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Interview with Danielle Haskell
GGFG recently had the opportunity to interview Danielle Haskell, an upcoming Christian music artist. Her powerful vocals will remind you of Britt Nicole and Kari Jobe in a fresh mix of upbeat pop. Danielle's story is an inspiration to have faith in God's provision and just be yourself.
You've been playing piano and guitar since you were a kid, and music is a huge part of your life! When did you first discover an interest, specifically, in Christian music?
Growing up I was a quirky kid who always enjoyed putting on a show. At home we had a light-up keyboard that I absolutely loved to play. As a three-year-old, I thought my "concerts," which included me playing the keyboard while wearing a princess dress and pants on my head, were almost perfect. I thought taking music lessons would be the only thing that could improve my concerts. Around age six, I felt my fans (my mom and my grandmother) needed to have an even fuller concert experience (the interesting costume choice was not enough for every performance), so I learned how to play guitar, too.
Being raised as a Christian made me strive to be the best version of myself that I could be. Even at a young age, I always wanted to grow better at music. One year, my school had a Christmas Eve Mass. All of my classmates dressed up as angels and carried candles down the aisle. I decided that I wanted to participate as well. Certain this would be a step above my earlier shows, I got to work. For three years, I played the piano and sang "Away in a Manger" and "Oh Come Little Children," for the Christmas services.
I grew up surrounded by Christian music. As I reached my teen years, I started to appreciate the music I was finding in the Christian genre. I finally began to understand the important messages these songs contained. I had been an American Idol fan for a long time; it was really cool for me to see artists I had watched on that stage singing Christian music. When it came time to decide what kind of artist I wanted to be, it was a personality-based decision. I simply felt the Christian music industry was where I would fit in and where I could have the greatest impact on people's lives.
Now, after all those years, you're eighteen and have plans to obtain a degree in Music Business. How has God provided for you in the past few years of your journey as a songwriter and artist?
First and foremost, God has lead me to the right people. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Each person we encounter and every experience is sent to us by God in an effort to develop us into who we are meant to be. I have been blessed to work with some of the most amazing, kind, down to earth, and caring people in my journey as an artist. God has put these people in my life so I can push myself, grow, and make strong friendships. All the opportunities I've been given make me realize that my full potential is beyond what I had in my own plans for my life.
Your latest single, "Forget," was inspired by your grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's. What did God teach you through that experience?
Although I miss my grandfather every day, I don't know that I would call that experience painful. My grandfather's condition actually made me much more conscious of how precious life is. My grandparents have always been my best friends, and I love spending time with them. My grandfather was the person who understood me best. I visited him every day for six years to help him and my grandmother, but I got just as much from those visits as they did. He was the best man I have ever met, and I aspire to be like him. I learned about true love and strength from my grandmother as she took care of him during his condition. Most importantly, I learned how important it is to cherish every moment with the ones you love and to never hold anything back.
When I wrote "Forget," I was scheduled to be in Nashville for a photo shoot, writing session, and music video shoot. As we arrived in Nashville, we received a call that my grandfather had been hospitalized. We flew back home immediately. By the time we arrived, he was in a bad condition and I was told the not to expect much. I'm not sure why, but during his entire battle with Alzheimer's I was the only person he consistently recognized. He never forgot my name. I remember being so afraid that I would walk into his hospital room and he wouldn't know who I was. When I walked over to his bedside, he immediately recognized me and said, "Danielle, you're here!" I was so scared he would forget me, but he still knew my name.
That situation reminded me of how we sometimes feel like God has forgotten us. The truth is that fear keeps us from realizing that He knows our names and that He will never forget about us. My grandfather's Alzheimer's taught me how to put other people's needs above my own, but it also drew me into a closer relationship with God.
When you aren't making music, you can often be found volunteering! How has your work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and other organizations shaped your life and your music?
Any topic that evokes emotions and pulls at our heart strings inspires a music artist. Getting to watch the excitement of my "little sibling" at Big Brothers Big Sisters is enough to keep me there each week. BBBS has shown me how important it is to put other people's needs above my own. Even though I have my own struggles in life, BBBS is a reminder that I have been really blessed.
I was also recently asked to give a speech on bullying at BBBS. Bullying is another topic that is near to my heart; it's also a part of the inspiration for my song "New Day."
In addition to loving the honesty of the little kids at BBBS, I find that spending time with the elderly is extremely worthwhile. I'm really excited about a recent interview I had at an Alzheimer's facility. I hope to assist with the most challenging patients. It's my goal to use the experience I gained helping with my grandfather to help with other Alzheimer's patients. I want to make them laugh like I used to make my grandfather laugh. Some of my favorite moments have been watching my grandfather switch from a state of frustration or confusion to complete amusement as a result of something I've said or done.
What advice would you give to teen and tween girls trying to pursue Christ's plan in their everyday lives? What is something you wish you had known when you were younger?
I love my high school, but I can't say it is a generally Christian atmosphere. In my earlier school years, I wish I had been more open about the fact that I'm a Christian. I used to be relatively quiet about my Christian beliefs. I think that's because acceptance by the people around you seems really important in high school. My advice is this: never lower your standards or conform to what is deemed as "normal" in your atmosphere. Define your own normal and your own comfort zone. Learn to be yourself, and others will accept you.
I used to be the person who once avoided people and spent many of my lunches in the bathroom. Now, I've been voted "friendliest classmate" in my 2016 graduating class! I can definitely relate to both ends of the spectrum. I can't stress enough that being comfortable with yourself is the key to others being comfortable around you. People see you as you see yourself. Insecurity leaves you open to peer pressure. Peer pressure stems from your friends wanting you to conform to their standards. This doesn't mean they're angry with you; they just want to feel like their sinful decisions are acceptable. They seek to justify their choices with the "majority rules" mentality. Don't conform to peer pressure. You decide who you will become. The world is a really big place. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into something you don't agree with.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of making music? What is your favorite part?
I think the most challenging aspect of music-making for me would be letting go and not being afraid to show emotion. My favorite part of music is the emotion behind songs. The best part about music is that people let you be a part of their stories when they play your songs. Being honest and open in music is vital to connect with your audience.
Your first single, "New Day," is a catchy tune with a bold message about God's forgiveness, love, and mercy. How has that message been a part of your life?
"New Day" is about any time in your life when you feel like you need to start over. We all make mistakes. There are times when life changes and we can't control what happens. That can be scary, but we need to understand that we can keep moving in the right direction. When we wrote "New Day," I was reflecting back on my freshman year in high school. Like many girls, I had encountered some cyber bullying as well as bullying at school. I was a young freshman who had skipped a grade, so I really didn't have any friends to speak of. Yet I don't regret that year or the circumstances. It taught me a lot and provided me with a better understanding of bullying. If I can help even just one person who is in a situation like I was in, I would be happy.
I've kept every mean tweet that was ever written about me. I don't keep them to remind me of a difficult time or to be angry; instead, I keep them as a reminder to keep going. I also keep them to remind myself not to favorite, like, or retweet anything that may be hurtful to someone else, and especially to not post it myself. "New Day" goes deeper than merely a second chance. For me, it was about starting a new life. I want people to know that everyone makes mistakes. Never let your previous choices define who you will be forever. God has given us a new chance every single minute to change and find our way back to him.
What is your main message and testimony to your listeners? What would you want them to take away from your music?
I want people to know that God is constantly working in our lives. I try to remind myself every day that everything happens for a reason. Everything we go through in life is for a purpose. Try to trust that everything will work out in the end. I hope my listeners will know that even when we feel abandoned and alone, God is always here. He is watching and waiting for us to follow His path.
Thank you for joining us, Danielle! Do you have any closing advice for girls wanting to follow God's plan for their lives?
Girls, don't sell yourself short. Follow the standards that God has given you. God gave us the guidelines in the Bible to keep us from hurting ourselves and others. When you follow God's plan, you will respect yourself and others. Following God's will is the way you can ultimately find true peace and happiness.
You can keep up with Danielle on her website: www.daniellevhaskell.com.
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