Photo by Michelle Johnson
Daniel Spillane of Waiting for Jonah.

By Michelle Johnson

Daniel Spillane watches his fingers as they rapidly strum his acoustic guitar. He head bangs to a calm melody he just belted out, gets a serious look in his eyes and calmly finishes the song. He's a goofy guy, but the seriousness of his song refocuses him.

Daniel, 25, has been serious about music since he started playing at the age of 15. After watching a music video called "Rocket" by the Smashing Pumpkins, Daniel knew he wanted to play guitar. He asked his mom for a guitar that Christmas.

"My mom said, 'Are you really going to play it?'" said Daniel.

Ultimately, Daniel got the guitar. He has been playing it ever since. 

"At first my brother was making fun of me and telling me you're never going to be good," said Daniel.  "But soon he started coming into my room to listen because I got a lot better."

Daniel's parents have grown more supportive as well.

"[My dad] always talks in a British accent—and quotes lines from Wayne's World [when I play]," said Daniel.

Musically, Daniel claims to have written over 150 songs. He doesn't write all of them down though.

Band Members of Waiting for Jonah
Jaime Jurado, 22, Bass
Forest Adams, 20, Drums
Elijah Waddle, 19, Guitar
Daniel Spillane, 25, Guitar/Vocals

"I can't remember half of them anymore," said Daniel. "I used to write them down."

"Hazel" is his favorite song that he has written.

"It's about my best friend Audrey. It's a happy little ditty."

Daniel wrote the song in 2004. 'Happy little ditty' doesn't describe the song well for most listeners. Like some of Daniel's acoustical pieces it has a hypnotic melody. The song speeds up its intensity towards the middle.

"What surprises people about me is my variety," said Daniel. "I have a lot of slow songs, fast songs, acoustical, classical sounding songs, silly love songs, catchy ditties."

The latest song that Daniel is working on is for his girlfriend.

"She's not just anyone. She's everything," is the main chorus of the melody.

Audio Track
Hazel (3.88MB)

Just Starting

Although Daniel is constantly working on something new he has never been in a serious band. Daniel's grandma was so happy that he wanted to play an instrument that she went to the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco to find a good teacher.

"I took lessons from a guy named Carlos," said Daniel. "He used to joke around with me because I always want to learn Smashing Pumpkin's songs. He asked if there were any other bands I liked."

The lessons only lasted 6 months, but Daniel had his foundation.

The first band Daniel was in was an unnamed "jam band" in San Francisco. They didn't have any gigs and mainly practiced in garages.

The second band was a group of people Daniel met from a church in Bonita. They started from scratch as a punk band. Daniel taught the band members how to play their instruments. They learned quickly, but the band was short-lived.

"Within about 6 or 7 months of being with those guys they kept on making up excuses as to why they couldn't practice anymore," said Daniel.

The third band started from a group of people at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) in San Diego where Daniel works. They were a rock band without a gig.

"I can't remember what our name was because it kept on changing," said Daniel.

Now Daniel has just started a new band with some more people he met at PLNU, called Waiting for Jonah. The band was named by fellow band member Jaime Jurado after Jonah in the Christian Bible. Daniel hopes that this band will get some gigs. 

"[Whether a band breaks] really depends on the people," said Daniel. "Cause if they're not into what they're doing the band is not going to last very long."

Back to Beginnings

The Smashing Pumpkins are still an inspiration to Daniel. The grunge bands of the nineties left a strong impression on him. Daniel still wears his faded Smashing Pumpkin and Nirvana shirts with his baggy jeans that fray around his shoes.

His musical influences are Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Rush, Stone Temple Pilots, Echo and the Bunnymen, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, and The Pixies.

Daniel suggests that music lovers try to figure out what their favorite musician's favorite bands are to expand their knowledge of music. 

"My favorite song by [The Smashing Pumpkins] is called "Hummer" because it has everything in a song that I like," said Daniel. "There are quiet parts, there's a lot of melody. It's spacey. It's kind of like going on a walk. You kind of sail through the song. It's not super fast—it's not super slow, it just flows."

Circumstances, emotions, feelings, situations—life in general is the inspiration for Daniel's songs—and a little Smashing Pumpkins.

"Music is my medication," said Daniel, adding that he knows it sounds cliché, "[but] if it weren't for music, if it weren't for rock and roll I don't know where I'd be right now."

He says he writes a lot about family, and that music has kept him sane.

"Billy Corgan said that the ultimate compliment would be to say you're the reason I started playing guitar," said Daniel. Corgan is why Daniel started playing guitar, and Daniel hopes to be the reason that someone else will start playing guitar.

The Future

Daniel checks people in to eat at Point Loma Nazarene University's cafeteria 8 hours a day. In between checking students out he brings up the Smashing Pumpkin's website. He scrolls below the white heart-shaped Smashing Pumpkins logo and smiles as reads about their release of a new album—pointing it out to friends as they pass by.

 "What I hope for my music, with a band or without, is that I just want to make an album," said Daniel. "I don't care if millions of people have it.  I just want people to enjoy it."

After work he is goes to computer school to be a network administrator. He comes back to his apartment, studies, plays some video games, and then usually plays a few of his songs, to relax him before he sleeps.

An album may be in the distant works for Daniel. When he visits his family in San Francisco he tries to record a few tracks at a studio he knows about. He's already got a few songs recorded onto CD. He pays for his studio time out of pocket, and records song after song to save money. Despite Daniels dedication, he isn't thinking about pursuing music full-time.

"If I am able to do that [I would consider it]," said Daniel, "but the way things are going I don't think that is going to happen. I am a realistic person."