Danielle Wei-Tsung Carter is a multicultural singer and recording artist working on her first solo project with all original songs. She loves creating and making things by hand.
Due to her mixed Chinese and African American descent Danielle is constantly inspired to explore and share multicultural communication, human relationships, travel and culture. The things she creates provide the platform.
Initially, she started designing accessories and styling outfits to wear at her shows. Then friends started to ask for tips and for custom jewelry for their photo shoots, shows and events. As the requests extended, Danielle launched her online jewelry line called ONYX XOXO.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Danielle, when did you first realize the arts were an important part of your life?
My mother introduced me to the arts growing up. It was part of our fun, family lifestyle. We were constantly attending museum craft workshops at the Armory Center in Pasadena, candle making classes during family vacations, scrapbook classes at school and more.
However, it wasn’t until a couple years ago after leaving my corporate positions to work for myself and other small businesses that I formally understood how therapeutic and amazing the arts are. Now I identify myself as an artist.
Carrie: How would you describe your music and jewelry to our community?
My music and jewelry are a celebration of life: an expression of our innate desire to let our toes feel the earth, to dance and to live freely.
As a recording artist, my sound ranges from neo-soul to tribal pop. The stories speak to the waves of love relationships: with oneself and with others.
The jewelry offers a dynamic and bold festival look with the body jewelry draped at angles which celebrate sensuality and our natural feminine sexuality.
For example, the Lightworks Collection was created with glass to reflect light, each piece activates to glow against the skin. Also, the signature ear cuff is a power piece. I love that other women feel powerful when they connect with these statement pieces.
Carrie: Which came first, your music or your jewelry?
My music and songwriting career technically started first professionally. However, I was recently reminded that I used to make women’s accessories and special occasion cards and go door to door selling them in the neighborhood. It wasn’t long after that I began singing lessons.
Both careers seem to play well together to my pleasant surprise. Recently I had the pleasure of styling and making jewelry for my first music video called “Better and Better,” which will be released early next year.
Overall, it’s a joy to offer unique merchandise at music festivals and events. I’m looking forward to touring the world playing music and offering my jewelry designs.
Carrie: Where do you get ideas for your work?
Lyrical ideas come from my joys and struggles of my personal interactions with friends, lovers, my journey to understanding and accepting the power of creativity. Sometimes when I tap into a solid idea the words pour out the story so fast that I’m just there to witness it, heal and share it with someone else going through the same thing.
The ideas for the jewelry spawn from picking out raw materials that I’m attracted to; I let my enthusiasm lead the way. If I find a piece of leather or a stone I’m excited about, I know I’ll create something with that energy. Those are the pieces that also move the quickest. Each piece has its own pulse.
Carrie: How does your creative process in jewelry design inform your process in music (or vice versa)?
Such a good question!! I’m a songwriter so I’ve written in every genre you can imagine. But one of the biggest growth opportunities as an independent music artist especially is to carve an original path and create your own universe sonically. When you hear Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder you know it right away. They each take me somewhere unique. Making jewelry by hand helped me work backwards and create the roadmap to my eclectic soul and tribal sound.
For years, I kept pushing off making jewelry, “there’s no time to make jewelry I thought. I have to finish this album.” Come to find out, creating and designing jewelry brought clarity. I could physically see who I was and what I sound like. It is a blessing to experience and visually understand sound through the eyes. Now I do whatever is necessary to free up any resistance so I can receive all the lessons that need to come through and build momentum.
Carrie: Can you share one challenge you’ve faced as a musician and how you’ve dealt with it?
One challenge I’ve faced as a musician is accepting that a song is a bookmark. It captures and takes us through a period in time or an experience. Usually by the time a song is completely done, mixed and mastered, I’ve grown further along in my journey as a person, as an artist, as a songwriter. As a stickler I want to keep redo-ing the song endlessly. This can lead to trading out authenticity of the song experience for vocal acrobatics or some technical skill. I absolutely believe in optimizing the quality and delivering maximum production and vocal skill. My top priority is that the delivery of the song still feels real to the listener.
To solve this acceptance and letting go of art for the time stamp and experience it is, I trust my connection with the creative process and build a good team: a music director and team of musicians who can check and balance during the project. I know they are looking out for the best interest of the songs. Whenever I may waiver, I can rest assure that I’m obsessing over the right details with their trusted opinions.
With the jewelry it’s a tangible creation: I visualize it, I create it. I know exactly when it’s done and it’s easy to share it. This practice of sending out to find its place in the world has been a valuable lesson for me. The momentum of “create, release, repeat,” has been great practice and now I’m ready to employ that with my first music project, “write, release, repeat.”
Carrie: How do your interests outside of the arts fuel your creativity?
Outside of the arts, I do enjoy a good read or a juicy conversation over coffee. I tend to read mostly nonfiction books on personal relationships, health and human development. These ideas lead me to understand more about how we heal and grow.
Many of my songs are about the stretching, the pursuit and mastering of who each of us uniquely are as individuals. My songs touch upon how we can all play nice together in the big sandbox we call life. I relate with many of those old tunes like Michael Jackson’s “Heal the world” and “Human Nature.”
There’s a power in collective consciousness that I think reading and having interesting sidewalk conversations taps us into. My intention is for those who connect with my music and art to receive those sandbox healing vibes: to create more harmony in the world through improved day to day relationships.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
When I feel stuck, after a deep breathe and a glass of water, I check in with my basic needs. I ask myself if I’m HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY, or TIRED.
If it’s one of those, I can usually resolve it with rest, food, a good chat with a friend, or whatever feels right.
If it’s none of the basics I do a quick brainstorm and lay out the options. I pick one and say yes to it. If I have reasons why I’m not doing that, I reroute and say yes to the next one. My gut usually indicates the right choice when I ask, “If I were to drop everything else, would this feel like the right thing to do?”
If I can’t figure out the “how” to get to my goal, I take an afternoon to be still, lay and just breathe in a peaceful place. I eat, drink and remember life is free.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Tension transformed into meditation is water for creativity. I can’t live without taking 5-10 minutes a day at least to get in a “I feel good safe and loved” headspace.
Life is such a balancing act. One challenge brings light to the next and every time I survive, I have a growth spurt. These spurts usually result in more successful habits, which are directly reflected in the growth of my art, business and relationships around me. So amen to a clear mind.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
People who are grateful, who do exactly what brings them joy and who believe in encouraging others and sharing talent and resources for the betterment of the whole inspire me. I’ve been fortunate to encounter many kindred hearts in pursuit of living out these qualities.
It’s been such a blessing to work with talented, good people like Jessica Kemejuk, actress, model and producer; Designer Benita Shun, Artist Shana Mattheis, Gaku Murata, music director, producer and guitarist; and the bandmates who played on my first solo project including Stacey Lamont, Abe Gearig, Yuki Hayashi and Marshall Thompson. Plus, the dream team of my first music video shoot extraordinaire Director Marcus and Mary Niehaus, Oscar Ramirez, and the loving couple Dom and Steph.
I am absolutely grateful for all of my close friends and family for taking this journey with me. It is possible because of their unconditional love and support.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is knowing and trusting yourself without limits. It is infinite. It’s important to work through anything in the way of the pure feeling of joy. In the process of creating, we become ourselves.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: When you feel frustrated or stuck have you checked in with your basic needs? What patterns have you found in your creative practice? I want to know! Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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*Featured Image by Megan Carroll