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Danielle Ponder doesn’t need a band to deliver a spellbinding session

A woman sings into a microphone on stage with her face illuminated by a spotlight and a dark background behind her.
Erin Bagatta

We have processes here at Radio Milwaukee. I won’t bore you with what they are, but they exist so we can bring you cool stuff like our Studio Milwaukee Sessions.

They also exist to, on occasion, get pushed to their absolute limit. Like when we get a chance to have the exquisite Danielle Ponder blow away an audience of Radio Milwaukee Members with nothing more than her voice (and a little help from guitarist Garrett Mader).

This was a session we wanted bad, and Ponder was wonderful enough to join us the day after she lit up Turner Hall Ballroom. As you’ll hear when you click that “Listen” button at the top of the page, her voice was no worse for wear — far from it, in fact. Ponder filled up every inch of our space and then some with power and pain and pathos in every single note, sprinkling in a few quick explainers about what inspired each song (the search for love has a big role to play).

Our very own Element dug a little deeper during the interview portion that at times sounded more like two friends catching up. Ponder brought us back to her upbringing, shared the artists who inspired her and described how a little thing like law school wasn’t going to get in the way of her musical aspirations.

Every time I hear a voice like Ponder’s, I inevitably and enviously find myself thinking, “That much talent in one person just isn’t fair.” Really, the unfair thing would be if she didn’t share it with as many people as possible. Fortunately for all of us, that’s Ponder’s plan.

“Music is just like breathing to me. I’m gonna do it,” she told Element during their chat. “I could be a surgeon, and I’m gonna sing in a band on the weekend. It’s something I’m always gonna do. … It’s something I will never turn my back on. It is my first love.”

Enjoy listening to that love here, then go click that “Donate” button at the top of the page if you want to experience our next session live. Being a Radio Milwaukee Member gets you in the door for events like this, plus you get to hear the stuff we don’t broadcast live (Ponder’s a capella rendition of “Son of a Preacher Man” was [chef’s kiss]).

Studio Milwaukee Sessions are supported by Saint Kate — The Arts Hotel.

Set list

  1. “Only the Lonely”
  2. “Someone Like You”
  3. “The Only Way Out”