Once, stuck in the car with three screaming toddlers, I desperately put two empty raisin boxes on my fingers and made a puppet I called "Raisin Dog." Raisin Dog, who had a very bad French accent, was far funnier than I have ever been. The ukulele seems to inspire funny in people the way this simple puppet did for me. Maybe it's the small size, or the plucky sound, but the uke seems to pull it out of people.
One of the funniest people playing ukulele, and one of the best young song writers I have heard in years, is Danielle Anderson, who performs under the very humorous moniker, Danielle Ate The Sandwich. Behind her thick framed glasses, Danielle has the facial elasticity of a silent movie star. Fortunately for us, she is anything but silent, has a lovely voice, and writes songs that say things in a simple yet expansive way. For example, from her song On Planet Earth:
In a factory
in a small Midwestern town
there are women
manufactured by the hour
and they are sexy
and they know more about comic books than me
and when you're gone
I worry that they've found you
This lyric demonstrates the "show, don't tell" dynamic she has down so well. Or, if you still need convincing, listen to the word craft in yet another great video from her forthcoming album:
To find out more about this rising musician, we asked her the following questions:
Donnie Bubbles: More and more of your songs have been on ukulele lately. Is the uke your official instrument of choice these days, and why or why not?
Danielle Ate the Sandwich: I do love the ukulele the most! So far, it's the instrument that best compliments my songwriting style and singing voice. Aside from it being a crowd pleaser (people love tiny things), it's fun to play and easier for me to work around than the guitar. Also, it's easier for me to find the right tone or sound of a song I'm looking for on the ukulele. The chords tell stories on their own. The ukulele and I have a symbiotic relationship. I whisper, "Let's write a song about my mother's father's death" and the ukulele says back to me, "Gm-F-C."
DB: Sorry, but I have to ask about the name. Whose sandwich did you eat, and why has it left you branded as the one who ate it?
DB: Do you find, as I did with the Raisin Dog puppet, that the persona of "Danielle Ate The Sandwich" begins to take on a life of her own?
DATS: Absolutely. I am a different person when I perform and the more I do it and the more comfortable I get with myself as a singer and as a performer, the more I morph in to this character. To me, a successful performance is entertaining your audience through music and genuine emotion as well as letting them into your world through conversation and making jokes and showing who you are as a person. I want to give people a reason to watch me and to listen to me. I love to perform. I love the things that come out of me. I feel more powerful and self-assured. I feel like I have the right to be loud and obnoxious. It's silly, though, how I work as a person and as a musician. I don't really like to be around people, but I love to be in front of them. You want to see a monkey dance? Give Danielle a microphone.
DB: The name of your new album is called Things People Do, which is also who you quote as your musical influence on your web site. Can you elaborate on this? Are you amused or befuddled by the things people do?
DATS: I say my influences come from the things people do, because it's as simple and as complicated as that. I write songs about things I've seen or felt or experienced or wondered about or tried to put myself in the shoes of but never had the slightest idea how to. I think that the things people do are amusing and awful and brilliant and beautiful. One thing I've concluded about life is people do the things they do. We're monsters and madmen and we're capable of so much and usually do so little. When you think about it like that, about all of those possibilities, there are a lot of songs to be written.
DB: You have a "Coffee House" tour coming up at the end of January. Have you done many live performances? On the dates you share with other performers, will you be playing together, or one after the other?