Kevin Daniel is a born musician. Need some proof? When he was five years old, he was singing Disney songs into a turkey baster he used to mimic a microphone. By the following year, he was taking music lessons and his love and interest in music progressed with each subsequent year. By high school he was was very involved in jazz and blues, with the guitar becoming a growing addiction. All of this contributed to the musician you hear and see today, a talented singer-songwriter who uses unconventional instruments such as a pedal steel guitar, flugelhorn, and bluegrass banjo to create a sound and style that is his and only his.
After some EP releases, Daniel finally got to his debut full-length recording, Things I Don’t See. The album is structured around Daniel’s vast array of songwriting talents which enable him to merge rock, soul, country, blues, and roots music into one succinct sound. Like many artists, Daniel likes to handle all aspects of his songwriting himself, however, he did receive the assistance of co-producers Ben Rice (Norah Jones, The Candles, Aoife O’Donovan) and Kenny Siegel (Langhorne Slim, Joseph Arthur, Chris Whitley) to help polish the finished product.
Like many of us, Daniel also loves to express himself through body art and tattoos. In his still young life, he has already amassed fifteen tattoos with plans for more in the future. Obviously, Daniel was a perfect candidate for one of our Tattoo Talk interviews wherein we spoke about his first tattoo, the most painful one, and a surprising choice of which celebrity he would choose if he had to get someone’s face tattooed on his body.
When, where and what was your first tattoo?
Kevin Daniel: “I got my first tat shortly after I turned 18. I’ve wanted one since I was a little kid, so it was pretty much a guarantee I would get one as soon as I legally could. It’s my Hebrew name, Chaim, which means life. The name is spelled out and designed so it looks like music notes, designed by a college friend. I can’t remember the studio but it was done in Washington, DC. It’s on my back and I always forget about it because I never see it. It’s my only back tattoo.”
Do any of your tattoos have a particularly special meaning behind them? If so, do share man!
“I think every piece of ink on my body has some meaning in some way, although some of them are obviously more important than others. I have an awesome tattoo of my dog Elma’s entire face on my thigh. I have the words ‘Used To Be’ inked on my left wrist to remind me to stop chasing youth and love who I am. I also have a tattoo on my leg which is a classic anchor piece with ‘Mom’ on it. My mom has passed away, making this one even more special.”
Do you have a specific shop or artist that you frequent (insert shameless plug time!)?
“Man, I wish. I usually get a tattoo after waking up and saying, ‘I think I want to get a tattoo today.’ But, if I’m in Brooklyn, where I live, I almost always go to Magic Cobra in Williamsburg. I actually shot some of my music video there for my song ‘Used To Be.”
Do you have any new tattoos planned or underway? Give us the dirt, dude!
“As I’m writing this I’m thinking about calling Magic Cobra to see if they can see me today. I’ve wanted a planet on my right middle finger for a while. I love space. I have an Orion constellation tattoo on my left arm. Of course, I want a large piece at some point, but inspiration has yet to strike.”
We know you have one… tell us about that stoned/drunken joke-tattoo you once got…
“That would likely cover EVERY tattoo I have since I like to smoke before I get inked, but to answer the question, this summer I threw a birthday party at my house and hired a friend to give tats on my deck during the party. I got a huge alligator head on my right thigh. I have no memory of this happening although I have seen some video and it is hilarious.”
Do you have any tattoos that you now hate, want to replace, or have covered up, and why?
“Nope. I view the body as very impermanent. It’s a vessel, and what I do to it really doesn’t mean that much in the long run. I love all my tats in their own way, even the bad ones.”
Have any tattoos that were painful. Like made you cry, see white light, and regret being born?
“Oh yeah, definitely. I have a finger bone tattoo in the palm side of my right ring finger. It was so, so, so painful. The artist kept making sure I wanted to go through with it. It was so bad, I won’t do a palm one again. They fade, they hurt so damn bad, and they’re just not worth it.”
If you HAD to get someone’s face tattooed on you, whose would it be and why?
“I love Judy Garland way more than any straight male should. Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie and she’s the star. I would NEVER get anyone’s face inked on me, BUT Judy Garland’s face from Oz is pretty soft around the edges and totally timeless. Her face is definitely on a lot of people’s bodies.”
Do you have a crazy, weird or super-memorable tattoo experience you’d care to share?
“I mentioned it earlier, but getting a tattoo in my own backyard was pretty awesome. The woman was super-cool, all my friends were there, a bluegrass band was playing, and it was totally unsanitary. Pretty sure my dog licked the tattoo in the middle of getting it done. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND!”
Tattoo artists are similar to bartenders in the sense that people confide in them. What’s the most personal story you’ve shared (or been told) while getting work done.
“Well, like I said, I have a tattoo which says ‘Used To Be’ and I got it while shooting a music video for a song of the same name. The song is about getting older, making my mother proud, and generally trying to be myself. It’s a lot of personal stuff, and she was very, very cool about it all.”