Looking for something to warm up your late winter? Look no further than daena, a new queer artist out of Nashville, TN.
daena’s work is electrifying, energizing, catchy, and exactly the sort of tunes to ring in the oceanic tides of Pisces season. I was thrilled to deep dive into her album, “Electric!”, which provided the boost I needed for getting through early February. The album dropped February 7th, and may become your next favorite on-repeat.
“As a queer woman, daena hopes to be a role model for other young people within the community. Her ethos that love is universal regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation holds true beyond her music. If she continues to pair impactful messaging with advanced music production, daena has the true potential to truly influence her listeners. Produced by griggs and mix / mastered by Kyle Dreaden, “Electric!” lures people in with its catchy pop melodies, and makes people stay through authentic and relatable lyrics.” — Present PR
July: Can you remember the first time you realized you loved music? Was it an experience of another artist, a show, or some other moment that shaped you?
daena: The first time I realized I loved music! I think that’s a hard moment to pin down, because music has been a part of my life for so long that at this point it is integrated with how I feel things. Back in elementary school, I would endlessly record cassette tapes of myself pretending to be on stage (singing anything from High School Musical, to the Beatles, to Blink 182).
Then, when I started college and finally agreed to listen to Carole King’s “Tapestry” (which a parent’s friend had burned on a CD for me years back, to which I refused since obviously anything my parents liked couldn’t possibly be ‘cool’), I was absolutely floored.
That led me to exploring other iconic artists like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, which helped me grow as a songwriter and person immensely. To be honest, though, I fall more in love with music every day, and I hope I continue to have these moments of clarity and connection with songs through the rest of my life!
July: How important do you think community is in the role of the artist? Do you feel like the community you occupy in Nashville has formed your values and/or aesthetics?
I think community is incredibly important in the role of the artist. Not only does it help you grow as a creative to be surrounded by and learn from other artists, but I think it’s so helpful to find a group of people you connect with and grow with them.
It’s so, so important to build each other up and have people who mutually want to support your art as well. Moving to Nashville has definitely helped shape my views on the music industry, especially to gain a deeper respect for the songwriter (as opposed to just the artist), and it also introduced me to co-writing, which I now view as the superpower of songwriting and my favorite way to connect and bond with another person!
July: What role, if any, do you feel identity plays in your work?
I think identity definitely plays a role in my work. One of my core values is to stay honest and vulnerable as a person and as an artist, because I really believe that being true to yourself often helps other people who may be struggling with the same things you are. Although it doesn’t always have to be the focal point of my art, I never want my queer identity to be something I hide in my music. It’s such a big part of who I am, and the fact that being open about it could inspire or connect with someone else in the community, makes it so worth it. Through all of our differences and things that make each of us unique, I think every human just wants to connect with one another, and being open about my identity helps me do that.
July: Tell us a story about your favorite time playing a show.
One of my absolute favorite shows that I’ve ever played and a story I love to tell was a one off show in Paducah, KY a few years back. This was part of a DIY mini-tour that my manager at the time and I put together as a post-college endeavor, and as my first time venturing out of my home cities to perform, we really had no idea how it would turn out.
This particular show, I was a little nervous going in, as a queer woman in a tiny southern town. My guitar player and I pulled up at the venue — a small brewery and seemingly the only place in sight on the “main strip” serving alcohol.
To our pleasant surprise, there was a pretty good crowd waiting for us — and they were some of the most loving, genuine and truly ecstatic audience members I have ever encountered.
After the show, we all chatted for a long while (they excitedly told me how they’d read about the show in the local paper, we shared a few beers, they even bought a few CDs), before heading out to brave the seemingly magical snowstorm that had begun as we played.
It was one of the first times that people I had never met, did not have mutual friends with, and in a city I’d never been, showed up for a show specifically to see me. It was truly a special night that I will always treasure.
July: What is your artistic process?
My artistic process differs from project to project, but as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve discovered certain approaches that tend to excite me more than others. I naturally gravitate towards melodies (finding a new and unique one is one of the most fun challenges of writing for me), and I tend to fit lyrics in later, but it really depends on who I’m working with and what the vibe of the room is.
Sometimes, words and melodies just fly out of me; other times I’ll sit with a co-writer for what seems like hours working on that perfect line or chord change. Recently, I’ve been super into top-lining (writing a lyric and melody over an already finished track), but I can’t wait to continue to discover new ways to create!
July: What are your hopes and goals for your music career?
My hope for my music career is that I can continue to make art that is worth listening to and important to people’s hearts. I want to move people and make them feel things, because I think in doing so we’re able to become more empathetic and passionate.
In more concrete terms, I am so excited to perfect my live show over the next year, and as always, continue writing and recording music that I’m proud of (I may or may not already be planning my next releases). Putting out this EP truly feels like just the beginning for me, and I can’t wait for what comes next!