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Artist Spotlight: Damon Daunno transitions from Broadway to indie pop

To theater devotees, the name Damon Daunno belongs to a favorite new tenor on the Broadway stage. To those unfamiliar with the past decade of musical theater culture, Daunno is a recently debuted singer-songwriter rising within the indie pop scene. On April 19, he released “Time Machine,” his first single and compelling precursor to future follow-up tracks.

Daunno’s notable roles in the past have been as the original Orpheus in “Hadestown” and in Daniel Fish’s revival of “Oklahoma!” as Curly McLain. His success on stage has led to numerous award nominations, such as at the Tony Awards, Grammys and Drama Desk Awards. For his performance as Kai in an off-Broadway production of “The Lucky Ones,” Daunno won a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical.

Daunno has performed at venues such as Studio 54, Radio City Music Hall, The Town Hall, Beacon Theatre and St. Ann’s Warehouse. He has also shared the stage with artists like Chris Thile, Emilly King, Cécile McLorin Salvant and Guster.

In a 2016 review of “Hadestown” in The New York Times, Daunno’s voice was described as a “handsome, high-lying tenor (which) matches his sunny ardor nicely.” His voice lies between a strong musical theater belt and a delicate raspy quality, which is beautifully exemplified in his recent single.

“Time Machine” was produced and written in collaboration with Deidre Muro of Savoir Adoreand Deidre & the Dark. The single was released on April 19 via Muro’s new Brooklyn-based record label imprint, Sunken Living Room. Another influence on the single is Duanno’s pandemic-era studies with Hawaiian guitarist Alan Akaka.  

The single combines the many influences of its creators to provide a nostalgic melting pot of gliding orchestration and tropicalia, grounded by modern synths and bass. From the introductory lyrics about Malibu and the city’s ambient background rhythms to the bird-like vocalizations bringing the track to a close, each decision made in the production process of “Time Machine” creates a definitive island aesthetic, especially through the Hawaiian lap steel.

Daunno’s voice ranges from a raspy whisper, strong belt and a soft falsetto throughout the track. He even stuns listeners with an impressive high note leading into the final chorus. The chorus contains clever rhymes and a succession of major and minor melodies one after the other, giving the track an interesting texture aligning with the theme of balance between hope and heartbreak.

Despite its upbeat energy, the song covers themes of heartbreak and ego, as well as finding the middle ground between holding on and letting go.

“Essentially it’s a cautionary tale of woe,” said Daunno in a provided press release. “There’s clarity that comes from humility and hindsight. There’s acceptance that follows understanding and true remorse. During that process we memorialize our lives, our past, our experiences and collect them and place them in boxes in our minds or on our mantles. Like the lyric, ‘Another butterfly behind a pane of glass, just a trophy not the truth’ - there’s heartbreak in that, there’s beauty and there’s a bit of horror.”

“Time Machine” is just the introduction of Daunno as a singer-songwriter. The artist is set to release more singles soon, but he has recently begun his stint performing in the cast of “The Lonely Few” at the MCC Theater.


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