Danny Federici Biography
The time was the early Sixties, the place was Flemington, New Jersey, and the instrument was the accordion, something young Danny learned to play from watching The Lawrence Welk Show and then taking years of lessons. As he mastered classical pieces and the polka, his mom booked him gigs at parties, clubs and even on the radio. “I had ‘Danny’ written on my accordion in rhinestones,” he says, laughing. “It was really a corny existence for awhile there. Thank god for rock & roll.”
Rock & roll happened to Danny in the late Sixties, when, influenced by the sounds of the British Invasion, he took up keyboards and began hanging out at Jersey shore clubs. He and his friend and drummer Vinnie Lopez formed Child, an E Street Band predecessor, and began scouting for a singer. Their search ended when they went to see a guy from Freehold named Bruce Springsteen. “This skinny guy with long hair and a ratty t-shirt was an incredible guitar player and a good singer, so we asked him to join.”
Federici has now been alongside Springsteen for more than thirty years. That’s his organ you hear on the classic anthem “Born to Run,” that’s his piano-playing on the blockbuster hit “Born in the U.S.A.,” and, yes, that’s his accordion that sounds like a carousel on the sleepy beach serenade “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”
But between the rhinestone gigs and world tours lies Federici’s true musical love: jazz. He’ll never forget the day he first heard it: “My accordion professor at the NuPower Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia was sick and he sent a substitute instructor who said, ‘Just sit back. I want to play something for you.’ He played jazz on the accordion, and I'd never heard anything like it . . . It was shortly after that I stopped studying classical music and did my own thing.”
While composing and recording songs for the new album, Danny was equally inspired and challenged by his musical director and producer, Mike Cates (recording credits include: saxophonist for Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Al Green, Barry White). The albums’ first single (a Rolling Stones cover), “Miss You,” is a prime example. “My producer suggested I play the organ on this song and I heavily resisted for quite some time. Of course, the moment I hit the keys and laid it down, the track immediately came together.”
Federici’s intrigue of art, dreams, cinema and the newness of a day, coupled with the immense love he has for his children and wife Maya, provided a foundation of themes for the original music, finely executed by veteran and eclectic musicians such as percussionist Daniel de Los Reyes (James Taylor, Sting, Shakira, Ricky Martin), Jon Johnston on guitar (Earth Wind & Fire), Juan Van Dunk on bass (The Police, KC & The Sunshine Band), guitarist Todd Parsnow (Kirk Franklin, Bootsy Collins), among others. The dazzling & ethereal cover of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ afforded Danny the welcomed challenge of experimenting with tempo changes and varying moods.
Since his beginnings with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, Danny Federici’s keyboards have been the atmospheric backdrop to some of the greatest songs ever written. His experience, classical training and innate skill have propelled his status in to a compelling, consummate instrumentalist, eager to embrace the spotlight.