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Neil Danns, pictured here for Crystal Palace, has also played for Birmingham, Leicester and Bury, among others

RGM Sport Interview – Neil Danns, Tranmere Rovers

Neil Danns has been an ever-present in English league football for over 15 years, currently playing for Tranmere Rovers and on the international stage with Guyana. More recently, he has begun a venture into music production and launched a new podcast, The Dannzy1 Show on YouTube, hosting guests such as Emile Heskey and Tony Bellew.

RGM had a chat with Neil about his love of music, an unlikely link to Eurovision and scoring his Nation’s first ever goal at a major tournament.

How’ve you found the last couple of months then Neil?

It’s been mad to be fair, obviously its unprecedented times and no one knows what to do really. But I’ve just been keeping myself busy, I’ve got three kids so they take a lot of my time up – and I’ve just been focusing on little bits and bobs, starting a Youtube channel recently.

Clearly not one for sitting around then. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Obviously most people have got a lot of time on their hands right now, so I just thought it would be good to give people a chance to get to know the other side of me. Everyone sees footballer on the pitch and the interviews. I think sometimes the interviews can get a bit cliché and all sound the same, so it’s nice to be able to voice my own opinions and let people in.

We’ve also seen clips on Instagram (@dannzy1) of some tracks you’ve been working on, is this a fairly new idea too or has music always been there?

I’ve been doing music for about 3 or 4 years more seriously in the background, but I haven’t showed too much of it because I wanted to hone in on the craft. I didn’t want to disrespect people who are musicians and producers, because you’ve gotta get to a certain standard before you start approaching people.

The obvious influence for me was growing up being surrounded by musical family. My Uncle, who’s passed away now, was in a band. Another Uncle was in West End Shows and my Dad was a backing dancer in the Eurovision song contest!

Yeah we saw that! In 1987! Not the kind of thing you’d expect to find on the Internet…

Exactly, yeah. Obviously it’s something that’s always been in me, and with the sport my Dad again becoming European skateboard champion. The music and sport side of things just seem to run through me.

The track with JaTavia on vocal really stood out. Is that something where you reached out to her initially?

She’s an artist from over in America, who did a cover of Old Town Road on Youtube which has got over a million hits. So when I reached out, I wasn’t really expecting anything back given she’s on that rising star trajectory but she was interested straight away. I sent over a song and she really liked it and then from there we did two tracks together, and to have someone with that talent being interested in your own stuff is a massive confidence boost.

We saw another snippet on Insta of your daughter sat at the piano too. It clearly does run in the family…

Yeah, she’s a big inspiration. I’ll listen to her sometimes and think “wow, that’s even beyond me”. And I always say, if she can express what’s inside her head at 9 years old in that way then it’ll stand her in good stead throughout life.

Have you always been the one that’s tried to get control of music in the dressing room?

It’s funny that I haven’t really, I’ve always been one that just sits back and listen to others people’s music. I enjoy a variety of music that I’d probably have never heard otherwise and then pick up so many bands and songs from that, instead of throwing my stuff onto people. I’ll be listening to Kings of Leon one minute and then Drake the next. To me a good song is a good song.

Best music taste in football….

Ermm, that’s a hard one there has been that many. I do remember a physio at Crystal Palace though, we called him Minty and he used to be into his bands and again, stuff that I had never heard like indie bands with electronic influences to them as well.

And who has been the one where you’ve thought, ‘I don’t want them to pick out the music again’?

*laughs* No, no, definitely not, even the worst of it I am happy to try pick out the good little melodies.

After a long and successful football league career, did the Guyana call up in 2015 come out of the blue?

It did, to be honest. I knew my Grandad was from Guyana but I’d never met him as he passed away before I was born, so I didn’t know too much about the culture and country. But when I got the call I was like “yeah, one hundred per cent”. It gave me a chance to see where I come from and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Alongside the cultural differences, how big a thing is sport?

Yeah it’s massive, especially in the less fortunate areas football is the main sport. In the country overall, cricket is the main one. So be able to help football grow has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve been able to do in my career.

That then led to playing in the Concacaf Gold Cup last year, even against the USA – and a few goals too…

It was amazing to get 3 goals in 3 games and to get nominated in the team of the tournament. When you’ve got teams like Mexico, USA and Panama, it’s just massive. And I found out the first goal I scored was the first in Guyana’s history at a major tournament, so to have that was so surreal. Seeing videos of the country, who haven’t had it the easiest, celebrating is something I can’t describe.

The fall out from Bury and your leading voice on it was well documented, but it has led to a move back to a hometown club in Tranmere. You seem to have been welcomed with open arms by the Rovers fans…

Yeah going from promotion to the club been liquidated, then joining Tranmere and now this! It’s been a rollercoaster. It’s just one of them where you just take everything as it comes. I’ve always been someone that picks out the positives in life and try again from the experience. Getting the chance to join a club on my doorstep, that I knew a lot about growing up watching players like John Aldridge and Jason McAteer and following their results. I kind of always knew I’d join them, and even saw their first game this season. Oh right, so felt like more than coincidence then because Bury didn’t have any games I just thought I’d take the family to watch some local football. Then a few weeks later I ended up signing for them.

So before we let you go, what comes first, the football season finishing or a debut Dannzy1 album?

Football always comes first. Music is a passion of mine but knowing I haven’t got long left in my career, I’ll give 100% to football and music will be built as a hobby in the meantime. I definitely never want to become an artist or singer, I’d always want to be in the background writing away. Music is always an escape from football and can happen in years to come.

Go follow Neil on Twitter and Instagram @dannzy1 / @dannzy1_beats

Try The RGM Euro 96 Quiz here 👇

The Dannzy1 Show has hosted former England power house, Emile Heskey and boxing legend Tony Bellew