For some, the love of music begins in the church choir. For others, it begins in a school band. But for artist Daniel Lee, a love for music began in his grandma’s kitchen. “Songwriting was how my grandma and I connected. There were so many days I’d sit in that kitchen, writing songs with my grandma while she cooked.” More than the invaluable time spent with a loved one, the experience set the stage for Lee’s great passion in life: songwriting. And after years of trying to find his sound - described by Lee as “not country, not rock, but southern…” - his release of upcoming album Somewhere in the Woods is the perfect example of an artist hitting their artistic stride. “I’ve tried my hand at several genres - rock, metal, hick hop - but I’m a Georgia boy, as country as cornbread. Country music is my calling.”
Growing up in a pentecostal church, Lee’s exposure to music began early. His grandma would write songs and perform them for the church. “I never knew she was writing the songs, I just thought she was singing them. I was really shy growing up. Her songwriting and performances in church really inspired me to come out of my shell.” At 13, his stepdad bought him his first pawn shop guitar, on which he taught Lee to play Keith Whitley’s Don’t Close Your Eyes and George Strait’s Check Yes Or No. By 15, Lee had joined a local emo punk band as the lead guitar player. “They wouldn’t let me sing - I was too country.” Nonetheless, the band’s first hometown show proved pivotal. “As a musician, I realized in that moment that this was what I was meant to do.”
At 18, Lee took his career a step further, reverting back to his beginnings in songwriting. “I started digging into country’s roots, listening to Carl Perkins, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. I began writing country songs for myself. That’s always been the draw to country music for me - the songwriting.” The writing soon altered Lee’s career, steering him toward country and away from the punk band he’d been a part of. “I told thee guys, ‘I’m going to stick to what I do best…’ and never looked back.” At the encouragement of friends and family after a bonfire performance of original tunes, Lee began booking shows around town. “In the beginning, no one wanted to book me. I was 18…” But a sold out show at a hometown bar changed everyone’s mind - including Lee’s. “That show opened a lot of doors for me in booking - and made me realize a career in country music was absolutely what I wanted.”
In 2008, attendance at a Brantley Gilbert concert lead to another career break. “I’d gone to Brantley’s concert with my girlfriend at the time. I was mesmerized by his performance - I wanted so badly to be a part of it all.” Lee met with Gilbert’s photographer, Lyn Segupta, who set up his first co-write with the artist himself. “I hadn’t really written with anyone other than my grandma. It brought a whole new dynamic to my writing.” Lee began playing shows with Gilbert, beginning with a hometown writers round and inevitably leading to an opening spot at Athens, Georgia’s Classic Center. At the encouragement of Gilbert’s guitar player, Jess Franklin, Daniel began recording, cutting his first 3-song EP in Gilbert’s living room.
Lee soon hit the road, playing for anyone that would listen. “We’d pile up in my chevy with our drums and gear and play for beer, food - whatever we could get. Looking back, they were hard times. But at the time, I felt like I was on top of the world.” With Gilbert’s photographer as acting manager, he signed his first record deal in 2013 with Average Joes Entertainment. While the deal didn’t ultimately work out, it gave Lee another leg up in his writing. “That deal exposed me to the world of hick hop. I was writing with Colt Ford, David Lee Murphy, Cadillac Three… The experience broadened my horizons, made me a better, more versatile writer.”
Now signed with Myfirstrodeo management, Lee’s upcoming album Somewhere in the Woods is due out March 3rd. And with a songwriting history that began at his grandma’s kitchen table and saw practice in several different genres, he’s more confident than ever the release will give fans a true taste of his sound. “My new music very much reflects where I’m at in life - I’m here to chill, drink a beer and hang out. It’s a bit more calm - a lot less aggressive than the music I’ve released in the past. It’s a feeling more than anything. It’s southern - I’m a southern man living in a southern world.