Danielle Ponder: Singer-Songwriter, Producer and Public Defender
Some of Us Are Brave, Danielle Ponder’s debut album, has the earmarks of a classic. Her commanding vocals may suggest greats like Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, but the Rochester-based multi-instrumentalist is truly her own woman.
Though ostensibly a soul singer, her arrangements blend elements of the blues, pop, R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronica into that classic style.
“I’ve been performing all my life,” says Ponder, who balanced her work as a singer-songwriter and producer for years with a day job in the legal world. “Even when I was working full time as a public defender, I’d go on tour in Europe, come home Sunday night and be back in court on Monday with 300 cases. It was insane, but I’m passionate about justice and music. My early songs were up-tempo and got people dancing, but I wanted to go slower and deeper. The sounds on this record are mellow, but still political and personal. The title is taken from a book I read in law school, All of the Women Are White, All of the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave. I’d never heard anyone advocate for Black women so strongly. Thinking about the book encouraged me to move from being a lawyer to a full-time musician.”
It took Ponder almost four years to write and polish the songs on Some of Us Are Brave. She worked with her old friend Avis Reese—who also plays keyboards in her touring trio—as well as her managers and her producers to hone one of the year’s most highly anticipated roots albums. The title track is a forceful ballad of female empowerment, love song “Someone Like You” showcases Ponder’s ability to naturally slide from a pleading growl to a cry of triumph and “Darker Than Blue” colors her incisive political sentiments with some welcome gospel harmonies.
“After being a lawyer for two years, I realized music is something I had to do. Growing up, money was always up and down, so I had a fear of financial insecurity. After touring Europe and selling out shows in my hometown, it became clear: If I commit to this, it will work. And it has.”