Make Music Champions: Dani Usero has a great passion for versioning songs melodically on the ukulele

Make Music Day

Dani is a multi-instrumentalist from Barcelona, Spain. He started playing drums and guitar at a very young age and picked up the ukulele at around 21. He has dedicated most of his life to studying music. His greatest passion in life nowadays is versioning songs on the ukulele in melodic out-of-this-world ways.

How did you get started in music?

As a child, I generally showed signs of musicality. I remember I had a unique sense of rhythm, which I think is where my interest in music began. At the age of 14, I started playing the drums, which was my first instrument. I spent three years taking drum lessons, where I learned all the fundamentals of the instrument. Also, around the age of 15, I got my first guitar. Around 18, the guitar was taking a little bit more prominence in my life over the drums, to which I had dedicated several years of hard study. Eventually, the guitar became my main instrument and I began to spend more time learning all the fundamentals of it. At the age of 20, having learned all the basics of music, I decided to pursue the next level. I dedicated months to studying very hard and finally got into the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de Barcelona, where I’d been studying until two years ago. During the years I was in the conservatory, the guitar remained the main focus of my study and professional career. Also, at the age of 21, I discovered the ukulele, for which I’ve developed a great passion.

What would you say is your favorite instrument to play nowadays?

I have kept the guitar as an important pillar in my studies and my professional career. However, the ukulele is undoubtedly the instrument I enjoy the most. Drums and guitar have their unique enjoyment. I love to play the drums when I want to blow off steam or let loose, while I pick up the guitar mostly to play rock classics and solos that I love. On the other hand, playing the ukulele has a whole different meaning to me. When I discovered the instrument, I focused on cover versioning, making the songs purely melodic. Each song was a new challenge, and that excitement created in me a great passion that persists to this day. Because of that, the ukulele is definitely my favorite one!

What genres do you do?

That’s a rather complicated question since I don’t have a pre-established style. My natural inclination would be rock, which is the one that I enjoy the most. However, jazz is also quite relevant in my life because of everything amazing I’ve learned about it while studying. I’d say I have a great affinity with both rock and jazz.

I know you love to cover, do you also compose?

I compose but to a much lesser extent. I have a lot of unfinished songs in the works. What happens is that I usually have very good ideas for songs, but I find it very difficult to finish developing them. Other than that, I think producing my versions of songs is where my music belongs. I’d rather rack my brains taking something that’s already been done and recycling it into a completely different version of my own, rather than making complete songs from scratch. 

In the ukulele world, is there any ukulele player that inspires you? And have you seen any new talents that catch your attention?

The first time I recognize the potential of the ukulele was with Jake Shimabukuro, the classic great ukulele player. I really enjoyed his Ted Talk presentation, in which he played Bohemian Rhapsody on the uke in the most amazing way possible. It was something out of this world! Another ukulele player I admire and find incredibly talented is Taimane, whom I got to meet a couple of years ago. Through the years, I have been discovering many ukulele players that inspire me for different reasons, such as technique, the enjoyment they transmit, skills, etc. Some people inspire me in a thousand ways, not just highly knowledgeable or very famous people. 

How would you describe what music means to you?

Music is a form of expression capable of channeling emotion. It is a two-way street, with music coming in and stirring the emotional part of you while making a big impact, and conversely, through singing or instruments music is a way to bring out that emotion and expression that you have. It serves both to channel and to receive nourishment for your own emotions, as well as to express feelings and reach other people. 

What is your goal in music?

Music has always been in my life and I can’t conceive myself without it. After finishing my studies, I don’t have specific life goals or know exactly where I’m headed musically. With the ukulele, for example, I plan to continue enjoying it and achieving new challenges. I also want to keep my focus on traveling and being able to perform live in different cities and countries. Years ago, I had very demanding goals in the field of studies and the ukulele, so the day-to-day was quite laborious and tiring. Now, I live more relaxed and in a more leisurely way, so my goal is to continue doing what I do now because I am truly happy. I think the best thing is to enjoy the road, without thinking about the end of it.

Finally, how did you find out about Make Music Day?

I think it was at the 2020 NAMM event in New Castle. Organizers of Make Music Day invited me to play at a well-known music store in the area. I participated and had a very pleasant experience. So, I participated that time in person and then virtually in 2021.