Even though he’s only seventeen, Dany Farray possesses a level of introspection in his music that proves himself as a young songwriter with exciting potential.
Dany Farray walks into my studio with nothing more than his Mini Taylor guitar strapped to his back, a spiral notebook in his hand, and a mechanical pencil neatly tucked behind his left ear. As we greet each other, he immediately begins to survey the room as if he is already taking in visual inspiration. Out of a well-worn gig bag, his trusty acoustic guitar is unearthed, one that has served him well while playing high school talent shows and street performances. He gifts me an acoustic rendition of his song, ‘Ava’. The intricately picked opening riff is beautifully met by Farray’s high gravelly voice that seems to pierce through the air without effort. As I listen to his intimate performance, I begin to wonder how Farray developed such a conviction behind the mic.
For the past two years, seventeen-year-old Dany Farray has been growing his music and developing his sound for the big stages. From his early days writing pop and country rock to his recent venture into indie synth pop, it is clear that Farray is an artist in a never ending search for a fresh sound. He describes his early influences as acoustic soft-rock, more specifically John Mayer, Shawn Mendes, and Ed Sheeran. He has also explored the sounds of country, being directly inspired by artists like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. He recounts the first country song he heard that truly caught his ear. “I was at some store and I heard a song by Keith Urban called ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color’. After that I just started getting into him and different artists in that style until I had a 500 song country playlist”, says Farray.
As a songwriter myself, I resonate with Dany’s songwriting style–from the song concepts to the life events that inspired the lyrics. As I Iay back in my chair with my left hand still grasping the neck of my guitar, I began to wonder about his songwriting process. Farray explains, “First, I think about what the topic of the song is going to be, then I come up with the title of the song.” He pulls out his notebook filled with lyrics and notes for future song ideas to give me a point of reference. “I don’t like to go all random on the lyrics, because in that case it will just turn into the same song over and over. I usually come up with the melody first just to get a specific emotion from the song. I spend the most time on getting the lyrics right for the song. I see myself writing better in the evenings, like late afternoon.” His structured songwriting style doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t willing to try different styles or adopt an entirely new approach. Farray believes in trusting one’s gut when it comes to developing a song. He sees new songs as taking big, but necessary risks.
Farray’s songwriting roots can be traced back to his interactions with his guitar teacher, Moises Reyes. “[Moises] actually got me into songwriting when I was still learning how to play the guitar. Moises’ good friend, Luan D’Carvalho, ran a studio in downtown McAllen, and he set up a day to record my first song, ‘Distance.’ It was my first song, and my voice wasn’t quite there yet, but overall the song was really well produced. So, I decided to stick with that producer until I left for college.”
Luan D’Carvalho, the in-house producer at Gospa Studios, would go on to produce the rest of Dany’s catalog and directly influence the young writer’s sound. “He’s actually a pianist in his spare-time” says Farray. “He influenced the inclusion of a lot of piano on my music, and I think that’s a good thing.” With the help of D’Carvalho, Dany Farray constructed A Place Where We Can Begin, a six track EP that showcases Farray’s love for ear-catching melodies over rock-driven acoustic production. The sound of D’Carvalho’s rich grand piano is elegantly weaved throughout the tracklist, giving listeners a lush balladesque final package.The standout song, ‘Skin’ features what Farray describes as “John Mayer licks with Daniel Caesar-inspired falsetto vocal runs.” Each track on A Place Where We Can Begin is an emotional vignette that relates to the memories of his hometown and the relationships that have made the young Dany Faray who he is.
Back in August, Farray moved to Illinois to study civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, far from his hometown of McAllen. He has used this new environment as an opportunity to reinvent his sound and reposition him towards new territory. I got the privilege to listen to bits and pieces from his upcoming full-length project, The Free Fall, and it’s very clear that Farray has started to experiment with new sounds and production techniques outside of his comfort zone. Farray has added sweet and round Kevin Parker-eque synthesizers to his production arsenal, giving his familiar indie inspired guitar riffs a fresh, glossy surface to shine on. This new dream-like production style is sure to garner the attention of fans of indie and psychedelic pop alike.
Dany provides me with a bit of background of the overall concept of the album, and how this project marks an important shift in his songwriting style. “Back when I was in McAllen, I would write a lot about teenage love, but now I’m writing more about struggles with life. [My new songs] explore themes like fate versus free will, reflecting on the past, and the uncertainty of the future. Lots of different topics that aren’t just… you know, classic teenage love songs,” says the enthused artist flipping through his soon-to-be-recorded lyrics. “A secondary theme in this album is about growing up. I reach into my past and look towards the future. Now that I’ve started college and am living this life on my own, away from dependence on family and that sheltered life, I wanted to highlight that drastic change on this project.”
Keep an eye on Dany Farray. The young musician is bound to make a strong impact in the coming years.