Danny 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 Danny 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,” Danny 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 Temptations.
“My dad was my biggest influence for music,” says Danny, who was the fifth of six children. “We listened to Dallas Holm, Ray Boltz, dc Talk and Sandi Patty, 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.”
Danny 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 the show 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 Danny land a record deal and catapult his voice into the homes of millions, it also helped 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 Danny is proud of the way Sophia’s Heart has expanded to care for a growing number of families each year.
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 Danny is in a sweet season. He’s remarried and he and his wife, Leyicet, have a beautiful son, Daniel Emanuel, born January 20, 2013. Danny chronicles his life in his autobiography, Hope in Front of Me and in the songs on his album also titled Hope in Front of Me.
“Life might not always make 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 in God’s hands. There is always hope ahead.”
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