It isn’t often that a groundbreaking artist’s fans get to literally travel through life with her, but that’s the case with Danielle Prou. Fans of her highly personal yet instantly accessible music have watched her mature from an insightful thirteen-year-old prodigy into a young woman with a soul full of songs just waiting to be sung.
Hold a mirror up to the melting pot that is America and you may just Danielle Prou’s reflection in the glass. Her father is a fourth-generation American of Spanish heritage. Her mother is a refugee survivor of Cambodia’s sinister Killing Fields. Born in Australia and now living in Los Angeles, cross-cultural beauty glows bright in her face, much as the hopes and dreams of a young American emanate eloquently from her songs. She’s a one-woman embodiment of the multicultural reach for a shared destiny that is the American experience.
For Danielle, music is at the foundation of everything. As she puts it, “Music is the glue that holds the whole world together. I don’t know what life would be without it.” When she was younger, she pursued acting, and landed several gigs, but it soon became clear that music was her true passion. When she was twelve, she began working with Shaun Royer, a vocal coach known for helping to launch the careers of young artists. It was at Royer’s urging that she began writing songs on guitar, and the piano (her chief songwriting instrument).
At thirteen, now strumming the ukulele, Prou released “Awkward”—a song that went straight to the heart of those early first-crush memories. “I was struggling to write some new material,” Danielle remembers, “I told my dad and he gave me the premise of ‘awkward.’ I went upstairs, grabbed my ukulele and wrote all night. The song is about liking someone, and not being sure if they like you back. It’s based on a real person, but I managed to keep it straightforward and lighthearted, so people other than just me could relate to it.”
Prou has kept on releasing honest, sincere and insightful songs ever since. Her consistently fresh creative output resulted in her first album, Songs About Stuff —a title that speaks less about simplicity than it does the creative worldview that began with “Awkward”— “I write about things in my life, but I try to not make them so mundane that they wouldn’t be interesting for other people.”
In addition to releasing a steady stream of songs and videos, she’s developed into a showstopping performer featured on several tours. Fans all over the country, and in the United Kingdom, have gotten to know her and learn just how deeply her songs speak to them. She’s also worked with some big name producers, like Justin Gray (Mariah Carey, Joss Stone) and Brody Brown (Adele, Bruno Mars). But superstardom isn’t the goal for Prou. “I’m not looking for this huge celebrity life. I don’t want to be just a character or a personality. I want to make music that speaks from my heart to other people’s hearts, and hopefully they’ll jump on the wagon and support me. Joss Stone isn’t as big as Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, but she made a strong career for herself, doing what she loved, without being in the limelight all the time. She’s a respected musician, and that’s more important to me.”
Where Danielle’s performances are electric, her choice of material is wonderfully eclectic. When she isn’t singing her own songs, she loves interpreting songs by other artists, mining a wealth of music created well before she was born. She recently spoke about some favorite covers: “I decided to take more of a Joss Stone approach to ‘Son of a Preacher Man’—originally done by Dusty Springfield, to make the song edgier. It is, after all, about having a secret relationship. And there’s ‘Operator,’ by the late, great, Jim Croce. I’m a huge Jim Croce fan, and that particular song touches me the most.”
The next milestone Prou’s fans will be celebrating is her upcoming EP, featuring her latest single “The Healer,” a haunting exploration of personal sadness, longing and redemption. Built around a sultry vocal hook and swelling strings, “The Healer” captures the exceptional level of maturity this young songwriter has reached.
Danielle Prou has done a lot of growing since she first came on the scene at thirteen. It’ll be amazing to see just how far she grows.