‘smallsongs’ is a YouTube series brought to you by Americana Highways with small & stripped down performances on the streets of different cities around the world, featuring musical acts at their rawest.
Over the past few months we’ve taken ‘smallsongs’ on the road in the bus that we’ve converted to our tiny home. In November we spent time in Denton, Fort Worth, and Dallas.
Just before we left Dallas for Austin, the timing was just right to meet up with Damoyee in the Bishop Arts District for this special performance of her song “Letting Go.”
I asked Damoyee a few questions:
AH: When did you first start playing music & why?
D: I first started playing music when I was just a year old. Like a lot of kids, I would bang on things around the house, but my parents noticed something odd and different about what I was doing. They said it wasn’t noisy, that it was rhythmic. I’d use a wooden spoon and a pot, or cups on the counter, anything I could find to replicate rhythms and sounds while also humming and singing the melodies I had heard while watching kids shows on TV. Sesame Street was my favorite. Before I turned two, I got this toy keyboard and started picking out the notes from some of my favorite songs. Once I started playing that keyboard, my parents enrolled me in an early childhood music class at my preschool. There was a teacher, her name’s Jennea Potter, she would come there and teach us piano and music theory. I started taking private piano, music theory, and composition lessons with her shortly after that and she was private teacher until I graduated high school. I actually started out playing dulcimer and ukulele around 13 years old, before I started playing guitar when I was 14.
AH: What does your songwriting & creative process typically look like?
D: My songwriting and creative process almost always starts with music. Lyrics usually come last when I write songs. I believe that music can and should speak alone even in the absence of lyrics. So, I compose the music to my songs based off of an experience. I use the same process when I’m composing for film directors or other artists. I watch the scenes or talk to them about what it is they want to express. The chords I choose are an expression of emotions… happy, sad, lonely, afraid, confused, troubled, excited… how something makes you feel. It varies based on the subject. Since piano is my primary instrument, I start with that and then build any other instruments around it. There are rare moments when I write a song without piano, like Letting Go. When I started thinking about Letting Go, I only imagined guitar and vocals. Once I’ve finished composing a song, lyrics come quite easy for me. Because I’ve now had time to think about the words I want to say all while I’ve been composing the music.
AH: Who are your artistic & musical influences?
D: I have so many influences, a lot! 🙂 Some of my first and biggest influences are Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Stevie Wonder as singer/songwriters. They were really the ones who inspired me to play piano and sing at the same time. They make it look so easy and I wanted to do that. I wanted to use my voice, so I started writing lyrics to some of my compositions and then started singing and playing around 9 or 10. As a composer and multi-instrumentalist I’m heavily inspired by Prince. Not so much modeling my music after his, because as artists we’re all different and should be, but he was so brilliant with his compositions and musicianship. I really like Jacob Collier, too; I get compared to him a lot and I’m okay with that. Robert Glasper is one of my favorite jazz pianists. I’m influenced not only by his music, but at how he’s an artist within his own right and he collaborates so masterfully with other artists, plus he composes for film. I love that versatility and it’s something I always plan to do in my career. My all time favorite band is Snarky Puppy. I know a couple of the members from Dallas… I really love the synergy they have as a band. Everyone is a unique artist on their own and have amazing solo projects, and together they’re really remarkable.
AH: Have you been working on any new music during quarantine?
D: I’ve been working on a lot of music during the pandemic. I was in my second semester at Berklee College of Music when the country started shutting down back in March. I had just performed one of the biggest shows ever in my career. My live performance and the band were solid. Once we all left campus, collaborating became a virtual thing, but I didn’t start collaborating right away. I started out alone again, in my bedroom writing and recording songs. I’m an introvert, so being alone doesn’t bother me that much, but I do miss being around people. During this time, I’ve written songs about being apart from people I care about. I wrote a couple of songs about the racism, social justice, and inequalities that were amplified this year. And I wrote some songs about some things that are very personal to me. Most recently I participated in a virtual songwriting camp and collaborated with several other artists. Some great songs came from that experience as well. I’ve been contacted by several artists internationally to collaborate and I’m excited about that. I’m not sure yet when anything will be released. Besides just finished songs, I’d like to have some other things worked out before I’m ready to release new music, like the artwork, any visuals, marketing, all that stuff… But I will for sure be releasing my own new music in 2021 as well as being featured on some other artists’ projects. A lot of new music in 2021 is the plan for now. I’m excited!
For more Damoyee you can go to: https://www.damoyee.com
If you want to see the full conversion of our bus check this timelapse: