Interview: Dan Maguire

Can you share your musical journey with us, from when you first discovered your passion for music to where you are today as an independent musician?

I grew up in Tulsa, Ok, the youngest of 6 kids. I watched all my brothers and sisters take piano lessons, and then I would watch them complain about the lessons. When it was my turn, I said “no thanks”, and I think my mom was relieved!
Being the youngest, I was introduced to popular music early on by my brothers and sisters.
I think that may have been the most compelling reason I became a musician. The irony: the same
people who influenced me to avoid piano, also inspired me to become a musician.
I was always drawn to the guitar in the music I liked. So, that was the instrument I chose.
When I was growing up, Southern Rock and blues were huge to me. Also, I heard country
music all the time, so it had an impact by its constant presence. When I went to college, I was introduced to jazz and classical ensembles. All these ingredients have come together, and a
country and jazz inflected rock and roll is the outcome.
Specific influences are The Clash, The Police, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Kimbra, Chris Cornell and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Clash’s Combat Rock is responsible for the lightning strike moment when I was 11 and saw Rock The Casbah. MTV was brand new, and my friend and I rode bikes to his house after schoolso we could check it out. I saw Billy Idol’s White Wedding, and then Rock The Casbah. I remember thinking, “These are the coolest guys in the entire world, and I want to be just like them.”
But the biggest influence was my college guitar professor Scott Smith. 12 years learning from him and playing music with him left an enormous imprint.

What motivates you to create music, and how do you stay inspired to continue making new and unique music?

I can’t say any one thing motivates me to create music. I always have a guitar close, so grabbing it
and playing it is just part of a habit or lifestyle for me. I am always playing guitar. I like to think as long as I’m breathing and aware, life will offer me endless inspiration to write songs.

As an independent musician, you wear many hats – from composing to marketing. How do you balance these different aspects of your career, and what challenges do you face in the process?

Yea, I do wear a few hats. I balance these by asking for help. However, I did want to get in front of people for a while to see if this was gonna work before I started really investing resources from finances to asking for help. When the time was right, and I had answered questions about viability, I started reaching out and finding people to learn from and who I could get support from.
Balance comes from focusing my efforts on the things that are the foundation for what I am doing, and the things I like doing. This is about creating the best music I possibly can. That is the foundation. But I like contacting venues, booking and engaging other musicians.
With areas like social media, I have help. I’m an immigrant to that world, and I rely on natives. Younger people, they’re great!

Could you tell us about your creative process? How do you come up with new ideas for songs, and how do you go about turning those ideas into finished tracks?

Songwriting always starts with the music. If I hear something I like, I build other parts around it. Then when I have a structure, I hum and mumble along and a melody follows. Then lyrics. As the song comes together, a theme reveals itself. Typically, my songs are about my family, or people that are important to me, and life in general.
In the past I have recorded these into my phone and sent these recordings to other musicians to learn the songs. Now, I record them in a studio for better quality. Learning the songs is incredibly efficient for other people this way, and when everyone is ready, we polish them and record them.

Independent musicians often face financial challenges. How do you manage your finances to sustain your music career while also covering your personal expenses?

Yea, very hard to support yourself with something artistic. Right now, music is not my principal income. I do have it set up separate from my conventional life because I need it to at least break even, And it does.

Can you share a particularly memorable or challenging experience from your journey as a musician that has had a significant impact on your career and personal growth?

There have been a few of those. But, the last question about finances and sustaining music really reminded me of a crossroads. I was in Denver, in my 20’s. Playing a lot and I had unpleasant jobs to pay for my life. I was getting more and more tired of that dynamic, and I decided I needed to re-think how I was going to support myself without giving up on music. This led to grad school, and more pleasant jobs and I never stopped playing.

With the rise of digital platforms, the music industry has changed significantly. How do you navigate the digital landscape, including streaming services and social media, to promote your music and connect with your audience?

Right now, I’m on Spotify as my only platform. Most people seem to have access to Spotify, so it works for me. I use TikTok, Instagram and Facebook as social media and for now, those three are the best for me to connect with people.

Collaboration is a key part of the music industry. Have you worked with other musicians or producers, and how have these collaborations influenced your sound and career?

Right now, I am solo in all things, except the studio. When I go into the studio, I ask my friend Scott to please offer any thoughts or opinions he has.
I am meeting a lot of musicians all the time and building relationships and talking with some players about collaborations. Also, I’ve started recording a new record and with this one I will have a full band. So, I expect there will be collaborations happening with this process. I hope so!

Your music likely reflects your unique style and perspective. Could you describe your musical identity and what makes your sound stand out in a crowded industry?

I think in the past several years, I really feel like I have finally worked my diverse backgrounds, from what I listened to, to what I learned into a sound that is mine and works. I’ve heard people describe what I do as having some jazz, and some country. I am a rock and roll musician, so I think I’m settling into a sound I describe as “a country, jazz rock and roll”.

What role does live performance play in your music career, and how do you approach planning and executing your live shows, especially in light of recent challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic?

Live performance is critical. I have to put my songs out there and gauge the response. It’s like a finishing process. It is impossible for me to be objective about my songs, and I need to have responses from people to help me with that.
Also, talking about where the songs came from, and then performing them is a wonderfully intimate exchange with people listening. If the song goes well and there is good response, that is a reference point to remember. How did that happen? What were all the parts that led to it?

Many fans are interested in the stories behind the songs. Could you share the backstory or inspiration behind one of your recent tracks that holds special meaning to you?

My favorite song of mine is Maeve. My family went through a tragedy a while ago. When
I sat down to write this song in the middle of the sadness and despair, I thought, “I want to add something hopeful to what I am experiencing. I want to have an active role in shaping where this experience goes, and what its memory feels like.”

Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations as an independent musician? Are there any upcoming projects or exciting developments in your career that you’d like to share with your fans and the audience?

I am very early in the process of writing a new record. With this one, I’ll have a full band and
other musicians involved. My last record, Travelin’ Light was me, my guitar and my friend
Abbey. I am pretty excited about the songs I have for this one!
In the past couple years, I have expanded where I play, and I am getting into venues that I had really hoped I would. This has been great. I’m hoping it all continues, and I don’t plan on stopping, so I think it will.