As a boy, Ezra Daniels’ formative experience with music consisted of playing drums for his traveling preacher father, driving from small town to small town experiencing again and again from behind the kit the heated fervor of Alabama tent revivals. In his youth he began devouring any music he could find. There he found a large, multi-colored window into the greater world that existed beyond the coal mines, steel factories, and drag races of his upbringing.
Curiosity and a gift for singing and quickly picking up instruments led Ezra eventually into the music scene of Birmingham, the largest and most diverse metro area in the state. What followed was years of performing and recording with various rock bands, which gave him the chance to integrate his southern gospel background into the music of a scene equally rich in rock, grunge, country blues, and bluegrass.
It’s been 20 years since Daniels set out as a solo artist, focusing on songwriting, and honing his skills as a producer as he began to build a home studio that could provide the blank canvas needed for working on his own sound. This dedication to having a creative space led to projects such as the late-aughts’ alt-indie-americana outfit The White Oaks, who rose quickly to a prominent position in the scene, gaining notoriety on local radio as well as nationally syndicated host Scott Register’s show, with songs like “Hey! Julie!” showcasing the bands ability to craft thoughtful, catchy songs with strong harmonies.
One of the founding members and front man of The White Oaks, Noel Johnson NDJ, became a regular contributor to Daniels’ efforts as, in the mid- 2010s’ he began a fruitful collaboration with multi-Grammy award winning Engineer and Producer Darrel Thorp, who left an indelible mark on the sound of Daniel’s subsequent releases, bringing out the punch and shine on top of his warm southern sound. These collaborative efforts reach a pinnacle on the songs from 2019’s Forever Love, such as “Shooting Stars,” “Touching Your Skin,” and “With You”
Snake River, Daniels’ new single and EP, furthers his evolution from muscle-shoals inspired horn arrangements and weeping pedal steel to a slightly more pop production, resulting in what the album’s producer Jeremy Griffith refers to as “cinematic folk,” rich in shimmering reverbs and a lovely blend of acoustic guitars, classic analog synths, and electronic rhythmic elements. The songwriting is still firmly rooted in americana, but Daniel’s voice has given way from overt twang to a subtle tenor reminiscent of a mellowed-out Roy Orbison, as the music shifts in the direction of dreamy bedroom pop with touches here and there of Tame Impala and the 80’s hits of The Cars.
Daniels has been married for over two decades to his high school sweetheart, and together they have successfully built a home and a family, so it’s no surprise that themes of commitment and devotion arise continuously in his songs. On Snake River these themes are embellished and expanded by the weight of the years, as he uses simple language to express deeply personal emotions and uncover the universal value of longing, regret, and the unstoppable passage of time. By its end, Snake River leads the listener to a satisfying feeling of awakening to the beauty found in the fleeting nature of the present moment.