Danny Balis is a well-known man about town. Thousands of KTCK 1310-AM The Ticket P1s (people who have The Ticket programmed to the first button on their car stereo) listen to him as he produces and interjects his often storm cloud-covered opinion during the afternoon show "The Hardline."
Those same listeners are familiar with his band, The King Bucks, who started by covering old-time country standards and then began writing their own songs. While all the members of the band share songwriting duties, Balis is prolific enough to have branched out on a solo album of his own. 2009's Too Much Living was written in the wake of his best friend Carter Albrecht's untimely death.
Balis passes along word he's working on a new solo album, The Cheaters and the Thieves, which should be out sometime in 2012. The first thing he's put to tape is a Christmas song called "Little Silver Cross," recorded with Chad Stockslager and Tom Bridwell.
After the jump, enjoy Balis' Christmas song as he talks about his forthcoming solo album, having The King Bucks criticized on DC9 at Night, and his future at The Ticket.
What made you want to write "Little Silver Cross"? Do you relate with the character in any way?
I had a song swap scheduled a couple of weeks ago at the All Good Cafe with Doug Burr and Glen Farris, and Doug requested that we all do a Christmas song as the final tune in our set. About the only Christmas song I can stand is "Blue Christmas" by Elvis, so I went online looking for something different I might be able to do. I found this dark Christmas poem by Robert William Service and the content jumped out at me. It's about a prostitute that shamefully hides her profession from her family when she visits them over the holidays. I don't know if I relate with the character as I have never been a sexy male gigolo, but I know that the holidays can be a very sad time for a lot of folks. I wanted to represent that part of the experience in this song. There is redemption at the end, which I do appreciate, and after some tweaking and editing I was able to put Service's words into a usable form. Then we tracked and mixed it in three hours with Chad Stockslager and Tom Bridwell at Tomcast Studios. Plus, it encouraged me to look up the word "coquetry."
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You mentioned in your email that you'll have a new album in 2012. Tell me about it.
One good thing about not being on a label is the absence of deadlines. I didn't want to rush into another project after Too Much Living. So, I waited for new material to come naturally. I now have enough songs for a new record, and am hoping to do it more as a full band experience rather than bringing in multiple players and layering songs over a long period of time. I want to further explore the melancholy aspects of Too Much Living on this new record, with little or no ties to honky-tonk. It should be more folky and stripped down, but we'll see. Songs tend to take different shapes when you are working as a band.
I understand Too Much Living was a cathartic experience, as you wrote it while working through the death of your best friend. Now that several years have passed, what is your inspiration for this new album?
Cathartic. I'm not sure that any form of art is really cathartic. Time passing, therapy and changing of hearts. That, in my belief, is cleansing. The inspiration to make new records is to continue to write about things I have felt and seen, and make 'em sound pretty and sad to the best of my ability. The inspiration also comes from getting to work with folks I love and trust and watch them create on the fly. The inspiration also comes from wanting that fellowship with your brothers and connecting with them though what we all love. Then we go to The Landing and get smashed and tell each other how great we are. Healthy inspiration.
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A few months back, The King Bucks received some negative words from DC9 at Night. The backlash from your fans was pretty intense. Looking back, what are your thoughts on that whole situation? Do you wish you would've handled it differently or are you proud your fans are so loyal?
That had nothing to do with the band. That was me pushing the envelope on the radio. I went too far, and hurt the feelings of some close friends. I may very well say some offensive shit in the future. On the air, to my family, to my friends. We all say things that are hurtful to the ones that we love. That makes us human. The thing that makes us men is how we deal with their feelings after we fuck up, and hopefully that is with honesty, humility and understanding. Then only time can heal if the offended ones choose to accept and let it.
You've been more of an on-air presence at The Ticket over the last few years. Do you think your role will continue to increase on the station?
For the sake of the P1s and Ticket management, God I hope not.
Danny Balis performs with Joe Ely at Dan's Silverleaf on Thursday, December 15.
"Little Silver Cross" is available on iTunes.