20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers

Published May 14, 2021

In part 33 of our continuing 20:20 Q&A series,

Dan Friese —talented singer-songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist—

joins us to talk about honesty, healing, and hopping into extremely cold water during a trip to Iceland.

Dan’s third album, Somewhere Brighter, releases [October 1]. Stay with us and listen to the first single “Time to Sing” from that album. It’s a thoughtful, insightful song sure to resonate with many of our fellow humans, as it did with us.

Welcome, Dan, and thank you for joining us.

~Bambi Grinder, NoteWorthy Music

Dan Friese | Photo by KT Ainsworth
Photos by KT Ainsworth | Courtesy of Dan Friese

20:20 with Dan Friese

NWM 1: Please introduce yourself, briefly, as a musician and human of Earth.
Dan: I’m a Minnesota-born singer-songwriter currently residing in Oregon. I’ve been playing and writing music for over twenty years, but only recently began sharing it with the world.

NWM 2: What was your first concert as a fan?
Dan: Red Hot Chili Peppers with Foo Fighters and Muse when I was 13. John Frusciante [Red Hot Chili Peppers] is one of the main reasons I started playing the guitar, so it was a pretty thrilling experience for me.

NWM 3: Name three things that make you smile.
Dan: Stephanie, my partner in life, muse, and jet fuel; Jane, my beautiful, loyal dog of unknown breed; and live-music mistakes—dropped picks, missed chords, broken strings, etc. Polished performances are great, but sometimes it’s nice to see the artists that we idolize as the imperfect humans they are.

Polished performances are great, but sometimes it’s nice to see the artists that we idolize as the imperfect humans they are.

NWM 4: Your forthcoming album, Somewhere Brighter, releasing [October 1], is highly personal and focuses on your battles with depression, anxiety, and drug abuse.

Please tell us about this album and its significance to your life and music.
Dan: The writing and recording of Somewhere Brighter was a very healing process for me. I, along with so many others, saw my mental health deteriorate over the last year. With the help of weekly visits to my therapist, I was able to reorganize my perspective. I learned to embrace my anxiety and coexist with it.

These songs allowed me to take my jumbled, frenetic thoughts and turn them into something coherent that I can understand. It’s almost as if my thoughts are spoken in another language and songwriting serves as my translator. I spent the last few months writing songs to grapple with my understanding of life, love, time, perception, and spirituality. This album consists of the 14 best ones that came out.

Dan Friese | Photo by KT Ainsworth

NWM 5: In the press release for ‘Time to Sing,’ your first single from Somewhere Brighter, you share the following: ‘With the help of psychedelic-assisted therapy, I was able to rewire my brain and alter my mindset.’

Please elaborate on this life-changing experience and how it felt physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Dan: I participated in a two-day ayahuasca ceremony. It was an intensely beautiful and painful experience. I left with a confidence and creative drive that I had never known before.

For the first time in my life, I actually felt comfortable being myself.

The ceremony was facilitated by trusted and well-trained teachers who helped guide me through the experience safely. I look forward to the day when our country stops demonizing psychedelic compounds and starts to recognize their ability to help people. The day when people don’t have to break the law to access the healing that they deserve.

NWM 6: How does Somewhere Brighter differ from or compare to your other albums, Jane Songs and Happiness?
Dan: My previous two releases had a bit of a melancholy feel to them. This one leans more on the hopeful, uplifting side. I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter, and I think it shows on this album.

I look forward to the day when our country stops demonizing psychedelic compounds and starts to recognize their ability to help people.

NWM 7: What is a core tenet by which you live your life or approach your music?
Dan: Honesty. It’s pretty easy to tell when a person is full of s**t [self-censored], but it’s really easy to tell when a musician is full of s**t.

NWM 8: What is a favorite of your songs? Please tell us a little bit about it.
Dan: ‘Don’t Wait’—it’s the third track from my EP, Happiness. It marks an important shift in my life where I stopped sitting around waiting for my dreams to magically come true and started actually putting in the work necessary to make them happen.

Dan Friese | Photo by KT Ainsworth

NWM 9: You are a thoughtful and insightful lyricist. ‘Time to Sing’ is beautiful and resonates with us deeply. What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for your writing.
Dan: Loved ones fuel my inspiration more than anything else. The spark that leads to a song usually comes from an experience or discussion that I’ve had with a friend or family member. I have a simple home studio where I do most of my writing and recording. Having a dedicated space to create is vital, so I feel very grateful to have that room in our house.

Another necessity is time. For me, nothing is more important than consistently putting in the time.

NWM 10: Where were you and what were you doing when you realized COVID-19 had just changed your life as a performance artist?
Dan: When lockdowns began, it had been quite a while since I had played a live show of any kind. So I wasn’t affected all that much. All the time and isolation allowed me to focus on my music more seriously and led to the creation of Happiness and Jane Songs. I’m really looking forward to getting the chance to connect with people in person again.

Loved ones fuel my inspiration more than anything else.

NWM 11: You are a multi-instrumentalist. Tell us about those you play and the differences in your approach to each of them. In addition, what instrument holds the most fascination for you and do you play it?
Dan: My primary instrument is the guitar. I also play the mandolin, ukulele, piano, lap steel, bass, and harmonica. Most everything that I write begins on the guitar and builds from there. I would definitely consider myself a guitarist first and everything else second.

I’m fascinated (and deeply intimidated) by the violin. It always seemed to require way more grace and precision than I possess, so I never picked one up.

Dan Friese | Photo by KT Ainsworth

NWM 12: If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Dan: Jimi Hendrix

NWM 13: Strangest road story?
Dan: I’ve actually never been on tour, so I don’t have any proper road stories. Instead, I’ll just tell you my strangest travel story. Immediately upon arrival in Iceland, I was asked by my Airbnb host (at 6 a.m.) if I’d like to go for a swim in the ocean. He drove me to the shore, handed me some flippers and led me into the coldest water that I’ve ever felt. We swam for a couple hundred meters, climbed out on some rocks, and promptly hopped into a hot spring pool. Then the guy just casually looks over at me and says, ‘Welcome to Iceland.’

NWM 14: What are your special interests beyond music?
Dan: I’m a big fan of the outdoors, so I do a lot of hiking and camping. I worked in Yellowstone National Park for two summers when I was younger, and that experience really sparked my love of nature. I also love travelling. Partially because I love exploring and experiencing new things; and partially because I love researching, looking at maps, and planning stuff. In the past, I’ve definitely considered trying to become a travel agent.

NWM 15: What song/album could you play on repeat?
Dan: ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ by Neutral Milk Hotel

I worked in Yellowstone National Park for two summers when I was younger, and that experience really sparked my love of nature.

NWM 16: Please share a unique childhood experience that you feel helped contribute to who you and your music are today.
Dan: When I was 13 or 14 years old, my mom brought me to a blues show in the basement of a record store in Chicago. After their set, the band invited audience members to come up and jam. After some goading from my mom, I ended up on stage with a guitar playing ‘Pride & Joy’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with the band. That experience really left a mark on my teenage self and motivated me to get better at playing music.

NWM 17: What is something that has surprised you in your life or career? Tell us a bit about it.
Dan: How confused most everyone is all of the time. When I was a kid, I was under the impression that adults always knew exactly what they were doing. I thought that when you reached a certain age, you just kind of got it and moved forward with some new understanding of life. Then I got older and came to find that wasn’t the case at all. I realized that most of us are just out here trying to maintain. And it made me feel a hell of a lot better about everything.

When I was a kid, I was under the impression that adults always knew exactly what they were doing.

NWM 18: Apart from live music, what are you most looking forward to when things return to ‘normal’?
Dan: Travel. I have the endless urge to wander and explore, so it’ll be nice to be able to do that freely again.

NWM 19: What is one thing you would want our readers to know about you which we might not know to ask?
Dan: That if they challenge me to a game of NHL ‘94 on Sega Genesis, they can expect to lose that game.

NWM 20: What’s next for Dan Friese?
Dan: I plan on hitting the road to play some shows as soon as I possibly can, but that all depends on how the COVID-19 situation progresses over the next few months. This summer, after the release of Somewhere Brighter, I’ll be relocating to Denver. In the meantime, I’ll be here in Oregon writing songs and soaking up my last few months in this absurdly gorgeous place.

Dan Friese | “Time to Sing” | Somewhere Brigher

Dan Friese

Dan Friese

Dan Friese is an Oregon-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He’s known for his thoughtful lyrics, engaging melodies, and intimate live shows. His music features a unique blend of folk, blues, country, and psychedelic rock.

To learn more and buy stuff, visit https://danfriese.com/

You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Zoe FitzGerald Carter

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