PHOTO: Michael Gale

Ottawa singer-songwriter Danielle Allard gets to know many of the fans who buy her albums composed of heartfelt songs.

“I don’t call people fans, but friends,” she said. “I’d stand there with my little Value Village suitcase and I’d hand you the album, so I got to thank you and hug you in person.”

Allard’s soft musical style is a smooth mixture of blues, jazz, folk, and pop. She incorporates multiple instruments into her act, including piano, acoustic guitar, and even a slide whistle.

Allard has been working hard on her music and online presence since going solo in 2014. Prior to this she released an album with an acoustic band called Go Long(!).

Chameleon, Allard’s first solo album, was released in 2015. Passing Notes, her third album, was released in 2018. She’s currently working on putting out singles throughout the year, as well as a larger project in collaboration with local studios. Her next album is set to be released within a year or two.

She recently began sharing her music on Twitch through Spotify, Instagram and Facebook.

With the challenge of COVID-19, online performances are ideal for Allard, who is at high-risk for the virus. She has been in strict isolation since mid-March. COVID-19 has changed the way Allard interacts with her friends and community.

Learning that live performances were no longer an option was a wake-up call for Allard. Moving from the stage to an online space hasn’t been easy for her. During this time, she noticed social media was becoming more negative and really wanted to do something about it.

“I knew even if things had only gone a couple of months, social distanced events wouldn’t be something I could participate in,” Allard said. “I had to take a hard look at what in-person performance meant to me, and then try to do something online with that,” she said. “At first it was really to distract everybody else from what was going on. When I saw all these doctors, nurses and engineers – people who could make a difference, I was sitting there in April feeling out of control.”

She asked herself what she could do and whether she could help in any way. She realized her music brought people joy, so she brought it to Twitch.

Sam Murdock is a second-year public relations student and a moderator for Allard’s Twitch channel. He has been following her online on Spotify and other social media platforms.

“As a moderator I have to keep everything running smoothly,” he said. “I’d say moderating for her is practically a dream, the community she’s attracted is so friendly and welcoming. Half the time I don’t actually need to interfere, I can just chill and interact.”

Allard strives to bring positivity during this difficult time.

“Everyone who has been attracted to this stream… you all can make a difference even if you aren’t a doctor, a nurse, or an engineer. Even if it’s just making the internet a better place when we’re so reliant on it – that is a super power,” she said.

In the spring, she would mostly livestream on Sunday nights while also running “Art Night”. This night of creativity offered a space for people to make art and put it online in efforts to brighten up the internet.

“She definitely has the most unique personality ever. I’ve told her multiple times that there’s no way she’s human – she’s just too nice,” Murdock said.

In August, she uploaded a video of herself vacuuming the house in an inflatable dinosaur costume on her YouTube channel. Viewers reached out and felt connected, then it became the theme behind her livestreams — along with unicorns.

This theme has influenced the creation of the name, “Dani’s Dinos” for her community on Discord.

“She keeps a bowl of plastic dinosaurs beside her when she performs, and every subscriber gets named as a dinosaur and put into the bowl,” Murdock said.

From her work life at Algonquin College, where she has taught full-time in various programs since 2013, to her involvement in the Ottawa music scene,  she became a leader who helped to make a change within the online community.

Allard’s livestreams are available through her Twitch channel every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.