Not even out of college yet and he’s already accomplished a nationwide college tour, released a YouTube video that reached millions of views, opened for 3 Doors Down…and this is only the beginning for him.
Dan Henig knew music was his passion at a young age and his devotion to keep pursuing it has him on his way to success. From first listen, his voice and humming guitar will strongly remind anyone of John Mayer – just blend in the beautiful melancholies of The Fray, the heart of bands like The Goo Goo Dolls, and the spirit of Sara Bareilles, and you’ve got a close comparison to Dan Henig.
He keeps it interesting, though, with his inspiring lyrical creativity and smoky-sweet vocals. Dan also doesn’t just play his music on stage while performing; he interacts with the audience to give them a more captivating experience.
We first took notice of Dan after hearing his song titled “Detroit,” which sings as a sad song, but within the lyrics, you find its beauty and realize it’s really an uplifting love-ballad of our shining city. (You can hear it here.)
Dan was able to squeeze away from his nationwide college tour to chat with us, about his music, his success and his goals…
Check him out!
Tell us about yourself…
I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I like to write, record, and perform music. I also like to cook (mostly because I like to eat) and hang out with my friends and family when I’m not on the road. I’m a huge dog person and usually miss my family’s dog more than most people in my life when I’m on the road.
You spent a great deal of time living in the UK, could you tell us about that?
When I was 4, my dad accepted a position at Ford to move and work in the UK. We ended up staying there for over 6 years, until I was almost 11. I learned to play cello while I was there, and that was the catalyst that started my love of playing music. Unfortunately, I had to quit cello when my family moved to another part of England, where the school didn’t offer cello lessons. I also played rugby when I was there, and thus began my love of aggressive sports.
With your music today, could you talk about what inspires you? Or who?
My biggest inspiration has always been the people in my life. My family and friends are incredibly important to me, and I think about them with everything I do, including when I write my music. Their stories, or the stories I share with them, have plenty of material for my songwriting.
Musically speaking, I have been influenced strongly by John Mayer, Leonard Cohen, Sara Bareilles, Mat Kearney, and literally hundreds of others. I couldn’t put all my influences on a list.
What type of music do you aim to make? If someone never heard any of your music, how would you describe it to them?
I aim to make good, clever music that can be related to both lyrically and melodically. My prime goal with any song I write or record that I produce is to have an interaction with the listener – whether that is a happy, sad, memory-provoking or calming interaction. As long as I can help people feel something, I’ve done my job. I would describe my music as lyrically-driven pop music with a hint of British rock and a dash of rhythm and blues.
You did an acoustic cover of Lil Jon’s “Get Low” – where did that idea come from?
That cover started at an open mic in Ann Arbor, where I literally pulled the lyrics up on my cell phone and played some chords and played something that sort of sounds like the cover I have today. It got such a good reaction, I decided to play it at a few shows after I perfected it. A little over a year later, my friend Billy Jackson (the guy who directed and shot the video [I made for this cover]) convinced me that we should make that a cover video.
…And that video has reached over a million views on YouTube, did you anticipate this?
I didn’t anticipate it at all. I was getting a couple thousand views on my YouTube channel per month before that video. I would have been happy with a couple thousand views on it at that point. A few hours after I posted it, had already reached 30,000 views. I was ecstatic. Now my channel has over 8 million views, which is just insane. I still can’t really believe that was the video that did it, but I’m not complaining.
Do you have any goals with music?
I set goals just like anyone else. I see myself in a certain position, and I try figure out the steps I need to take to reach that position. I’m not always right, mind you – it’s definitely a long road with lots of learning along the way. The goals I do set though are quite specific, for instance, I really want to open for Sara Bareilles, and that has been a goal of mine for about 5 years now. It still hasn’t happened, but I keep trying to get myself to the point where someone like Sara would notice my music, which is the goal slightly below that, and that’s how I set my goals. I have my big, huge “open for the best musician out there” goal, and then a bunch of goals that get progressively less challenging to obtain that become the building blocks to get me to my biggest goal.
You toured a national college tour recently, could you tell us about that?
I’m actually still on that tour – and it’s an absolutely fantastic experience. Every show is completely different. For instance, yesterday I was in New Hampshire at a school with an enrollment of 700 students, and played for about 40 of them in a tiny room in their dining hall building, and had an unbelievable time. It was really intimate and I got to talk to the students, and it pretty much ended up being a 2-hour long set with lots of jokes and music and a really relaxed vibe. Other shows can be huge with a couple thousand kids. It really depends on the school and the type of event I’m playing. It’s amazing though, I love traveling and seeing the country and this is literally the most fun thing I’ve ever done because I get to meet cool people, see cool places, and play a huge variety of types of shows. I love it.
You opened for 3 Doors Down while they were here in Detroit on February 9th, could you tell us about that experience?
I was very lucky to be offered the opening spot for that show. I’ve been listening to 3 Doors down since I was ten, and had just moved back to the U.S…it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played for, and I think I got hooked. It came about because my good friend Matthew Altruda (the Ann Arbor Music Scene Legend and radio personality) gave me a call and asked if I wanted to. Duh, Matt.
How about Detroit’s music scene, tell us what it’s like to be a part of it:
Honestly, I’m just honored to be a part of the music scene here. Michigan isn’t always a place that gets looked at for its music, and I have no idea why, because there is a ridiculous amount of talent here. I couldn’t be more proud to be from this area. Living here and meeting the people I’ve met in the scene here has made me the musician I am today. I’ll always be a Michigan boy.
Has Detroit, or Ann Arbor, played an influence in your music?
Oh it’s in everything I do. My producer, mentor, and now good friend, Tim Patalan, has produced so many of the Detroit scene’s bands (Sponge was his claim to fame), it would be impossible not to be influenced by Detroit. Being from somewhere like Ann Arbor, a beautiful college town with a strongly supportive arts community makes a kid like I was a few years ago feel like it’s actually possible to do what you love for a living. I have a song I wrote about Detroit, and even though I’m not from the city, I frequent it and feel a strong connection with the place. I wrote the song about the potential I see in the city. It’s about the fact that even though it might never be the same powerhouse city it was in the ’50s, it is a beautiful place underneath its scars, and it’s up to us as Michiganders to build Detroit again, and it absolutely can happen. I believe in Detroit.
What do you do in your free time around Detroit and Ann Arbor?
I stay with my family when I’m in Michigan, so I hang out in Ann Arbor most of the time. I love Uptown Coney Island in Ann Arbor, I always grab at least one meal with my family there when I’m home. My favorite things to do are honestly just be with my family and friends. Sometimes we hang out all day and play music in their basements, sometimes we go out when it’s warm and play Frisbee. As long as I’m with the people I love, I’m home.
Find more about Dan Henig here!