Indo-Canadian rising star DAHLIA talks her new album, India tour and more

If you haven’t heard of DAHLIA aka Dahlia Fernandes yet, get ready for that to change. This Toronto-based singer-songwriter’s new alternative indie-pop record ‘Shift’ is already making waves locally and abroad, and for good reason. The EP showcases Dahlia’s seemingly effortless ability to convey defiant heartbreak and jump-around-the-room happiness in equal measure, buoyed by smart songwriting and infectious hooks.

The singer released her debut album ‘Between The Lines’ in 2013, and since, has proven herself adept at any genre, any style, having collaborated with stars including hip-hop head Rich Kidd (Drake), and R&B writer/producer Roy Hamilton III (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, N’Sync) amongst many others.

And now she’s bringing her music to India on a nation-wide tour, with gigs in Bangalore (March 25 at the Blue Frog) , Delhi and Pune (scroll down for details).  We wanted to find out more about the artist and her album, so we sent a few curious questions her way:

Tell us about yourself. What’s your first musical memory? When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?

I’m a singer-songwriter based out of Toronto. I grew up in a boarding school in Panchgani and shuffled back and forth to see my parents in Dubai.

I have always been into music. My earliest musical memory is singing songs with my dad as he played the keys or guitar. I knew I wanted to be a musician since as early as 7 years old. I sang in front of hundreds of people crooning Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” and Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise”.

Tell us a bit about your songwriting process.And what’s the strangest thing that’s inspired a song?

Wow! Where do I begin? I almost always default to sitting at the piano and navigating through different chord progressions. When I get one I like the lyrics start to flow out of me and is usually about what is going on in my life.

I guess the strangest thing that inspired a song is writing “Dreamlova” about two different people. Haha! Let me explain! I started to write the first verse, chorus and bridge about someone I was really into at the time and then could never finish the second verse and by the time I had to get to finishing the song was not even dating them anymore! I then continued to write the song about what felt like my “Dreamlova” a year later and the verse poured out of me a lot easier.

What’s the meaning behind the album title ‘Shift’?

It is about the progression that the human spirit goes through as we propel out of pain to find love again for ourselves and for others. Most importantly, it was supposed to be the “shift” into hope – which is very much how I approach life. Thematically, there is always strain and conflict in my verses and hope in the bridge and final chorus.

Tell us a little about your approach to the album. How do you think your sound and really you as a musician has changed on this collection?

When I first started writing this record nothing was premeditated. No themes. No clever motive or marketing idea to spin out. I just needed to pour out and write and write and then write some more. When a few songs started shaping up, we started producing them as I wrote more songs to complete the collection.

I owe a lot to finding my sound to my coach, former Nylon ‘Micah Barnes’ who helped me find my voice. The record has a sound to it and that I owe a lot to Nick Londono (Nick Name) the producer of this record who is my closest friend. As a singer I was stuck for many years emulating others. This record helped me distance myself from that approach to just being myself instead of a myriad of my other influences.

Who did you record with this time around? Was it different than previous experiences in the studio?

I got to work Nick Londono, Steve D’angelo and Roy Hamilton who are all incredibly talented musicians, producers and songwriters. At their calibre, it pushed me to dig deeper and challenge myself on the vocal performance and songwriting. I also got to work with very talented musicians who played on this record and engineers who all had their part a lot of whom work at Eggplant Studios in Toronto and it felt like a family affair in that sense.

The experience of making ‘SHIFT’ will forever stay a dear memory. A rollercoaster ride of course but so much better even with all the ups and downs you go through when piecing together creative ideas and putting all your vulnerabilities out into the world.

We hear you’re going to be touring India in March! That’s exciting. What most are you looking forward to? Where will you be playing?

I am really looking forward to what The Bombay Jazz Club have planned for the India tour because in addition to the performances across the country, we also have collaborative songwriting sessions planned with Mohit Mukhi and other artists, mentoring students at the Whistling Woods Institute and other fun surprises that I cannot give away just yet! Follow my VLog on Instagram at @dahliamusicnow for all the juicy details!

What I can share is a few of the venues that have been announced as part of the first leg of the tour – Live at The Quarter at the iconic Royal Opera House, The Piano Man and Bar Cat in Delhi and Swig in Pune. Click here to get your tickets for Dahlia’s show at The Quarter.

I am also very excited to be touring the country with the suer talented French percussionist Emmanuel Simon and evocative singer-songwriter, Mohit Mukhi who will not only be accompanying me on guitar but also opening up a few of the shows with his recent release Midnight Lullabies – EP by Mohit Mukhi on Apple Music.

Nice. And, just out of curiosity, what are you listening to right now?

I love Feist, Bahamas, Alice Merton and LP but I am almost always still listening to my classics including Paul Simon, The Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline.

Are you planning on putting out any more music soon, or are you focusing on live performances for now?

I cannot stop writing. It is my outlet and therapy. I have already started writing the new record and want to put the next one out as soon as it is possible. I do not want to rush the creative process so it is tough. Live performances are the focus but songwriting is like breathing. You cannot stop.

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If you’re looking forward to seeing Dahlia perform live (we sure are), don’t forgot to follow here on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated about her tour in India. And you can listen to ‘Shift’ on her website, Soundcloud, or Apple Music too.

Interview by Pavi Sagar

Image credits: DAHLIA


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