PETALING JAYA: We’ve seen them all, churned out by the dozens – those run-of-the-mill pop wannabes, coached to deliver come-hither looks in slinky dresses and ridiculously high stilettos as they pledge their undying love for the boy of their dreams. But every so often, we are also blessed with a gifted artiste, brave enough to explore the human psyche with barefaced honesty and compassion.
Nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter-musician Danéa is one such refreshing artiste, whose debut single “Addictions” was just released online. FMT had the privilege of speaking to Danéa, and in the process got to know the girl behind the artiste.
For starters, the multi-talented Danéa, who says she first learnt she could “make music” with her voice at the tender age of three, and began writing songs at 10, also plays the piano, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, ukulele and mandolin, and is currently learning to play bass guitar as well.
Below is the interview…
FMT: Tell us a little about your family.
Danéa: My mom is Malaysian-Indian and my dad is French-Canadian and we live in Canada with my younger sister, my pup Harley and my cat Cody.
FMT: You wrote the lyrics for Addictions. Tell us the story behind the song.
Danéa: It’s really about what it means to be human at the most primal level. I think addiction is something innate that we, as humans, are all subjected to at one point or another. The implications of the word, unfortunately, lie mostly with substance abuse. I think everyone finds themselves drawn to things that bring them comfort. For some, that solace unfortunately is found in substances, but for others it can be things as basic as work or affection. So that’s really why I wrote Addictions. I think it’s important to break down experiences into the emotions that drive them. It helps us understand each other a little better.
FMT: Where do you draw your musical inspiration from?
Danéa: Definitely emotional experiences. Whenever I find myself experiencing a particular emotion in excess, I write. It’s sort of like therapy to me, but instead of talking to someone, I talk to my piano. It’s really kind of an introspective experience, that in the most literal sense, is an outlet for me.
FMT: Do you have a favourite singer or composer whose work has influenced you the most?
Danéa: I’m inspired and attracted to poetry. Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen. In terms of lyrics, those guys are probably my biggest inspirations. In terms of sound, I don’t really have an inspiration. I think, subconsciously, I tend to write kind of like Lana Del Rey just because her music affects me so deeply. I try to be kind of unique though.
FMT: Do you see yourself venturing outside music to writing a book someday perhaps, or maybe a play?
Danéa: I would love to eventually write a book. I’ve actually been thinking about that for a long time. I think it would be an amazing experience.
FMT: Has your life changed in any significant way since the release of Addictions?
Danéa: I’m still adjusting to the attention post-Addictions. I didn’t know what to expect but I’ve had so many people reach out to me to tell me that they love the song. And that’s a really cool feeling. I mean, having someone tell me that they like my music is the best feeling in the entire world so this awesome reception has really turned my world upside down. I’m on cloud 9.
FMT: What were the obstacles, if any, in getting Addictions released?
Danéa: Honestly, it was pretty smooth sailing. I have an awesome team so releasing Addictions was a breeze.
FMT: What have you learnt about the music industry since? And what have you learnt about yourself in the process?
Danéa: I’ve learned a lot about the demands of the music industry. In my ignorance, I never realised how much work it was being an active musician. You can’t just be a musician, you have to think about marketing, social media, advertising, performing, booking shows, and the list goes on. I’ve learned to appreciate myself a lot more, I think. I’m kind of a pessimist and I’m really hard on myself. After submerging myself in this industry, I’ve learned how important it is to value yourself and your craft. You need to be your own biggest fan because it really is quite a task to undertake and you should appreciate yourself for just getting here. I’m getting better and stepping back and saying, “Good work, Danéa. You’re going to be just fine”.
FMT: Was there resistance from any quarter about you venturing into the music industry? Were you advised against it, or encouraged to follow your heart?
Danéa: I think, in the immigrant community especially, there is a lot of controversy surrounding those who pursue any sort of art form. I had a lot of people tell me that it was okay to make music as long as I kept up my studies. Which is fine, I don’t really consider that resistance – just caution. For the most part, people have been really supportive.
FMT: You’re a university student. How do you juggle the demands of an education with that of your musical commitments?
Danéa: It’s really tricky, not going to lie. I’m a huge perfectionist in both my studies and my music so it can be exhausting, at times, to keep up with my own demands. Somehow, I’ve come this far though, so I must be doing something right! Whenever I have a free second I’m at my piano or on my computer. Sometimes this is in between classes, but more often than not, it’s at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. Don’t tell my parents.
FMT: What’s a typical day in the life of Danéa like?
Danéa: I don’t think there is really a “typical” day for me. I go to school five days a week from about 8am to around 2pm. When I’m not in class, I’m volunteering at a facility for seniors, tutoring, and acting as a research assistant in a university lab. What I do really depends on the day of the week!
FMT: You were born in Malaysia and lived here a few years – do you think of Malaysia as home despite living in Canada now?
Danéa: Let me just start off by saying, I love Canada. It has been my home for a long time now and it holds a very special part of my heart. That being said, however, whenever I go back to Malaysia the very first thought I have as I step off the plane is that “I’m home”. I don’t know how to explain it, but when I’m there it’s like I never left. I will always be “Malaysian” in some way and by extension, Malaysia will always be my home.
FMT: What are some of the traits of Malaysians that you find endearing or that make them unique?
Danéa: Malaysians are the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Calling them hospitable would be an understatement. Being with Malaysians is like being with family, regardless of who you are or what your background is. There is so much love amongst Malaysians and I think that is such a beautiful thing. The world is changing and cultures are evolving. But one thing that remains steadfast is the strength, humility and compassion of the Malaysian people towards one another.
FMT: Do you have cravings for Malaysia’s hot and spicy food while you’re in Canada?
Danéa: Oh my gosh where do I even start. Do you know how hard it is to find good Malaysian food in Canada? Near impossible! I miss my comfort foods mostly – Nasi Lemak, Mee Goreng. I think what I miss the most, though, is Laksa. I seriously crave it every single day.
FMT: Where does Danéa the artiste go from here… do you see an album in the making?
Danéa: I actually have an EP (extended play) on the way titled “The Beginning”, set to be released in the spring.
For now, music lovers can download for FREE Danéa’s Addiction exclusively at her website: www.daneamusic.com