Get To Know: Daniel Lerner as he talks over heartbreak on new EP ‘good game!’

Date:

album artwork credit: Evan Parness

Recommended Tracks: “Gut Punch,” “Steps,” “Haymaker”
Artists You May Like:
Wilco, Ari Zizzo, Alec Chambers

Sometimes, it only takes one song to fall in love with an artist. To understand the connection that is instantly formed through a simple melody, a heartfelt lyric, and, at times, just one instrument. “Humble Giant,” a song off of Daniel Lerner’s 2021 album There’s Something I Wanted To Say, is one of those songs.

Daniel Lerner, a singer/songwriter based out of NYC, captures feelings of innocence, desperation, and finality into all 5 minutes and 28 seconds of “Humble Giant.” He maintains that poignant, introspective storytelling on his thematic new EP, good game!, out now.

PC: Evan Parness

Beginning with “Haymaker,” Lerner details the end of a past relationship. Instead of building the story from the ground up, he starts with the moment he knew he was in trouble: “Full force, it got bigger, then it hit me. A shot to the core, I saw it coming at me quickly. Wind knocked out of me, I think I’m falling deeper into a tragedy.” Lerner posted a “first draft” of the tune with a bossa-style guitar feel to YouTube well over two years ago, but over time the song developed into its current form: a full-throttle alt pop-rock tune that would have Wallows fans relentlessly jumping in the pit.

It started as this chill, sort of jazzy, singer/songwriter-type song,” he said. “But at a certain point while I was demoing it, I was listening to IDLES. I liked a lot of how they have a great sensibility for pop music. They just sound like they’re writing pop music, except it’s not.” He wanted to put his own spin on IDLES’ heavier vocal tones, while also giving himself an uptempo song to diversify his catalog that, maybe, people would want to dance to. “That was something I naturally felt like I wanted to expand… to see how this works.”

Lerner, along with a gaggle of friends accompanying him in a call-and-response effort in the verses, succeeded in that. However, the high energy and commercial-ness of “Haymaker” does not make a repeat appearance on the record, as Lerner soon dips back into his old bag of ballad, troubadour-style tricks.

The story of good game!, as is the case with all relationship-based projects, begins, and most likely continues past, the parameters of its tracklist. “For the most part, it came less from me trying to do something different and more just, ‘What do I have in me?,” he said. “I definitely wrote songs that were more reflective… I wrote the love songs, I wrote the ‘What’s going on? We’re having problems’ songs, but as time went on, I thought that maybe these are good songs, I’m just not feeling where they’re coming from anymore. As this took shape and I realized I was writing a breakup album, I got more and more interested in how people approached the storytelling linear-wise. This EP could be viewed as being chronological and the order in which someone experiences those feelings… but I just realized the order can just be what makes sense in terms of the sound and in terms of what I’m saying. It started when the relationship ended, so every song is a capsule in time.”

 

The visuals for the project, including a teaser for an eventual music video for “Haymaker,” are fight themed. He presented multiple points of reference to Evan, his best friend and artistic director, in a storyboard fashion, to represent “someone who has just been defeated, but is still standing and living to fight another day.” Fully embracing and leaning into the fight theme, as well as his mindset at the time the events told in these songs occurred, Lerner was strategic and, to be fair, quite bold in his decision-making.

It starts out super unclear and clarifies on ‘Punch Drunk Love’,” he said. “It starts with someone who is very confused and sitting in every possible feeling, trying to piece it all together. It’s messy. There are lyrical clunkers in spots that I wanted to keep in there. I was like, ‘You know what? This is how I felt at the time.’ I’m a big lyrics guy, but I’m more so music over lyrics. So, if I think a lyric gets the idea across and doesn’t ruin anything, it works.”

 

“Gut Punch,” the highlight of the project, is strong across the board: “The shock lingered for longer than you were around me. I was just as unprepared for you to leave me as I was when you found me.” “Gut Punch,” almost a sister song to “Humble Giant” vibe-wise, is structurally and melodically reminiscent of “Skinny Dipping” by Sabrina Carpenter. Lyrically, Carpenter’s is full of promise of a rekindling of this relationship, while Lerner’s is his journey to acceptance. “I hope you have a good…. timeeee,” he repeats solemnly as the song draws to a close.

“Punch Drunk Love,” clocking in at 5:32 and featuring vocals by NYC-based R&B singer Sophie Said, is positioned as the climax of the project. It is, without question, the fullest and most thorough spewing of feelings presented. Though musically, it is not a feel-good song. There is no hook to instantly attach to, like on “Gut Punch” or even “Harvest The Moon” off his 2022 project Decorator. That is very clearly the idea here and is appropriate for the context, but overall is not as impactful as others.

The same cannot be said for “Steps,” the final song of the project. After being knocked to the ground time and time again, Lerner, despite being battered and bruised, rose to his feet. Though still dusting himself off, maybe with his hands on his knees and trying to catch his breath, Lerner has faced his demons head-on and, by whatever means, conquered them: “I’m out of my head. I said I’d be better. I’m not, but baby I’m trying. It’s all in my head. I can’t keep it in and I’m not at the finish line, but I’m taking steps.”

Steps to moving forward, steps to healthier coping mechanisms, and steps to musical and artistic growth. All of that, and more, is good game!

Stream good game!:

Follow Daniel Lerner on social media:
Facebook // Instagram // Website 

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