I grew up in a typical, midwestern house in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I come from a kind, loving family with one younger brother, and two parents who love me. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of whatever I was interested in, so when I said I wanted to sing, they signed me up for piano so that I could read music. Once I was proficient, they signed me up for voice lessons and guitar. They encouraged me as I immersed myself in the craft that had taken over every waking moment of my life at such a young age.
When I got to high school, I wanted desperately to be in the musicals, yet I was never cast in a single show. I was never even put into the chorus. When I confronted the director about her choice in cast, she told me I should “ find a different hobby” because I “just wasn’t right for the stage.” I am a full-blooded Aquarius personality, which means when someone tells me no…I say f*** you. Yes. YES. I will do it. This woman told me no, so I took my little red guitar, and I started playing shows at local bars for $200 a night. I turned down my first record deal at 15. After 2 years of working like this, my voice teacher suggested I look into music school. I fell in love with Belmont University and, at 18 years old, I turned down another record deal to move to Nashville and study music.
I spent four years in Nashville. As a freshman in College, I made it a goal to sign a contract by the time I graduated. I learned more than I could ever describe, and was taught by some of the greatest experts in the country on music, and the business that surrounds it. I loved college, and I worked hard for my diploma. I graduated with a bachelors in music and a minor in music business. I am proud to have my degree – my mom was the first woman in my entire family to go to college, and even though I do not need a degree to do music, it was important to me to show my family that I respect everything that they raised me to be, and that I want to make them proud. How many people have parents that support their dreams absolutely unconditionally? I know how lucky I am, and I want to show them every day how much I appreciate their support.
28 days after I graduated from college, I signed my first deal. It was a single song agreement with a label in Sweden. I was 28 days late hitting my goal, but I did it. I am a little over a year out of college, and only just hitting my stride. I moved to Los Angeles 9 months ago to continue pursuing music in a bigger city. I am almost finished recording an EP (a 5 song album), to be released sometime in September. I started my own publishing company, and I am currently in the middle of planning a self funded tour for November. Everything I am doing right now is independent and self funded. I never thought that I would be where I am today – I thought I would be signed to a label and be a normal “artist,” but I’ve never been one to be told what to do. It has not been easy, but I want to be the one in charge of my story. I love what I do and I am so proud of who I have become in the process of following my dream.
My message took me a long time to figure out. I finally decided that I did not need to manufacture a message…I just need to spread the words that I live by every day. You can be beautiful, strong, sexy, tough, sweet, independent, delicate, scrappy…whatever you want to be. You do not have to be defined by just one label. Do not be afraid to chase your dreams, do not be afraid to go after the impossible. Work hard every day. Commit to yourself every day. The most important thing you can do is choose happiness above all else. Choose happiness, every day.
If you enjoyed reading Dani’s story and want to find out more, follow her on Instagram @danikingmusic
(Photo Credits: Shelby Carol Photography)