Friday, August 27, 2021

Artist Sug Daniels Celebrates New Music, EP Release

Sug Daniels, aka Danielle Johnson, is a solo singer-songwriter as well as frontwoman of the funky blues/soul band Hoochi Coochi, and a proud Wilmingtonian. The new EP, Franklin Street, will be out via Weird Sister Records on September 3.

Artist Sug Daniels. Photo by Nathalie Antonov.
I was thrilled to chat with Sug about music, community, and creativity during a pandemic...

Congrats on the new EP! First, what made you want to do a solo project outside of Hoochi Coochi?
Thank you! It was actually just a quarantine project. I wasn't able to get together with my band and write music like we usually did, so I had to fend for myself. Although I lost the ability to play live, I didn't lose the desire and need to create music.

What are the differences — artistically and individualistically — between Danielle Johnson as frontwoman of Hoochi Coochi and Sug Daniels as a solo artist?
To be honest, not too much except one is holding a ukulele and the other is gripping a microphone and jumping on bars. I like the challenge of having to deliver music and entertainment in a more stationary position. This project is less performance-based and more music and lyrics centered. I can (and have) performed the music solo, in a duo, and with a full band. It's always moving and shifting. Better believe when I can figure out how to get myself and ukulele up on a bar...I'll be doing that too, though!

How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since Hoochi Coochi got their start?
I would hope in every way. I really try with each song to be more vulnerable than the last song. I'm constantly trying to figure out how to make the show more electrifying. I worked my tail off to figure out the business side of the music industry as well.

What made you want to create music during the height of the pandemic? Where did you find the most inspiration?
I always want to create music. It's my favorite way to flush through ideas and learn about myself. During the pandemic, I wrote a bunch of songs mostly focused on my friendships, relationships, and how I view the place I live. The songs were all very introspective and personal because I had nothing to do but sit, think, and mull them over in my mind.

I love your collaborations with "Tiltlandia Mayor" Rob Pfeiffer! How did you two get together and start creating?
Yea, Rob Pfeiffer is a dream! I went through a transition during quarantine, and Rob was there to lend a hand. I started living on his third floor, and we became fast musical buddies. Along with making music together, we work in a community garden putting on events that bring neighbors together in the city. I used to see Rob at breweries and shows all the time, but I never thought that our amazing intergenerational friendship would be the catalyst to an amazing solo career. He is a true angel and one of my biggest supporters. I couldn't ask for a better chosen family. We often will be eating dinner and one of us will say to the other, "Wow, we are so blessed."

You call Sug Daniels "the curious creative." What does that mean to you and what does it mean to your fans?
I am and will never be done learning. Next to expressing myself, figuring out how to do things is what drives me.

Do you see yourself as more of an Americana/Singer-Songwriter artist than an R&B artist, or will you continue celebrating and creating in both?
I see myself as both and more, too. I listen to so many types of music so when I create, I subconsciously pull from so many places. I've never been into the idea of limiting myself.

You got a really great review for your "Time & Space" track from Country Queer.
Do you feel a responsibility/need to be a mentor or voice for LGBTQIA+ artists coming up/creating in this time?
I absolutely feel and accept the responsibility to be a leader in my community. I really believe it's an artist's duty to be true and authentic in their stories and expression. We are mirrors to people, and we can provide them the language and examples on what it simply means to be alive from a certain perspective. We bring people together and give them a voice. I do not take that lightly.

What is your favorite track on the EP and why?
My favorite track on the new Franklin Street ep is "Space & Time." I recorded all the instruments on the ep, and this was my first time playing guitar. It's very fun and spacey, and I know some chords but I had never played ambient stuff like that. It was fun and frustrating, but I love the way it turned out.

Of course, I'm assuming Franklin Street is an homage to where you live here in Wilmington, Delaware. There seems to be a great group of artists and creatives in that area. What makes the neighborhood so special?
Yes, this neighborhood is what dreams are made of! Not only are there so many creative people but just plain ol' respectful and caring people. The neighborhood is also very diverse, which I love. I think places that are this free and mixed just draw creative types.

What do you envision as your next "level" artistically...what's ahead for you?
Honestly, I'm not sure. I just hope to continue to learn and grow. Maybe learn some more instruments so I can sit in with other people. Maybe a move to a big city to get more "in the mix" and make more connections. Who knows? I don't.

NOW, some 'lighter' questions...
What song(s) is in your earliest memories, and what does that music bring back for you?
My younger brother's father used to play Jimi Hendrix when he would take us to school in the morning. At that age, I'd only ever heard gospel music, so it was such a sweet treat to hear this amazing guitar guy with his cool voice singing poetry. It started a fire in me to continue to look for weird, strange, and creative music that I still feel to this day.

Who is your 'dream' musician to play with?
At this moment, Jacob Collier. He is a creative genius, and he's only in his early 20s. Highly recommend his tiny desk concert.

What's your go-to nosh after a successful performance?
I am addicted to the tofu and veggie drunken noodles at Southeast Kitchen in Wilmington. I want it before the show, after the show, and in this very moment.

What's your favorite live performance memory and why?
One of my favorite memories was at The Queen during the Ladybug Festival several years back. I was living in Dover at the time, but announced during our set on stage that I had plans to move to the city — and the whole place erupted in this big applause. I felt very loved and validated.

What's one song you wish you'd written?
All of them, honestly! I have very bad song envy. Recently tho, "Little Things" by Big Thief. I think the driving guitar and Adrianne Lenker's voice are the most perfect thing, and I can't stop listening to it.

Find more music & info about Sug HERE!

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