5 questions with singer-songwriter and English teacher Daniel Couper

Jessica Fuller • Aug 27, 2018 at 11:25 AM


Daniel Couper has been making waves in the local music sphere for his educational music, from songs about beloved Harry Potter characters to personal songs about personal loss. You can find his work at danielcoupermusic.com, including two albums and a companion book that was released this summer. 


Fast Facts
Name, Age, Occupation: Daniel Couper, 25, English teacher and singer-songwriter
Hobbies: Reading, chatting, walking to and fro
Favorite TV show: Doctor Who
Upcoming Shows: Sept. 23: Main Street Brews and Tunes, downtown Jonesborough
Sept. 28: Bloom Cafe and Listening Room, 606 State St., Bristol
October: Tour in Ontario, Canada

1. What got you into music? How long have you been playing/what instruments can you play?

When I was around 10 years old, I remember starting to make up my own songs, modeled after the ones I heard in church and on the radio. My parents were supportive enough (in the typical parent way), but I chastised myself for being so naive as to think I could write an actual song. As a result, the impulse to create music faded away for a while, until my dad was given a guitar for Christmas a few years later.

He rarely touched it, so I claimed it as my own. My mom had shown me some chords on the piano and let me use her music binder from church, and we had this rather large poster of guitar chords hanging in the corner, so I cross-referenced my way to relative competency. As of now, I can find my way around a guitar, a ukulele, a piano, and a kazoo. I feel most comfortable with the kazoo, to be honest.

2. How would you describe your style?

I’ve grown quite attached to the term singer-songwriter. There’s enough there to hang your hat on — mostly acoustic instruments, strong lyrical focus, fairly conservative production — but it also has enough flexibility to allow for the many and varied influences that work their way into the songs.

I think the quality of a song is demonstrated partly by its versatility — how many different ways a song can be dressed up and still express its truth with subtlety and strength. Genre aside, my music tends to be mellow, contemplative, and honest, punctuated occasionally by bursts of passion.

3. What do you hope to accomplish as a musician?

If I’m being perfectly honest, I want to practice my art in obscurity and then become a beloved household name after I die. I have my reasons, the most prominent and superficial of which is simply that it seems a romantic prospect. Very van Gogh.

Short of that, I’m not really sure what I hope to accomplish. For now, I just want my songs to bring smiles to faces and hope to breaking hearts. I want people to be stronger and kinder for listening. I want to bring people together.

4. What are some of your favorite literary-based songs that you've written, and what inspired you to write them?

I tend to write the songs I think I need to hear, but I’m not always exactly sure what that is. Literature makes that easier for me. I don’t always know when my own ideas are worth pursuing, but I can feel it in my soul when a character in a story says something true.

That’s what happened with “Luna,” which is based on Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books. In the midst of a grand narrative filled with overwhelming evil, Luna is this quiet, pervasive presence, reminding the heroes what and whom they’re fighting for. I need that in my life. I need the moonlight on my darkest nights. I need to be reminded that people are for loving and that life is somehow still beautiful. Luna did that for me, so I wrote a song for her to live within. I only hope she finds it a suitable dwelling. I certainly like it.

5. As a teacher, do you think music can be used as a teaching agent for other subjects? Why or why not?

Yes. Absolutely, yes. In many ways, our culture has come to see music as primarily decorative, but it’s so much more than that. Music isn’t something you put on in the background while you’re studying. Music is a language people innately understand. No other mode of communication is as universal.

Teachers are always grasping at new ways of presenting ideas, because students don’t always get the concept the first time around. We put different words on it, we try a different metaphor, perhaps, but we rarely try activating a completely different area of the brain. There’s a song out there about nearly everything (especially if you’re willing to get a little goofy with it).

And while we’re at it, let’s remember that music is not just some utilitarian learning strategy. Music is school in action. Music is story and literature; music is math and physics; music is biology and chemistry and social studies. I would even go so far as to say that music is recess and lunch, if only metaphorically.


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