The Blue Dahlia
Dahlia Dumont is a singer/songwriter/musician from Brooklyn, New York.
The musician created her project The Blue Dahlia in 2011 and released her debut album in 2015. The Blue Dahlia paints colorful records merging different sounds from around the world.
“The Blue Dahlia is a full-of-life melting pot of French, Latin American and Eastern European influences, with French and English lyrics reciting stories full of imagery with very honest, and at times, provocative words. It feels at once urban and folkloric; a contemporary mix of international traditional genres; an organic sound with an electric energy. Many have commented, it feels like a joyous, nostalgic trip around the world,” says Dumont.
The singer/songwriter released her second album entitled “La Tradition Américaine” on August 10th.
Now based in Paris, The Blue Dahlia is currently on tour in France.
“La Tradition Américaine” is now available.
Introduce yourself. Where are you from?
My name is Dahlia Dumont, originally from Brooklyn, New York. Musician, teacher, RN and mother.
What’s your story?
I grew up in Brooklyn, with a father from Israel and a mother from the Bronx, both with Eastern European Jewish heritage, but not religious at all. I believe I had a minor case of undiagnosed ADHD, cause I was always involved in a million things, hence why I eventually became both an artist and a nurse, but one passion has been with me for life: to discover music and culture around me. In addition to exploring the Eastern European/Jewish music in my home, I explored the venues, music dive bars, and jam sessions of my city since before I was legally allowed to be in them. I also wrote poetry as soon as I could write.
As soon as I could in college, studying anthropology of course, I went abroad to explore further, first to Senegal for four months, and then to France for a year. After college, I moved back to France for another year. Everywhere I went, I absorbed the music and cultures, and they blended together in my own inner melting pot of inspiration.
I returned to NYC in 2007, and after a few years of feeling much stress and pain, dealing with my father’s illness, being a new mom, and studying and working full-time as a nurse, all of my previous musical passion and influences bursted out of me, for lack of a better word. Then and there in 2011, my project ‘The Blue Dahlia' was created, with the help and additional inspiration of my international bandmates in NYC.
The project grew and grew, and since it incorporated so much of my previous influences from France, including the language, I began touring there in 2015, where yet again I found a family of musicians, and the music evolved even more. Now in 2018, having just released my second album 'La Tradition Américaine’, I have relocated to France to pursue the project on both sides of the Atlantic, in its two homes, NYC and Paris.
When did you start feeling connected to music? Do you remember your first musical memory?
For some reason, I have terrible long-term memory, but my parents tell me I was always very musical. I do remember being very young (single digits) and listening to my dad play classical music at the piano. To this day, classical piano music remains my (secret) favorite for this reason.
What’s the first song you’ve ever recorded?
Semi-professionally, that would be the demo of my song “Dahlia’s Tune” in 2011, which was redone for my first album 'The Blue Dahlia’, released in 2015.
What gave you the confidence to make the music you are making today?
I was under a lot of stress when I created the album, between nursing school and then working full time as a nurse, being a new mother, dealing with my father’s illness, and also with a split from my daughter’s father who did not support the music choice. After going out to hear live music to relieve stress and meeting all those wonderful artists who took their careers entirely seriously, I realized I could do the same. Once I started, the therapeutic joy I would get from creating and performing was so great, there was no turning back.
What can you tell us about your record “La Tradition Américaine”? What’s the story behind it? Where did you get your inspiration?
In addition to the information above about where I get my inspiration, this particularly album’s story involved several factors.
First, I wanted to explore further the different genres that I am passionate about and that influence me, including klezmer, Americana, folkloric Latin percussions and rhythms, and soul. Many told me over the years I was making a grave mistake mixing genres this much, but I am not going to censure what excites me musically and what inspires my creation just to have more success in the business. Even if it takes longer, I believe true recognition can only come from creating honestly and passionately.
Many of the musicians I work with inspired the musical genres in the album. George Saenz, the accordionist/trombonist/pianist, etc. is a Mexican American and plays a lot of Mexican and Latin music. Much so through him I learned about those sounds and rhythms and wanted to make them my own. Likewise, the violinist Zoe Aqua specializes in klezmer, and as a Jewish American myself, I immediately knew I wanted her to “do-up” the klezmer in her recordings. In addition, some inspiration came from the time I’ve spent touring in France with my French band. They have their own backgrounds and styles that become mixed in with mine. For example, my punk song 'Blah Blah’ was originally a ska-reggae, until I played it last year with my French bassist Rafael Leroy, a big punk-head, who opened up a whole new world for me when he suggested I play it punk-style. The list goes on and on…
I also am very inspired by jazz, reggae and American folk which is heard all over the album. All my influences in a nutshell come from growing up in the diverse NYC, in a Jewish American household, then from my travels to Senegal and France, and then from my international bands in NYC and Paris who all put their own touch on the music.
Second, I wanted to make a statement about what being an American means to me. I have a lot of anger about the work ethic: how we’re taught that working as much as you can and making as much money as you can is a good thing. Starting in elementary schools, we are taught to blindly recite the Pledge of Allegiance, swearing out allegiance to God and country, and then throughout the school day, taught how to follow rules, and prepare for a life of working and earning money, as if that’s the goal. But folks end up working to the bone and having no time for repose, their family, their passions. They do it all to pay for the house they have no time to be in, the vacation that’s over before it started, and the retirement that you’re often too old and sick for to enjoy (this is the story of my dad, who worked so much his whole life, just to get sick a few months before retirement. This is also the story of the title track “La Tradition Américaine.”)
I am also angry about the bigotry in America that attempts to undue the beauty that multiculturalism and immigration have brought us. So my album is also a statement of love for multiculturalism. The album art is an 10 ft by 8 ft American flag made from colored sand and seashells that I made with a good friend, John Beshara, to portray this message.
How does your French roots impact your creativity and artistry?
Actually, truth is I do not have French roots. I first went to Senegal as a study abroad college student working with Senegalese sand painters. I continued my work with West African artists in the US for my thesis, and this brought me to France. While in France, I met the father of my daughter, and we were married. This is where the DUMONT comes from in my name. My maiden name is Freudenthal (means “happy valley” in German). My legal name today is Freudenthal-Dumont.That being said, all of the time I have spent in Francophone communities has deeply influenced me, from the lifestyle to the music and the language. I especially love the storytelling of chanson, the grooves from West Africa, the chord progressions from Roma and Eastern European influences within French music, including jazz manouche, the instrumentation of the accordion and the violin, and most of all, I absolutely love the joy and community when French folkloric songs are sung in a group. Everyone sings at the top of their lungs and shares in the moment.
You live in NYC. What do you like the most about this city?
Actually I just moved yesterday to Paris! But NYC will always be my home, and I will be travelling back for tours and family often. I probably will even move back in a few years. What I like most about the city is the creation. There are so many talented, dedicated artists in NYC, and the cost of living is hard, so true artists who don’t give up have to push themselves through the storm, and out comes new, provocative, groundbreaking work. I also will always love the diversity in art and culture where, despite a few backwards odd-ducks, everyone and anything goes, no matter where you come from.
As an artist, what message do you want to deliver through your work?
I want to deliver the message of pursuing happiness, and not listening to others about how you should live your life. Lots of folks see obstacles in their way to happiness, and they let them stop them. Then they wake up one day, their whole life is behind them, and they see how futile those obstacles were. Many times, they themselves created those obstacles out of fear. But we only live once (with that soul and that body together), and life is short and fragile. Don’t regret anything. Even if you don’t get complete happiness, at least you tried, and you’ll probably get most of what you want if you try hard enough, especially if you’re lucky enough to be born with freedom!
I do believe artists should from time to time use the microphone to encourage compassionate ideology, instead of doing it exclusively for self-therapy.
What inspires you the most?
The audience. Feeling their joy, feeling their sense of unloading when they dance and sing along with you, is like a drug. I can’t get enough if it. That keeps me doing this. And then, some really great music I hear, whatever the genre or style, always seeps into me and eventually into my own work. I also get very inspired by unique and beautiful ways to use language. I am more of a poet than a musician.
What are the things you are the most proud of?
Finding a way to do what I love and still keep my daughter number one. Figuring out my priorities and sticking to them despite all odds.
What advices would you give to young artists?
Like I said earlier, only you are in the way of living the way you want to live. Don’t ever let anyone tell you being an artist is not a real profession, and that it’s better to spend your one life doing something you hate just for the money. Be bold in the face of those who doubt and criticize you. As for your own art, push yourself. Don’t create what you think others want to hear, but what truly moves you. Practice, get better even if you’re already good. Take it seriously if you want it to take you seriously.
What defines you?
Passion, my daughter’s mother, music, friendship.
What are you currently working on?
I just released my new album 'La Tradition Américaine,’ last week, and JUST moved to Paris yesterday. I will work these next several months on promoting the album via online and via booking concerts around Europe and North America (perhaps even farther). Performing is always the goal as it brings me the most happiness of all of my musical activities. On the side, I plan on starting a video series for my youtube channel to document the creation of a new EP. The new EP, drastically different from this last album, will be mostly solo and duo with collaborators from my NYC and Paris bands, to create very personal, intimate stories put to music, including all the “genres” that inspire me in the moment. I will also use my time in France to ameliorate my French and my accent when speaking French.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
If those in power encouraged more of a sense of responsibility towards others and the planet, instead of encouraging everyone to fend for themselves where earning money is the ultimate goal. This will in turn trickle down to the people if it starts from the top. In addition, the arts are what separates humans from animals. It brings us beyond our instincts and gives us hope and purpose. We should encourage more art in general instead of stifling it. Artists shouldn’t have to struggle so hard to create. What would we all do if no artists created again?
What’s your purpose?
To do what I love and inspire others to do so as well, all while making sure my daughter is happy and knows she’s number one for mommy.
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