Danielle Morgan, singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about recording at The Abbey Road Studios, being a Police Officer, filming her music video in Nottingham and the release of her debut single, No Trace Of You.

Danielle Morgan is a singer and songwriter. She was a former Police Officer but went to live in Dubai where she stayed for ten years with her family. She has now returned to London to enhance her musical career.

She is a fully independent artist, being reluctant to sign to any Management Company to ensure the independence of her music. She has now released her debut single, No Trace Of You, with the hopes of releasing her debut album early next year.

Now a mother of three children and expecting her fourth in November, she is kept very busy. With an ambition to headline a huge Festival like Glastonbury, she has said that once this is achieved she will be altering her career direction to include song writing for musical theatre.

During her very busy schedule, Danielle took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.

Hi Danielle how are you?

I’m very well Kevin how are you?

I’m good thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No worries at all it’s great to touch base with you.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is good, I can’t grumble (laughter). I really can’t grumble.

We’re English, everyone can grumble (laughter).

You know what, I am one of these people that no matter what is going on it can always get better (laughter).

Well we will as a Nation be moaning about the rain soon. We have already spent the entire summer complaining that it was far too hot so we must be ready to moan about the rain (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s right and then we will move on to the frost. It will be cold and all the trains will stop running.

What makes me laugh is when people keep telling you that the gardens needed it (laughter).

Absolutely (laughter).

On the subject of the weather and hot places, after spending ten years over in Dubai what made you decide that now was the right time for you to come back to the UK?

There were a couple of reasons but firstly there were a lot of things happening with the family here in the UK and it was getting silly the amount of time that I was spending flying back and forth between Dubai and the UK. Also it wasn’t made any easier having to keep disrupting the kid’s routine in order to bring them back to the UK. Not only was it physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, it was also becoming extremely costly. It was really important to me to be there for the family. Secondly, in terms of the music and me moving forward in respect of me doing my own music and being in a position to be able to reach everybody, Dubai is like living in a little village. Although it is quite big everyone knows everyone and so you get to a point where you feel as though you have done it all.

For me as a musician there was no opportunity for growth. So whilst it wasn’t a quick decision in terms of me coming back to the UK, after I had recorded at Abbey Road Studios and people here were asking me for interviews and to play gigs, it was very much the right time for me to move back to the UK. It took me around four weeks to exit Dubai physically but almost a year to exit mentally. Everything had to be put into place before we could return home. I had to sort out houses, schools, finances, logistics; I had a forty feet container arrive from Dubai with all of my belongings in it. So although it was quite a quick exit it took a long time to plan it. So for me, the reason why I decided to come back to the UK was simply to allow my music to grow.

Well I have to tell you that I absolutely love No Trace Of You, I think it’s fantastic.

(Laughter) a lot of fellas tend to like that one; they like that track, they like it loud.

What’s the backstory behind the track?

Basically I went along to the cinema to see Skyfall the James Bond movie and I thought that I would like to write the theme tune to a Bond movie. I originally wrote No Trace Of You as a ballad; it went really slowly in order to get that Bond feel. I sent the song over to a producer in Los Angeles who sent it back to me with a massive organ riff going through the song asking me what I thought. I have no idea why but I asked him if he could replace the organ with a guitar break and at first he wasn’t too sure but then I asked him if he could turn the song into a stadium anthem along the lines of The Killers and the Kings Of Leon.

I asked him to put lots of drums and bass on there as I was wanting to then put some hard-core vocals on it similar to Pink’s. So the song was going backwards and forwards between the two of us and the song evolved from there really. However, I have to say that song, in a different time and a different place could very well have stayed as a ballad. As it was it just got bigger and bigger. People think that the song is about a breakup but actually it is not. The whole ethos of the song is about moving on from one part of your life to the next. If you have seen the video to the song, at the end I blow a kiss to myself in the mirror and it is one character saying goodbye to the other. It is about giving thanks for your past whilst moving forward, and not being frightened to make those decisions.

You mentioned Pink well I have to say that I thought the record had tinges of Beth Hart in there.

Thank you. It’s funny but people have said that to me before during interviews. I really do need to look into this a bit more because I personally am not familiar with Beth Harts work. Because I have been in the studio for such a long time now doing my own thing for so many years, I’ve not been exposed to other people’s music. I have made myself a list of the people who I have been likened to, and when I get five minutes I am going to go through my list and listen to some of these amazing people.

Were you pleased with the reaction that No Trace Of You received?

Yes I was in fact I was over the moon. For me, whenever you write original music, it is a bit like photography or art; you are not writing it for anyone else you are writing it for yourself. So when people tell me that they like the song and that they can relate to it, it is an amazing feeling. So yes, I was over the moon with the fact that people really do like my music. I can’t ask any more than that to be honest.

You have mentioned the video, I am led to believe that it was filmed in a well-known hotel here in Nottingham. Is that correct?

(Laughter) yes it was but unfortunately I am not allowed to say. The hotel in question did me a massive favour in letting me use the hotel rooms to film in but the agreement was that we were not allowed to name which one it was. Let me just say that it was part of a big chain and almost everyone has used them (laughter).

How long were you here in Nottingham?

All in all we were actually in Nottingham for three days but every one of us wished that we could have stayed longer. We were filming in and around Nottingham for twelve hour days and we also managed to shoot a bit of the video in the Bonnington Theatre. I just have to say that the staff at the Bonnington Theatre were absolutely brilliant. The guy who did all of the shooting, directing and editing of the video was a guy called Nick Kirk who actually lives and works up there in Nottingham. Nick is an independent film maker who originally worked for Carlton TV. We were really lucky; we used a load of extras from Nottingham, and we had an amazing time and we really can’t wait to go back, explore the city and have a beer with everyone. The video really did feel as though it had been home grown in Nottingham; it really was a lovely achievement.

So you like our fair city do you?

We all totally fell in love with Nottingham. We made a really great connection with Ade Andrews who plays Robin Hood up there in Nottingham. Ade is actually in the video for No Trace Of You. We didn’t get the chance to have a look around Sherwood Forest but we are definitely going to go back and do that. We loved all of the old streets and we went to a pub where they said if you touched the model ship in there it was haunted.

You must have found yourself in the Trip To Jerusalem.

Yes that’s it, that’s the one (laughter). We all went in there for a beer but we were not allowed to touch the ship (laughter).

I have to ask you, just how did if feel recording at Abbey Road Studios?

We went down there about a week before I was due to record, John and I took the children with us, so that we were able to have a look around the place and being totally honest with you, when I walked into the studios my knees started to wobble. I couldn’t move so I just stood there thinking ‘wow’. The daft thing is that despite having been there prior to recording, when I walked in on the day that I was to begin recording the same thing happened. When I saw my name on the door that just felt incredible. In parts it was just like walking around a museum and all the time you are trying to take it all in. All of us who went down there, even now a year on are all still trying to take in what exactly happened that day. For me to actually record there was truly an amazing feeling.

When you thought of all of the people who had recorded there before you, did it make you nervous or did it make you raise your game?

Both (laughter). First of all it made me very nervous but it was one of those things where you just had to say to yourself “you are here now, you need to step-up and do this, and you have got to pull it off because if you don’t then you are just going to mug yourself off” (laughter). Sometimes nerves can grip you and it is horrible and I have to be honest and say that there were a few moments when it was just ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god’ but it is simply a case of fight or flight. What are you going to do, we all knew that we were up to it and it was simply a case of ‘come on, get over this and get on with it’. It was incredibly daunting because people are coming in and out of the studios the whole time.

It’s a bit like Big Brother, you have no idea as to who is listening or who is there, and all of the time you are trying to make sure that you are the very best that you can be. You want to make sure that you do yourself justice. So it was very nerve wracking and exciting but you had to make sure that you were on top of your game. At one point my voice started to go and quite honestly I think that was down to nerves. Having said all of that it was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget.

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

Well I thought at the time that it was but what happened was that I would turn up to one of these places, such as the London Brit School where they would give you everything; they give you studio time, marketing, instruments, tools, the crowd, in fact they literally give you everything. And then when you leave and you find yourself all on your own you suddenly realise that no one is there to give you anything anymore. You actually have to go out and work really hard in order to get these things. That is really difficult when you are trying to pay your bills and balance your finances, when you are out there trying to get a gig.

You are trying to show people just what you can do when they have absolutely no idea as to who you are especially if you are writing and playing original music. That really is a tricky situation in which to find yourself. You either sign a record deal where you have no say in the matter and you are just doing what the record company tell you to do or you are trying to keep control of your music. For me, I really wanted to keep control of my music. It really was a very difficult journey for me because I loved doing it all but there was never quite enough leading to that break or even a deal for that break. For me the whole thing didn’t equate long-term.

It would have been brilliant for six months, twelve months or even eighteen months but my point was what happens after that. Just how long can you be in the media in terms of musical theatre, acting or being on a soap, so for me I simply didn’t take the opportunities that were offered to me simply because I wanted something better and longer than eighteen months. I was always thinking what would happen to me after that eighteen months had finished; would I be typecast, would I have to go and retrain or would I be working in Sainsbury’s. So I took my music, joined the police force and just waited for the right opportunity for me to come along.

I just waited my time until I became more established and more respected at an age where I have got something to say. When you are seventeen and eighteen you don’t have anything to say. Although I was at that time writing there was no substance to any of my songs whereas now there is. I now have a lot of life experience, lots of things have happened to me both good and bad and I have got things to say now.

Have you ever considered going down the X Factor route?

No (laughter). No I haven’t simply because I am always writing and they do not allow you to write your own material if you are appearing on the X Factor. With the X Factor it is just a case of ‘oh its week three so it must be Abba covers’ or ‘it’s week seven it has to be Heavy Metal covers week’ so no, the X Factor is not for me. Plus as I have already mentioned I have already seen the secondary side of the music business and in fact that is what the London Brit teaches you. Putting my business head on, those contracts that were presented to me throughout that time didn’t equate enough financially for me or the control for me.

Everyone is different I know but for me, I want to be the CEO of my own company, I don’t just want to be a line manger so it really is a case of what that person wants and at what stage are they in their lives. For me I always wanted to follow my ethics and morals, to be in the right place knowing that I was going to have kids, knowing that when they grow up they will want to be proud of me. So although I am quite impulsive I am also a long-term thinker, so it has taken me a long-time to get to this stage in my career but all of the music is written; it’s done. I have six albums worth of songs and music already written so I personally don’t have to worry about getting into the studio; it is just a case of whatever the PR people are going to pick. I know that sounds as though I have done things back to front but I am happy with the decisions that I have taken.

I have to say that I am just shocked that you do not want to be involved with the circus that is the X Factor winners show.

(Laughter) I know it’s sad isn’t it. However, there is a serious side to things which is, when you are put into one of those overnight success kind of TV shows it is like winning the lottery and it can be a very dangerous place to be. All of a sudden there are people outside your door wanting to know your name, wanting to know where your kids go to school, and I feel that there really does need something to be setup within the industry to help and assist these youngsters that are coming through because what happens when all of that finishes; what happens when the finances run out. It is almost like taking a drug, you are going from nought to sixty and there is no protection for your state of mind.

That can be really dangerous and that is the point when the dark holes appear, and you keep asking ‘am I good enough, why is no one speaking to me anymore, is my vocal rubbish, am I overweight’, all of that being thrown at kids especially someone who is under the age of twenty-one, it is vital that these people are looked after. I know lots of people in the industry who have never recovered from that. With the fame and the money comes a massive responsibility. Suddenly you can’t get drunk anymore and fall out of a nightclub because you now have a million fifteen year olds looking at everything that you do (laughter). There really should be some help and guidance for that.

This is something later on down the line that I would like to get involved in; setting up workshops in order to help and assist these people because when the work dries up just what are these kids going to do. If they have nothing to fall-back on, they don’t have a good supportive structure around them and they do not control their music, then they can really find themselves in trouble. What you have to remember is that they can make you and they can break you.

You briefly mentioned being in the police force, were they happy times?

I absolutely loved it, I loved it to bits. For me it was a complete change of lifestyle, every day was so very different. Every single day you wouldn’t know what would be waiting for you around the corner so yes it was brilliant.

What is the next step for you musically?

I am about to have a meeting with a record producer here in London and we are looking to release a third single as soon as possible and hopefully release a full album sometime during the first part of the new year. However, I am heavily pregnant at the moment and I will be having my forth child in November. So as you can imagine I did have lots of things planned but as time is getting on now I’m not as physically able as I was so in terms of physical gigs there will probably be a little bit of a delay on that until sometime in the new year but in terms of the follow-up single, at this moment in time I think that is still going full steam ahead.

What about a full-blown album?

I would like to think that I would have been working on a full-blown album for release sometime early in the new year perhaps March at the very latest. What the management want to do is make sure that all of the publicity is all lined-up for the release of the album. Plus we also want to check to see what other artists are releasing new material at the same time. We held back one of the singles because Ed Sheeran was releasing his new album so they try and blanket block what is going out because there is no point trying to release your stuff if the entire market has been flooded with the likes of Ed Sheeran or in fact an X Factor winner. You really do have to try to find your place in the market because you don’t want you music to just sit there not being listened to.

Who has musically inspired you?

Oh my god, I love a lot of Motown and I have to say that a lot of musical theatre has inspired me. I love Billy Joel, Crystal Gayle, and a lot of Irish folk and country music simply because my family is from Ireland. So there is not one person in particular and I tend to be inspired by styles rather than the individual that’s why I have to say musical theatre has inspired me. I am very lucky to find myself working with the musicians who I do work with because they are all so experienced so there will be a blues influence in my music, together with a bit of jazz, a bit of country, and most of the time there will be some rock in there too. What I will say is that we try to stay away from out and out pop music (laughter).

I love Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack, ELO and Thin Lizzy. More recently I loved listening to Elvis Presley together with the orchestration. I loved hearing his voice being accompanied by the flutes and strings. Another of my favourites is Dusty (Springfield) especially when she performs with an orchestra. That is what I am trying to bring to my music in terms of the album. It is going to be quite complex in terms of wanting full orchestration along with the band and getting that sound right takes both time and finances. I’m not prepared to simply go into the studio and stick a garage band on the record and think ‘oh that will do’ I want to get it exactly right and I think that the punters will appreciate that.

Putting you on the spot, where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

That’s easy in five years’ time I would like to think that I would be headlining one of the massive outdoor gigs at either Hyde Park or Glastonbury. It’s funny you asking me that because I have actually set myself five years to be the limit as far as me performing live gigs. After that I really want to focus on the writing aspect of the music business especially writing scores for movies together with musical theatre of course. I am actually working on a musical at the moment with a very big, well known script writer who for the time being shall remain nameless (laughter). I have quite big aspirations really and would love to see a production of mine opening on Broadway.

So I think that is where I want to be together with running workshops for people who are in the industry who are coming through, informing them of the dos and the don’ts, and exactly how to keep control of yourself and your music. So in answer to your question, in five years’ time I would like to think that I would be headlining a massive outdoor concert and then that will be it as far as me performing, I will then move to begin working behind the scenes.

At the minute you are a singer songwriter. Can you envisage the day when the singer will be dropped and you will be a songwriter for other artists?

Most probably but the good thing is that no one can drop me unless I drop myself because I am totally independent and I am not at the moment looking at signing my life away to anyone else. For me to be in a position where I could write for other people would mean that I would have to totally respect them and at the minute there are not many artists that I would give my songs up to. It would all have to be done on trust internally within the industry but that won’t be happening simply because someone has written me a very big cheque. No matter how good the singer, if they are not going to do justice to my songs then there is no amount of noughts that can sway me on that.

Rather than working with other vocalist’s I would much rather prefer to write for big musicals and then have a hand in the casting of the vocals for those shows and songs. I would be far more impressed doing that rather than having some pop star simply wanting to do their thing with one of the songs that I had written. That is not really my bag. I’ve not worked my arse off for over twenty years to simply go and give my work away to some kid, that’s not really my thing. There are a lot of people who do that and for them that is brilliant. However, for me it will never happen. I am a strong, independent person and I intend to do whatever it is that I believe in. I will only work with people who I both trust and respect.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was I Wanna Sex You Up by Color Me Badd way back in 1991 (laughter).

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

(Laughter) I went to see the Smash Hits Tour at the London Arena on the Isle Of Dogs when New Kids On The Block and Jason Donovan were performing.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That was Annie’s Song by the late John Denver. My little girl, who is only eight years old, sang it during her school assembly and that really did choke me up.

Danielle on that note let me once again that you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. I hope all goes well in the future and bye for now.

It’s been a pleasure Kevin. God bless and the next time that we are in Nottingham we must get together for a catch-up and a beer. Bye for now.