Whether easing into the soulful vibe of Al Green, the raw emotion of classic rock legend Neil Young or even pulling out the occasional “Don’t worry, be happy” by Bobby McFerrin, Orange County-based singer-songwriter Danny Maika’s effortless command of rock, soul and pop standards must be heard to be believed.
A vocal chameleon, Maika’s ability to emulate artists as varied as the Beatles and Pink Floyd to John Mayer and Sublime, makes him ideal for any performance venue. From crowded nightclubs and bars, huge music venues like The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, and private parties and corporate functions, his aptitude for channeling recognizable voices without compromising his innate personality and passion makes him starkly distinct from the mass of cover bands and artists.
Even though Maika earns his living by playing dozens of gigs each month, the Huntington Beach Resident is far more than just another cover artist. Maika is a tireless songwriter in his own right, creating material influenced by the great artists he admires, infusing them with his passions and his own life experiences.
“I always try to toss in at least a few original songs regardless of what type venue I’m performing at,” he says. “And it always amazes me how many people respond to a song they’ve never heard in the middle of a set of songs they already connect with.”
Another attribute that makes Maika distinctive from most cover artists is his natural gift of interpreting other artists’ songs without losing their innate feel or compromising his own personality.
“I feel it is important to have a respectful balance between staying true to the original version of the songs that I am covering and bringing a new, interesting element or twist to it. It’s not that I am making the song better, I am just adding my own ingredients to give it a little different flavor”
While entertaining his audiences is his primary goal, Maika is also keenly aware of how the business works from the perspective of a venue owner or promoter.
“I take a great deal of pride in my work and business ethic,” he says. “I think I am very easy to work with as far as clients. I own all my own equipment, I like getting to shows early in order to set up. And I always try to smell good and dress nice. Even though I’m just a hired musical gun, I like to think I’m representing the people whose stage I’m performing on.”
Maika first realized his musical gifts when he was a 13-year-old 6th grader. He entered a solo recital and wowed the crowd with Ben E. King’s classic “Stand by Me.” He sang throughout his school years but didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 20.
“I remember when I was first starting to play, the guitar was all I could think about. I would literally practice about four hours every night. Every time I’d learn a new chord I would write or learn songs with that chord in it. Every time I’d mess up, I would start the song over again. I was a very-self disciplined student”
Maika threw himself into learning the instrument and sought out veteran blues, rock and jazz musicians, absorbing everything he could and working it into his developing style. Within a year he’d written his first songs and considered himself a legitimate, if still rudimentary, triple threat.
Since then, he’s written dozens of songs, incorporating experiences drawn from his life, including his old job as a gondolier serenading lovers of all ages, his huge interest in swing dancing and the many personalities he’s met on, behind and in front of the many stages he’s performed upon.
All told, Maika has a repertoire that includes over 200 songs, which he’s combined into a thick binder that he brings with him to every gig in order to prompt requests, as well as dozens of original tunes. Maika also sells his self-produced CD’s at every gig.
He performs across Southern California and the respect he’s received from peers and colleagues has resulted in some impressive accolades, including winning the 2008 Best Male Acoustic Performer in the So Cal Live Music Competition.
But though his guitar and voice led him to performing across the region, he constantly works to “find new and exciting elements to add to my solo show. I started out with just a guitar and my voice but over time I found that people appreciate unusual things if they are done right. For example, the ukulele and harmonica are instruments that not too many musicians play and not too many people see performed.”
He also embraces high-tech flourishes to round out his sound.
“ I am constantly searching to add cutting-edge technology to my pedal board. At my feet, I have all kinds of effects such as a delay pedal and a vocal processor. One thing that I feel has really made my show stand out though is my looping pedal. With this pedal I’m able to record beats, vocals, and guitar right on the spot making me sound like a full band. Then while the song continues to play, jump out into the audience to swing dance or do an occasional moonwalk. It’s all about having fun while putting your whole heart into it.”
And the greatest thing about his career?
“I’ve indulged in a lot of passions over my life, from baseball and fishing to swing dancing and wrestling. However, performing music is the first of my passions where I really feel I am a natural and it is where I feel most at home.”
Sharing that passion translates to the most rewarding aspect of performing music, for Maika: connecting with his audiences.
“The greatest gift I receive from playing music is the connection I get to make with many different people on a regular basis. I’ve had people I don’t know email me with stories about how my songs were the reason they were brought back together after a break up or brought together for the first time. There is no greater feeling in the world then being on stage performing your heart out while the audience is gathered around dancing, smiling, and singing along. Then at the end of the show having people coming up to tell me that I’ve made their night.”
Maika has no thoughts about getting off the stage any time soon.
“ Music is a true labor of love and a life-time proposition I’m learning all the time, It’s the best job in the world to have because I am gratefully sharing my love and passion and finding it appreciated and shared back to me. People then share it with others on an increasingly global basis. It boggles my mind when I hear that my music is being played to put smiles on faces of kids, vacationers from all around the world, lovers, friends, music peers and celebrants all.”