Brian: Daniel Schwartz is a D.C. native. He works as the production manager at The Hamilton Live which is one block from the White House. He's also a professional musician. He's played around town with a number of the artists in town and also as a children's performer. He's also a producer with Band House Gigs which is a local promotion production company presenting shows over the last twelve years featuring hundreds of area musicians at some of the best venues in town and throughout the D.C. area. Listen as a I first ran into this guy when I was seeing a show at The Hamilton and the artist was like, "Hey. You got to come meet Daniel, or Danny as he goes by. Got to come meet Danny." I got to meet him and just, he's one of those you meet him and he's just one cool dude. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Daniel Schwartz, known as Danny from The Hamilton. Say hi to everybody and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Danny: Hey. How's it going?
Brian: Hey there. Tell us about Hamilton and your role at The Hamilton and what that is.
Danny: I'm very fortunate to be working for the Clyde's Restaurant Group. I love these guys. I have some of the coolest bosses in the world. I, as a senior in high school, when I went to school, I grew up in Bethesda. I opened Clyde's restaurant in 2002 called Tower Oaks Lodge out in Rockville up in the woods.
Danny: I was a server and the GM there when I got the job with Clyde's as the production manager, ten years later, said, "Danny is one of the greatest guys I've ever met, one of the worst servers I've ever worked with."
Brian: I appreciate your honesty. This is good. All right. Okay. Not a good server.
Danny: Not a great server. I was very quick to change into nice clothes and start being a host so I could walk older people to their table. I really enjoyed schmoozing with the customers and making sure they were happy. When it would be down time I would jump in and be sort of a manager and bus tables and make sure everybody was having a good time and really get to the heart of what Clyde's customer service is all about.
Brian: Right. I've heard amazing things.
Danny: This year I'm celebrating my eleventh year on the corner of 14th and F. For the five years prior to Hamilton opening, I worked for The National Press Club as a freelance audio engineer up on the thirteenth floor of the press building caddy corner from us.
Danny: I was watching. I used to go into the Boarders that used to occupy our 37,000 square foot space and as I saw it coming together and there was a great article in the Washington Post interviewing our owner, our president Tom Meyer and he was talking about what he saw as the vision of this music venue and who he saw being down there I was like, man, I have to be involved. I have to do this. These are my heroes. I've taken so many of the lessons they taught me and invested in me as a server and a host, and all the jobs I've had between I've been like this is how in the best possible scenario how Clyde's would do it.
I happened to be working one day at The Press Club in a small conference room, maybe this size or double this size, fit 75 people comfortably, and a 125, 150 people showed up. The audio end of it, putting up a couple table mics and making sure they were on was pretty simple so I was running around turning down the AC, getting water, getting extra chairs, doing everything I could to be hospitable, and the young woman who was running it said, "You know really you were incredible today. You went above and beyond. It was so impressive. Where did you get that from?" I said, you know, I was an actor when I was a child. I feel like it makes me personable. It makes me unafraid to approach people and all that but that really I spend a lot of time in the hospitality industry mostly working for Clyde's for a number of years.
I'd come back from college every year and go back to work as a host. They'd give me shifts and I really appreciated them for that. I really got a lot from them. She said, "Yeah my husband works for Clyde's." I sort of said, well that's interesting but it's big corporation. Everybody's husband works for Clyde's in some round about way. She said, "but my husband Dave Moran is the GM of the Old Ebbitt Grill and he's going to be running The Hamilton." I was like, oh my god. Hi. It's nice to meet you. I gave her my card and all I wanted to do was be a sound engineer there, be another feather in my cap and a place that I could call a freelance home as an engineer. It took eight months but finally I got a call to be interviewed as the production manager. It turned out I knew a lot of people.
Brian: What does it mean to be a production manager for those who don't know?
Danny: As long as you don't want to have any relationships or too much. For the first five years, plan on not seeing a significant other and it's a commitment. It's 100 hours plus a week really just wrapping your head around all these details, keeping a cool head about when they change.
Brian: So you're dealing with the logistics when a band's coming in?
Danny: Right. We book a show. I luckily don't have to do too much in that regard. First we were booked out of Austin by a group called C3 Presents. That was a big organization that gave us a lot of clout and let us totally get big acts that shouldn't have been coming to our room as a new room, but they said if C3's repping you, then we'll give you the benefit of the doubt and they loved it. The crowd loved it. We really got a really auspicious start for five years in as a restaurant and a music venue.
I would get the advance. I would get the contract. I'd reach out to their advance person. I'd tell them all about what we do and how it was going to be an amazing experience, that they were going to get world class food. They were going to get a world class sound system and lighting system and really positive can do attitude from my staff. That was important to me was to build a staff that was Clyde's customer service. I'm really proud of the staff I put together and it's a small, tight knit one, and we work really hard. I keep the gear running. I keep the staff scheduled. I get them paid. I make sure that we-
Brian: You're basically running the venue and the logistics with the bands and the staff from the time the band knows they're coming in, to the time that they're there and they do their show and then wrapping up at the end of the night, that's Danny.
Danny: That's me.
Brian: And the team.
Danny: Unlike a lot of production managers I came from an audio background so I wanted to be hands on. I wanted to be running the show. If they didn't have an engineer, I wanted to be the engineer. I wanted to mix them so that meant that every day at a certain time I had to drop my office work and jump into the show, push their gear in, set it up, work with them to make the show as good as possible, and see them through all the way until they're pulling away from the dock at the end of the night.
Brian: Now with 100 hours a week, so what's life like for you outside of The Hamilton?
Danny: I sleep.
Danny: I watch some television and I keep only snacks in the house. I get fed there twice a day and it's unbelievable food and it's delicious but it's also restaurant food that comes with all the fixings of a delicious and not necessarily nutritious diet. It's all over the map. I try to have different things just to keep me interested in the menu.
Danny: I put on weight that first couple years and I couldn't find enough time in my 14 hours on my feet every day to want to go to the gym and work it off. It was a lot of work. I'd come home and just collapse. For a little while I was dating somebody and living with them and they'd be asleep when I got home. I'd try to get myself out of bed just to spend a few minutes with them before they'd leave in the morning. It was tough. It was very challenging.
Brian: You're looking trim so have you figured out the gym thing?
Danny: Trying to-
Brian: The eating thing.
Danny: Yeah it's just about managing your time and your diet and sticking to the healthy items on the menu and stuff like that.
Brian: What about the funniest moment that comes to mind when you think about The Hamilton since you started there?
Danny: Man, some of them have been just rolling around with my bosses who are great, great guys who love music, who take me to concerts, who hang with me. They really are buddies and they love. I get texts and calls at all hours of the day and night, being like hey man did you hear about this? This is so exciting. I really love those moments. I don't know funny maybe. I don't have time to stop and laugh at things because when I do stop I'm just sort of blown away by what I'm getting a chance to do.
I feel very, very privileged and we've had unbelievable artists through and we've unfortunately, not to go on a complete other direction, but in this year, this awful 2016 of losing artists, we've lost this year and last some great, great artists who came through my doors and played my stage and made me feel like I was the coolest guy in the world for getting to have them and interact with them. Leon Russel, Alan Toussaint, Michael Burks. There's some really, really great musicians who played the stage and came multiple times and are no longer with us and I cherish the experience.
Brian: You've talked about these big names so then what about a biggest success moment that comes to mind?
Danny: Biggest success moment in the last two months I feel truly privileged and I'm getting away from D.C. musicians here but in the last two months we've had private events and public events come through the room and surprisingly not have those artists carry a front of house engineer, meaning they were leaving it up to us to put whoever we thought best on the board. I've mixed Emmylou Harris, The English Beat, Hot Tuna which is Jorma and Jack from Jefferson Airplane. Those are D.C. cats. They grew up, born and raised here. This past week was Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. the couple that fronted The Fifth Dimension, sang Age of Aquarius and all those songs. Who's the last one? Dave Matthews, I should mention.
Brian: Wow. Okay. Definitely a name that most of the folks listening definitely know. You've gotten to mix them and be the handler of their show.
Danny: In fact with Dave, his guy came in, brought their own board, mixed Dave's guitar and vocal and then fed me his main outs into my board so I could mix it in with a band when Dave jammed with this large, five piece Cuban band that he had brought up. It was really, really cool.
Brian: What a cool thing. Good god.
Danny: Every day I feel very privileged to be the type of person who stops and steps back from the rush of a day and says, this is really cool. I hope that in 60 years I can remember doing this. This is really cool.
Brian: With what you're doing, do you have any rules that you always break?
Danny: Rules I always break? Well, I think there's not just one, but I always come at it from a production standpoint of the show must go on. Where a lot of people want to stand on their principles or on the rules that you've set out as a company, or as a venue, when that's getting in the way of doing good work or keeping an artist happy, I'm like forget it. Just get out of the way. I'll do it myself. Don't worry. I'm an advocate for the artists and I think that's often misunderstood as not caring about the people who I work with or my coworkers. That's not really it. I just-
Brian: Is this like if the artist wants something, you give it to them?
Danny: What ever it takes. If we don't have it in house, I'll send my guys out for it. I want the artist to leave with a smile on their face being like, already this is the nicest room with the nicest staff and the nicest gear and the nicest dinner, but they still went out of their way and do us a favor to make it happen for me and I'm going to tell everybody about it. Even the artists who don't draw very well and I'm not sure that we'll be able to have back, I worry I'll never see them again in my room, I treat them extra nicely. I'm like, whatever you guys want, let's do it.
Brian: Make it an amazing experience. What about you as a musician? I know you also play tunes. Talk a little bit about that.
Danny: As a musician, unfortunately the beginning of The Hamilton spelled the end of my playing career for the moment. Fridays and Saturdays are not my own, a hundred hours a week, all that stuff. You probably appreciate it as a drummer, I don't know how much franchise your band has let you buy into, but if you're a side man, which a lot of drummers and rhythm players are, you're just a hired gun. Once you're not available, they have to find somebody.
Brian: You're a drummer and other instruments too? Drummer is your main?
Danny: Drum is my main. Guitar and bass and piano and ukulele and a little bit of everything else, you know. I love picking up an instrument but I wouldn't call myself anything but a drummer and maybe a little bit of a guitar player.
Brian: How far back does that go? Where did that start?
Danny: I started playing piano when I was five, taking music lessons pretty shortly after my dad put some. I think one of your questions was about the first music I ever heard, or my earliest memory.
Brian: First memory? Yeah tell us.
Danny: Tie that in. My dad put a mix tape of doo-wop and 50's and that kind of stuff in front of me and when I wore that cassette tape out he gave me one of 60's and rock and roll. When I wore that out he gave me Please Please Me, the very first Beatles record that was released in the states. I used to go to the library at school and look it up in a book. This is for people who are old enough to remember, not using the internet, and I'd come home and I'd be like, "Dad. The next record they made was called The Hard Day's Night." He'd be like all right. He'd go to Circuit City on his way home from teaching at Montgomery College and pick it up and bring it home and by the time I was six I had every Beatles record. That's my musical bed.
Brian: That's amazing.
Danny: I think everybody deserves to have the Beatles as their foundation. I know there's a lot of argument of whether the Beatles are as significant as they claim to be, but I believe they are. I really think so.
Brian: Now the last question that I love to ask is, if you have one piece of advice that you would offer.
Danny: That I would offer to other people out there?
Brian: However you want to answer it. That's good. What's one piece of advice that you would offer to the listeners?
Danny: To the listeners, never close yourself off to new music. Don't think that you live in one genre or that your musical tastes are limited. Let other stuff in. Let it wash over you. Maybe you won't connect with it but like, the fact that lyrically and musically there is so much to be offered in the music scene in D.C. specifically and all over. What I love about D.C. is very few people I know move here to become a musician. You're either from here or you happened here after school or something, but the music scene is very supportive of each other and very inclusive. I played with a ton of artists in D.C. and everybody would show up at each other's gigs at the small clubs, at IOTA, which we're sitting just across the street from that I used to work at. That's where I met a lot of these artists for the first time and where a lot of them said, "Really? You're a drummer?" They hadn't even heard me but they had me out to rehearse and slowly we became friends and band mates.
Brian: That's cool.
Danny: It was great.