Drea. M is a very talented singer/songwriter out of the Bay Area in California. With her very successful 2012 CD "Surrender" under her belt, she has just released her new single and video called "Time Bomb." The song explodes with emotion and feelings, but this is nothing new... all of Drea. M songs have this quality. Under producer Dimitri Moore the video conveys the issue of wanting to be completely free of constraint and finding comfort in that constraint. The single is part of an upcoming EP that will be released December 1st 2015. I recently corresponded with Drea. M
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your latest single and video "Timebomb". Do you feel that your career is ready to explode into the mainstream?
Drea - I do! “Mainstream” has a lot of connotations, one being that music that goes mainstream has somehow lost its edge. I believe that music can push boundaries, be sophisticated (lyrically, musically, or both), ask more of its listeners, and still reach a broad audience. I have never felt so grounded or so passionate about my purpose as a musician, performer, and singer-songwriter. For me, music is about inspiring people to fully feel. It’s about empathy. It’s about goosebumps. It’s about “Yes! I feel that way, too, but you just said it for me, in a different way!” It’s about unearthing the stuff we often keep tamped down. So yes...I am ready for my music to reach more people and serve its purpose on a much larger scale. Bring it!
Drea - The lyrics, melody, and vocal harmonies emerged all at once. (I often write songs using my loop pedal, which allows me to work out harmonies as I go.) It was about 2:00 in the morning, and a wave of emotion overwhelmed me. “I must express this right now, or else…” was the feeling. So. I did. I wrote it as an a cappella piece initially, but envisioned something cinematic, big, and somehow still stark. Atmospheric. I knew it needed an orchestral arrangement, and that’s when I contacted producer David Earl.
R.V.B. - Your music seems to be catchy, haunting, expressive, mysterious... in other words, a lot of different things. Is this an evolving process?
Drea - Ooh. I like those adjectives! Well...the moment we stop evolving is the moment life stops being meaningful. That sounds biting, but that’s how I feel, especially when it comes to the creative process. I think my songs have always been expressive and on the darker side, but how that manifests sonically is certainly always growing and changing.
The new video produced by Dimitri Moore brings out a lot of emotion and a few scenes "Definitely caught my attention!" What were you trying to get across with this concept? Did you have any reservations on shooting some of the rope scenes?
Shortly after I wrote “Timebomb,” I knew I wanted to shoot a video for it, and one of the first things that came to mind was rope, and more specifically, Shibari (often described as an artistically-driven form of Japanese rope bondage). I wanted to convey the tension between wanting to be completely free of constraint and finding comfort in that constraint, and the tension that is created by all of our mixed emotions and desires. Shibari can illustrate that tension. The rope holds you and restrains you, and the experience of being tied up pushes you to the edge of your emotional and physical comfort zone. You are totally vulnerable. You are confined, possibly suspended, and your natural inclination might be to break free of all of that, but there is also a strange comfort in not breaking free, and a sense of exhilaration in expressing yourself fully while bound, even if that expression is complete surrender. It’s a metaphor, but that’s the tension I wanted to convey. There’s a lyric in the song that alludes to this: “hands tied…mind wide…open, but bound.” I also wanted to convey the empowerment that comes from overcoming the restraints we place on ourselves, so it was important to me to illustrate both vulnerability and a sense of personal power and strength.
As far as reservations, I knew that I didn’t want to make the video aboutShibari; I didn’t want to rely on it, or use it gratuitously. We shot a lot of footage, and I was so tempted to use more of it, partly to show people how sensual, beautiful, and detailed Shibari can be—the care that is taken with each knot that is tied—but ultimately, the footage didn’t serve the song’s overall meaning. In the end, we did practice some restraint (there just isn’t a better word for it!) in this regard.
R.V.B. - How did you get involved in music? Did you come from a musical family?
Drea - I do consider my family to be musical. Everyone sings or plays an instrument, and both my mom and my sister perform in choirs. I grew up hearing my dad play a lot of improv jazz piano (and sometimes clarinet) as well. However, no one else in my family has pursued music professionally.
I wrote songs for a long time before emerging publically as a singer-songwriter, and it took a convergence of forces to propel me into pursuing music as a career. I could no longer hide. I could no longer abide by the ways I had confined myself. I could no longer live a half-life. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it would have been emotional suicide to not share my music with the world.
R.V.B. - Did you take formal lessons in music and participate in school with it?
Drea - I took piano and violin as a child, but I didn’t play either of them for very long. I also took guitar for a short period as a teen—both acoustic and classical, and I tinkered on my then-boyfriend’s electric. I dabbled in songwriting around the same time, recording songs on a cassette player. (I still have some of those tapes!) Whenever I quit an instrument, my teachers strongly urged me not to, and I didn’t understand why until later on. Recently, that first boyfriend said to me, “It was always so obvious that you were a musician,” but I kept shying away from fully stepping into music, until it finally took a hold of me and no longer gave me a choice.
R.V.B. - Who were your influences as you were actively learning?
Drea - Hmmmm…Well, I listened to everything from late-sixties Dylan to Zeppelin to Depeche Mode to Vivaldi (all men, I just realized), but the musicians who truly moved me—whose songs resonated with me on the deepest level—during my most formative years were Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos. They both broke the mold in so many ways, and spoke to things I was feeling and that I had never heard expressed in song before. I remember following one of Ani’s tours up the coast, from California to Seattle. I was a total Ani-head, and I will always have a profound reverence for her and the impact she had on me. That said, I don’t necessarily hear those influences in my music in any obvious way.
Drea - The first gig that really stands out to me is the CD release show I did for my 2012 album, Surrender, and it was completely life-altering. Until that time, I had played some open mics, a variety show, and a couple of opening sets, but that was the first time I performed an entire set of my music in front of a full audience (the show sold out)with a full band. It was a hugely groundbreaking and personally revolutionary moment for me. It made me realize that I wanted to perform, that I loved it (even though it made me super nervous), and that I wanted to keep doing it. I had never felt so vulnerable...or so free...or so stripped down…or so exhilarated! I had never felt such a sense of purpose in my entire life, either. It was the most me I had ever felt, and yet it was a me I had never met before. It was hugely revelatory. It changed me irrevocably. There was definitely no turning back, no matter how unpredictable the road ahead was (and still is).
Drea - It depends on the show, but when I play with a full band, I play with drums, keys, violin, and cello. I love playing in all kinds of configurations, and with new instrumentation. (The other night, a trumpeter and I performed my songs as a duo.) The pianist I work with also plays accordion—in a haunting, atypical way that enhances atmosphere. I play electric and acoustic guitar, and I use a loop pedal—mostly for vocal harmonies, which I loop live.I have recently started using backing tracks for my bigger, more orchestral and cinematic pieces. I appreciate versatility and flexibility, and am always trying new things, but I do have a vision for each song as well. I enjoy exploring how to balance all of this…how to listen to what a song wants, invite collaboration, be open to variation and deviation, and still stay true to an overall vision.
For my EP release show, I have a clear vision of how I want to present the songs. We’ll have guitar, bass, keys, and drums, and we’ll be incorporating backing tracks and my loop pedal as well. It should be a fun challenge. I am eager to fully inhabit the songs through performance, to delve into their layers, and to share them with a live audience in a whole new way.
R.V.B. - Do you have any songwriting partners?
Drea - I don’t, no. I have always written my songs—the lyrics and melodies—on my own. However, I am collaborating more and more, mostly on the instrumental and production front. I have tried co-writing a song just for fun (the lyrics, I mean), and it just didn’t work for me. It felt fractured, and a bit contrived.
Drea - In 2012, I released a full-length CD (Surrender—the one I mentioned above), though I didn’t hit the road with it. I am just about to finish the EP I alluded to, produced by David Earl and me, which I am chomping at the bit to release! It comes out December 1st of this year, and I will definitely be hitting the road with it! Even though this is a shorter album, it feels so full, in that every song has gotten so much love and attention. You could say that these songs are a little spoiled, but I have also given them plenty of boundaries, which—of course—they have tested every step of the way. And I think that’s a good thing. After all, once I release them into the world, they’re on their own!
R.V.B. - Good luck with your new release
Drea - Thank you!
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Drea. M visit her website http://www.drea-music.com/
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