Daniel Sherman – UNCAGED. | A World within a Universe
UNCAGED., Daniel Sherman’s latest album, will haunt you and immerse you in this extraordinary sonic experience. The music obviously commands patience from listeners, who must allow the soundtrack to grow on them as they play it even more. You are here to see a sound experience, not to hear an ear-pleasing melody throughout the song. Every segment presents a tale, and you can really hear and understand Daniel’s thought process as he and his colleagues experienced/heard what was going on around them. You’ll be escorted to the studio where the record was created. A very unusual sight in today’s world, when we have a strange tendency of wanting songs to be trendy and popular at the expense of the plot. Daniel’s bold and sincere effort should be lauded.
In a nutshell, Daniel Sherman is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and storyteller. His exceptional ability to portray a tale with the support of his remarkable sound design is exceptional. His most recent album, UNCAGED., is about breaking free from limitations in whatever way possible. In response to a question regarding the album’s idea and genesis, Daniel stated,
“I wrote this record partially because I was craving something that sounded new. To be “UNCAGED.” is to release yourself from any restrictions, whether others have placed them on you, or even if you’ve been restricting yourself. I was very intentional when writing this record to avoid industry patterns and formulas to ensure I was doing what I set out to do. Almost none of the songs are under 3:30, the sound is almost disruptively inconsistent, and the storyline of the record is so in the forefront that it can’t be avoided completely. It’s a marketing disaster in the best way.”
Apart from the plot, Daniel’s innovative production ideas reveal a great deal about his expertise and proficiency with the discipline. He is at ease with his tool and enjoys experimenting and fiddling with it. As you explore, you’ll see elements and components from a variety of genres. He knows how to work with chord progressions and rhythms. When questioned about the record’s production process, he enthusiastically talked us through the steps of creating and constructing these magnificent soundscapes.
“The production side was really interesting for this record. I spent a lot of time in the basement with my studio engineer / mixing engineer / mastering engineer Giovanni Piazza ensuring that even in the more fun and upbeat tracks, there was some sort of tension being created. We learned a lot about sound design and how to alter sounds into what we wanted them to be while working on this record. Who would’ve thought printers could be drums?! It’s honestly a tough question for me to answer because almost all of the sounds you hear were just exactly what I heard in my head the whole time. The challenge wasn’t conceptualising the sound, it was just trying to make it exist in reality and not just in my head.”
Throughout the record, Daniel’s honesty and personality on songwriting are apparent. His fluidity in mixing genres is natural and fits the narrative well. His experiments aren’t strange in the slightest. Because it’s an uncommon sight, it’s clearly out of the ordinary. Daniel’s decision to choose the album’s message over a more consistent and appealing sounds should be commended for its guts. To explore and devote time in producing and holding on to the process, it takes a lot of bravery and confidence. The level of trust he has in his art is astounding, and it’s something that every musician who listens to his music should pick up.
“I knew when I decided to do a full-blown solo album that it needed to be genre-switching. I wanted my first solo record to really reflect and present who I am as an artist, and if the sound wasn’t diverse, it wouldn’t have felt true to how I view music. Refusing to be held back by any boundary or obstacle is also a big theme on the record, so even if I wanted to stick to a more consistent genre or a more palatable sound, it would’ve felt wrong in the context of the album’s message.”
Every sound layer in the song is created from a clean slate, and it is decorated with personal tales from his life or something he noticed in his outer world. When asked about the genesis of his narrative and how he perceives such tales in the form of sound, he said,
“Every storyline I come up with is a retelling of something I’ve been through. No, I haven’t personally woken up in a cage with no memory of who or where I am and had voices in my head telling me I’m going to be a part of some sort of cult representing the last of humanity, but I lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s honestly not too far off base! I feel like I would be doing listeners a disservice if I wrote storylines that didn’t have any stake in my real life. The best actors are the ones who become their characters. I’m not a trained actor, so I just make sure all my characters are me. As far as the sound design goes, this record is disorienting, and intentionally so, because the main character is constantly disoriented. Every song takes you to a new place with new sound and new emotion, because the protagonist is constantly forgetting how he’s gotten where he is. When something scary is happening in the story, the sound has to be unsettling or eerie. When he’s angry, the sound gets angry. When the chaos finally slows down, the sound has to slow down.”
He also described how he whittled down the plot during the conversation, saying,
“Oh man, if my memory is right, I’d guess it originally was around twenty-five to thirty tracks. I knew when I wrote the record that there was no way to tell all of the story on the album. It’s hard when the storyline is so crucial to a project to force yourself to not explore all of it. My priority became the parts of the story that were most personal to me, and that were most important for the audience to hear in order to understand my character. That meant a lot of information about “CAGEBURNER.” was cut, and a lot of information about how everything actually came to happen was cut. I have some plans to fill in the gaps, but an album just wasn’t the right place to dive into all of that.”
Such artists and records are scarce, and their success will motivate future musicians to stay loyal to their craft and find their own unique voice, or they may just interpret current genres in the most unexpected way. That would be such a nice surprise for the listeners, and it would also help to develop a universe that welcomes all forms, structured or not, in accordance with industry standards.
Daniel mentioned his influences and the musicians that inspired this album the most as we talked more about the business. “, he explained,
“The list is endless, honestly. Linkin Park is a big one, Twenty One Pilots, NF, a lot of Billie Eilish influence on this record, Queen, Illenium, The Weeknd, Big Sean, Kendrick Lemar, Taylor Swift. It’s so hard to narrow down! Biggest influence obviously would have to be Kidz Bop, though. That’s real music.”
I gladly acknowledge the brilliance of his sound as I summarise . One of the greatest talents I’ve heard in recent years, in my opinion. I wish him the best of success in all of his future endeavours.