It’s no surprise that “Break Free,” the scorching debut single from Lennon Daniels, effortlessly tips the proverbial Stetson to country and rock while being instantly accessible to listeners in multiple camps.
The ace South African-reared, Toronto-based singer/songwriter (who arrived in Canada via the UK) was born to transcend borders, which explains why “Break Free” — spit-polished in Nashville with acclaimed composer and co-writer Brian Donkers — made waves from Cape Town to Los Angeles the moment it arrived.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about “Break Free” — a ridiculously catchy guitar-goosed corker destined to be 2018’s ultimate weekend anthem — is its almost otherworldly provenance.
“This is a very special song to me,” Daniels says, confirming that super-producer Douglas Romanow (Johnny Reid, Chantal Kreviazuk) cut the track at Toronto’s Noble Street Studios. “I have three-year-old twins. About a year ago I was hanging out with them, strumming the guitar while they were playing.
“Out of nowhere my daughter starts going ‘wooohooohoooooo’ and humming a little melody. As the days and weeks went on, that hook really stuck with me. I thought, ‘Maybe I should write something.’”
The cosmos verified that Daniels was onto something by embedding “na na na” in his noggin as he wrangled the song’s thundering guitar part. “When I took ‘Break Free’ to Nashville, I said to Brian, ‘Don’t worry about the ‘na na nas;’ it’s just to capture the feel of the guitar. He was like ‘Dude you’ve got to leave that in!’ Now that anchors the chorus and complements the ‘wooohooohoooooo’ chant. And that’s how ‘Break Free’ started.”
Otherworldly, indeed. In short order, the propulsive “Break Free” attracted guitarist Darren Savard (Dallas Smith, Aaron Pritchett), CCMA All-Star bassist Travis Switzer (who also plays with Dallas Smith), and A-list Nashville session sticksman Nick Buda (Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton) who guest on the track.
The marquee trio adds major muscle to Daniels’s inimitable voice, perhaps best described as hoarsely honeyed, propelling the new single’s sticky opening salvo, “8 o'clock on a Friday night, windows down radio up” with thrilling velocity.
Now, with “Break Free” sitting comfortably on the Indie Star Radio Network Top 21 in Los Angeles, soaring on CJFW FM’s hitmaking honky-tonk Homegrown show in British Columbia and spinning widely across Daniels’s native South Africa, our man’s future alongside contemporaries Dallas Smith and Dean Brody (not to mention inspirations Johnny Cash, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church plus countless rock and blues artists) seems assured.
“This is such an exciting time to be an artist,” Daniels says. “The country scene here is humbling and such a tight, supportive community. It’s surreal having my name mentioned in the same breath as some of these acts.”
Best news for Daniels fans? Plans are afoot for more singles, possibly culminating in an EP later this year. Live shows are also in the cards. “Matteo (guitarist-collaborator Matteo Parente) and I are looking to do a few acoustic performances this summer, which gives the music a more intimate feel. We’ve applied to play at a couple of festivals, and we’re open to anything that comes up.
“I just hope people enjoy ‘Break Free,’” Daniels offers when asked what success will look like with the single. “The response I’ve been getting so far is amazing, with people noting that it’s not your typical country song. I hope it will open some doors and just get me out there performing. Seeing people singing along when I’m playing is the ultimate buzz.”
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Eric Alper // Publicist