Life, as a metaphor, has often been described as a journey, a search for ourselves. Of course, though our lives are inconstant, and the scenery may change on a whim, we ourselves remain a constant. It’s what those with wanderlust often neglect to realize: Life is not a journey to find where we ourselves belong, but a journey to belong wherever we find ourselves.
Which is why Calgary native and self-proclaimed nomad Danielle French can say with full confidence, “Reno calls me a local, and when I’m there I realize I’m home.”
This musician from Canada first stumbled on these desert shores in 1998, and immediately felt a sense of community. From the beginning she felt welcomed into the local music scene here. And, over the years it has become something of a surrogate home for her. But, after years of touring through North America, part of which she lived out of her mint-green van, she has come to realize that she is forging lasting bonds in communities wherever she happens to land.
“Reno calls me a local, and when I’m there I realize I’m home—but this is happening in Wisconsin too. When I go there they say, ‘Welcome home,” she says.
Inspired by a poet she saw perform, who described the meaning of being a nomad, she implemented this concept into her life and her music.
“[The poet] described a nomad as ‘A nomad isn’t someone who doesn’t know where they belong; it’s a person that belongs everywhere,’” she says. “That really hit home for me, because I was always someone who was searching for ‘where do I belong?’ and I do belong everywhere.”
But part of taking a journey is the return home.
On her latest album, Drive, she walks familiar territory. Her last album, Shadow, was a very studio-oriented, production-heavy effort. And, though she was immensely satisfied with the album and her growth as a songwriter for the album, on her latest effort she was motivated by a sense of coming back to realm of traditional folk music.
Though she has a full band, Reno’s The Novelists, playing on her record, she put herself as a singer and a guitar player at the forefront of the album.
“If you hear this album with the full band, you can still get the essence of the song, and you can hear that it can be done just with a guitar,” she says. “Making it really clear that I could do these songs with just a guitar was really the focus in the recording.”
And, though the album is laced with jazz, moody acoustic folk and up-tempo rock, at its core it is supported by the vocal and guitar tracks that motivated the album, which plays like a seamless road trip mix, the songs themselves changing as mood and intensity as the landscape viewed from the windshield of your car might.
Drive, which was recorded in Reno and produced by local Tom Gordon, was the first album she has recorded outside of Canada, which is why she is planning on coming back to town to play a CD release show at Cantina Los Tres Hombres on Aug. 16, and also planning to stick around and play a number of shows before and after she heads into the desert for Burning Man.
“I really wanted to have a celebration, and acknowledge where I recorded it,” she says about her record release show, happy to acknowledge that she has already released the album in Canada, where she already had an album release party.
She laughs like a child with too many parents, fully aware that come Christmas time, her only problem will be finding too many gifts under the tree.