Photo: By Natia Cinco / Courtesy of the artist

The Danberrys Dig Into Their Past to Shine on “Helplessly Hoping” (interview + premiere)

After 2020 delayed plans to release their fourth album, the Danberrys are back in 2021 with a covers EP and music video as the determined duo will soon bring more warmth, soul and songs to Shine’s expanded edition.

Songs We Sing
The Danberrys
7 May 2021

Mutual Attraction

Eight years after his birth in Peoria, Illinois, DeBerry and his family that includes one sister (Anna Rose) moved to Dickson, Tennessee. Two years later, he began playing a guitar that became his forever companion.

Daniel is a Nashville native, and she and her sister (Carla) grew up on a tobacco farm in Charlotte, Tennessee, a small town west of the Music City. While her musical roots were established by belting out songs by Mariah Carey and Ace of Base, she also faced severe bouts of stage fright before her first performances in front of a church audience.

Music eventually brought the two together, though it took a while before the Dickson County High School sweethearts became the Danberrys. “We met in high school at a concert at Riverfront Park in Nashville,” DeBerry discloses. The year was 1997, Daniel remembers, and the event was called “Edge of the Cumberland,” a one-day festival of alternative acts that included Cowboy Mouth, the Verve Pipe, Morphine, and the Honeyrods, a Nashville rock band.

“My best friend and Dorothy’s best friend were dating and they brought us along. Dorothy and I didn’t really know each other, but we ended up escaping our blanket together because our friends were making out the whole time and making us feel extremely awkward (ha!),” DeBerry asserts.

“We walked around talking for most of the concert, but I had a girlfriend at the time, so it didn’t turn into anything more until sometime later, although there was an instant ease and comfort to our friendship from the very beginning. It was like we’d always known each other.”

Photo: By Michelle Stone / Courtesy of the artist

The dating game began when DeBerry was a senior and Daniel was a junior. She then followed him to Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, more than 90 miles east of Memphis. After one night there, Daniel “started making plans to transfer to a state school (ha!),” DeBerry declares. “So then I followed her to Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville (80 miles east of Nashville) the next year.”

Two years into college, though, they broke up, but not before Daniel’s soon-to-be ex gave her a parting gift, along with a free lesson and a couple of songs. “I was left with a broken heart, a guitar, and three chords,” Daniel confesses in their website bio. “So I just started writing — mostly sad songs about Ben.”

While he was “playing gigs at all the local bars and teaching guitar/bass lessons at a local music store,” during that period, DeBerry divulges that Daniel “eventually graduated with an accounting degree and moved away to get married to some other dude. Luckily for me, that relationship didn’t last. Five years later, I was still teaching music in Cookeville when Dorothy came to visit some college friends. We ran back into each other and were married exactly four months later.”

Three years after their wedding, DeBerry and Daniel formed the Danberrys. Following the release of Company Store, a four-song EP in 2011, they made two more albums (2013’s self-titled, full-length debut; 2016’s Give & Receive) and figured last May would be their time to rise with Shine. Then the world came tumbling down.

Missing Link

Calling 2020 “a wild ride” during which the album release was delayed, touring plans were scrapped, and radio promotion was thrown into limbo, Daniel recalls that the situation hardly improved once Shine was made available on July 24.

“We discovered that basically every aspect of the release process was much, much slower due to lack of personnel,” she shares. “We learned that the hard way, missing deadlines because CD Baby was taking weeks longer than normal to push our songs out. We also couldn’t reliably ship our albums anywhere because the mail service was so unpredictable. One of our fans in Ireland waited four months for his vinyl to arrive. We shipped vinyl to Ben’s cousin in Colorado three different times because his packages kept disappearing. It was nuts.”

What did a world gone mad miss in 2020? The six-time Independent Music Awards nominee from 2012-16 — and winner for “Long Song” in the bluegrass category in 2016 — might have made their best album yet. With DeBerry’s swampy guitar steering the intoxicating instrumentation, Daniel’s versatile lead vocals can warmly entice on the title cut and the alluring “Francis” or rock ’n’ roar on “The Road” and the churning “Maddie’s Ghost”.

Then there’s “The River Is Wide”, Daniel’s meditative yet fierce exploration into her past that features an explosive gospel-like chorus and a repetitive phrase that should resonate with everyone during the coronavirus era — “Gotta keep on walking.”

“My childhood is scarred by severe physical and psychological trauma, and I was enslaved to the things that happened to me when I was little,” Daniel explains in the website bio. “I hadn’t really been able to live my life — suffered from stage fright, zero self-confidence, and self-hatred. I had to reach for something way bigger than I am to get out of that. I had to keep on walking.”

Despite some positive reviews for the album (PopMatters wrote that it’s “chockful of the roots swagger”) and the fact that the pair’s pen prowess on each song signaled a first as cowriters, Shine got lost during the dog days of summer. The music industry was taking a virtual timeout.

Like many artists seeking creative ways to get their music heard, the Danberrys relied on Facebook livestreaming to attract potential Fanberrys, “which was a pretty big learning curve,” Daniel admits via email. “Playing live without an audience was awkward at first, and we definitely missed the ‘pressure’ of performing in front of an audience that you can see and hear. 

“It was chaotic, but there were also some great takeaways,” she quickly adds. “Livestreaming meant we could play to a larger audience because the usual logistical obstacles were gone. We also got to spend the entire year with Ollie,” allowing them to take long walks on the beach with their daughter, who turned 1 last May. “That was really the best gift of all. I think a lot of traveling musicians were thankful for the extra time with family during the pandemic, if nothing else. It put things in perspective.”

Back to Business

DeBerry and Daniel are also fortunate to have other means to support their family. He works part-time in information technology, and she is a part-time accountant. Also involved with energy healing, crystals and astrology, Daniel does energy work and space clearings as side projects.

Music remains the priority in 2021, though, as the number of vaccinations climb, the COVID-19 cases drop and restrictions (as well as masks) throughout the U.S. begin to loosen.

On April 17, the Danberrys will play before a socially distanced (and mask-wearing) crowd outside a cool Nashville club called the Basement. The “Back to Business” bill featuring King Corduroy will also include Elijah Ocean, DL Rossi, Phoebe Hunt and Dominick Leslie.

Almost a year to the day before Shine was released a year ago, the expanded edition of the album will be available on July 23. Along with the original 12 songs, there will be the EP’s five cover songs and four live full-band recordings that were performed at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music. For anyone who missed Shine the first time around, there’s not a better way to make amends — and earn a special bonus by doing so.

Photo: By Michelle Stone / Courtesy of the artist

The Danberrys have also been refreshing their store website, and will roll out “lots of new merch items” in the coming months, Daniel reports. “We’ve been really lucky to collaborate with a local artist/friend [East Nashville’s Steph Barnes, who first met them at Tennessee Tech] on handcrafted natural stone jewelry and other unique items that we love.”

Plans “to work with an amazing writer/producer [to be named later] for our next project” and a trip to Texas were delayed by the February power outages, Daniel states, but the Danberrys are already writing new material and still hoping to have a new album “in the can” before the New Year.

Perhaps their version of “Ohio,” the only other CSN&Y song the Danberrys have covered, will eventually get recorded. But Big Daddy D suggests a more suitable option since DeBerry, Daniel and Ollie have expressed so much affection for the foursome: “Dorothy has visions of one day covering ‘Everybody I Love You'”.

That sounds about right, even if it’s Déjà Vu all over again, as the saying goes. Somewhere over the rainbow, the Danberrys already have found their heart of gold.