It's been a rollercoaster five-plus years for Danielle Peck, but lately she's been riding along the peaks. Earlier this year, she opened a string of shows for Toby Keith, her first experience at playing arenas.
More recently, she saw her self-titled debut album break into the Billboard chart at an impressive No. 23. And throughout the remainder of this year, she'll be busy on the road with such acts as Josh Turner, Jason Aldean, Trick Pony, Miranda Lambert and Charlie Daniels. All this is a welcome payoff for someone who once lost her record deal just as her career was about to take off.
A native of North Carolina who grew up in Coshocton, Ohio, Peck was singing country music in bars by the time she was 16. After graduating from high school, she formed her own band and soon was working fairs, festivals and clubs up and down the East Coast.
When she was starting out, her parents would sometimes take her to Nashville. "We'd visit," she recalls, "and my dad would try to shop my stuff to labels."
After a few years of touring, Peck began thinking about cracking Music City on her own. "We were booked every week somewhere -- three to four to five days a week. And we'd be out for a month or two at a time. It was a constant, ongoing process. I was like, 'You know, if I'm getting booked this much and I can make a living at doing this, why don't I [move to Nashville] and do it the right way?'"
So, in early 2001, when she was 22, Peck made the big leap. To support herself while making the rounds of music publishers and record labels, she waited tables, first at the West End Cooker and then at Virago. During her off-hours, she wrote songs. She had been in town for a little over a year when she scored a publishing deal with Barbara Orbison's Still Working Music. Orbison and Clay Myers now jointly manage her.
In late 2003, Peck caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, then in charge of promotion and artist development for DreamWorks Records. He signed her to the label, and she began writing, collecting and recording songs for her first project. Then, in 2004, DreamWorks was absorbed into Universal Music Group, and Peck was squeezed out.
"There were lots of changes going on," Peck says. "I remember feeling like, 'Oh, no! I've been working so hard.' I think what it really did was kind of make me think, 'Do you really want this?' And, of course, my answer was, 'Yes.'" Later, after Borchetta was also forced out at DreamWorks, he formed Big Machine Records, and Peck became one of his first signings.
Peck co-wrote eight of the 11 songs on her new album, pairing up with such peers as Clay Mills, Jeremy Stover, Tommy Lee James, Blair Daly and Burton Collins. She says three of the songs are ones she originally recorded for the ill-fated DreamWorks debut. However, she re-recorded them for this project.
Focusing on the ebb and flow of love, Danielle Peck reveals a very modern and spunky woman who's as likely to break a heart as have hers broken. In a voice that is varied and powerful, Peck takes her listeners from the chase of "Findin' a Good Man" and "Kiss You on the Mouth," through the confronting of stormy times in "Fallin' Apart" and "I Don't" to the serene embracing of life in "Isn't That Everything." Spicing up the enhanced CD is her first music video -- "I Don't" -- plus snippets from Peck's session for CMT's Studio 330 Sessions.
There are three producers on the album -- Stover, James and Byron Gallimore. "I got to work with Byron," Peck explains, "because I sat down with my manager one day, and he asked me, 'What are the types of records you're listening to right now? Who do you like? What songs on the radio do you like?' And song after song, name after name and album after album, all I named [were artists produced by] Byron Gallimore. ... So my ear was already leaning toward his sound and the quality of music he produces.
"Each producer that I used on my record, there's so much differences between them. Like with Tommy, [he] could pull the softer side of me out with ballads and things like that. With Jeremy Stover, he could pull a harder edge out and rock it up a bit. ... I really think they each did get something different out of me -- but all of it is me."