By Alexandra Bellink
Courtesy of Dan Mustard.
One should never doubt the power of unexpected, positive life events happening to the most underestimated people in the world. Daniel Mustard, also known as Daniel “Homeless” Mustard, is living proof.
In 2010, Mustard was brought on Opie and Anthony’s Radio Show where he made his musical debut playing a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. At the time, he was homeless, living in Washington Square Park, and had recently been arrested on a public intoxication charge. When the police took him to the precinct, they gave him the option to either go to Central Booking or be a guest on the Opie and Anthony show to discuss his life as a homeless man.
“It’s interesting to me now thinking back on it, how out of my head I really was during that time and how just really incredibly unlikely all of that was, the way it all came together,” Mustard says regarding his appearance on the Opie and Anthony show. “They’re in the business of making fun, so I really thought. I think that they thought it was going to be all ‘yeah drunken man!’ and they were not expecting that [performance]. They were blown away by it.”
Even watching the clips now, Mustard is shocked himself that he made it through the performance. Having grown up in Los Angeles, he was never interested in music nor even encouraged to pursue it until he picked up a guitar for the first time in his late twenties.
The video was posted on YouTube that night, and went viral almost overnight. Since Mustard did not have internet access, he had no idea that the video had already gained 300,000 views shortly after being posted. Two days later, on the corner of Broadway and 8th Street he bummed a cigarette off of a young man (whom he swears looked just like Harry Potter) and the man recognized him from the video.
While he did gain popularity overnight, Mustard did not jump into success with a record label directly after his internet debut. Still struggling with alcoholism in April 2010, he went to rehab for a month, but it was not just addiction recovery that brought Mustard into a positive frame of mind.
“Literally the day before I went to rehab I met a guy named Rich Brownstein who used to work for Café Wha?,” Mustard remembers. “He used to be the booking agent there.”
As Mustard was walking down the street, trying to bum a cigarette off a stranger, Brownstein stopped him and offered him one. Mustard’s generous donor explained that by chance, two years earlier, he had seen Mustard singing on a subway platform in Brooklyn and admired him, but did not have the courage to go up to him at the time.
“He had heard me play one night, he was telling me, he stopped and stayed and listened to me for a long time– he let his train go by five or six times,” says Mustard. Excited to finally have found Mustard again, Brownstein gave him his card several times that night and said that when he got out of rehab that he should give him a call and record a track with his band. The unexpected event gave him something to look forward to after rehab.
After rehab, he connected with Hap Pardo through Brownstein, who took over the business of recording Mustard’s debut EP. Ironically, Mustard felt disconnected from the recording of his own first record, only spending a few days in the studio in comparison to the month that the production crew spent mixing and tracking it.
When asked if he ever expected any of this to happen to him he says, “I certainly didn’t, I’m a big naysayer and a big pessimist and a big sort of ‘yeah sure, sure, sure.’ People have said things to me about what they think might be happening in my life, all my life, but I’ve never really bought into it. I go ‘yeah, okay, whatever’ and I keep just stumbling about.”
Rather than submitting to pure pessimism, Mustard associates his negativity with an overall penchant for uncertainty, which makes the talent that he depends on that much more important to maintain.
“You know, it’s a hard question to answer,” Mustard says, “I still don’t know what’s going to happen. The story to me is still so incomplete. The biggest thing is that it has given me a real reason to live.”