Danen Kane Talks “Flesh and Soul,”
Trusting God, and Break-up Songs
Danen Kane’s new album “Flesh and Soul,” as I wrote in my review here, is definitely one of the strongest albums of 2015. I described it this way in the review:
“Flesh and Soul” makes me want to go on a long road trip through spacious places in America — plains, desert valleys, countrysides, mountains, coastal highways. I want to step outside and just find something really big and overwhelming to look at — an ocean, a mountain peak, an iconic desert panorama — and then go there…It combines the spaciousness that a wanderlust traveler encounters…with an intimacy of a conversation with a close friend or a loved one.
I was surprised to learn that Danen stumbled upon music later in his life, as his bio states:
“…Kane’s first love was not piano or guitar, it was basketball. In fact, he didn’t do anything musical until he was 20 years old, when he felt a strong call from God to lay down the hours invested in his sport and focus on pursuing his faith.
“’During my sophomore year of college,’ Kane recalls, ‘I had a roommate who had an acoustic guitar and I was really curious. I grew up in a small town that didn’t have any avenues of learning that kind of thing, so I just asked him if I could use it to try to learn some worship songs that I’d heard at Campus Crusade for Christ.’ Despite no formal guitar or vocal training, one short year later he had completed his first independent project.”
You have a very interesting story in how you found music late in the game, so to speak. Before that moment, before you picked up a guitar in college, did you have any inkling, even in your childhood, that you might get into music, or was it a total blindside when you made that discovery?
I’d say it was kind of a total blindside with some interesting memories that came after the fact. Music wasn’t really any part of my life other than just listening to the radio every once in a while, but never had too much interest in getting into choir or band or anything like that. I had some appreciation for music but it wasn’t really part of my life and then after I picked up a guitar to learn and help lead worship for my college ministry, people said, “Hey man, you have a really nice voice.” And I remembered hearing some people say that when I was in high school and I would sing along to the radio people would say, “Hey, you have a really nice voice, you should do something with that.” But I thought they were making fun of me because I really didn’t even think of it in that way. I thought they might have just been poking fun. But it really did come completely out of left field. I really had no aspiration or interest in music until I picked it up in college.
That’s just amazing considering the quality of the work that’s coming out, and that leads me to my next question. “Flesh and Soul” is just such a strong album in so many different ways: did you have a personal favorite track on the album after you finished it?
Yeah, I’ve heard it compared to picking between children, so I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite because they’re all different. Some, I like the production better on; some, I like the performance better on; on some, I like the lyrical content on. I would say probably “I Miss You” or “No Words” are probably the most dear to me. “I Miss You,” more just because of the personal story behind it.
Then “No Words,” just from a total song standpoint, it just kind of encapsulates where I’m at in my walk, going through a difficult season of life and having to trust that God is with me — that God is with me during the valley or the mountaintop and that He is faithful, and He will bring me out of it, and there really is no words for what He’s done and He’s doing in me. That’s really not something I can even wrap my head around because God’s orchestrating stuff in my life that I don’t even understand right now, so it’s just a matter of just trusting that He’s good and even when things don’t pan out exactly the way I’ve wanted them to, that He is still a worthy God to be worshiped, that He’s for me, and when He closes a door it’s not out of trying to hurt me, it’s out of protection or out of, “Wait, you’re not ready for that.” So yeah, I’d say “I Miss You” or “No Words.”
powerful. And what you said just made me think of Joseph when he got sold into slavery and all that terrible stuff happened and that verse came to mind where it says, “What you meant for harm, God used for good.”
I’m kind of going through a similar season where it’s not as easy to trust God because there are a lot of negatives. It’s a daily battle of giving in to fear or trust. I really relate to those themes on this album. That’s actually the perfect transition to the next question: what inspired you to name the album “Flesh and Soul,” and is there an overarching theme that you were going for on the album?
Yeah, I never really go into a project with a theme in mind. I always kind of write the songs the way they come out, and then I look back and see if there is a theme. When I looked back at all the songs I wrote I really felt like that theme was the tension between the flesh and the spirit and daily life as a Christian. I try to be as authentic as possible in my shows and sharing about my life and struggles and my ups and downs.
I think as Christian artists or anyon
e in Christian ministry, and not even in ministry but Christians in general, we feel this pressure to project to the world that we’ve arrived or that we’ve got it all together or that we don’t struggle with anything anymore, and I just think that pressure is kind of the antithesis of what I think the Gospel really is. The Gospel is the good news that God lifted that off of us, that we no longer have to put on that face and project to the world that we are our righteousness. We can lay that down and say that Christ died on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God, that it’s Him in us.
That process, that transformation, that weeding out, that refinement, that is a lifelong journey with God, and I think we feel that pressure as Christians to have it all together right after we come to Christ or, “I’ve been walking with the Lord for 15-20 years and I’m still struggling with things I was struggling with 20 years ago,” and we feel discouraged or we feel like we’re doing something wrong.
I guess “Flesh and Soul” is just that honest look that that’s the reality of the tension that we’re living in. We’re living in a fallen world, we’re living in fallen bodies and renewed spirits with hope that Christ is our righteousness completely, that He is our only hope of being reconciled with God. And we are trying to live a life of thankfulness and live a life of being obedient to Him out of thankfulness out of what He’s already given us — not that we’re trying to earn His affection or earn our way to Him. So “Flesh and Soul” just talks about that tension of, “Here’s the reality of where I am, here’s where I’m putting my hope in, and the process of Him changing me into the man He wants me to be is a life-long journey.”
That’s awesome, I love the way you articulated that — that word “tension” especially. You do feel that tension, but the album just leads you through it. I could feel the things you were talking about in those songs.
Thank you, I appreciate that.
In your schedule it shows that you led worship at churches on Sunday mornings in between other tour stops, which I think is cool. Has that been a positive experience for you going into churches on Sunday mornings?
Yeah, absolutely. I do a good mix of original concerts and leading worship for church services, conferences, any kind of ministry. I have a huge heart to lead worship and a huge heart to worship God through music. So sometimes I get to do that through a corporate setting in a church setting where I get to lead corporate worship songs, and sometimes I get to worship God by sharing my heart through the songs that I’ve written, and hopefully inspiring people to live lives of worship — and not just in those experiences on Sunday mornings or on ministry nights. So I look at both as worshipful experiences.
You mentioned earlier about the song, “I Miss You,” that there was a story behind that. Could you share a little bit about that story?
Yeah, absolutely. “I Miss You,” I wrote a few years ago. It’s basically kind of a break-up song. It was about a girl. I’ve probably been in love one time in my entire life, and “I Miss You” is the story of that relationship ending, and even years later still finding myself missing her and feeling embarrassed and frustrated that I haven’t been to let that go or move on from that relationship.
But when I wrote it and I started singing it, I had countless people come up after the show and say, whether it was them grieving the loss of a relationship or losing a loved one or whatever, when someone really grabs a hold of your heart and is really a big, impactful person in your life, that never really goes away. You can chose to move on in certain ways, but there’s probably a handful of people that we run across in our lives that, once we lose them, we’re never quite the same, and so it is about missing her — also some of the regrets, you know, we always look back and think, “Man, if I would have done this differently or I can’t believe I did this,” and just kind of dealing with that.
I think God meets us in the midst of that, when we reflect on relationships that were very impactful in our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly, we just say, “God, what do I do with this? How do I move past this? How do I have good reconciliation and love well and also trust You that if you close that door it was for good purposes?”
When you’ve experienced something like that, although it’s hard, it does help people because the song is more authentic. Some of my favorite albums, unfortunately, have been from artists who were going through the worst times of their lives.
Yeah, oh yeah.
But it produces the best music, so I want to say to those artists, “I’m really sorry you had the rough time, but thank you for putting it into music because it’s helping me.”
And — your comments really got me thinking about this — but it’s crazy how just one person can have so much power in our lives, and it’s really a testament to how the image of God is in every person. So one relationship can stay with you for the rest of your life because the power of God’s image in human beings is so amazing. It’s a testament to that — even though it’s bad or painful.
Absolutely, I completely agree.
This is my random question for the day, but I always like hearing about other parts of America. Your hometown is in Wisconsin; what’s it like growing up in Wisconsin? What do you love about the people in that state?
I grew up in a small town just south of Green Bay, and so Green Bay is kind of known for three things: they’re known for the Packers, cheese, and beer. What I love about Wisconsin, there’s a very authentic Midwest culture, I think — genuine, hardworking people. I think you go into the South and people might be more warm and inviting — the Midwest is a little bit more standoffish — but when you get to know the people in the Midwest, there’s just a genuineness and genuine care for people around them that is just unique to an area like Wisconsin. All my family is still there, I’m still based out of there. Every area of the country has it’s own thing and I love traveling and meeting new people, but Wisconsin is definitely a great place to live. The people are great people.
It’s great to have a home state that are just “your people.” Who are some of your favorite artists? Who do you listen to these days?
I listen to a pretty wide variety of stuff. I love the European pop rock stuff like The Script and Coldplay. Acoustic artists like Shawn McDonald or Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz type of stuff. But then I also like lyric-writing like Derek Webb. He’s always had a big impact from a theological, “courage” standpoint, to stand up and say things that are difficult but that he very much believes in. A little bit of everything, but those are some of my favorites.
What’s in store for you for the rest of 2015? What are you looking forward to this year?
2015 is going to be full of touring. I’m basically going to be booking independent; well, I want to stay independent, so I do all my own booking, so I’m going to be trying to hit all 48 lower states within the next two years. We’ve played about 30-35, but with the “Flesh and Soul” record, on this tour in the next two years the hope is to hit all 48. That’s what we’re going to be doing — just a lot of traveling.
Wow, that’s exciting, that’s a big quest for sure. We will keep you in prayer!