Each song on Kevin Danzig’s latest album was placed there with specific, strategic meaning. From the titles to the lyrics to the organization of the tracks, the songs tell a story. Danzig likens it to a musical play.
“A lot of my songs are theatrical,” he said. “(The album) tells a story.”
Danzig’s story, like most, revolves around issues of life and love, dealing with the ups and downs of both.
“My songs need three elements: They need a memorable hook, they need something that’s rhythmic” — here he snaps his fingers — “and a melody that’s catchy, and if they have those three elements with a story line, that’s a song,” he said.
“Playground” — the title of the album and its first song — hearkens back to Danzig’s past as a traveling troubadour.
Born in Southern California, Danzig often followed his father on lounge singing gigs throughout Hollywood. His uncle also had quite a bit of musical success, until a car accident put the brakes on his career.
Coming from a musically talented and outgoing family, Danzig describes himself as a bit of a recluse at a young age, concentrating more on learning how to play instruments than going out.
“I pretty much stayed home and I would work on guitar. I wanted to be the best I could,” he said. Later, he overcame his shyness and soon was entertaining crowds with his own music.
He toured the country, towing a van behind his motorhome as he went from town to town, playing gigs. He spent a lot of time at campgrounds in state parks, which has influenced his music and inspired various environmentally-themed songs.
“It was very beautiful, very inspiring,” he said.
From 1997 to 2003, Danzig traveled with his musical partner, Cat Woolley, with the two performing as a folk duo. Unfortunately, Woolley succumbed to cancer in 2009. She wrote the song “Playground,” but it was never recorded. When it came time for this album, Danzig saw an opportunity to bring back her words. He recorded the title track in a duet with his girlfriend and musical partner Faith Crawford.
“It starts off as an oversight (for the album),” he said. “(It’s like) this play we’re a part of, let’s hope it makes sense as we go through.”
Though it’s hard to describe his music in just a single term, Danzig figured the closest description would be folk rock. But it’s more than that.
“I can’t be pigeonholed. My favorite artists were always the ones that had variety,” he said. “My albums are a mixture of styles.”
Danzig sings and plays the guitar in this album alongside Crawford and a handful of other Colorado-based musicians, including Dean Oldencott (drums/percussion), from Evergreen; his son Eamon Danzig (vocals and electric guitar), from Avon; Scooter Barnes (electric guitar), John “Roc” Rothrock (keyboards) and Ken E. Keller (bass guitar), from Denver.
“The players who play on this album are just great,” he said. “They’re wonderful, seasoned players.”
Danzig came to Colorado for the long term in 2008, playing shows in Avon and Vail, and eventually expanding to Summit County and beyond. Now, he lives in Alma, a location that he truly enjoys.
“It’s nice to have a beautiful place to come home to,” he said. Though he used to be on the road all the time, now he enjoys having a home base. “The hectic stress (of being on tour) can really build up, so when you have a place to come home, you can really recharge your batteries.”
While Danzig will occasionally cover songs from other bands, all the songs on his “Playground” album are his (save the one written by Woolley). His songwriting process varies, but is usually sparked by a particular word or phrase that connects mentally with a riff of song.
“Usually when I’m driving long distance, it’s when I’ll entertain myself with a melody, and a lyric might start off as something really stupid, just something I saw on a billboard,” he said. The thought then gestates, changes and continues to needle at his memory. “It’ll kind of haunt me in my sleep. I’ll take up thinking about this lyric that will go with this melody.” When the lyric and the melody eventually come together, that’s the beginning of a song.
These songs Danzig then gathers into albums. For “Playground,” he gathered songs that, together, told a story with both lyrics and melody.
While the album follows both ups and downs of life and love, it eventually ends on a note of hopefulness, representing Danzig’s connection with Crawford.
The two met when Danzig was playing a gig at the Breckenridge Farmers Market last year.
“Our eyes locked and that was it,” he said.
Though this album has just been released, Danzig isn’t planning on taking a break anytime soon. His recent plans involve more work with Rothrock, including working on songs with a spiritual message and the forming of a group tentatively named The Saviors. In the spring, he plans to put together a tour through the Midwest and East Coast.