I may have just met Dan, but it doesn’t take long to pick up on an unwavering sense of trustworthiness and reputability associated with him.
Distinguished by characteristics of drive and determination, creativity and romanticism, talent and artistry, compassion and philanthropy, Dan breaks the mold in his pursuit of life and music. I could go on, but the compliments and accolades are never-ending, and it’s important you get to know Dan for yourself so you can better perceive the meaning of this praise.
In short, and after pondering how to best describe Dan to my wife who was curious about our interview, I’ll say this; “Dan Aid is the kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry”.
This might sound like an over the top endorsement, but read on and I’m confident you’ll be smiling in agreement by the end of this page.
So, let’s get to know Denver musician Dan Aid in our exclusive interview below.
Backstory & Inspiration
Growing up in Denver and playing in punk bands since he was 15, Dan started learning the music industry at a young age. After high school, he departed for New York City to study acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. A year later, the staggering reality of the big city led Dan to return home and begin working on music again.
“I was lucky enough in high school to be in bands that exposed me to being on a label, and touring, and playing some of the big clubs and halls around town. When I graduated from high school I had been accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, so I moved to New York city to continue studying acting.”
“New York was a pretty disillusioning experience, and so I left after a year and came back to Denver where I started working on music again. In the seven years since I’ve been back I’ve made seven records with various projects.”
Attending punk shows in Denver as a boy influenced Dan heavily, and an encounter with Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen of American punk band Rancid revealed a very human element to the creative process, one that has inspired Dan to this day.
“As far as what got me into music, without a doubt, it was going to punk shows. The feeling I got at 13 or 14 from watching John Feldmann come running out and stage diving as Goldfinger went into the first hit of their set, or chanting “Rancid! Rancid! Rancid!” in a pit at the Ogden that was packed so tight you couldn’t breath, but where everyone was smiling, and everyone was singing and dancing, was life changing.”
“Rancid in particular has had a huge influence on me. Meeting Lars and Tim when I was just kid trying to start his first band, and having them be very humble and human with me taught me a lot about what it means to be a creative person creating for others.”
Pictured Gallery: Rancid playing at Denver’s Riot Fest 2015. Photos by Brad Gustafson
While Dan didn’t always know he wanted to be a musician, the desire to be on stage has forever been engrained in his mind.
“I’ve been acting and playing music for more than 18 years, so something about what I’m doing feels right.”
Denver’s Local Music Scene
Dan highlights the pros and cons of living in a city like Denver, where the music scene is an intimate one, but can prove challenging when trying to expand into new markets.
“I think there is a ton of support for local music in Denver, from NERF and ALF, and KTCL CREW, to SODA JERK, to GREEBLEHAUS and her blog. I feel fortunate to know a lot of people who are able to be a musician in whatever capacity they really want to be here. That being said, it is difficult to tour and build into new markets from Denver, not impossible, as proven by bands like IN THE WHALE, but definitely more challenging.”
The Challenges of Playing the Guitar with One Hand
Dan learned how to play the guitar from his father, who played and sang to he and his sister when they were kids. When Dan was 8 years old, his dad bought him a small Montana Acoustic Guitar for Christmas, and the rest is history.
“My dad had this red, spiral bound notebook that he’d written all of these old Dylan and Phil Ochs songs in with the chord changes over the words, and I would just sit there and go through that book, playing every song that had the chords I knew, and whenever I ran into a song with a chord I didn’t know, he would teach it to me and I’d just keep going.”
After losing part of his arm at twelve years old in a brutal, freak accident on vacation in Mexico, Dan was forced to overcome adversity. You can read this story in detail over at Westword.
Dan shredding his guitar on stage might be a surprising site to many at first, but it doesn’t take long to appreciate his musicianship and see how truly versatile he is playing with only one hand. Despite the many challenges, Dan says that above all, it’s an opportunity to figure out his own way of doing something. He often writes music that he can’t even play, which forces him to spend time modifying and learning new ways of playing that are comfortable for him.
“One thing that losing my hand has taught me, is to have patience with myself.”
Outside the Music
Outside of playing his guitar and writing music, Dan is a man full of passion, talent, and philanthropy. Having just returned from competing in the Paraclimbing National Championships in Atlanta, Georgia, he is now mentoring a student at East High School through the “A+ Angels Program”, an academic mentoring program designed to help children achieve their academic goals and pursue continuing education after high school graduation.
Over the past year, Dan has also worked with The Western States Arts Federation, Authors of The Future, 303 Choir, Youth on Record, and No Enemies. Through these efforts he has met many likeminded people who are trying to make a difference in their communities.
Dan the screenwriter has also been busy with a new project:
“I’m also pretty excited about a screenplay I’ve been working on over the past year; very Guy Ritchie/Coen brothers inspired sort of stuff.”
When he’s not busy working on a project, playing music, or at a friend’s show, you can find Dan at one of his favorite Denver hangouts; on Larimer enjoying a fresh roasted coffee at Crema Coffee House or overlooking a bowl of ramen at Uncle.
Off the Wall
I told Dan he could pick 3 musicians; one he would open for on a world tour, one he would have play at his wedding, and one he would have play at his funeral. Here are his picks:
“If I could open for anyone on a world tour it would be Ryan Adams. He’s inspired so much of what ended up on [my solo] record.”
“For my wedding It would have to be Raphael Saadiq, with the Noisettes opening. Because that would just be awesome.”
“For my funeral, Probably Kristian Matsson (The Tallest Man on Earth). He’d play “Like The Wheel”, and everyone would just collapse in the most beautifully pathetic, poetic sadness ever created.”
I also asked Dan where he would go if he could take off for a year and play music anywhere in the world. He’s always wanted to live in Europe, especially London, where many of the bands who have inspired him originated.
“It’s such an international city, and so many of the bands and musicians that I’ve been inspired by have come out of the United Kingdom. I’ve never really gotten to travel a lot, and it would be great to be so close to Sweden, Germany, Spain and Italy.”
Having music industry friends who are lucky enough to tour Europe has allowed Dan to hear stories of a vibrant music scene overseas. It shouldn’t be long before he’s touring the continent himself, playing his guitar, and sharing his voice.
Noticing the artwork on Dan’s arms, and being a tattoo connoisseur in my own right, I had to know more about Dan’s work.
“Tattoos are mostly just reminders of moments for me. My most recent one is a World War I biplane I got on my leg when Wiredogs got flown to DC last year to play at Future of Music Policy Summit. TAD PEYTON AT JINX PROOF in Georgetown did this sweet little piece to help commemorate our first fly out date.”
Dan also has an anchor that he tattooed on himself when he was 19.
When he moved back to Denver from New York, the first gig he got was working at Bound by Design tattoo studio as a personal assistant to Josh Wrede. Dan was back living with his parents, trying to start a new band, and trying to get his head on straight.
“Josh did a portrait of my mother on my left forearm when she was diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer, and then tattooed an angel for me after her surgery was successful in removing the tumor. He has tattooed my mom a bunch over the past three years now too. He’s an incredible artist and businessman, he has a huge heart, and he has really taken care of me at times over the past eight years. He’s family.”
You can enjoy Dan’s new solo album “A Quite Place” at Dan Aid on Bandcamp.
Featured Photo by Christopher Dodge