As Kerri Miller’s interview with Dessa started playing, I quickly reached for paper and pen. I found myself scribbling quotes, notes, and ideas throughout the interview. I was doubly grateful for the songs. I wanted to hear them, but I also needed a moment to catch up.
I was particularly struck by what she had to say about authenticity. She came from slam poetry to rap, and she felt like she was faking it for a while. Her journey–her attempt to find a place for herself in music–is fascinating and inspiring.
She asked, “How many times can you tell a secret and mean it?” It’s an interesting question for performing artists searching for originality and a way to communicate with their audiences. Musicians perform the same songs again and again for different crowds (or local artists often end up playing over and over to basically the same crowd), and they have to bring as much energy to each performance as they can. I am impressed by this. I’m not sure I could.
She also spoke to her own creative process. I was fascinated by her coffee table inspiration: Aesop’s Fables, a guide to Greek and Roman myth, and a King James Bible. She’s not religious, but she is searching for stories in these texts that connect people to one another, our pasts, and our cultures. I have been thinking about where I get my stories, what texts might be behind what I write. What is on my creative coffee table?
Read more about Dessa:
“Dessa’s CD-release party at the Fitzgerald Theater on Friday night was about as far from a rap show as you could get. Backed by an excellent chamber group and back-up singers, and with her Doomtree pals tucked neatly into one of the balconies overlooking the stage, Dessa took the opportunity to cast aside all of her other titles — writer, poet, teacher, rapper — to to focus squarely on her expanding talents as soulful singer and engaging, downright hilarious storyteller.”
“I write slowly, with great effort, and lots of cursing. The feeling I get from crafting a perfect metaphor, or planting a clever seed of subtext is a very powerful feeling. There’s the thrill of personal accomplishment and there’s also a brand of awe—the recognition of a connection that had been previously hidden. But it’s not easy and it’s not really fun, at least for me.”