Casual Victim Pile II

SXSW 2011 Picks 2 Click

Casual Victim Pile II
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Danny Malone

SXSW showcase: Thu., March 17, 12mid, Stephen F's Bar

There's an uneasy urgency and earnestness to Danny Malone and his music that makes it seem his life depends on the moment. It's as if his sanity and the entire world were inextricably tied to the story he's telling and the constant state of becoming that unfolds with the narrative.

Riding on the fumes of a 12-hour drive back from the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, the 27-year-old songwriter darts his eyes distractedly as his hands betray a nervous tremble between cigarettes and sips of coffee. Flashes of his charmingly boyish smile seem to clash with his admittedly self-destructive inclinations, surfacing in a mischievous impulse to test a tale – to see how far he can spin it out – as when he talks about being sent to a rural Georgia prison when he was 16.

It's precisely these contradictions that make Malone's songwriting so compelling.

Behind his raw but warm nasal vocals, the local's compositions constantly balance both desperation and joyful communion, as exemplified on his sophomore album Cuddlebug (see "Texas Platters," Aug. 28, 2009).

"I think it translates straight up from who I am," suggests Malone of the duality. "I think a lot of people would call me just the happiest depressed person they know. I can have a good time completely in the pits of misery. I'm clearly addicted to it, I think.

"Something's wrong, but I think my saving grace is that I have hope of something. In my soul, I have some sort of feeling like there's an answer, like something is going to change."

Bearing witness to that hope are his live shows, which, while clawing deeply poignant folk-pop wounds, just as easily erupt into ebullient multimedia and experiential happenings, as was the case with Malone's arresting Mohawk Free Week appearance in January.

"I don't even like live music; I don't like going to shows; I hardly listen to music at all. I don't even know why I'm in this business," he laughs with deprecation. "So I wanted to transcend it – wanted it to feel bigger. I wanted it to really mean something to somebody, to put myself through something really awkward and scary and just out there, to just go out on a limb and see if I could handle it.

"Because I would probably blow my brains out if I didn't."

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