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Rising Star daena: “Know your personal limits.”

Know your personal limits. There can be a lot of pressure in this industry to say ‘yes’ to everything — write every day, or go to every show and networking event you possibly can. But I think something that not a lot of people talk about is the importance of taking time for yourself to […]

Know your personal limits. There can be a lot of pressure in this industry to say ‘yes’ to everything — write every day, or go to every show and networking event you possibly can. But I think something that not a lot of people talk about is the importance of taking time for yourself to rest and recharge — physically, mentally and creatively. Writing a song, to me, — although one of the most fun things in the world — can also be emotionally draining. Instead of spreading myself thin, I try to constantly remind myself that taking time off, if even for one day a week, can actually spark and nourish my creative juices!


We had the pleasure to interview Nashville indie-pop artist daena.

daena has just released her debut EP entitled “Electric!” As a queer woman in today’s music industry, she hopes to be a role model for other young people in the community. Her new project follows the release of her preceding singles “Overrated” and “Close Isn’t Enough”. Gaining recognition from Spotify, “Close Isn’t Enough” made it to their Fresh Finds, Fresh Finds Poptronix, and Night Pop playlists! The foundation has been laid for this anthemic six-track EP to shape the next chapter in daena’s career. You can give it a listen here.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you for chatting with me! I grew up in central Jersey, about 30 minutes from the shore. I lived in the same house my whole life (until I moved to Nashville for college). Music was always playing in our house, whether it was my parents’ Bruce Springsteen CDs on heavy rotation in the car or Fountains of Wayne and John Mayer coming from my brother’s room. We were lucky to get to go to our fair share of concerts and Broadway shows growing up living so close to NYC, and I quickly became obsessed with music in all forms (choir, band, and theatre included). That love blossomed through middle and high school, and now I find it almost impossible to go a day without playing some kind of music (in the car, doing dishes, in the shower, basically every chance I get).

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, like many teenage girls at the time, Taylor Swift was my idol. I started writing songs when I was 14 (technically so I could win an autographed phone case from the Jonas Brothers, but I digress), and I wanted to be just like Taylor. She knew exactly what she wanted to say in her music, and she wasn’t afraid to say it (plus, I dreamed of owning that silver sparkly guitar). I don’t think I really grasped the full scope of working in the music industry, though, until I started at Belmont University in Nashville. I discovered the world of songwriting (I could do that — like my job!), and of indie artists, and that there wasn’t just one way to make music or be creative. I didn’t have to “be the next Taylor Swift” to keep writing songs. In that way, I think Nashville has really shaped me as an artist and a writer, and how I want to pursue my dreams. (But for the record, Taylor is still a badass).

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was 17, I entered this contest through the Girl Scouts; they were searching for an original song to feature at their 100th Anniversary Celebration. Me being the overachiever I was, I entered two songs — one serious, and the other a silly Girl Scout Cookie Rap that my troop and I had joked about while selling cookies. You can guess which one ironically won the contest — resulting in me getting to perform said cookie rap at the National Mall in Washington DC in front of over 250k people! It was absolutely wild and an experience that I’ll definitely never forget, and I will forever support and be grateful to the Girl Scouts.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember when I was first starting out teaching myself guitar, I was most frustrated with two things — barre chords, and playing with a pick. The B minor chord, specifically, was a nemesis of mine, as was the annoying clicking sound that would happen as I accidentally hit my pick against the body of my guitar nearly every time I strummed (to which my family aptly referred to as “The Click”). After a while, I decided to simply abandon using a pick at all! To this day, I rarely use one — and I’m pretty sure I strum super weird because of it — but it’s taught me that you don’t have to do everything the conventional way, especially if it’s just not working for you! Don’t be afraid to do things how you naturally want to do them.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My new EP, “Electric!” just came out this month, and I’m so excited that it is finally out in the world after over a year and a half of writing and recording! These songs are literally like my children. But — if I were to say that I wasn’t already planning my next project, I’d be lying (because I can’t sit still for one minute). In the past few months, I’ve started writing and grouping together some new songs that really excite me. Since this EP is my first dip into the pop scene, I can’t wait to push the limits even more on my next record with production and writing. In the meantime, I’m planning some super fun visuals/music videos to go along with some of the songs on “Electric!” that I’m SO excited for you to see.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I am SO passionate about representation! I think not only does art mimic culture, but culture also mimics art. I think many people underestimate the huge impact that the arts and entertainment industry has on our society. If listeners/readers/viewers start to see themselves represented fairly, equally and accurately in film, TV, and music, our culture will follow suit in accepting these realities, and hopefully, cultivate a more accepting world. I think of how exciting and affirming it is for me to see other women and/or queer people represented fairly in the arts, and I know we need to continue to fight for every person of color, trans and non-binary person, and the many, many other underrepresented groups of people in our society. Another great side effect of this? Exposing to other people who are different than them — which will always make us more open, accepting and empathetic humans.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. There is no one right way to write a song. I have a degree in songwriting, and I’ve written for over ten years, and I am still learning new ways to look at, feel and write melodies and lyrics.
  2. You can change your plan at any time! I’ve gone back and forth with my career goals more times than I can count (will I be an artist, a writer, both, etc?), and that’s okay. The most important thing is to continue to do the things that excite you creatively. If you’re having fun with your music, you’re probably doing something right — keep doing it.
  3. Cowriting is the best resource you can possibly unlock. Not only does it expand your network (and you never know who someone knows), but it will make you a better writer than you ever thought possible. When pro songwriters used to say that they rarely write alone anymore, I remember thinking that was so sad. But now, I understand that sharing the experience of creating a song out of nothing is one of the most magical things ever. Having that “a-ha!” moment together with other writers is absolutely the best.
  4. Never pay to play. It might be tempting at the time, but your art is worth something! Know your value — there will be other gigs — more specifically, other paid gigs. A professor of mine in college also warned us to steer clear of shows that offered “exposure” as payment..he used to tell us, “you know, you can die from exposure”! 😉
  5. It’s okay if you don’t know what your genre is! I’ve always struggled with finding my genre, especially in the beginning, but it was just because I took inspiration from such a wide variety of artists and writers. Just write what you feel, and I promise, it will come out exactly how it’s supposed to.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Know your personal limits. There can be a lot of pressure in this industry to say ‘yes’ to everything — write every day, or go to every show and networking event you possibly can. But I think something that not a lot of people talk about is the importance of taking time for yourself to rest and recharge — physically, mentally and creatively. Writing a song, to me, — although one of the most fun things in the world — can also be emotionally draining. Instead of spreading myself thin, I try to constantly remind myself that taking time off, if even for one day a week, can actually spark and nourish my creative juices!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire a movement that generates a true change in our society. It would be amazing to generate a celebration of diversity and combat fear tactics angled towards those who are different. Something that’s been on my heart recently is a bill that’s just been passed here in TN that continues to fund faith-based foster care and adoption agencies, even if they exclude prospective LGBTQ+ parents, and others, based on religious beliefs. I don’t know what project exactly might work towards a solution to discriminatory laws like this, but to help create a world with no judgment and more love would be absolutely amazing.

I’d like to think that art can change the world, so if there was some way of teaming up with visual artists and a few select activists who really have a handle on the cultural issues at hand in our society, I think we could create something amazing that just might reach the hearts of a lot of people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

To be honest, I would not be where I am today without the help and constant support of my parents. From supporting my last-minute decision to switch my college search from teaching to music, to accompany me to every high school open mic, to flying down from Jersey for Nashville record release shows, they have always been my biggest fans. I am so lucky to have them cheering me on every step of the way, no matter what direction I choose to take my career and to know that they will always be in my corner.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think I’m going to have to go with a lyric on this one: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now / from a win and lose and still somehow / it’s life’s illusions I recall / I really don’t know life at all”. This is from one of my absolute favorite Joni Mitchell songs, “Both Sides Now”, and it helps me remind myself of a hard lesson I’ve had to learn. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing, all the time! I have a tendency to want to have a general plan for the future — but realizing that you can’t possibly plan for everything life will throw at you, actually gave me the comfort I needed to live more freely. All we can do is take life one day at a time!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oh my god, there are so many! But on the top of that list has got to be Carole King and Joni Mitchell. They are two of my all-time favorite songwriters and have shaped my writing and lyrics in so many ways. “Tapestry” and “Blue” are absolute works of genius and to get even just a peek inside the creative minds of these two strong women would be an absolute honor and a treat.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on socials @daenamusic (or on Twitter @daena_music), and you can listen to the “Electric!” EP on your preferred music platform by searching “daena”. I can’t wait to connect!

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