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Daniel Morales, better known by his artistic name Danny Ocean, never thought that a song he wrote about a young woman he missed after leaving the turbulent conditions in Venezuela would go viral, become a hit and change his life.
“To be honest, I never thought that a song I wrote for somebody else, which also has a lot of political undertones, was going to result in this outcome. But I guess it connected with many people because it is truly an experience that many young people living abroad go through,” said Ocean about ‘Me Rehuso,’ Spanish for I Refuse, which he recorded back in 2016 and posted on YouTube.
The song gained traction last year when it went viral, debuting at the number 41 spot on Billboard's Latin Airplay chart in August and racking more than 290 million streams on Spotify.
“The most magical thing that happened with ‘Me Rehuso’ is that I realized how much impact you can have on people when you give them a message that’s honest and keeps the essence of who you are, telling them a little bit about yourself and leaving a piece of you in every song,” Ocean said.
The success of 'Me Rehuso' helped him land a deal with Warner Music Group in a joint partnership between Atlantic Records and Warner Music Latin. Since then, Ocean has dropped 5 singles, including an English version of ‘Me Rehuso’ titled ‘Baby I Won’t’ and his newest song ‘Epa Wei’ — a contagious dembow produced by Grammy-award winning EDM artist Skrillex.
To date, the now 26-year-old singer and songwriter has over 2 million subscribers on YouTube and over 9 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
It's a far cry from the days when Ocean would make music for an audience mainly composed of his friends and family in Venezuela; his dad was a musician and Ocean spent time playing the guitar and composing, eventually starting to produce music in high school.
But then things continued to deteriorate in his native country.
Ocean is one of the roughly 4 million Venezuelans who have abandoned the country in the last few years. He left Caracas nearly 3 years ago as Venezuela struggled with a shortage or total scarcity of almost everything, including cash. As a result, he decided to make Miami his new home.
“Venezuelan youth nowadays are graduating and leaving the country because the crisis we’re living doesn’t allow us to move forward with our dreams and accomplish our goals,” Ocean said.
Ocean composed 'Me Rehuso' around Valentine's Day in 2016 when he was in Miami and thinking of the young woman still in Venezuela. The song describes this struggle between leaving loved ones and love interests behind in Venezuela and his urge to move to another country to find a better future.
“I think that many Venezuelans feel identified with my story because we all had to go through the same thing: leave our country and start from scratch in a foreign place where we know we have to work twice as hard,” added Ocean.
Although his music career took an 180-turn in just a year, Ocean said he’s dealing with the rapid changes calmly.
“For me, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I just try to keep my music as honest as possible because I think that’s the way to people’s hearts," Ocean told NBC. "I'm a simple guy."
There’s no set date yet for Danny Ocean's Spanish-language album which is already in the works, but he said fans can look ahead to more new music; he’s in the process of creating more new songs “in a way that blends two worlds at the same time, both the Anglo-Saxon world and the Hispanic world, in order to showcase their versatility.”
“I’m always reinventing myself,” said Ocean. “I like to do things differently. That’s mainly my style, more than anything.”