The annual Williamsburg Live Songwriter Competition draws hundreds of aspiring crooners from across the country, all vying for the glory as well as a $4,000 prize and free studio time. But for Danny Ross, a self-taught pop rock pianist, the competition is part of a much greater and precisely managed plan.
And with a day job as the scheduler and operations coordinator for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D — Borough Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst) planning is something the 23-year-old can do in his sleep.
“I work until 6 pm for the Congressman, and then until 2 am on my music,” Ross told GO Brooklyn during a rare free moment. “And then it starts all over again.”
Organizing a politician’s life while trying to aggressively pursue rock stardom is no small feat. Having already graduated from Cornell, self-released an EP, “Introducing Danny Ross!,” launched a Web site and put together a press kit, Ross appreciates his small successes.
“It’s sort of like starting a business,” he said. “Management and planning are essential to achieving any big plan you have. All this effort into little goals will accumulate to big goals.”
But listen to Ross’s tunes, and you’d never believe it was the music of a self-proclaimed micromanager. His style, a jazzy mix of pop and rock, is akin to the love child of Ben Folds Five and the E Street Band.
Considering his passion for playing all started with the Fab Four, it’s no surprise his songs retain a little of that infectious sound.
“When I discovered the ‘Beatles Anthology’ at 13, I immediately dug out a dusty keyboard and said, ‘I can do this,’ ” recalled Ross.
Most 13 year olds would have traded in the piano for a PlayStation soon after, but Ross never considered it. Ten years later, he’s still banging those keys, albeit with a little more grace.
“The last few years, I’ve been trying to make up for my lack of technical ability and have taken jazz piano lessons to focus on technique,” he said. “I think it’s almost better, because I’m coming at it from the love of music, rather than a very by-the-book approach.”
For the Williamsburg Songwriter Competition on Sunday, Ross is performing a song called “When You’re Down (and You’re Out),” which he describes as “like a Cole Porter song with a Beatles-esque bit, too.”
He usually composes for a five-piece band — complete with two guitars, one bass and a drummer — or a three-piece wind section. Performing alone may be a departure, but it’s one Ross doesn’t eschew.
“As important as it is for me to be a composer and arranger and put together big pieces, it’s just as important to work on my solo skills and express my ideas through my instrument,” Ross said. “It’s definitely a change of pace, but it’s necessary.”
It’s also Ross’s first time performing in Brooklyn — something he hopes to repeat in the near future.
“I’d like to be at the level where I’m playing places like Studio B and Union Pool,” he said. “Hopefully within the next year or two, the momentum will swing, and I’ll get there.”
For now, his strategy is to continue playing gigs and building a buzz.
And what about his boss?
“[Nadler] loves it,” said Ross. “I think he’s happy to see someone who isn’t just stuck behind a desk at his office.”
Sometimes it seems like every guy with puppy dog eyes has a sad song to sing, so what makes Danny Ross so different? GO Brooklyn spent some time with his debut record, “Introducing Danny Ross,” and, using its golden ear, discerned exactly what makes Ross so appealing.
Take one part vintage Billy Joel, with catchy songs about girls and a piano instead of a guitar, and add. …
The charm of Bright Eyes, whose sole permanent member, Connor Oberst, has been compared to a young Bob Dylan, and mix with a pinch of. …
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The presidential hopeful and bass player balances both rock stardom and politics. Add ’em up and you’ll get. …
“Introducing Danny Ross.”
Danny Ross will perform as part of the “Williamsburg Live Songwriter Competition” at 8 pm on Nov. 4 at Union Pool (484 Union Ave. at Meeker Avenue in Williamsburg). $TBD. For information, call (718) 609-0484 or visit www.wlsc2007.com.
“Introducing Danny Ross!” is available for $5 at www.dannyrossmusic.com.