When Danielle Durack was 8 years old, she told her father she wanted to be a famous singer. The conversation happened in a Taco Bell, and her father replied, “Well, if you become a famous singer, you can’t go to Taco Bell anymore.”
Durack still laughs while remembering her response. She looked around the fast food dining room for a moment, took a deep breath, and thought to herself, “I think I can do it.”
Years later, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from the Valley is soaking in the release of her third album, No Place, which has attracted attention from both Pitchfork and NPR.
No Place is a self-proclaimed breakup album, equal parts melancholy and whimsical. It concisely expresses the emotions of a lost relationship over digestible acoustic guitar-covered instrumentals.
“I just wrote some songs about it to fill the void and get through,” Durack says of writing the album in the wake of both a breakup and a pandemic, “Luckily, I’ve been able to record it and share it with people and it actually resonates.”
Durack has no shame in owning her status as a breakup songwriter. At a performance earlier in the week at ASU’s Kerr Cultural Center, she joked with the small crowd, “anyways, here’s another song about impending doom in a relationship. Hope you enjoy it!”
That show was the first of three this week, as she opens for TYCHE at Rebel Lounge on Saturday and performs with a variety of artists at Axiom Contemporary Sunday night.
Durack wears her influences on her sleeve; she’s a proud fan of Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. She can enjoy hip-hop, too (she aspires to get sampled on a Chance the Rapper song). Her music synthesizes the thought-provoking vulnerability of Bridgers with the lighthearted friend-next-door quality that Chance, at his best, makes a living off of.
Years of writing have sharpened Durack’s skills as a lyricist. She wrote her first song in fourth grade, but didn’t lean into creating music until much later. Her wake-up call came in high school, when a blunt conversation during a past relationship motivated her to own her dream.
“That’s when I really started telling people and introducing myself as a musician,” she says. “When people would ask me what I want to do with my life, I would stop giving them the lie that I don’t know, and start giving them the truth: that I want to be a rock star.”
Born and raised in Scottsdale, Durack wants to be part of something bigger in the Phoenix music scene.
“I feel like we’re having our renaissance and it’s cool to get to be a part of that,” she said. “I feel like there’s a very good chance Phoenix could be having its moment that Seattle had in the ’90s.”
On the front lines of that movement are Durack and Sydney Sprague, her frequent collaborator and best friend. The two met through a coincidental exchange of copy-paste Instagram DMs trying to promote their music. Since then, they’ve appeared on some of each other’s biggest tracks, toured the Midwest together, and briefly lived in Los Angeles as roommates.
“You always want friends who are going to bring you up in a room full of opportunities, and she’s like that,” Durack says.
It was in Los Angeles that the duo co-wrote “Billy,” the only song to stray away from break-up themes on No Place. The song is about the uncle of one of Durack’s past boyfriends, who went to jail for arson, got in a fight, and earned solitary confinement.
“That’s the only song I’ve really ever co-written,” Durack says. “I’ve never felt comfortable enough with somebody. There’s a lot of ego in it, but with her it was just like we were fucking around.”
With the help of Sprague and Seattle producer Sam Rosson, Durack doesn’t have to attack her music career alone. But she’s not afraid to indulge in her independence and playfulness.
Durack has yet to open her diploma from ASU and wants to hang the sealed envelope on her wall. When she’s not writing songs in her bedroom, hanging out with her dog, Simba, roller skating, or longboarding, she’s working at a pizzeria. Occasionally, she gets recognized on the job.
“I’ve had two or three people come into the pizzeria and be like, ‘Are you Danielle Durack?’ and I’ll be like ‘Yeah, why? Do I owe you money?’” she jokes.
Durack wants to be recognized on a grander scale, though.
“If I could just do music shit full time, I would be the happiest kid on earth,” she says.
On her left arm, Durack has a tattoo that simply reads, “Stay Foolish.” She got the idea from a Steve Jobs commencement speech shown in her high school English class.
“It’s just kind of this sentiment that people are going to think you’re fucking crazy until you’re on the moon,” said Durack. “And then it’s not so crazy, because you did it.”
Danielle Durack. In support of Tyche, with other special guests, Saturday, September 11. The Rebel Lounge, 2303 East Indian School Road. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13 plus fees. Visit The Rebel Lounge website.
Danielle Durack. Alongside Cali Mesa, Rio Wiley, and Palomas. 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday, September 12. Breaking Sound AZ at Axiom Contemporary, 15051 North Kierland Boulevard, Scottsdale. Cost is $15 plus fees in advance, $20 at the door. Visit the event page here.