…Let it be about the work, love the opportunities for growth, build a brand, yes is the best word in an artist’s vocabulary, it means nothing if you don’t enjoy who you do it with.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Danny Greenberg of Bridges & Tunnels.
Danny Greenberg is the singer songwriter for New York based band Bridges & Tunnels. Following the successful reception of his debut LP, the band spent the last three years playing shows around the Northeast headlining venues such as City Winery, Rockwood Music Hall, and My Fathers Place, and opening for bands such as Erick Schenkman of the Spin Doctors. Previous support for the project includes over 50 radio stations across the US and Canada, Interviews with NPR and WFUV, and being featured in John Platt’s On Your Radar as an act you need to know.
Musically, Brides & Tunnels both polished and expanded their approach, retaining their narrative depth while bringing a simplicity and space to the sound that allows the words and hooks to do the talking. The band lives by their mission of using music and narrative to connect people to things we all have in common. In scope, palette, and composition, Bridges & Tunnels is a more daring and successful leap for a song writer that already kickstarted his career with a promising debut.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town, a very small town 12 miles outside New York City, Glen Ridge, New Jersey. I was brought up on a healthy dose of the American Songbook, Bob Dylan, and Simon and Garfunkel. By the time I was 12 it was pretty clear, after being the last cut of the traveling basket ball team 5 years running, that my love of performing was the path my life would take me on. Since then about a song a week and a book a month one step has led to another and here I am.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
From the time I could talk I started to sing. Honestly, once I started I never stopped. Whether walking the halls of my middle school, bouncing from class to class in my after school theater program, or going through the halls of The Boston Conservatory while studying for my BFA I always could be overheard humming some song. Since I’ve lived in the city I’ve become that crazy guy muttering some new song into his phone out of nowhere. You never know when a song will come, and I’ve learned when the Daemon speaks you listen, or you pay. Ultimately that seed of a love of music led to one performance as a 5 year old in a Poconos talent show, which led to singing in a school choir, which led to taking theater classes, which led to a life time of performing and writing.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I would love to talk about when we were asked to perform in studios at WFUV with the inimitable John Platt here, which was a true dream come true, but I would be lying if I said that was the most interesting moment in my career. The most interesting moment in my career came when I was performing in a play in Manhattan. We were promoting our show in Time Square the week before the show opened. We were greeted by the usual cold shoulder of midtown and had handed out about 5 of our 500 postcards in 20 minutes. Then we got to the center of Time Square, our show was in the 40’s, and we hit a massive crowd. They were a sea of teenyboppers holding signs and wearing shirts with the Jonas Brothers on them. Now I haven’t mentioned to this point, that at the time period I was in this show I had a striking resemblance to one of the Jonas Brothers. I also failed to mention one of my cast mates was a real smart ass. He took one look at the crowd and then one back to me in my skinny jeans, vest and Ray-bans, and I knew what was going to happen before you could sing the chorus to “Sucker”.
He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Hey guys! You want to meet a Jonas Brother?!”. Now I was brought up to be an honest person, so this was a real dilemma for me; tell the truth or promote your show. After what seemed like an hour of debating, in reality 5 seconds, I made the choice from behind my sleek new Ray-bans — “Hey…You guys want to see our private show?!” I shouted. We passed out all 500 post cards in about 30 seconds. On the 40th second the real Jonas Brothers came to window of MTV above us and I ran to 41st Street before I could make out what the angry teenyboppers were shouting. Moral of the story; promote your damn show, and when life makes you a Rockstar for 30 seconds just say yes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We had the privilege to play the Montauk Music Festival in 2019. It’s everything you think it would be — scenic views of lighthouses and seaside cliffs that seem almost too perfect to have been made on accident, locals, loads of beer, and original music. We were about to play our second of three venues in the festival when I stepped outside for a minute. While I was out front of the venue I was greeted by a red cheeked local who wanted to give me advice on how to win over the local crowd. As a Jersey boy who certainly “wasn’t in Kansas anymore” I thought it a wise idea to be all ears. The local let me know an old Montauk saying that would be sure to get the crowd on our side. The saying goes like this — welcome to Montauk a drinking town with a fishing problem.
When I got in front of the jubilant crowd I had a swagger in my step knowing that they would be sure to enjoy my opening line. I plugged in my guitar, let it ring out a big chord and shouted, “Hello Montauk!!! We’re Bridges & Tunnels and we are so excited to be here; in Montauk — a fishing town with a drinking problem. The crowd went from cheering to dead silent. Then someone made a quick joke and I raised a mock glass saying maybe I had too much fishing and everyone drank to that. It was a great set. Montauk is a drinking town with a fishing problem and a love for real music. I’d play, fish, or drink there any day of the week.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am a teaching artist that moonlights as a singer-songwriter. By day I run a community service oriented performing arts school, teach local Brooklyn kids theater, and coach young Broadway professionals. By night I write, record, and play the east coast with my band. So right now, like most times, it’s a balance of different projects between my two lives wound up in one.
The band is currently deep into mixing an EP that should be released in ’21. While the pandemic has certainly brought performing shows to a halt and slowed down the process of mixing this EP it has also brought some positive changes. It has been such a gift to get to dig in and take the time we normally wouldn’t have while cutting an album. We are working with the amazing Stephen Pardo of 4D Audio up in Queens. That guy breaths music in and out. He is almost as consummate a musician as he is a communicator, and almost as good a communicator as he is a person. He has been a wizard finding ways for us all to hear the same studio quality audio at the same time in different places. Steven Joseph Pess( our drummer, arranger, bedrock and my dear collaborator) and I have met about once a week for a year making this album. It has become one of the stones that have kept me from being pulled under during this endless stream of sameness in the pandemic. We have really dug into the process and have really dug up some things we are really excited about.
As an educator I recently had my students culminate their fall semester with a charity cabaret. The kids sang songs, did improv, and acted out monologues all to raise money for CHiPS Brooklyn. CHiPS is a soup kitchen and shelter that has been serving those in need for over 50 years in the Brooklyn area. We ended up contributing nearly 300 meals and over 1400 dollars of donations.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
We have talked a lot as a band this year about which voices need to be heard. In light of all going on in the world today we felt it was not the time to push our brand or tell our stories. The world needs a space for all voices and until voices of color and diversity are represented fully no voices are equal. This is one of the main reasons we didn’t push the cutting of our album. Originally, we had a really fun quarantine music video planned for July and we pulled production for this very reason. I could sit here and list reason after reason why diversity is important in the arts, but ultimately as a Cis white man right now I think my place isn’t in lecturing, it’s in listening, learning, and sharing things that benefit those whose voices have been underserved.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Five things I wish someone had told me when I started would be; let it be about the work, love the opportunities for growth, build a brand, yes is the best word in an artist’s vocabulary, it means nothing if you don’t enjoy who you do it with.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make it about the work. Make something you love and find the people who love it too. Be the worst musician in your band. Artists are like sharks; if you stop swimming, or in this case learning, you die.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As a teaching artist being of service has become the center of all I do. I would encourage people to find a way to be of service in whatever they do. So much of the American religion and sublime has been self focused, but I’ve found that the only way to really impact our selves is to impact others. It’s a big circle, life is hard, and we are the only ones who could make it better for everyone else.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people who have helped shape who I am. There is no person who helped me down the path I am on as an artist more than Kevin Siegfried. He is the head of songwriting at my alma mater, The Boston Conservatory. Not only is Kevin a giving and masterful teacher, but he is a true mentor who takes in the whole person. When I was having a really hard time after I left school, left the theater (which had been so much of my identity since I was 10), no one really knew what I was going through. I was sleeping and eating too little and drinking too much.
I sat with Kevin in a favorite Boston café, Pavement — get the Spanish latte, and he saw right through me. He cut to the point, was I writing? For the first time in years I wasn’t. He knew. He could have prodded or lectured but instead he held a mirror to me. He reminded me that writing was central to who I am and that I needed it. He was right. From that day on I pushed off the bottom of the pool and a year later I was in the studio of my childhood radio station WFUV playing my own songs. I would never have been there, and I would never have been teaching children to give back every day if not for Kevin’s probing eyes and honest words over that black coffee.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Thou Mayest” from John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”. Every day we have an opportunity to be our best self.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
My parents (I have three, my dad, mom, and stepmom). On second thought could I make it two separate breakfasts to keep it civil? Or is that against the rules? Not that they aren’ t too civil, I just happen to enjoy their company more apart. It’s kind of like when people love Oreos but like to eat the chocolate cookies on their own and the cream on it’s own.
The pandemic has been brutal on so many levels, but not seeing family really has been the hardest part. Would I love to meet my heroes like Josh Ritter or Brandi Carlile — hell yea, but I’d rather see my folks, especially right now.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can find me at @bridgesandtunnelsmusic on Instagram and facebook. They can find my broadway coaching and community service on all platforms @parkslopeconservatory
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!