Signs of Growth

with Written by Daniel, former Eau Clairian melds music, poetry, art

Hannah Mumm

In 2012, Daniel Johnson of Eau Claire-born hip-hop collaboration Written by Daniel released upROOTED, a concept album about a protester and his technology. Since then, his life has been a whirlwind of change and self-discovery. Between 2014 and 2016, Johnson collaborated with Deon Green on a project titled D&D and released no Matic, an EP and comic book duo that told the story of a 1920s-era escape artist.

Johnson moved from Eau Claire a few years back and is currently working and making music in Australia. He recently finished Seeds, a project with producer Antiq and visual artist Jennifer Martin that was released Dec. 17.

Seeds is a cohesive collection of music, lyrical poetry, and illustrations that work together to communicate multiple forms of growth. Johnson was inspired by a medley of major changes in his personal life and the progressive political optimism he felt while writing lyrics last year.

“I was feeling extra inspired by young leaders and what I thought was a general progressive direction,” he said.

Lyrically, Seeds blends voices and perspectives in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that comments on the journeys of fictional seeds. Synths, percussion, electric bass, and guitars turn Johnson’s poetry into a fantastical experience that can hold a unique meaning for each listener.

“(I was) attracted by acoustic instruments and dusty, atmospheric source material. The goal was to create an ethereal feeling of fantasy,” said producer Antiq.

Antigenesis, the second single from the album, starts soft and spacey. Tension builds until the song drops off into discordant drumbeats. Johnson’s voice cuts through the unsettling frenzy in slowed-down spoken word about confinement and escapism. With the clash of a cymbal, the rebellion begins.

Martin’s illustrations follow three individual seeds as they struggle though life. One seed faces a squirrel’s hungry mouth and another floats into the vastness of a pond. In the end, they are depicted growing into grass and flowers in the warmth of a smiling sun.

Johnson defines himself as a poet before a musician. Though he feels most comfortable writing in rhythm and rhyme, he credits his collaborators for transforming his words into multi-dimensional art. With Seeds, he hopes to bridge the gap between forms.

“For me, reading a poem is like stepping into someone’s head or having someone talk to you, but to hear music with poetry, you get to sit in on a conversation between what’s basically two different languages,” he said.

Find Seeds and more from Written by Daniel on writtenbydaniel.bandcamp.com.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.