A few short years ago, Danika Drover wouldn’t have dared even to sing in the shower, let alone to a room full of people.
If it wasn’t for the encouragement of local singer/songwriter Jerry Stamp, she may still be a closeted songwriter.
“I guess I created a sort of Frankenstein’s monster,” Stamp said.
Drover, who grew up a natural athlete without an interest in music, taught herself to play guitar in her early 20s, after one of her three brothers was given one for Christmas. When he didn’t seem interested in it, Drover picked it up and gave it a go.
She wrote private songs for the next few years, and never performed in public until she got the courage to post a video of herself on her Facebook page.
Stamp, whom she had met through a mutual friend, immediately saw her potential and encouraged her to come onstage with him.
“I said, I might as well live in the moment, and as much as I didn’t want to do it, I did,” Drover explained.
Not long after that, Drover, her brothers and some friends were heading downtown one Tuesday night to celebrate her birthday, and decided to go to O’Reilly’s. Not realizing there was a competition on the go, Drover performed a few songs, figuring it was like any other open mike night. She ended up winning that competition, and the grand prize: the opportunity to record a full-length, professional album.
It’s not hard to guess who the first person she called was. Stamp, who performs pretty much every night of the week at one local venue or another, is also a successful side musician, writer and producer.
“I threw it out to him, not sure of what he’d say, but he jumped in right away and said sure,” Drover said. “Then we started the process of getting the rest of the band together.’
That band includes Stamp on vocals and acoustic and electric guitars, Ian Foster on keyboard, Brad Madden on vocals and bass and Chris Clarke on drums.
With their help, Drover spent two weeks at Stagehouse Studios in St. Philip’s last winter, and released “Wanderlust,” her debut record, this month.
The album consists of Drover’s original tunes, arranged by Stamp. All born for the acoustic guitar, the songs now have diversity: while Drover’s guitar and her clear, sultry yet raw voice shine, her style varies from the 1950s-influenced “A Girl Can Dream,” to the pop-country-twinged “Mr. Bourgeoisie,” to the inclusion of piano on “A Face.”
“I was pretty open-minded the whole time. I had no reservations whatsoever,” Drover said. “When the band came on board, I said if you have any ideas, I’m completely open. I don’t think I turned down anything they brought up, because it’s a learning experience for me, and it was just an honour for me to have them there.
“There was no intimidation factor — they kind of said, ‘You’re good; we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have faith in you.’ I felt, being next to them, that I didn’t really belong there sometimes, but they really made me feel comfortable.”
Drover’s not your average singer/songwriter, and that’s one reason why Stamp likes her so much. Drover is the antidote for the “I’m gonna get mine and you get out of my way” songs that dominate these days, he said.
“Danika is the antidote for that,” Stamp said. “I liked her songs, but even before that, I liked her. It wasn’t just because she was a writer that I pushed her to get onstage. It was because she has a demeanor that I don’t see very often in music. She doesn’t have an ego. She is very positive. Once I heard her tunes, it was even better, because she brings the same light to her music.”
Indeed, Drover’s lyrics and tunes are like rays of sunshine on airwaves full of aggression. Her songs are all about seizing the day, living for the moment and making the most of what you have. These philosophies are ones Drover picked up during her world travels, backpacking through South America, southern Africa, Australia and southeast Asia.
“Through travel, I’ve been able to focus on the positive sides of my life and realize what I have and what I can do with it, rather than what I don’t have,” she explained. “You look at Adele and every one of her songs is about love and relationships. I might have one or two about that, but really it’s more about focusing on the positivity and making the most out of your life and trying to do the best for other people and yourself. I’ve been lucky, I’ve got to say. I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Drover, who holds three university degrees and works as an industrial hygienist for the government, isn’t sure if she’ll do a second record; right now she’s focused on enjoying this one. She plans to keep writing music and performing, and if opportunity knocks, she won’t be afraid to open the door. She knows it’s only a select few who get to try a career in music, and she won’t turn down any possibility, she said.
“Wanderlust” is available at Fred’s Records in St. John’s, on iTunes, and through Drover’s website at www.danikadrover.com.