Key to the Highway: Kevin Daniel

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Kevin Daniel.

AH: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

KD: Me and the band make a lot of jokes about third-wave coffee spots. Essentially, we’re coffee snobs. We always start our day looking for the most snobby coffee bar with the meanest baristas. For me, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, I’m drinking iced coffee. All year, 365 days, iced coffee. I just want to be able to drink my coffee immediately and not wait ten minutes for it to cool down. I don’t get grumpy if I don’t get coffee, but I definitely feel like my day hasn’t officially started.

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

KD:  Oh man, what a question. So many places come to mind, but one does stand out. We played a gig at the Burning Bridge Tavern in Pennsylvania. The place provides a spot to stay after the gig and it turned out to be a massive historic mansion. It was three floors, eight bedrooms, and everything was incredibly old. The weirdest part? There was this room on the top floor which was a bedroom set up for dolls. Like the whole room was for a doll-sized person and not a real human. And there were quite a large number of very creepy dolls placed about the room. I’ll never forget that place, that’s for sure.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

KD: When I’m driving the van we’re pretty much listening to the same thing over and over, and that’s Sturgill Simpson’s latest record Sound & Fury. It’s so good and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s proof that even at the peak of your career it’s worthwhile to reinvent yourself. It’s such a far cry from his work that it really inspires me to keep pushing. There’s such a driving force behind the record and it just makes want to challenge myself. I don’t know if the rest of the band agrees, but they haven’t protested so far!

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

KD: My guitars are very personal to me, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I still travel in a van so space is limited. While this isn’t a very personal object, I always bring my own pillow. I sleep better when I use the same pillow every night, and it’s basically the adult version of a blanket. Also, I find as long as I have my own pillow, I can pretty much crash anywhere, which definitely comes in handy when you’re on the road. If I’m playing solo I bring one of my dogs. Doesn’t get much more personal than that!

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

KD: Oh man, my relationship with food is unhealthy. I always tell people I tour so I can make new fans and eat new food. I almost never eat breakfast because I’m not awake for it, and we usually grab something light and quick for lunch. Dinner is where it’s at. I’m pretty much always on the hunt for the best BBQ or local cuisine. BBQ in Mississippi and North Carolina definitely stands out, as well as the tacos in Austin. But where do me and band eat more than any other place? Definitely Waffle House. It’s cheap, friendly, and I swear the same people work at every location. Waffle House has a long history in my family and I feel like I’m home every time I eat there. This is not a paid advertisement, I promise. As you can see, eating healthy is incredibly hard on the road. The easiest way to do it is bring your own food.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

KD: That’s easy! I loved Tulsa, OK. It was so different than what I thought it was. I sort of assumed it would be a sleepy town but it was really bumpin’. Huge arts scene and tons of cool bars and restaurants. All the people were incredibly nice and welcoming. I was there for just over 24 hours but since I left I’ve decided I really want to get back. Hopefully I can this summer! Seriously considering buying some property out there and just waiting till I can move in.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

KD: Not sure if I can say this, but the best possible piece of advice I have received and can give any up and coming artists is “don’t be a dick.” It sounds simple, but it’s not. Touring is hard, being a musician is hard, watching others succeed where you fail is hard, life is hard. It’s easy to be jaded, upset, and generally be an ass. But, no one wants to work with a jerk. It’s always better to kill someone with kindness than to get aggressive. Lots of things go wrong on the road, and lots of times you show up to a place that might not even remember you’re playing that night. Play it cool, be nice, and you’ll always get better results!

Find all things Kevin Daniel, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for:  Patterson Hood Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

Sign up for our weekly newsletter here for your Friday reminder for this series and more:


Leave a Reply!