YTV’s The Next Star Season 7 hit the road across Canada for their audition tour with a new addition to its judging panel, music producer and songwriter Dan Kanter. Originally from Ottawa and based in Toronto, Dan is a multi-instrumentalist, guitarist and performance coach, as well as the Musical Director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber. He co-produced two of Justin Bieber’s albums and co-wrote his song “Be Alright” on the album “Believe”. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan during a break in the show tapings!
Hannah: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
Dan: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a musician. My father directs musical theatre, so I grew up always going to the theater and loving music – and not just loving music, but loving a whole production of music. All the lighting and wardrobe and everything and I was very young when I started playing and singing. I’ve always loved music.
Hannah: And now you’ve played in thousands from millions of big stadiums a lot, don’t you get nervous out there?
Dan: I don’t get nervous. I get really excited, I try to take those nerves and turn it into excitement and that’s what we’re always telling the Next Star kids, you know? Take all those nerves and instead of letting them take away from their performance – turning it into good energy.
Hannah: When did you know that you were really good at music?
Dan: I mean, I’m still trying to get better at every instrument. I played classical piano for a long time and that was a lot of work and a lot of practice but it’s really when I started actually playing chords and writing songs and singing that I thought “oh, I could do this” and I could hear songs on the radio and start playing them. So, that’s really when I sort of felt confident that I should keep practicing and I’m still practicing. I practice every day.
Hannah: You’re Justin Bieber’s guitarist and that’s really big! How did you really end up with that?
Dan: Thanks, it’s really exciting. A lot of it was luck but, I’ve been musical directing and playing guitar for pop artists for a long time. In Canada for a long time I was helping kids just like we do on the Next Star, becoming better performers, writing setlists, learning how to sing properly and so at the time Justin needed somebody and fortunately I was recommended to him and that was about five years ago.
Hannah: Now you’re probably the best of buddies
Dan: Yes, he is like my little brother – that’s for sure.
Hannah: Little brothers do pranks and I know that you guys play pranks on each other quite a bit. I really like a good prank, so Justin once went on your twitter account and posted that you were going out of the band. Did you ever get revenge? Because, you did promise that you would.
Dan: Yeah, Justin is quite the prankster. He broke into Twitter and announced that I had quit and he’ll never forgive me for what I did and five minutes after that happened TMZ called his manager asking for the exclusive scoop on what I did to quit, which is hilarious. But, I haven’t really got him back one-on-one. We’ve done a couple pranks on him, we have a song called ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ where Justin brings up a girl on stage and he gives her flowers and on the last tour he gave her a crown and she’s his queen and so one show we found our most overweight, sweatiest crew guy and brought him out on stage and he sat in the chair and Justin had to give him flowers and serenade him and he wasn’t very happy. (laughs)
Hannah: Well, do you think that he’ll get you back for that?
Dan: I mean, he pranks me all the time. All the time. So I have no doubt that there will be more pranks coming, I always seem to be the butt of his pranks.
Hannah: Right. So, it’s not really ‘revenge’.
Dan: It’s hard to prank him because often he’s on stage in front of eighty thousand people and we really don’t want to ruin the show for the audience. So, it’s easy for him to prank us – we just can’t really get him back.
Hannah: That’s true! I know that you’re more than Justin Bieber’s guitarist. You’re also the co-writer of “Be Alright” and I think that song really stands out to me, it’s one of my favorite songs. It’s really smooth and it’s soft, tell me about process of writing that.
Dan: “Be Alright” is a very special song to both of us. We wrote it in Bali, when we were sitting on the beach. So we were just sitting around with an acoustic guitar so that’s probably why it’s so smooth – thanks – and you know, it’s sort of relaxed and chill. It’s a special song because it’s one of the first times – you know Justin and I very close and we talk a lot about personal things that are going on in our lives, but that was the first time we not just talked about it, but we wrote about it and we were both in long distance relationships. We wrote a song about it and it means a lot to both of us and I think the fans really like it because it’s sort of insight into really what he’s feeling. It’s not so much just a dance pop song, it’s a really personal song.
Hannah: So, between you and me, can you tell me something about Justin that I would not know in a Tiger Beat magazine.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a tough question – what would I tell you? I’d probably tell you that not a lot of people know that Justin is a great cook. Even though you would think ‘oh, Justin Bieber – he could have people who cook for him’. He actually prefers to cook and he’s a great cook. He makes food all the time, it was really fun on the last tour, we were really tired of staying in Hotels so we would try to rent houses in different places and different cities and we’d always find a house with a great kitchen and he’d always be in there cooking up a storm. (laughs)
Hannah: I just got back from a 10-week bus tour for We Create Change and Free The Children across Canada and you spent a lot of time on the road. What do you love and what do you hate about it?
Dan: I love being on a tour bus, I sleep like a baby on a bus so that’s my favorite part of being on a bus. Often times when we’re touring internationally, we have to fly everywhere and I don’t love touring on a plane. I love being on a bus. Did you have a little bunk that you would get in?
Hannah: We didn’t sleep in the bus, we slept in hotels. But, did you guys sleep in the bus?
Dan: Some nights we’d sleep in the bus, some nights in hotels but, I just really liked it. I used to go to summer camp and I was always around people and then I was in University in a dorm and I was always around people. So, traveling on tour in a bus just with everyone around, I really love just being around people. It’s tough sometimes being away from my family and I get homesick and sometimes I just want to come home and cook my own eggs and sleep in my own bed. But, I love being on the road and with Justin it’s an amazing experience to go all over the world and meet all of his fans, he’s got the best fans in the world and it’s just incredible to play his music for them everywhere in the world.
Hannah: So, you’re a judge now on ‘The Next Star’. What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to youth who want to make a difference or want to achieve their dream. Or, anyone who wants to achieve their dream, really.
Dan: My best advice is to really just never give up, if that’s what you love and really follow your heart. With ‘The Next Star’ – we went across the country and we saw thousands of amazing Canadian kids who are so talented and we were only able to give out twelve golden tickets. Many great kids heard “no” – and I think so many successful artists hear “no” during their career, but it’s the ones who don’t let that “no” stop them and they keep going and they keep working and working until they make it a yes. So, that would be my advice – to just never give up.
Hannah: What will ‘The Next Star’ have that will make them stand out to you?
Dan: For me I want ‘The Next Star’ to have the full package. So I want them to have an amazing voice, amazing stage presence but also a really good sense of style. Just, kind of like what you have. It’s hard for kids to know who they are at such a young age and it’s easy for a ‘Next Star’ to just come out and try to imitate Bruno Mars or imitate Katy Perry. But, I really want to see a ‘Next Star’ who can show us who they are and really let their personality shine through.
Hannah: Can we do some rapid fire?
Dan: Yeah, of course.
Hannah: If you could hide your elephant anywhere – where would you hide it?
Dan: My garage. And when people come over I could say “Wanna come and check out a car?” Then open and the garage and it’ll be an elephant!
Hannah: Then they could ride the elephant, maybe?
Dan: Could we do that?
Dan: Could you imagine just seeing this on the streets of Toronto, someone riding an elephant?
Hannah: That would be awesome, I think that if you ever get an elephant – you should do that.
Dan: We’ll stay in touch, i’ll invite you over.
Dan: You can have the second ride after me.
Hannah: Oh, awesome – sounds good! Where is the favorite place that you’ve visited so far and you’ve visited a lot of places.
Dan: Well, on the ‘Next Star’ tour we went across Canada and that was really exciting. It was great to be in Halifax and Winnipeg and Edmonton. We went to Vancouver, Montreal – places that I don’t often get to because with Justin we’re so busy traveling all over the world. So, that was really great to see Canada but, my favorite place in the whole world is Tokyo in Japan. I love Tokyo, I love Japanese culture and food and shopping, I love the hotels and I love Japanese toilets, I love everything about Japan.
Hannah: Well, that sounds very interesting and it’s always good to try new things. Always good to try new Japanese toilets (laughs) and see what it’s like.
Dan: You want to ask me about the Japanese toilets?
Dan: What’s so special about them?
Hannah: Yeah, what’s so special about Japanese toilets?
Dan: Well, they’re hands free so if you walk up to the toilet you just put your hand over it and the lid lifts up and the seat is heated. What would it say?
Hannah: “Welcome to the toilet”
Dan: Now this interview has gone very potty (laughs)
Hannah: Who is your hero?
Dan: I really have two, one is my Father. He plays guitar and always brought me up on Bob Dylan and The Beatles, but also into musical theatre. He’s the one really where I learned what I want to do and what I do with Justin and Ariana Grande and all the artists that I work with is just it’s not just about the music, but how music works with the whole show. How the audience sees it, all the lights, wardrobe, dancing, trap doors, explosions, all that. My other hero is a guitar player named Zakk Wylde, who I love very much. He’s always done whatever he wants and that’s what I love about him. He’s never really sold out, he knows who he is and he stays true to that. I think his audience really loves him and whatever he does they’ll follow him because they know he’s being true to himself.
Hannah: So, you’re from Ottawa. We visit there a lot, my grandfather used to live there. My mom loves the egg rolls at the Golden Palace, have you ever tried them?
Dan: (laughs) Of course, I love them.
Hannah: Really? Okay my Mom’s going to be so happy! She can eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper. When we went to the JUNO Awards in Ottawa, we had a giant limo and took everyone before the event for egg rolls. You see the parking lot, and 15 artists all come out wondering what’s so great about egg rolls. Once they tried them, they’re were all like “OK, you’re right.”
Dan: They’re very, very special to me. I grew up eating them once a week, maybe twice a week and I love them and now my wife loves them. They’re so famous in Ottawa that now at the Canadian Tire Centre where the Ottawa Senators play and where Bieber performs when we’re in Ottawa, they actually sell the egg rolls there. So, when we’re back stage we send someone up to go bring us egg rolls back stage and now the whole Justin Bieber crew loves Golden Palace as well. hey’re the best in the whole world. I love them. I was actually just talking to someone about my number one – I really love food and I was talking about a top ten favorite bites, just a bite of something and GP egg rolls are number one for me, without a doubt. I love them. Actually, now I’m really craving them. (laughs)
Hannah: Well maybe you can get them after.
Dan: Do you have some? Behind the couch over there?
Hannah: Ha! No, but next time I’m there we’ll send them to you.
YTV’s The Next Star airs every Monday at 7:00pmET.