We had the good fortune of connecting with Dan Cantrell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dan, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I never imagined doing anything else from a young age. As I grew older I refined what I wanted in my career based on feedback. It always seemed important to share creativity with the world, and transmit beauty in a unique way manifested by collaborative efforts. It feels like a vital circuit where energy is created from source, transmitted through creative artists to an audience and then back to source after spiraling around and getting yummy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have always loved the intersection of art and media or art and interdisciplinary performance. In these moments of collaboration I feel most alive and tapped into source energy. I feel that this is probably what I was meant to do on this wacky ride here on Earth, and my ability in that arena both sets me apart from others and also allows me a deeper connection to them.
The moments that I feel most proud of as an artist are those when I feel most like a conduit or a filter for beauty and art. One of my favorite examples of this is a composition of mine “Whisper Hungarian in my Ear”. When I “composed” that song, It felt like the piece almost wrote itself through me. Since it’s inception, reliably, every time I play it, I feel intimately connected with the musicians I am playing with so that in performance, we channel something greater than ourselves using the piece as a vehicle. It feels like a gift from the Muses, or a magical synergy at the same time that it is technically my composition.
I thrill at the lightning speed connection in the exchange of musical ideas and visual ideas. The instant reaction to a dancer in motion. The intricate tapestry we weave playing music in ensembles, leading, following, interpreting, and responding. When the film and the music line up in that perfect way that just pops into place and often surprises you and brings out qualities in the film that weren’t there before. These containers of art are ultimately so much more beautiful and delightfully nuanced than the individual elements that comprise them. I am appreciative that I can do this for a living, and often in awe that it can be so powerful.
My journey has been easy when I have been able to stay true to that intention. When I tap into that joyful connectivity and feel grateful to be a conduit for something more amazing than just my own work, it all makes sense and feels easy. Being appreciative of connection makes networking easier, especially when you truly love the give and take between performance and audience. Gratitude and alignment also draw more of themselves to you when you practice them. I have to say that when I am in that grateful space, things are a lot easier. I definitely stray from that path. Life can be confusing, and filled with all sorts of emotions. The difficult part of my journey seems to be when I have to go about monetized or packaged my art in such a way to fit into a popular structure or format. I appreciate that a lot of the creative process depends on vast amount of effort. You can dream up a symphony and have it all there ready to unfurl, but at some point you need to sit down and develop the parts, write them down, organize the rehearsals, performances, and so forth. It does often feel like another whole job just keeping up with the ways to market and promote yourself as an artist. That part is much more challenging for me. When I do overcome this challenge, I believe it is by staying true to what I want to create, keeping an open mind, staying grateful, humble, and enjoying being in the process.
If I could let the world know about my story, I would hope to convey my appreciation for the process, my gratitude for the interconnected cycle between performers and audience, and my humble reverence for the beautiful places where I have found influences from around the world. I aspire to elevate and expand on tradition while imagining a new synergy that is beautiful and profound.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would probably take people to the places where I have enjoyed playing music or hearing music at the most. Usually if I wind up playing there, it’s a good place to hear acoustic music, or a fun diversion. I’d try and check out the museum circuit, like the Museum or Jurassic Technology, the Getty, the Skirball Cultural center, and the MOCA. I would try and catch my friend James King playing saxophone with Jeff Goldblum at the Rockwell Table and Stage. We’d see if there was anyone playing at the Kibitz room in Canter’s Deli because, you just have to, don’t you? Try to catch my friends in Axon Orchestra playing on the roof at Petit Ermitage. Probably have a soda pop at Galco’s Soda Pop Stop to beat the heat.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
At this point, I would love to give a shout out to my teacher at CalArts Bryan Pezzone. He was encouraging and enlightening in my artistic life at so many pivotal moments. I remember fondly visiting the Warner Brothers Sound stage as his guest and being so impressed by his playing and the process of film scoring. In school, listening to him improvise long meticulous and beautiful spontaneous compositions was mind altering. As a teacher, he helped me grow and develop my musicality with depth and style. I am very grateful to Bryan and with that I kept in touch much more than I do. Thanks Bryan! If I could squeeze in another shout out, my amazing high school Idyllwild Arts Academy. It was an incredible experience to attend a school like ISOMATA. Immensely encouraging, and a treasured life experience. I would highly encourage young people and parents or advisors of young people to check it out. It was a superlative experience in my young life.
Steve Haimovitz, Calvin Lai