Danny Ross finds improbable inspiration for his music in the world of politics. The schedule and operations coordinator in Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-N.Y.) district office by day is also an aspiring musician by night.
And he doesn’t consider his two jobs to be in conflict.
“Working in music and working in government, I think, really come from the same place,” Ross said. “They both stem from your heart.”
“I come into the politics job with the shirt and tie,” Ross said. But at night, “I have to let loose and play rock ’n’ roll.”
In the midst of his high-pressure political job, Ross found time to release a music video on YouTube last week.
The 23-year-old Long Island native has pursued his two passions –– music and politics –– as long as he can remember. He started writing music at 13, after falling in love with The Beatles, and has been involved in politics since college, when he worked on the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
“I have been interested in politics just as long as I’ve been interested in music,” said Ross, who has a degree in government and popular music composition and performance from Cornell University.
But right now, music is his main focus. He said it’s crucial for his success in the music industry to make a break at a young age. He plans to work for Nadler as long as possible, achieve success as a musician and then re-enter politics.
Ross said he knows of at least one other political staffer in New York who was involved in music. Sam Rockwell left New York City Councilmember David Yassky’s office in February to go on tour with his rock band, The XYZ Affair, a name with political roots. (The XYZ Affair was the name of a failed diplomatic effort to smooth over America’s relationship with France in 1797.)
Working as a Congressional staffer has given Ross the organizational and communications skills necessary to be a successful self-made artist in the crowded New York scene. He serves as his own manager, booking agent and publicist.
“I use the methods of organization and strategy that I learned in politics and carry that over to the music career,” Ross said.
Ross has found Nadler’s district office to be supportive of his dual career, especially because of its location in the heart of Manhattan, an artistic milieu.
“It’s a good environment for a young person such as myself trying to do something strange in the political world,” Ross said.
Nadler and Ross worked together by holding a benefit for 9/11 Environmental Action, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Manhattan residents who were harmed by contaminants in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center.
Fellow staffers in Nadler’s office are some of Ross’ biggest supporters. Co-worker Micah Lasher tries to attend all of Ross’ shows.
“Whether in government or in music, I think he has a really promising future,” said Lasher, who is Nadler’s Manhattan community representative.
Ross said he hopes his new music video for “I Can’t Wait,” the current single from his album “Introducing Danny Ross!” will become an Internet sensation, achieving fame in the mold of OK Go. That pop band’s treadmill video became the YouTube prototype, receiving almost 1 million hits within a day of posting. With fewer than 600 hits since his posting last week, Ross has a long way to go before he achieves anything close to the attention OK Go attracted. But he said he is still pleased with the response to “I Can’t Wait,” which has been better than he expected.
In the video, Ross stars as the popular ’80s “My Buddy” doll and embarks on a series of adventures looking for his lost companion doll, “Kid Sister,” played by Ross’ real-life girlfriend.
The premise might sound strange, but the video bears a humorous and genuine quality common to many popular YouTube releases, and the folksy-pop lyrics are catchy.
Ross describes his music as “piano pop meets ’60s soul,” or “Ben Folds meets E Street Band.”
He stars on piano and vocals, with his four supporting band members playing the drums, guitar, bass and saxophone.
Lately, he’s been drawing inspiration from folk artists such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, whose works were often politically charged. Ross said he is aiming to reintroduce sophistication and enthusiasm back into radio. He’s working on recording a full album called “One Way” with at least 12 songs, which he plans to release this fall. He plays frequently at New York City venues.
To watch Danny Ross’ video “I Can’t Wait,” visit youtube.com/watch?v=tfj5wOXEEsg, and for more information, visit dannyrossmusic.com.