He’s In Tune With Politics


Over the past few weeks, Danny Ross’ life has revolved around two events.

First came this week’s congressional hearings probing the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to 9-11.

Then, there’s his appearance Saturday night at the Bitter End in the West Village, where he’ll premiere his debut album, “Introducing Danny Ross!”

Juggling the demands of all-too-real-life and art is Danny Ross’ world.By day, he sings the praises of Rep. Jerrold Nadler, an outspoken Manhattan Democrat who chaired Monday’s hearings questioning former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman.

In his free time Ross, who turns 23 this week, plays rock piano and belts out self-written, blues-y pop songs in front of his self-named band.

Keyboard and vocal talents aside, Ross’ greatest skill may be multitasking. He’s also his own publicist and booking agent.

That means he typically spends a week setting up and fine-tuning both his and Nadler’s schedules.

“The two careers definitely carry over,” says the lifelong Long Islander, who now lives in Soho and works in Nadler’s Manhattan office. “I act here as the congressman’s scheduler and operations coordinator. That sort of strategy and organization has allowed me to apply that into my music career … There’s always something to do, and you can’t do it without a sophisticated level of organization.”

That organization first took shape during his teenage years in Melville. A lack of discipline for piano instruction led him to quit after two lessons. But when his parents, Alan and Leslie, who own an optical distribution company, gave him a Beatles anthology for a birthday present, he rediscovered the dusty keyboard in his basement and began teaching himself.

At Half Hollow East High School he started his own band, Broken Sound, which in 2001 raised $2,000 at a benefit for families of 9-11 firefighters. At Cornell University, Ross, as part of a program that allowed him to craft his own major, put together a 17-piece band to produce a rock album, “One Way,” and earn his degree in popular music composition and performance.

The other part of his major was government, and although music is clearly a passion, being a congressional staffer is more than just a way to pay the bills for Ross.

“I’m super passionate about politics,” says Ross who, like his boss, feels the Iraq war was a diversion from the war on terrorism. “A good friend of mine from Cornell is in Iraq now. Seventy-plus percent of Americans feel [the war] seems like a diversion from the real issues of terrorism.”

He credits his Jewish upbringing — his family belongs to the Conservative Dix Hills Jewish Center — with shaping the mindset he brings to both his political and artistic life.

“Growing up Jewish has given me a certain moral fiber and character that can be heard in my music — themes of love and peace and understanding.”

Ross said he was inspired to seek a job with Nadler a year ago after seeing the congressman brave an interview with political satirist Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central.

“There was a position available last June, and when I was doing research on [Nadler] I saw him on the Colbert Report and felt he had a sense of humor.”

Is the congressman a fan? “I haven’t had a chance to give him the CD yet,” says Ross. “He’s been busy preparing for these [EPA] hearings. This is something the congressman has been looking forward to for five or six years now.”

“Introducing Danny Ross!” — with its exclamatory title that makes it both press release and album — contains five songs, one ballad and four jazzy tunes that he says were inspired by the Beatles, Ben Folds, Norah Jones and John Mayer.

Some of the music was written years before the lyrics. “Against The Wall” describes the angst and conflicts of a first relationship. “Madison Bound” channels the boundless energy of a college graduate trying to break free of small-town origins. “If I Were You” is about the deterioration of a romance.

While the album may open some doors, Ross says he has no plan to give up his day job.

“I’m proud to be part of an office that helps people with issues such as immigration, Social Security and affordable housing,” he says. “It’s great to be part of that. I love the work that Jerry does, and I’m happy to be associated with him.”

Will Nadler be at the Bitter End on Saturday night?“I should know that,” says Ross, who doesn’t, with an embarrassed laugh. “I’m his scheduler.”

Danny Ross’ CD release show is on Saturday, June 30, 8 p.m. at the Bitter End, 147 Bleecker St. Admission is $5. You must be 18 to attend.