Danny Lee Blackwell, the mastermind behind the outlaw country/bluesy rock outfit Night Beats, picked up the phone to chat with me only days after returning home from tour with the iconic band W.I.T.C.H. and beautifully existential musician Breanna Barbara. All of the adrenaline was just starting to wear off and exhaustion was beginning to set in, but his love for music was only amplified. Even with his post-tour fatigue, he was ecstatic to talk about his live Levitation Sessions that he recorded on analog tape in the Mojave Desert.
Since the pandemic, many have felt lost wandering within the realm of music. However, melody and beat still always find a way to soothe the soul—and this project intensified those feelings for Danny. He hopes that people feel less alone when experiencing this Live Session and it helps them to find a companion in music and art.
“If anything, you know music is your friend,” he says. “Music has been a friend for me, music has been something that’s helped me through [hard] times, and that’s been able to transport me to different places. It’s been able to telepathically link me with something that is warm and comforting and can maybe help you out if you’re feeling a little lost.”
Read the entire interview with Night Beat’s Danny Lee Blackwell below:
Elena Childers (EC): You just got back from tour—tell me a little about touring with W.I.T.C.H., they’re awesome right?
Danny Lee Blackwell (DLB): Oh man, yeah! That tour was just one I was looking forward to for so long. When the W.I.T.C.H. tour came around, it was just the most perfect thing ever. It’s one of my favorite groups that I think had a serious impact on the way that I see how there’s just these unbelievable things that can happen and no one knows. It’s a weird thing, you know? ‘Cause sure they were a big deal especially in Zambia, but the guy Gio Arlotta who made the documentary is really honestly doing something very selfless and very I think important to the history of documenting rock ‘n’ roll. I saw an opportunity to combine whatever the fuck I’m doing with them.
EC: I love to hear all those fresh-off-of-tour feelings, the memories are still so fresh. Let’s talk about this Levitation session—all I know about it is what I’ve watched and it looks fucking awesome. You guys look so perfect in that setting, like that’s your zone.
DLB: Thank you! It was shot in Lancaster, which is in the Antelope Valley. Which is by the Mojave Desert, which is in California, which is on planet earth in the Milky Way galaxy. I had moved out to the California area right before the pandemic. I was looking for a space that [could] play a role in the film—be an element that tells its own story... To put a spin, a twist on something. The music relates to this space and I think it was really important that we also recorded it to tape. I wanted to get the analog sound out wherever we were, which is actually more simple than you’d think. You bring a generator and you can do anything anywhere!
EC: How did you find the space?
DLB: I was looking for a space that could act as a kind of character in the thing. So, the setting and the scenery and the location has an impact on the way it sounds, in the way that it’s delivered, and the way that it’s appreciated when it’s heard. To make sense that the music I’ve written over these years is really for an open mind and an open face, you know? But it’s for anybody, it’s for everything and any situation.
But if you could transport somewhere and you could look out and see those cliffs and that dirt and those Joshua Trees and the sun being so bare and exposed... I think it adds an element to the music, like an underlying current you can already hear that kind of elevates it. It came about pretty quickly, I had the help of my friends Hamilton and Danny and it was just kind of a D.I.Y./ “let’s put together and figure this shit out” kind of situation. I wanted to make something that had the best kind of impact it could for someone sitting inside; also, to where they really felt transported somewhere.
EC: I totally agree, when I watched it I instantly felt like the music meshed so well with this environment. I think that worked out. Did it maybe inspire you for any future projects?
DLB: The short answer is yes, absolutely. I’ve been trying to find the means to do something where an album has a complete sort of visual. A film for an album is the idea there. You could make a feature type of film and make an album at the same time and you’re kind of doing two things that are already happening—at least in my head—of the visual representation and the storytelling that you’re doing through the songwriting and through the crafting and producing of an album. To me, it seems pretty natural.
EC: I love it! Well, we have to wrap up. I am curious though, if your viewers could walk away with just one kind of thought after watching this session, what would you hope that would be?
DLB: I would say that you’re not alone. If anything, you know music is your friend. Music has been a friend for me, music has been something that’s helped me through [hard] times and that’s been able to transport me to different places. It’s been able to telepathically link me with something that is warm and comforting and can maybe help you out if you’re feeling a little lost or something.