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Norman Music Fest: Q&A with Night Beats creator Danny Lee Blackwell

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Night Beats

Norman Music Fest headliner Danny Lee Blackwell of Night Beats. Night Beats will perform at 9:15 p.m. April 25 on Opolis Outdoor Stage.

Dallas native Danny Lee Blackwell has evolved from singing with bands he found on Craigslist to creating an album alongside Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. But the singer, songwriter and guitarist didn’t always plan to be a full-time musician.

Here is how the creator of the band Night Beats — who will perform at his first Norman Music Fest this year — made the switch from a future in professional baseball to bluesy rock ‘n’ roll.

Q: What’s your role in Night Beats?

A: I’m the lead singer, the lead guitarist. I’m the songwriter of the band. Night Beats is my creation … it’s my main horse.

Q: How’d you get into music?

A: Well, I was a baseball player for a long time, and was committed to being the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox. That was my ideal thing. But I realized soon that there was a whole bunch of assholes in the sports world, and that time, too, I got the musical bug in me.

There was definitely a crossover — I’m pretty passionate about everything I set my mind to. So around the time I started playing serious ball, I was knee-deep in teaching myself every Beatles song that I knew on guitar.

Q: How old were you when you started making music?

A: I just started to write my own music, found my own players. I had no desire to wait around for hype or for a following, so I just decided to hit the road, go on tour. My first tour was when I was 15. Granted, it was from Dallas to Texarkana, it’s not that far. But I can say that I had a fake ID the entire time. Too young to drive, actually, so I had my drummer drive for me.

Q: How would you describe Night Beats’ sound?

A: Rock ‘n’ roll. R&B. Soul music. Night Beats is named after a Sam Cooke record called Night Beat, so there’s an underlying soul element to everything. It’s a beautiful record, my favorite Sam Cooke record.

Q: What can you tell us about your most recent album, “Myth of a Man”?

A: The album was me coming down to Nashville and working with a bunch of people.

I worked with this guy Dan Auerbach, (from) The Black Keys. He’s kind of head producer on the whole thing, but I don’t like to look at it that way because we worked together. My drummer on that record — his name is Bubba — he played on everything that you can think of. He played on Suspicious Minds, he played Bill Withers, he played with Aretha Franklin.

(“Myth of a Man”) turned into something that was very inspirational and spontaneous, and I was really proud of the experience.

Q: Have you performed at Norman Music Fest before, or is this your first time?

A: Well, I’ve been to Norman a few times. My father actually went to OU. He’s an old-timer, he’s an old Texas old-timer. I don’t think we’ve actually played the Norman Music Festival before. It’s always been small club shows and stuff like that.

Q: Do you still play any sports?

A: I go to the batting cages. I’m not at that point in my life yet where I want to go to a golf course. That seems to be kind of, you know, a thing where people eventually turn into, “Oh yeah, I like golf now.” Yeah, I’m not there. I’m going to give myself probably six years until I start to get into it.

Night Beats will perform at 9:15 p.m. April 25 on Opolis Outdoor Stage at Norman Music Fest.

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