Dan Orlando: Philly Rising’s Standout Artist of 2013

Boy Wonder’s Philly Rising open mic gives our little town of Philadelphia an assortment of artists bringin’ what they got to the stage at World Café Live. They recently crowned the Philly Rising Standout Artist of 2013 and his name is Dan Orlando. We’re sure you’re going to be hearing more from him. A local boy who has brought his pianotastical show through some of our country’s most revered musical cities took a few moments with us and helped us get better acquainted to the man behind the microphone.

Rock On Philly: So Dan, you just won the Philly Rising Standout Artist of the Year for 2013…how amazing does that have to feel? What was going through your head when you were announced the winner?

Dan Orlando: It feels incredible. When I heard my name called, I felt this tremendous sense of honor to have been picked out of such a talented lineup. My band and I thought the award could’ve gone to at least seven different ways. It was that competitive. Then, as I was talking to everyone backstage, I thought a lot about all of the gigs I’d played over the past year to prepare me for this moment. It was an unforgettable night.

ROP: Tell us a little about your debut album, Range of Irrational. Where was the musical fuel coming from to develop this album?

DO: The fuel for this album came from a very difficult year for me. I was signed right out of college, but the label gave up on me with no explanation. That motivated me to move to New York and find out if I had what it took to succeed. This inevitably put a lot of strain on my relationship at that time and it fell apart from there. Thankfully, I started working for Cari Cole Voice and Music as a session musician, and she introduced me to a group of incredible co-writers that encouraged me to tell my story. It was painful at times but I’m glad Cari and my team forced me to tell the truth. I wouldn’t be the artist I am now had they not.

ROP: I obviously had to do some Internet stalking and I came across your bio. I’m amazed that someone who didn’t really speak until they were five years old and to pick up on the piano at four years old to communicate is pretty much where you started. It was like your destiny. How do you think this has molded you into the artist you are now? Do you think much has changed?

DO: That’s a good question. I was lucky to have parents who recognized that I needed speech therapy, so I’m certainly more comfortably communicating under normal circumstances than I was back then. Then again, I’ve always felt it easier to express myself through music than words, so in that sense, nothing has changed at all. I think as an artist, it motivates me to always keep searching for new compositional tools of expression. As I get older, my points of view change, so I can’t possibly hope to use the same grooves, melodies, and chord progressions I used when I was fourteen and still feel like I’m representing myself authentically.

ROP: Amazing. It seems you had a bit of a whirlwind throughout your life as a musician. Between training with Stuart Armstrong, going to school for music, a few bands, an almost album and so on, which lead you to here and now. It seems everything happens for a reason, right? How has this effected you as a musician?

DO: I’m thankful the experience has been more jagged than linear thus far because it has taught me that the only things you can truly control are the quality of your material and the work you’re willing to put in making sure it gets heard. And while I mentioned the negative experiences, there have been a lot of beautiful ones wrapped up in that whirlwind too. I try to bring all of it to the table every time I perform.

ROP: What’s next for Dan Orlando?

DO: I’ll be opening for Andrew Ripp at World Cafe Live Philly Upstairs on February 20th, then playing SXSW in March. Thanks to this great Philly Rising contest, I’ll also be playing downstairs at WCL Philly and co-hosting 93.7 WSTW’s Hometown Heroes within the next two months. Then in April, it’s back to the studio to work on new material.

ROP: Speaking of busy music men, I see you have the Elton John and Billy Joel love going on, and they definitely resonate in some of your music, and it would be an obvious choice for a collaboration. Who else is out there that you would just absolutely love to work with and see as an influence?

DO: Coldplay. I think they’ve consistently put out some of the most riveting music of any genre over the last twenty years, and it would be a dream come true to collaborate with them. They’ve been a huge influence on my career.

ROP: I definitely get that Coldplay feel from you a bit. Chris Martin and Dan Orlando could make for some pretty interesting vocals. How about locally? Is there anyone locally that you have worked with or would like to work with?

DO: I’ve worked with Katie Frank and the Pheromones over the last couple of years and played on her latest release Counting Your Curses. I’ve also worked a lot with this year’s runner up Mackenzie Johnson, who I think is one of the areas premiere musical artists right now.

As for people I’d like to work with, I met Ben Arnold at a session for Katie. I think he’s a great writer and musician and I’d love to work with him too.

ROP: Ok, I need you to tell me about South by Southwest. I’m neon green with envy that you not only got to go, but you performed. Tell me what that experience was like, overall. And are you planning to head south again?

DO: I am going again and will be playing my first bill on March 15th as part the HYPE! SXSW showcase.

I’m sorry you’ve never been but I know someday you’ll go so I’m not going to mince words.

Picture Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Now replace all the tourists with a collage of every character that usually comes with a band. Like managers, lead singers, super fans, groupies, photographers, merch girls, activists. Then replace Times Square with a cramped, 12-block western saloon town comprised of four story buildings on each side of the street. Put a bar, maybe two, in each one, and throw some music in from the streets as well as those bars. Now dress yourself down like you’ve been in a van for two weeks, get a hangover, close your eyes, and listen to the bars and streets mercilessly duke it out for the right to your ears.

And that’s on a SLOW day.

ROP: And now we’re even more jealous. Can we expect you to be taking any other road trips?

DO: I’m planning a summer tour with a few big gigs, but it’s too early to confirm them publicly. I will keep you posted!

ROP: Please keep us in the loop. Taking a bit of a break from our music talk; what else could we find you doing in your spare time? Any sports, reading, weird talents, crocheting…anything?! Haha. We won’t judge!

DO: I used to swim competitively and now I do it privately to preserve self esteem. I’m a diehard Philly sports fan. “Four for four” as they say. I mean DIE HARD, which is bad because I haven’t had much luck rooting for those teams, and if there’s anything a musician doesn’t need it’s one more reason to be depressed.

ROP: Well, do as I do, use that for fuel. As a fellow sports fan, I am with you! Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. We’re looking forward to the “What’s Next” chapter in the Dan Orlando story, so keep writing and experiencing and living!

To keep up on the latest Dan Orlando news, check out his website at DanOrlandoMusic.com. Also on Twitter and Facebook. You will not regret it.

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