Dani Senior has many talents. She’s a singer, a DJ and a versatile songwriter who’s penned hits for urban acts, Taiwanese pop singers and EDM stars. She spoke to iSing’s Line Hilton about her varied music career, it’s challenges and her victories.
iSing: How did you get started in music?
Dani Senior: I moved to London when I landed a production deal at 18. I started making an album but things didn’t work out so I started gigging, putting out my own music and building relationships with DJs. I signed with a publishing company and as a songwriter for other artists. I also built a career as a top-liner on dance tracks. You can hear me on Nora En Pure’s Tell My Heart and Sander Van Doorn’s Need To Feel Loved.
iSing: How has your career direction changed over the years?
DS: When I was 18, I was preoccupied with being an artist. I’ve since discovered a passion for songwriting. It enables me to be creative in every genre and to be free from the constraints of my own view of how I should be as an artist. I don’t have the burning desire to be out there as an artist at the moment, although that time will come.
I want to be an artist with something to say, someone who can emotionally resonate with people. I love Sia. She came into the spotlight later in life, with a level of maturity and understanding. She’s an example for those of us who may not be on the same time schedule as other people.
iSing: Describe your vocal sound or style.
DS: I’ve been likened to the Swedish singer Robyn. We both have a quirky, pop-urban style.
iSing: How did you break into the Korean, Japanese and Cantonese pop markets?
DS: My publisher Notting Hill Music got me started. They recognised that the Far East represented a real opportunity for songwriters, as it’s a market where lots of CDs are still sold. I went to a few songwriting camps and learnt how fans in the Far East listen to music. For example, in Japan they don’t like long, drawn-out ballads, they like one word per note. Lots of syllables. I wrote a song called Honey Trap for an artist called Jolin Tsai that went to number one.
iSing: How did you get involved as a songwriter for Flesh and Blood for The Choir for the Invictus Games?
DS: That was a real standout moment. I’d previously been in contact with Gareth Malone about an idea that I’d had for the Military Wives. Nothing came of it, but he later got in touch with a song for The Choir for the Invictus Games. He was working with ex-Forces personnel who had post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries. He was trying to put a song together and it was quite emotionally harrowing. He brought me on board to help pull the lyrics together in a commercial way.
It was a great honour. The song went to Number 1 in the UK iTunes classical chart, Number 2 in the UK iTunes pop chart and made the top 20 UK official singles chart. It was awesome, considering it wasn’t really a pop song at all.
iSing: What are the benefits and disadvantages of being in the music industry today?
DS: Social media and the internet are powerful tools. Things like Spotify’s New Music Friday mean people have access to music that you just don’t hear on the radio. Your creativity can really flourish because you haven’t got anybody saying: “Can we have a carbon copy of this song?”.
The downside is that it’s harder than ever for artists to make a living. Our main form of consumption is via streaming, but there’s a missing link in the chain. Artists and songwriters are not being paid enough.
iSing: What do you wish you’d known about the music industry before you started out?
DS: I wish I’d known my worth. I got there in the end, but I took a load of wrong turns. You need a strategy from the outset and to be selective. I also wish I’d known that, as a young woman, I’d receive some very unprofessional advances from men. I encountered a lot of people saying “Come to this hotel lobby and your career could look very different”. I never went for that.
iSing: How should an artist deal with unwanted advances?
DS: If it’s serious, report it straight away. In the past when it happened to me I thought “Who am I going to tell? Who’s going to care?”. But it’s unacceptable. I wouldn’t accept evening meetings outside of office hours. I would go for coffee in the daytime. If I was quite young, I’d take a chaperone. I would also be careful about drinking in work situations. You need to keep your wits about you.
iSing: As a songwriter how do you adapt to specific genres?
DS: My style naturally straddles genres, but I do adapt. With dance music, you can be a little bit more poetic. With pop-urban, it’s a more detailed storytelling. I’m lucky in the sense that where I’m at as a songwriter happens to be what people are looking for at the moment. My advice to other songwriters would be not to get disheartened if your style isn’t popular right now because everyone has their time to shine.
iSing: What are your three top tips for topline songwriting?
- Keep a list of concepts and ideas. Wherever I am, if I have an idea I write it down. I’ve got pages and pages of ideas. Before I turn up to the studio, I’ll go through my concepts and see what fits lyrically for an artist or for me if I’m writing for myself or for a DJ.
- Watch films and movies with the subtitles on because you might see interesting words or phrases that pop up. I learnt this from the singer-songwriter Ester Dean.
- Before you walk into a studio, make sure you’re prepared. Think about what you want to say and have some lyrics prepared. Always warm up. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a singer or a topliner, because topliners still use their voices. I always warm up. If you want to articulate an idea, you don’t want to do it in a croaky voice.
iSing: What’s next for Dani Senior?
DS: In terms of songwriting, I’ve been working with James Hype, Alex Adair, a UK band signed to Warner called Dusky Grey who are amazing and so much fun to work with, and X Factor runner-up Saara Aalto. I’m also pulling together a DJ artist project, kind of like a female and more Urban version of Mark Ronson or Calvin Harris.
Feature Image: Arron Dunworth