The music that flows through our community is nothing short of amazing. I’ve written many times about the rich musical history of The Shoals area—and I’m proud of all the up and coming artists, producers, and managers that strive to create great music in our hometown (including members of the Alabama Chanin staff).
Our graphic designer, Maggie, and her husband, Daniel, are gaining attention with their new rock ‘n roll band Daniel Elias + Exotic Dangers. Below, they share how they got involved with music, along with some of their favorite songs.
Name(s): Daniel and Maggie Crisler
Band: Daniel Elias + Exotic Dangers
Instrument(s) you play: Daniel – guitar, harmonica, vocals; Maggie – electric organ and percussion
Hometown: Daniel – Florence, AL; Maggie – Sheffield, AL
Presently residing: Florence, AL
AC: When did you start playing music?
DC: I remember my pop first teaching me a couple of chords on the guitar around age eight. I learned the piano, as well. The Blues was and is my first musical love, so that’s what I learned, forming the foundation for everything I play—no matter what the style is. I played (and still do) in the church band for many years before writing my first song or playing my first rock ‘n roll show.
MC: I’ve always loved music. When I was growing up, I heard a lot of Motown and classic rock because that’s what my parents listened to. I started playing piano when I was six and took lessons for about ten years. In that ten years, I also learned to play violin, clarinet, and bass guitar. I picked up the keys again when Daniel bought me a vintage Farfisa organ and asked me to play with him in a new project (which developed into this band).
AC: What are some of your proudest moments as a musician (or in your life)?
DC: No matter how excellent or lousy I feel one of my performances goes, there is usually at least one person who thanks me and tells me they liked what I did. That makes it all worth it. And being able to call myself a true son of The Shoals is probably my proudest musical “achievement.”
MC: I was proud of myself for making it through our first show after a 10-year break from playing music anywhere besides our house. I was also very proud (and surprised and honored) for our band to be featured on the cover of this year’s music issue of the No’Ala (a local publication).
AC: What do you do when you’re not playing music?
DC: During the day, I work for fashion designer Billy Reid. It’s great company to work for and it helps me stay plugged into the creative flow of our area. Listening to old records, buying new pomade, drinking lots of coffee, and rooting for the Crimson Tide are all pretty normal for me.
MC: I’m a full-time graphic designer here at Alabama Chanin. I also design our band’s posters and stickers, and I built our website…really anything that the band needs. I like to keep my hands busy. I sew, quilt, crochet, print things on a letterpress. On lazy days, I binge-watch TV shows on Netflix with Simon (our Scottish Terrier).
AC: What makes your heart sing?
DC: Family heritage and history cut deeply with me and I strive to wear our name honorably. I love learning about heroes who have gone before me; whether they be Biblical icons, fallen soldiers, musical legends, or the folks that never get the credit they deserve. As an Eagle Scout, I take pride in honor, loyalty, faith, family, service, and country. That is what feeds my writing and musical inspiration, as well.
MC: Well, I like Daniel a whole lot, and Simon makes me pretty happy as well. But other than that, I love making. Finishing projects, especially really challenging ones, gives me a sense of accomplishment that almost can’t be beat. It’s also a great feeling when people come up to me after we play a show and tell me that they loved it. It makes me so proud of Daniel and to be a part of what he’s doing.
AC: Tell us about your playlist.
MC: Our playlist is pretty varied. We definitely have some musical taste in common, but the music that really appeals to us can be vastly different at times (and for different reasons). Daniel prefers truly gifted songwriters with deep and meaningful lyrics, backed up by thoughtfully written music. I love a good guitar riff or a catchy bass line. I’m really partial to music that makes me move or want to sing along at the top of my lungs in my car.
The Beach Boys – “Spirit of America”
DC: A true story about a hot rod named Spirit of America that was actually powered by a jet engine—no one writes pop songs like this anymore. Beautiful, daring, mesmerizing, inspiring, and just bad to the bone.
Ramones – “Danny Says”
DC: The Ramones are my favorite band—original, iconic, in-your-face, America. Many faithful Ramones punks hate it, because producer Phil Spector turned their raw sound into something way different. I personally love it. And besides, it mentions two of my favorite things: old television shows and Christmas.
Tommy James & The Shondells – “Mirage”
DC: On this track, the organ is pure and piercing, the vocal arrangements are insane, the music production is tastefully wacky, and the subject matter is just brilliant. I’m not really into huge sing-along-in-the-car type of songs, but this one makes me want to sing it as loud as I can.
Peter And Gordon – “Crying In The Rain”
DC: I’m a sucker for a deep-cutting heartbreak song. I eat ‘em up. I love the beautiful, tragic poetry of this one particularly.
Dolly Parton – “Busy Signal”
DC: I absolutely love how the background singers imitate the sound of a phone’s busy signal and the chant of “Hang up!” in the chorus. Simple, but very creative and the lyrics are just so very “real.”
Bob Dylan – “Gotta Change My Way of Thinking”
DC: This was the first Bob Dylan I ever heard as a kid. It was so stunning and it has always stuck with me. The best part? It was recorded right here at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and featured the Muscle Shoals Horns, local legend Barry Beckett on keyboards and production, and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler on guitar.
Hartle Road – “Sainte Marie”
MC: I love these boys. They’re very talented songwriters and musicians, especially for being so young (the youngest member just finished high school this year). Our band has shared the stage with them a few times now. I’ve been listening to their latest EP in my car for weeks and always end up with this song stuck in my head at least once a day.
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – “Wasteland”
MC: I don’t even know where to begin. Ryan Adams is one of the most talented songwriters and musicians I’ve ever heard. I love everything about this song. The music and lyrics are catchy, well-thought, and perfectly executed.
French Kicks – “The Falls”
MC: The French Kicks are one of the few bands I’ve listened to since high school. I was actually introduced to them because one of my cousins plays guitar in the band and gave me this album. They’re a little different than bands I normally listen to, but they have some really catchy hooks that stick with you.
The Strokes – “Someday”
MC: I really think I’ll still be listening to The Strokes when I’m 50. This song is one of my favorites off of their debut album. It’s one of those songs that makes me want to move. (If you like this song, you should listen to the album in its entirety.)
Albert Hammond, Jr. – “In Transit”
MC: Albert Hammond, Jr. released a solo album that was a bit of a departure from the type of music he plays with The Strokes (he’s their guitar player). This song is a favorite of mine to listen to while I’m working or sewing.
Wilco – “Casino Queen”
MC: I feel like Wilco is a good middle-of-the-road band for Daniel and me. We both like the music and appreciate the storytelling in their songs. This is one of those songs I can’t help but sing along to; plus that guitar riff at the beginning is catchy and gritty and fantastic.
Photo courtesy of Amy Jackson.