Danny’s current bio as BMG recording artist:
Music feeds the soul and few people understand its power better than Danny Gokey. His young life has been a rollercoaster ride and music has been his constant companion. It sustained him following the death of his first wife, Sophia, and it propelled him up the charts after the world discovered his talent on American Idol. Music has shaped his life, providing a sense of purpose and direction, even in the most trying times.
On Gokey’s new album, Hope in Front of Me, the Milwaukee native delivers a potent collection of songs brought vividly to life by his warm, soulful voice. The project percolates with energy on such vibrant up tempo tunes as “Take it to the Limit” and simmers with emotion on such tunes as the compelling title track where he sings “I know in my soul no matter how bad it gets, I’ll be alright. There’s hope in front of me.” For Gokey, those words are more than just lyrics to a great song. They define his life and underscore his mission to reach others with hope and entertainment. Those words might seem mutually exclusive to some, but Gokey knows the value they have combined.
“I wanted to mix hope and entertainment but not in a way that would be cliché or sappy,” Gokey relates. “I want to deliver a message that feeds the soul, but makes you want to move and groove to the music. That’s always the goal when I write. I’m a person of faith, so I always want my songs to have a strong message of hope. I want to write them in a way that is fresh. ‘Hope In Front of Me’ has got a great message, but it’s also got a great groove to the song so you are moving and your soul is getting fed while you are singing and jamming to the music.”
“Hope in Front of Me” is the lead single from Gokey’s finely crafted sophomore album and has enthusiastically been embraced by the gatekeepers at radio and the fans who have been supporting Gokey since he placed third on season eight of American Idol. He followed his Idol experience with a debut album on 19 Recordings/RCA Records that spawned the hit singles “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me” and “I Will Not Say Goodbye.” The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and earned Gokey the best opening-week sales by a debut country male artist in 18 years. He hit the road in support of the album touring with Sugarland, Taylor Swift and other high profile acts.
“I loved it and had a lot of fun making the first album,” Gokey says. “It was a big learning experience. I feel like God ordained it and it brought me to Nashville.”
Music City definitely felt like a comfortable home for the talented Wisconsin native who grew up listening to a variety of music from Keith Green to Tim McGraw to the Tempations. “My dad was my biggest influence for music,” says Gokey, who was born the fifth of six children. “We listened to Dallas Holm, Ray Boltz, dcTalk and Sandy Patti, but we also listened to country music like Brooks & Dunn and Lee Ann Womack as well as funk and soul music like the Temptations, the Four Tops, The Chi-Lites and the Average White Band. My dad had really diverse taste in music and it was a great music education.”
Gokey has always loved music, but in the early days, it wasn’t the job that paid the bills. “I drove an eighteen wheeler semi-truck, a big rig,” he says. “I liked it actually. Was it what I wanted to settle with for the rest of my life? No, because music was where my passion was.”
His wife Sophia encouraged his dreams and urged him to audition for American Idol. Just a month before his audition, Sophia died unexpectedly after what should have been a routine heart surgery. The couple had been high school sweethearts and Danny was devastated. Yet in the midst of his sorrow, he honored Sophia’s wish and auditioned for American Idol a month after she passed. He advanced through the competition. Viewers were touched by Danny’s story and the depth and power of his voice made him a fan favorite.
American Idol not only helped Gokey land a record deal and catapulted his voice into the homes of millions, it also help provide a platform for him to launch Sophia’s Heart, an organization founded to carry on the legacy of giving started by his late wife. The organization provides a place to live for homeless families in Nashville, and Gokey is proud of the way Sophia’s Heart has expanded to care for a growing number of families each year.
Even as he juggled his work with the growing non-profit venture, Gokey still found time to co-write all but two songs on his new album. Produced by award-winning music legends Keith Thomas (Amy Grant, Vanessa Williams) and Bernie Herms(Natalie Grant, Barbra Streisand) Hope in Front of Me showcases the depth and breadth of Gokey’s artistry as a songwriter and vocalist. Each song reverberates with the emotional honesty and life-affirming messages that have become hallmarks of Gokey’s music. “Love Will Take You Places” boasts a hauntingly beautiful melody and powerful lyric about love’s ability to take us places we never imagined we could go. “It’s Not Over” starts with a sweet soulful vibe that builds into a vibrant anthem of survival and triumph.
“Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” is a gut-wrenching ballad that talks about pain and loss, yet serves as a reminder of the hope that is always present even in the most trying times. “This is What It Means” is a revealing ballad that Danny says is the most autobiographical. “That song is the most about me,” he says. “Literally every line in there is written from a true experience. It talks about love and says ‘there’s fear, there’s faith, there’s loss, there’s grace. I’ve seen it from both sides. This is what it means to be alive.’ It’s the truest song on the album.”
Danny Gokey is a survivor. When he sings, there’s an authority and conviction that comes from life experience. He’s been through so many challenges, yet hope was always a part of his journey. These days Gokey is in a sweet season. He’s remarried and he and his wife, Leyicet, have a beautiful son, Daniel Emanuel, born January 20, 2013. Gokey chronicles his life in his autobiography, also titled “Hope in Front of Me” and in the songs on his new album. “Life might not always makes sense,” he says. “There’s no justice in it and sometimes it might not seem fair, but it’s not the end of the road. Turn the page. Move forward and keep putting your life is God’s hands. There is always hope ahead.”
About Sophia’s Heart:
Sophia’s Heart was founded in honor of Sophia, the late wife of Danny Gokey. Her legacy of love lives on via this organization by inspiring children’s minds through music and arts, helping families succeed through interventions, and restoring hope to our communities. Many have already received hope by the helping hand of Sophia’s Heart. As our after school programs continue to develop and community outreach extends out further, Sophia’s Heart aims to transform the lives countless children, youth and families. For more information, please visit www.sophiasheart.org.
Danny’s bio from his RCA days and the launch of his first album “My Best Days” in 2009:
From his days of long hours as a truck driver to his third place finish on Season Eight of American Idol, Danny Gokey has always been a student of life. With an artist’s eye for detail and an inquisitive spirit eager to learn from every situation, Gokey has soaked up more life experience than most people twice his age. From the joyful to the heartbreaking, those experiences infuse Gokey’s 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville debut, My Best Days, a collection of songs that resonate with honest emotion and tap into the collective hopes and dreams that define life.
In listening to the album, it is obvious Gokey has a strong sense of who he is as an artist and what he wants to say to his audience. There’s a focus and a sense of purpose rarely found on a debut disc. “It’s country, but it has a little different edge,” says the Milwaukee native. “I want to create my own fingerprint, and I want my music to say something. I want to have an emotional connection, but at the same time, I want to make people just have a good time, make them want to dance, have fun and party. I wanted to throw all those emotions in that CD, and I feel like I accomplished that.”
During his tenure on American Idol, Gokey impressed the judges with his versatility as he performed hits by The Temptations, Carrie Underwood, Michael Jackson and Rascal Flatts, among others. As he continued to rise through the ranks of Idol hopefuls, it became increasingly clear that Gokey was blessed with a voice that could sing any style of music and turn any song into a compelling moment. So why did he choose a career as a country artist? “I felt like I could be myself,” he says matter-of-factly, and admits he got some career advice from someone he respected. “Randy Travis was a mentor for American Idol, and he asked me, ‘Have you thought about country? You really need to, because people would love you and the amount of soul that you could bring to country. You bring a uniqueness to it.’”
Gokey is still somewhat surprised and humbled by the encouragement he got from one of his musical idols, and says the overall American Idol experience helped him define who is as an artist. “As the show progressed, I started to find myself and started to hone in on who I want to be, what I want to be, and what I want to represent,” Gokey relates. “The thing that I identified with the most was the message. When I sing, I want to sing something passionately, and I want to sing something that has a lot of meaning to me. I always found that in country. I want to be known as a country singer the rest of my life.”
Gokey’s life before American Idol embodies the themes that populate the country music lexicon, from his humble roots in a poor but loving family to his hard-working days as a truck driver to the loss of the person most dear to him: his wife, Sophia. Life has prepared Danny Gokey to sing country music.
Born the fifth of six children, Danny grew up in a family that was often short on cash, but long on love and encouragement. His parents were music fans and introduced their children to a variety of sounds including Motown, jazz, and country. “My first CD was Wynonna Judd, and I loved it. I love her,” Gokey gushes. “She had this soul that went into it, and you just felt the music when it played, and the first single that I bought in my life was Tim McGraw’s ‘Don’t Take the Girl.’ I listened to that song, and it made me want to cry. Vince Gill is another one of my favorites.”
Like many artists before him, from the legendary Aretha Franklin to Platinum-selling rock band Switchfoot, Gokey can trace his musical roots to the church. While working in the music departments at two different churches, Gokey also logged hard days as a trucker. “I drove an eighteen wheeler semi-truck, a big rig,” he says. “I liked it actually. Was it what I wanted to settle with for the rest of my life? No, because music was where my passion was.”
His wife encouraged Danny to give American Idol a shot, but just a month before the audition, Sophia died unexpectedly after what should have been a routine heart surgery. The couple had been high school sweethearts, and Danny was devastated. He found solace and healing in music. “Music was the key place where I would go, and I would let the sorrow come out, let the tears just roll. Some music I would listen to had a determination in it, and I resolved that this is not going to be the thing that destroys me for the rest of my life. It can be turned into a building block, and I can become a better person for it. Music brought healing. That’s how I got through and still get through it today.”
Knowing firsthand the power of music, Gokey entered the studio determined to craft a debut album filled with songs that matter. “I definitely have something to say with this album, and I think people will recognize that,” he says. “Music was the catalyst that helped bring healing, a determination and a resolve. That’s why I want to do music. I want to bring that same hope. When my wife passed, I tried out for American Idol, and music brought me hope. It brought me a reason to live again. Now I want to bring that into my music.”
Working with producer Mark Bright, well known for his work with Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, Gokey has crafted an album filled with memorable, meaningful songs, penned by some of the industry’s top songwriters. Veteran tunesmiths Marv Green and Kent Blazy penned the title track and first single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.” It’s a buoyant look toward a brighter future, an optimistic anthem sure to be adopted by all who believe in better days ahead.
“I Still Believe” is a groove-oriented number co-written by American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. “It’s Only” is a powerful call to action that illustrates some of life’s challenges and encourages us to make a difference where we can. Penned by Tom Douglas and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, the song is a compelling ballad that demonstrates the range and emotional depth in Gokey’s soul-drenched voice.
“I Will Not Say Goodbye,” written by Lari White, Chuck Cannon and Vicky McGehee, is a poignant ballad that Gokey says he just had to record. “That song just totally represents what I felt when my wife passed away,” says Gokey, who has launched a charitable foundation, Sophia’s Heart, in his wife’s memory. “Sophia’s Heart got started because I wanted to keep her legacy alive.”
Though there are songs sure to make listeners stop in their tracks and examine their priorities, there are also several that will inspire fans to roll down the windows and sing along. “Life on Ya” and “Get Away” are infectious slices of fun, and “Crazy Not To” captures the exhilaration of falling in love. “You don’t want people to feel overwhelmed with one certain thing,” Gokey says of balancing the meatier songs with more fun fare. “You want them to experience different things, and I think we accomplished that. At one point, I said, ‘I want fun, fun songs!’ You want to be very balanced, and I feel like we did a good job at that. Sometimes I want to have fun just for no reason.”
Poignant, rowdy, thought-provoking and smile-inducing — Danny Gokey’s debut album is all those things and so much more. It’s a reflection of life’s peaks and valleys from a young man well acquainted with both. “I’m very proud of this CD. Every song has something to say,” he relates. “We’re all human, and human beings are made up of so many different aspects. We want to be entertained, but we also want to be inspired, and music is a universal language.”