Austin troubadour Danny Schmidt returns to DuluthDanny Schmidt will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at Beaner’s Central. Hattie Peterson is also on the bill. Cost is $10. See www.dannyschmidt.com.
It’s always an honor when out-of-state performers grace our stages. It’s even more heartwarming when they keep coming back.
Such is the case with Austin, Texas, singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt, who will return to Beaner’s Central Thursday.
“There are more places to go than I have time to go, so I just sort of pick the places that I enjoy the most,” Schmidt told the Budgeteer, explaining why he doesn’t mind playing shows so far away from the Lone Star State.
He usually schedules his shows so that he won’t have to drive more than a few hours each day. If he has any spare time in his favorite homes away from home, Schmidt likes to make the most out of his visits, getting in some hikes and “adventures.”
Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Work comes first.
“When you’re a traveling musician, your laptop is sort of your office, and the coffeeshops are sort of your temporary office spaces,” he said.
Another drag for Schmidt is that he finally took his relationship with his girlfriend — fellow singer/songwriter Carrie Elkin, who has also been profiled in the Budgeteer — to the next level by buying a house with her in Austin. And the two don’t always get to tour together.
“It’s less a case of getting tired of the road and more of a case of missing a sense of home,” he offered. “I feel really disconnected from Austin and my friends here. I don’t have any kind of rhythm, like a good home-life rhythm.”
Schmidt said this will be a big theme on his seventh record, which he was in the midst of working on in the studio when we phoned him. In a flurry of personal insights, the talented lyricist spoke of domestication, “overcoming some of your personal issues and limitations” and the decision to commit to Elkin and his hometown “to that degree.”
“That involved a lot of personal processing,” he revealed. “More than anything else, those themes are kind of what came out of the songs I was working on.”
This is a move away from 2009’s “Instead the Forest Rose to Sing,” which Schmidt boiled down to being about the value of work, time and money.
“Part of the process of making an album is you kind of realize what themes in your life you’ve been processing,” he said. “It’s not like I ever consciously sat down for the last record and was like, This is what the theme of the album is going to be.
“It’s more like you cut 11 tracks, pretty intimately day after day for a couple of weeks, then you realize that there was a theme in your life that you were working on.”
Another change Schmidt followers might notice when Minneapolis’ Red House Records rolls out his next album is its lyrical content.
“It’s sort of made an arc, I would say,” Schmidt said after explaining that when he started writing his own songs (when he was 25), his songs were quite personal and that he didn’t mask much. “As I started performing more, they got a little bit more symbolic and coded — a little safer to play in front of other people. They weren’t quite so transparent.”
Perhaps not transparent enough.
“I kind of took that to a little bit of an extreme,” he said, a Texas-sized thunderstorm echoing in his receiver. “At the time of 2005’s ‘Parables & Primes,’ the lyrics were very complex and coded. I think I’ve made a concerted effort back the other way, to make things a little more accessible.”
Schmidt said songwriters walk a fine line.
“You want to give people enough meat and complexity that the songs stay interesting to them … but you don’t want to make the audience work so hard to put the song together that it doesn’t grab them and hook them,” he said. “The more recent stuff is actually going back in that direction. The songs are more sing-songy, a little simpler.”
As much as he loves them, Schmidt is quick to point out he didn’t get into music because of his parents.
“No, they had really horrible taste,” he said of what they played during his childhood. “They like old show tunes and stuff like that. I’ve actually come to appreciate some of the stuff they listen to, like Tin Pan Alley … but, at the time, it wasn’t really cool.”
Instead of playing music his parents would appreciate, Schmidt picked up the guitar as a young teenager.
“I got into a lot of the heavy guitar stuff … the guys that can shred up and down the neck, like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai,” he said.
The future coffeehouse favorite then gravitated toward hometown heroes Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Those guys kind of got me digging back into the roots stuff a little bit,” he said.
Following in those guitarists’ literal footsteps would be a long time coming, however.
“I didn’t perform or anything,” Schmidt said. “I was a total closet guitar player.”
Once he started composing his own stuff, however, his creativity just blossomed.
Now, with six albums already under his belt, how does Schmidt highlight each period of his accelerated career (his first album, “Live at the Prism Coffeehouse,” was only released 11 years ago)?
“It depends on my mood,” Schmidt said. “I tend to do a sample; I’m not one of those people who just goes out and only plays their new stuff — not for the sake of promoting a record anyway.
“Sometimes, if I’ve been writing a bunch, and I’ve got some brand-new ones, those are the ones I’m most excited about playing. … But I pick from all over the place.”
Both Schmidt and Elkin will appear at Storyhill Fest Midwest, which will be held Sept. 4-6 outside Deerwood, Minn. See www.storyhill.com.
NEWS TO USE
Danny Schmidt will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at Beaner’s Central. Hattie Peterson is also on the bill. Cost is $10. See www.dannyschmidt.com.