, but everything changed when he was signed to Sparrow Records in December 2007.  Now working with a team, Phil maintained control over the recording, while also playing new artist showcases and other pre-release promotions.  Initially frustrated that it took so long to release the debut, Phil reflects, “I’m sort of glad because where I was at musically two years ago is a lot different than where I am now.  The album started out organic, sort of folky, and now it’s more electronic.” Influenced by artists such as Radiohead, Coldplay, Bjork, and Imogen Heap, Phil started playing piano three years ago and has become adept at using keyboards.  “On a musical level, I definitely want to try some more electronic stuff in the future,” he adds.

The organic-meets-electronic Danyew sound is best showcased in “Streetlight,” which starts out with a gripping cascading piano-driven melody.  An urbanite hailing from San Diego, Phil finds the streetlights that line the curvy road near his home to be a beautiful illustration for life.  “The song [“Streetlight”] is about the things in our live that guide us down the road, like God and His love,” explains Phil, then adding. “If we didn’t have streetlights, we wouldn’t know where we were going.”

One of Phil’s favorite songs, “Close Your Eyes,” was born out of a desperate search that began when he started his first semester at a local college.  Growing up in church and attending Christian school from grades 5-12, Phil was thrust out of his self-described Christian bubble and into the world of higher learning, which caused him to question his beliefs about God and creation.  “It was a culture shock,” Phil remembers. “I thought, ‘Do I believe this because I grew up in it or do I believe it because it’s the truth? What if what these other people are saying is the truth?’  I started doubting God and the things I believed in.”

The questions kept rattling around inside Phil’s head, until one day, he stood in front of the mirror and asked aloud, “God, what is this life about?”  As he stared at his reflection he contemplated the complex inner workings of the human body.  “I was watching myself breath and I was like, ‘Wow! There was no way this could be chance.  My lungs are insightfully complex and they work perfectly’.”

Photo by Aaron Redfield

Interestingly, in 2007, Phil and his friend, filmmaker Chad Suter, crafted a video for “Close Your Eyes” that features a girl caught in the throes of drug addiction inter-cut with shots of Phil singing and playing piano.  Although not originally intended to be a song about addition, it works perfectly as a backdrop to the story being told through imagery, and it fits with the larger meaning of the song.  “At the end of the day, there is a hole in the heart that longs for more than living for self, partying, sex, drugs, even music,” says Phil.  The universal message of the song is that we’re connected to something bigger—God.

To Phil, music itself is a language that God has given people which transcends other boundaries that divide humanity.  “We know that God is love and that God created a language called music, and there’s something that supernaturally happens when music is raw [from the heart],” reveals Phil.  “I hope to inspire people with my music; I hope to inspire them to be creative and pursue their dreams.”

Soon Danyew plans to head to the studio to record more songs for the full-length album planned for release in late 2009, which he emphasizes will include “much more electronic stuff.”  And, incidentally, Phil is still working on a song for his sister, “After ‘Beautiful King, I never started another one for my sister.  I should though, because it would make her super happy.” In the meantime, Phil Danyew fans will be super happy to see him on the fall “Church Music Tour” headlined by David Crowder*Band and featuring special guest, Seabird.  To find a tour date near you, visit Danyew online at myspace.com/danyew.

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