Daily Discovery is a feature that will highlight a new or recently discovered artist that we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
A year ago, Dana Williams offered up her first official release for the internet. It was the video for “Don’t Wait,” a song that could have been written decades ago. By that point, she already had experience winning over small crowds in Los Angeles and she’s got a few cool industry stories (when she was in just fourth grade, she was selected to perform “Hard Knock Life” with Jay Z for a TV special). But she’s not a seasoned vet. She’s 24 years old and today she releases her first official EP, The Lonely One.
Dana doesn’t fit in neatly with what’s going on in today’s music world. For as long as she can remember, Ella Fitzgerald has been her favorite singer, and she’s not riding the wave of electronic influence. Dana’s not doing what she thinks is cool; she’s doing what she’s always loved. Her music floats with a retro, Norah Jones-style vibe, but the songwriting is strong enough to avoid being thrown together with coffee shop playlist material. It’s not easy to take off making this type of music in today’s soundscape, but even more importantly for a young artist, it’s impossible to blend in.
Your music has a classic kind of feel to it. It’s not the trendy, current sound, and there’s not a lot of electronic influence. What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of older stuff. Ever since I was young I was really into big band music and Ella Fitzgerald has been my favorite singer for as long as I can remember. Billie Holiday is also a big inspiration for me. I really appreciate the control and feeling you get from singers like Ella, Billie, and Patsy Cline. They are great story tellers.
Do you like electronic music?
I do like electronic music. It’s fun to dance to. Although, I must admit, I am a little bit resistant to technology and I really appreciate the flawed texture of a human drum beat.
Do you consider yourself an old soul?
Yes, I consider myself an old soul. Simply because most of my influences come from that of decades past.
Some of the best guitar-driven music coming out right now seems to be by women who are mostly solo acts, like St. Vincent and Lianne La Havas. Do you feel like a part of that movement?
Well, I do think our art is along the same vein in a lot of respects for reasons that you have already mentioned—female solo, guitar music acts—and thus, it is a comparison that I welcome. If I could be a part of a movement that represents and respects women for their talent in an elegant way than I would love to be a part of that movement, but when I make music I am not thinking about joining a movement. I am simply thinking about making music that rings most true to my inner self.
Can you tell me a little about what you were like growing up? Did you always like music and creating things? What music did you listen to?
I was born in LA but ended up moving around a lot. I did most of my schooling in New York and some in Martha’s Vineyard. I always did my own thing as a kid. I am very quiet so I was never terribly popular, but I always had a small group of close friends, and my two favorite things were music and animals. They still are. I always liked music and creating things. Although I might have been a little bit more theatrical. I spent my free time putting together outfits for characters that I had invented.
My dad was a musician so I grew up with music around me and guitars everywhere so I pretty much knew from the time I was very small that singing was my main passion and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I became really passionate about playing guitar and writing my own songs. My dad always encouraged me to write lyrics and melodies and we made a lot of music together which was great practice. The lyrics lead to poetry and I write a lot of poetry still.
Growing up I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson since my dad was his rhythm guitar player it was the most accessible and then I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Big Band music. My family was never really entirely sure where I acquired that sensibility but for some reason that era of music really speaks to me.