Dana Williams is a 24 year old singer/song writer based in Los Angeles, California. Dana is often compared to the “Queen of Jazz”, Ella Fitzgerald, which seems too good to be true but is by no means a weak comparison. Her lyrics paint an enchanting picture and are beautifully accompanied by her exquisite vocals; she is most definitely a timeless musician. In 2013, Dana released her debut single “Keep Me Waiting” and since then she has competed on ABC’s Rising Star singing competition, but was eliminated at the Top 4. Dana released her long anticipated EP The Lonely One in December of 2015. Although currently not touring, she does frequent shows in the Los Angeles, California area.

How did you get your start in music?
I was around music from the time I can remember because my father was a musician. I was surrounded by music constantly, and thus, choosing a path in music seemed sort of natural.

How do you describe your music to someone who has never previously heard of you?
I usually say it is retro- folk-soul-pop, kind of a hodgepodge of influences.

What is the hardest part about being in the music industry?
I would say that from an artist’s perspective the fact that music is a business in and of itself is hard. I’d say that my end goal is to play music for a living and continue to do what I love, but there is so much more that comes with the territory of music as an industry, and we are living in a time where visual content is at its forefront, so anyway, it is important to have a strong sense of identity both visually and musically.

Is there a specific person, place, or thing that inspires you to be brave?
My family inspires me to be brave. They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and I think that I acquire a lot of support from them, which enables me to be brave.

What is the best advice you have ever been given? How did this advice affect your life?
Some of the best advice was advice I acquired from my dad. He always told me to make what I do my own, and I think I do a pretty good job of accomplishing that. He told me that there are so many people who want the same thing as me and the only thing that will set you apart from them is your unique sense of identity. So, no matter what you are doing, put your own person swing on it.

Describe an obstacle you have encountered while pursuing your dreams. How did you overcome this obstacle?
I would say that a large obstacle I have experienced in music is people telling me who I am. I think the only way anyone can overcome this obstacle is to have a clear sense of self. Particularly women.

Is your family also musically inclined?
Yes, my dad was a guitar player and songwriter, and my maternal Grandmother was a jazz singer, so I think my vocal abilities are much like hers oddly enough. I didn’t realize it until I was a bit older.

If you could visit one place in the world and play a show there, where would you go? Why?
I could play anywhere, there is no hierarchy or preference to location or setting because music is transcendental, in a way it can take you anywhere. As long as you are in a supportive environment.

Do you ever feel out of your comfort zone playing certain songs and genres?
I like to experiment with different styles, and I have a YouTube Channel where I experiment with a lot of genres and flip the songs into my own style. I think that stepping out of your comfort zone can be fun.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken while in the music industry?
I think pursuing a career in music is a risk. I mean, it’s so competitive, there are so many people who want the same thing, will realize their dream by any means possible. Your future is sort of uncertain. But while I was in college, one of my writing professors told me that: the artist rests in uncertainty, and so, that is the risk I am taking at the moment. The risk of being an artist.

How would you encourage other aspiring music artists to take risks? What is one thing you wish you knew five years ago about the music industry?
I would just say, do what you love and don’t be afraid to share it with people. One thing I wish I knew, is how accessible the internet has made everything. You can sing a cover, write a song, and slap it up on the internet and people will start to notice. It is a lot more simple than it seems sometimes.

Do you have any other hidden talents? If so, please describe.
I love whistling and I’m pretty good at it. Sometimes I think about incorporating it into my music.

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?
I find inspiration for my lyrics in every life. Usually, things that I go through and experience personally.

Bravery means to follow your dreams no matter what people tell you it is that they think you should be doing. It is also knowing who you are and believing in yourself.

What made you want to start creating music?
I think growing up in a musical family really helped me to discover my love for music. I was always immersed in it, so it felt natural to make it. I started out making music with my father as a young girl. He’d give me a track to write a melody and lyrics over and I’d normally come up with some kind of love song and it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I became proficient enough on guitar to really write my own songs from scratch.

Who are your favorite music artists?
Ella Fitzgerald has always been my favorite singer, along with Billie Holiday. I grew up listening to big band, jazz and pop mostly. I could listen to Ella and Billie tirelessly for the rest of my life haha.

What does the term ‘bravery’ mean to you?
Bravery means to follow your dreams no matter what people tell you it is that they think you should be doing. It is also knowing who you are and believing in yourself.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I will still be pursuing my dreams in music, writing and performing!

Photos by Jack Newport
Hair & makeup by Ariana Martinez
Interview by Natalie Guardado
Originally published in Pulse Spikes – No. 002.

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