Dana Little

20 Aug

“As far as I can tell, I will always feel this relentless drive to become a better musician, songwriter and performer – and if that drive ever subsides, that’s the day I’ll probably give up on music. I hope that day never comes.”

In order to be a musician, you must wear your heart on your sleeve; show the emotion that your songs center around and emit that passion to your listeners. Singer, Dana Little, has a special way of doing that. Her heart is filled with love, which is easily heard when hearing every one of her songs. Currently living in Bellingham, WA, Dana’s life has centered around her music. She has worked years at perfecting her craft and still works to make it better everyday. When listening to her music, it’s almost like she was present at the time you were feeling lost or happiness and she wrote down every emotion you were bottling up. Her music speaks to me and I’m ecstatic she took some time out to answer a few of my questions.

Q. If you could trade places with any musician for a day, who would it be?

A. This is a really tough question, but I’ll give it a shot. In the running would be: Patty Griffin, Jonatha Brooke, Aimee Mann, Rosie Thomas, Kathleen Edwards, any member of Keane, or that cool singer from Over the Rhine – even for just half a day? If I have to pick one, though, I’ll go with Feist. (True – she wasn’t in the original running but I’m very indecisive and I’m okay with that. Being indecisive is decidedly one of my best personality traits.)

Q. What would you consider your biggest break in the industry so far?

A. I’ve been playing solo for just a few years after my former band, Late Tuesday (made up of some of my sweetest friends in life), we stopped playing together in 2007. At this point, I’m just doing what I can to write the songs I want to write, play and sing as often as I can with other musicians, collaborate with other friends and become a better musician all of the time. Getting to record my album – “Patterns” – this past year with producer Martin Feveyear (Brandi Carlile, Rosie Thomas, Zoe Muth) was a dream come true. Late Tuesday had worked with him 5 years ago, and I was thrilled to get a chance to get to work with him on this project. He’s tremendously talented and generous and a gem to get to work with.

Q. Most of your songs speak of love, love lost, and love found. Was there a particular relationship in your life that started you down the songwriting path?

A. You know, not really. I just have this habit of seeing relationships as the biggest thing in life – how we relate, how we love, how we run from relationships, how we care, get hurt, connect, trust, fail, etc. I started writing music early in college and if I’m remembering correctly, my first song was either about God or about a dear friend I had in college. Those were what inspired my first two songs, I think (not counting my Christmas jingle I wrote when I was in my single digits), though I’m not saying they were good songs (in fact, I’m going to say the opposite)…just a place to start. I do know – at that point – I had no intention or dream of writing songs from there-on-out, but ask me now and I don’t see any signs of ever wanting to stop writing. True – most of the great guys (not sarcastically-speaking) I’ve dated have inspired songs (some more than others), and I don’t go to any great effort to hide that fact in my songwriting. Beyond that, my observations about life, love, heartache, hope, disappointment, fears, and relationships within marriages, families and friendships are some of the things that have inspired me. If I’m honest, I’d love – someday – to have it in me to write about the lighter things in life – to tell different kinds of stories – but at this point, it’s the heavier, sadder things that get to me and get me writing.

Q. You list your dad as one of your biggest influences. How has he influenced your career and your journey into the music business?

A. Oh, my dad is just an incredible piano player and has always lived with music as one of his biggest passions and favorite things in life. For forever now, he’s played piano for fun, as a profession, and is a sucker for music in so much of his life (the last two parts are true for most of my parents, actually). He has always – without fail – encouraged me in music – and has just been a good dad all along the way – helping me move my 1901 upright piano (which I inherited from my sweet grandma – his mom) from house to house as life has kept me moving over the past 12 years; showing up to shows after he’s finished his own shows in the same city (we often have dueling shows on the same night; earlier this summer we both played in weddings on the same day – his in CA and mine in WA); encouraging me and making sure I know he’s proud of me. I’m a pretty lucky daughter to have such supportive parents – honestly.

Q. How has your music evolved since you first began writing/performing?

A. I think my music has grown up in the same way everything else about me has grown up (except for my hair styles) over the years since I started writing and performing. I take more risks now, am willing to fail more, write more bad songs in order to hopefully find my way to a song I can’t get out of my head, and have slowly (very slowly) become more comfortable with who I am over these years – through years of performing with Late Tuesday and on my own whenever I could, so without a doubt, that’s affected what I’m writing about, how I’m writing, and how I’m willing to share these songs. I’ve always written about what I’ve observed, so that hasn’t changed…it’s just that the things I’ve observed and how I write stories about them continue to change as I grow up.

Q. With singer/songwriters gaining popularity day by day, what do you think sets you apart from the other artists in the same genre as you?

A. I ask myself that same question every day. I don’t know if I can honestly answer that question – yet. There are tremendously talented singer/songwriters out there and I eat them up and can’t believe the amazing songs they have written that I’ll never know how to write. There are songwriters who write songs that make my heart skip a beat and there are singers whose voices do the same thing to me. Singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen, and I’m just happy I get to write and sing at all. I would be a completely different person if music didn’t consume my mind as consistently as it does, and I’m a sucker for writing, listening to, and singing music all. the. time. In case it helps, I’ll tell you what I know about myself and what I love about being a musician. I love to connect with others and with my audience…I love to make them laugh. I love to collaborate with my band or any friends who join me for a show or a musical project. I look at every show like it’s a birthday party, which is why I’ve been known to bring balloons, decorations and candy to my shows. I’m a sucker for harmonies, so whenever I can, I have at least one friend singing with me in my live shows to make sure the vocals are as pretty and sweet as can be. I write so honestly that people have gotten mad at me for songs I’ve written about divorce. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I love 3/4 length sleeves. Singing, performing, practicing and recording are some of my absolute favorite things in life. To date, I sing about hope and faith and love, which are the only things that keep me alive sometimes. As far as I can tell, I will always feel this relentless drive to become a better musician, songwriter and performer – and if that drive ever subsides, that’s the day I’ll probably give up on music. I hope that day never comes.

Q. What should fans look forward to for the rest of 2011 and beyond?

A. This year: House shows (in living rooms around the NW), different friends joining me at live shows depending on my mood, and new songs to get me ready for my next album. I haven’t been playing many shows this year so far, but more shows are around the corner. I love it when I can say that. It just makes me look forward to corners that much more.

Beyond: Some touring and hopefully more house shows assuming they get off to a good start this year. I love recording and will hopefully get to tackle my next record in the next couple of years. I’ve been on a big writing kick this season, so I am already dreaming up my next album. It’s still a long way off, but I figure it’s never too early to dream.

Q. How did you decide to make your song “Patterns” the title track for your album?

A. It was a tough decision (since I’m a terrible decision-maker), but the more I thought about it (and believe me – I thought about it plenty), I realized it’s the patterns – in how we get through our days, in our relationships, in how we love, in design, in everything – that make up so much of life. It’s not my favorite song on the record (but don’t tell it) – it’s just a very sweet, sad, hopeful song and a pretty present theme in my songwriting on this album. After awhile, it seemed like the inevitable title for the record, so I gave in.

Q. Your band is composed of all guys, with you being the only girl. What’s the relationship like with you guys while you’re out on the road?

A. We stick pretty close to home at this point since they all have families and we’re all juggling jobs and music. I love getting to play music with them and they are such gems, but touring hasn’t been part of our lives together yet. I am looking forward to getting on the road soon, so at that point, I’ll let you know how things go.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. This question makes me wince a little. The idea of being stranded on an island for the rest of my life with one of my songs sounds so sad. I don’t want to let you down, though, so I’ll try to answer this question even while wincing…

As far as the songs from “Patterns”, I suppose I’d take Head Over Heels, since it’s one of my favorites to sing. It’s not my favorite song in general, but I always love singing it at shows, so there’s a good chance I’d be happy to listen to it (and harmonize right along with it – did I mention I’m a sucker for harmonies?) on an island, too. Since I love options, though, maybe I’d take “I Can’t Imagine” since it’s a sweet little story and oh-so-reminiscent – and that might just hit the spot…for the rest of my life.

Here is “I Can’t Imagine” a beautiful song off of her debut album, Patterns.

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