“What’s in a name?”. One of the most famous lines of English theatre, written by the incomparable William Shakespeare (to the best of our knowledge) around the year 1595, Juliet’s soliloquy examines the importance (or lack thereof) of titles and of the fact that an individual’s name and worth is often measured by the importance others place upon it. What's in a name?
Earlier this year, Dani Larkin (previously known only as DANI) was thinking along those very lines. In 2020, she made the decision to take her great Grandmother’s maiden name, after doing some research on her family history as part of a residency she had been funded to go on at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig.
“I’d just finished recording the album so I had a week just to see what happened” Larkin explained, “During this time, I developed a real connection and knowledge of my family that I always knew was there but became something a little different”.
Larkin had been performing and releasing music under the name DANI for over seven years, and making the addition to her name was so important that she made sure to ask her family’s permission.
“My grandparents are an incredible source of inspiration and motivation for me,” Larkin reflects, before adding that, upon being asked, her Grandfather took a number of seconds to reflect, before replying that not only should she take the name, but that he believed her grandmother would be very proud of her for doing so.
“It was Incredibly important to me, it was asking permission to make my connection to home very public” Larkin reflects of her decision.
Music was a big part of Larkin’s childhood growing up. She was raised on a diet of Bee Gees and trad, and her family would spend every Sunday gathering to play music together. One of her earliest influences was Dolly Parton, with ‘Jolene’ acting as the first song she ever learned to sing, and the Dixie Chicks, who acted as her earliest inspirations to start writing music.
“It came from a singer-songwriter perspective,” Larkin notes of her earliest work. “It was about telling a story, sharing an experience”.
She spent her teenage years playing in clubs and venues across her native Armagh and the bordering Monaghan. In 2014, she released her debut EP to a sold-out audience in one of the smaller rooms of the Black Box in Belfast.
After selling over 150 copies of her EP, all of which she had hand-made and printed, she began to realise that music was not only something she could rely on but something that she needed to pursue.
It was from here that she really began to take music seriously, and has been working tirelessly ever since on her craft. In 2021, those six-year of work are finally starting to pay-off.
In November, she announced that her debut album 'Notes For A Maiden Warrior' was recorded, and was set for release in the Spring of 2021. She followed this up with the release of the album’s debut single, ‘Samson and Goliath’, which debuted on BBC Radio Ulster.
The track was the first song Larking had written based off a particular riff rather than Chords, and it's that repetitive motif driving the track that brings its edge.
“It’s a song of the underdog, and the strength of that position,” Larkin explains of the track’s meaning. “The inner strength and the vulnerability that comes from being the underdog really only makes for good things.”
So with ‘Samson and Goliath’ released to the world, is that what listeners should come to expect of the album?
“Not quite,” Larkin laughs, before adding, “the album is split in two halves, the second is where Samson and Goliath sits and sonically the songs sit with it, but the first half is a little bit dark, a little bit gritty. The album ends with a bit of lightness and mystery. There are some surprises there”.
Samson and Goliath’ is out now. To be in with the chance to hear Dani Larkin's new album before anyone else, sign up here.