South Florida bands have endured a year of almost no live performances. We caught up with five of the region’s top recording artists, from up-and-comers to linchpins of the scene, to see how they’re surviving—and thriving—amid a tumultuous landscape.
CHASING THE DREAM
In January 2021, Boca-based singer-songwriter JD Danner released her first new recording in five years. Titled “Nothing But Faith,” it captured the essence of the past 14 months.
“There’s a fear in the air tonight/It keeps us apart,” Danner sings, on the alternately plaintive and hooky four-minute track, solo piano building toward a crescendo of guitar, bass and drums. “We’re a world interrupted/Our lives are disrupted/Believe that we’ll see better days,” goes the chorus, colored by a hint of twang.
“I was inspired to write it from seeing the way the world was, the quiet streets, signs of things being closed … and I thought people needed a song of hope,” she says. “Music brings that. There’s a magic in music, because it can be healing. It can move you emotionally in ways that you can’t explain.”
Danner has been chasing this brand of magic professionally since 1992, when she quit her workaday career as an accountant to pursue music more seriously. “I didn’t want to be just waiting for Friday every week,” she says. “I missed family occasions, dinners and things because I needed to make deadline for papers that end up in boxes in a room that no one cares about a month later. … I needed to feed my soul.”
So she enrolled in music and guitar lessons, formed her first band at 28 and hasn’t stopped since. Her punky bangs and shoulder-length black hair instantly conjure one of her major influences, Joan Jett, but crunchy rock anthems are only part of her diverse oeuvre. Across four albums of original material, Danner hopscotches between country, folk and blues.
“Earlier in my career, that was an issue,” she says. “People didn’t know where to put me. I would meet with a manager or an agent, and they’d be like, ‘Are you country? Are you rock? Are you blues?’ And my answer is always, I’m a little of all of that.
“The way the music business is now, especially if artists can promote themselves online, you can do your own thing. When I recorded my [debut] CD House Blend, [I decided] I’m not worried about fitting in a genre. I’m not worried about a record label thinking these songs go well together. I’m just going to write what I like.”
Though she mostly tours around Florida, Danner has amassed a national audience playing on military bases and on USO tours. She performed at an NFL halftime show in Indianapolis, and earned rave reviews for her sets at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Café.
There have been setbacks, too—carrots dangled, only to be yanked at the last minute. One of her swampy country songs, complete with a preliminary contract, nearly made it onto the soundtrack of HBO’s “True Blood.” She was also in talks to have her music sold in Cracker Barrel stores, which would have instantly elevated her profile. “That was a set thing until it wasn’t,” she recalls.
But if her songs teach us anything, it’s that hope is always around the corner. “It has not stopped me from continuing to dream, and to try for the next opportunity.”
Find music from JD Danner at reverbnation.com/jddanner or on your streaming service of choice.