Whiskey & Bananas Presents: “That Way Back Happy Walla Walla Feeling,” A Playlist by Dena Blevins of Starbucks

This playlist from Starbucks’ Creative Director is as energizing as a shot of espresso

Images provided by Dena Blevins

We’re excited to introduce you to this month’s playlist, volume 40 in the “Whiskey & Bananas” series, guest-curated by Dena Blevins, Starbucks Creative Director of Global Promotions & Brand. Dena recently stopped by the OKRP office here in Chicago when we hosted SCAD’s reception for the VIP keynote speakers of the HOW Design Live event, of which Dena was one.

Dena Blevins with Tom O’Keefe and Matt Reinhard at the OKRP office for SCAD & How Design Live’s VIP Reception, May 2017

To give some background on Dena, she started her career as an advertising art director in Chicago, and at Starbucks in Seattle, leads a team of designers, illustrators and creative thinkers in collaboration across every part of the process. Of course, she loves a strong cup of coffee—or a coconut milk latte.
Her work has been featured in Communication Arts Design Annual & Advertising Annual, Print Regional Design Annual, New York Festivals, The Effies, Addys, Rosey Awards, HOW Design Annual and The One Show.

For our 40th playlist, Dena curated a high-energy, on-trend playlist which is as buzzing and energetic as a shot of good espresso.

Learn about how Dena got into music and her inspiration for curating this playlist before digging into her selection of not-to-be-missed tracks, accompanied by the images she provided that evoke her formative years as a music fan:

I’ve always loved music. One of my most prized possession growing up was my Sony Walkman. I took it everywhere with me along with my collection of cassette tapes. My Walkman went on jogs with me through the wheat fields of Walla Walla. It went skiing with me in the mountains of Idaho. I thought I was so cool, skiing the bumps, wearing Vuarnet sunglasses, listening to Santana on my Walkman.
My first album was Steve Miller Band’s “Greatest Hits 1974–78.” In the basement of our house in Walla Walla, we had a Denon turntable and amplifier connected to some gargantuan speakers. I would put that album on the turntable, crank the volume all the way up, jump on our gold Schwinn exercise bike and pedal away.
I listened to that album so much that one day one of my brothers bounded down the stairs and threatened to break it into a million pieces if I dare play it again. (And, I did. And, no he did not break it). This mix is inspired by how free and happy I felt listening to music on my Walkman while skiing on a bluebird day, or riding that Schwinn bike. Feel free to listen to it over and over and over (and over) again…

Way Back — Amber Mark

I love this song, it just makes me happy, the positivity of getting back to where you want to be — makes you feel like anything is possible.

I Can’t Go For That — the bird and the bee

Such a cool cover of the Daryl Hall & John Oates classic.

Better Give You Up — FKJ (French Kiwi Juice)

We’ve had a revolving door of French exchange students at our house over the years and this was one of the great artists they exposed me to.

Somthing’s Missing — The Internet

My son Alec introduced me to this band, and I immediately loved their slow, cool vibes.

Vampire — Mai Lan

As a Sookie Stackhouse / “True Blood” fan, anything with “Vampire” in it gets my attention. This song is catchy and quirky — and the artwork on the single release is gorgeous.

That’s Not My Name — The Ting Tings

This album was in rotation in our creative studio at Starbucks years ago. A bunch of us from the studio went and saw their show at the Showbox in Seattle, and it was incredible. The female vocalist Katie White was a bundle of sexy energy clad in shorts and knee-high striped athletic socks. She’s pissed in this song and is letting you know about it.

Makeba — Jain

Jain is a French singer-songwriter that grew up traveling the world and you clearly hear those global influences in her work. Another find from our French exchange students.

What You Don’t Do — Lianne La Havas (Tom Misch Remix)

I love the instrumentals they wove into this remake and her vocals are sultry and smooth.

Wish I Didn’t Miss You — Angie Stone

I’ve always loved classic R&B — this takes me there. There is such a yearning, alluring feel to her vocals — you can feel the pain in her voice.

Everyday — Lucy Pearl

Love the positivity of this song — Dawn Robinson’s vocals are inspiring and uplifting.

And a hidden classic inspired by Dena’s earliest years as a music fan…