Danny Parker is known for writing songs for marquee pop artists such as Britney Spears, Shawn Mendes, Nick Jonas, Jessie Ware and James Blunt. But his forthcoming album as Model Child, “Dropout,” reflects his roots in the indie-rock world.
The album’s opener, “Strawberry Bowl,” plants its flag squarely in the soil of ’90s radio hits — it’s a rapturously sticky guitar jam whose chorus delivers on its titular sweetness. After Model Child’s stylistically different early singles, it was a turning point in Parker’s creative process.
“‘Strawberry Bowl’ was a defining song on the album,” he says. “After writing over electronic beats for a couple of years, I was inspired to sit down and write a song on guitar instead. I made a demo and it felt like an arrival of sorts into more of a punky ‘band’ sound (for lack of a better word). I’d been thinking about borders and boundaries within relationships. I don’t know if it was the Beatles vibe of the guitar, but it ended up being a song about free love.”
It opened the Virginia native up to a new approach in working on “Dropout,” which casts Model Child as an outsider. “Growing up in the ‘normal’ suburbs being queer and feeling alienated was definitely a big theme for me as a kid,” the songwriter says. “I just felt like I didn’t fit in. And when you feel that way it can lead to some self-destructive behavior. But pushing away from those 9-to-5 conventions, the status quo, I was able to shed my skin somewhat, embrace my sexuality and offbeat nature, and get deeper into art and music. … And so ‘dropping out’ as a concept does feel like a swerve, in addition to my departures from college and from pop music. I haven’t had the most straight and narrow path; I’ve fallen hard and had to pick myself up. But I think having these struggles leads you to your own more authentic path to find out who you are.”
In following his muse for Model Child, though, Parker’s experience in the pop universe came in handy.
“The pop world was a whole different ballgame as far as writing a song goes,” he says. “At first I was trying to write what I thought would be on the cheesier or more conventional side, but you learn to use the general structure of a pop song and its basic language to bring your own voice into the mix. It has rules, but you still try to write a great song within those confines.
“So I took this new form of writing and applied it to Model Child. With Model Child I’m more free, with fewer boundaries, and there’s a lot of direct experiences I’ve gone through that I put into these songs. I come from the more grunge, punk, indie world and I’m able to go deeper into the well if I’m writing in those styles. It’s more esoteric. I’ve learned so much about songwriting by writing for other people. It took time to find my true voice within that language.”
Co-produced by the artist and Pat Morrissey, mixed by Andrew Lappin and mastered by Joe Laporta, “Dropout” drops on Sept. 25.
||| Stream: “Strawberry Bowl”