Josie Dunne: Creating an Alternate World in Music, "Last Day" with Two Friends, & Pop Influences
By: Ezzah Rafique | Transcribed by: Isabel Elise | February 13, 2021
Born in Chicago and raised in Nashville, Josie Dunne sits down to talk to ORENDA MEDIA about the process of creating her new collaborative song, "Last Day," with Two Friends, what she learned from living in Nashville, how artists like Amy Winehouse and the Old-R&B Soul sound influence her.
Heavily inspired by Motown music, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles, Josie Dunne flawlessly creates a blend of Soul and Pop sound into her artistry. Although born in Chicago, Josie calls Nashville her home since she was 15 when she started taking regular trips to the song-writing city. Through her early experiences in Nashville, Josie learned how to write songs with Nashville songwriters.
Recently, the pop singer worked with Los Angeles-based duo, Two Friends, on their new single, "Last Day."
ORENDA Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Ezzah Rafique, sat down with Josie to talk to her about not only the creative process behind the song but also about creating a distinguishable sound in music, living in Nashville, influences, and performances.
Check out the interview below...
E: How are you doing?
JD: I’m doing good! I’m doing good. I’m in Nashville. I live in Nashville, so I’m just, ya know, hanging here, writing. I just got done with whatever random like meetings and stuff and, uh, after this I’m probably gonna write a song.
JD: That’s like the course of my day!
E: Yeah! I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a little bit. I love your energy and I love your vibes, so I’m really grateful that you’ve been able to take time out to do this.
JD: Thank you! Thank you.
E: I’ll jump right into it! I want to start off by asking, your vibe is primarily geared more towards pop, so, is there a particular goal that you had when you started music that you wanted to do pop, or did you like want to try out different genres?
JD: I think honestly I grew up listening to like a total range of music, but a lot of what my parents just like played around the house because they weren’t like music people. Like nobody in my family was like in the music industry or even was really a music nerd. They were just like normal people, so they just played what was on the radio at the time. You know, as I was growing up, which was like Britney Spears and NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Avril Lavigne, too!
E: Love her!
JD: And so I think, I’ve always found – yeah, love Avril Lavigne! I’ve always like I think because of that found a way to like I just ended up listening to music that was pop music. I think through pop I’ve discovered, and Top 40, I discovered like what I actually, the music that I really love. So like I think with my music it was more just like I wanted to make music that I liked and I think because I liked pop music it turned out poppy. But I think also living in Nashville, which is just such a songwriter town, like it’s so, it’s all about telling the story in the song. I feel like I’ve really had an appreciation for lyrics and storytelling. And so like, that also I feel like is a really big part of like – especially in the last, late teens early twenties, with my last EP, like that was really something that I wanted to focus on. It was like more of a story with lyrics and making sure that that was, you know, equally at the forefront of the songs, than the production.
E: Yeah so, primarily, your career is like in Nashville, right, so like is there a lesson you learned from being in the city? It’s a huge city, known for music and stuff. Is there like a lesson you pulled from the city itself?
JD: Oh my gosh, so, so many lessons like... honestly, a million different ways I could answer this because I feel like I’ve really like grown up in Nashville. Like I started coming down here and I got signed out of Nashville. When I was like really like 15 and 16, that’s when I started taking regular trips down to the city. So like I really learned how to write songs, through writing songs with Nashville songwriters, and like being in the city. So I think the biggest thing I would take out of it is being super authentic to who you are and being super like honest in the story telling. The lyrics really are at the forefront of all the songs here, you know, especially it being such a center for country music, where it’s all about the story. Um, I think that was like the biggest lesson I’ve taken out of living here is like just making sure the lyrics are super, super honest and, you know, you take time on the lyrics ‘cause that’s like to me, that’s the most important part of the song. So, yeah, I think that’s a big thing that the city has taught me.
E: Was there something different with your writing process, or creative process, especially like with COVID and stuff going on that you learned, that you did differently, [or] that you wished you did before?
JD: Yeah, I wish now and being in COVID, I feel like its given me…I’m writing, I’m in the middle of writing an album right now that I’m really excited about. But, it’s been a totally different process than I would’ve thought it would be because a lot of it I’ve had to write alone, so like I’ll you know even if I start a song with a friend over Zoom or whatever like in a distant, socially-distant, safe session, which I’ve only been really writing with one person, in-person. And, um, we will like really most of the time, I’ll take the song and then spend a couple weeks on it just sitting by myself and writing by myself and I think now I’ve learned so much about myself and like the way that I write from doing it alone. Whereas like in the normal world that existed like a year ago…I would be like going into sessions with writers and co-writing all the time and touring too! So you’re like always on the go, always around people, and being influenced by other people like in the way that they see you, like seeing yourself through their eyes, just naturally that’s like I feel like people do. And so this has taught me, this whole pandemic has taught me to like slow down and figure out who I am from my perspective and the way that I word things and the way that I say things, you know. And writing alone as been like the only way to do that. And so, um, a lot of this album that I’m working on right now is from me, in my room, and um, yeah, I think that has been like a huge, huge, uh, learning…I’m continually learning that lesson of like slow down. It’s okay to write by yourself and take your time and like say what you want to say, you know? Instead of just like I’m in a session with somebody and we gotta get the line quick, you know?
E: Yeah, yeah. Was there something like that affected, I know you have like the collaboration with Two Friends Last Day coming out…I think it’ll be out by the time this interview goes up. So, was it different with COVID and everything and like the filming process of everything? Like how is that affected?
JD: Oh my gosh, it was completely different from any song I’ve ever put out. [In] the process of it, we rewrote a lot of the parts and we wrote a lot of the parts, like we wrote the bridge just over Zoom and Facetime and sending each other voice memos over text back-and-forth. Which I’ve never done, I’ve never co-written a song that’s like come out where it’s completely just written over the Internet, like it was really weird. We did the music video apart from each other, too. I was in Nashville and they’d film their part in California. I didn’t even know what the video was going to look like at all. I didn’t even what the overall vibe of the video was going to be before we shot the parts. So, it was a very….we recorded the vocals in this room, on this mic, just in my bedroom over zoom. The whole thing, it was mixed, it was written, the music video was made, the whole kit and kaboodle was done remotely. It was just really weird like, it was fun because they are really fun people so I felt like very collaborative and like we were working on it together. It was a totally different process than I’ve ever done before
E: Do you think you prefer like the process of doing everything remotely compared to like, being in a studio? I mean, obviously, there [are] things to being in a studio that make it like…
JD: there's something about the energy, like in-person working with somebody writing with somebody that's like, so infectious of like just being in the room and being excited about something where you can, like physically feed off of their excitement. But I don’t know it is really cool, because there's, like, there's something really nice about being in your own space, and being able to do it. Like, you know, being able to let just roll out of bed and be like, cut the vocal, you know what I mean? Like, there's something that's really comforting about like, you're just in your own zone. And you can go down to your kitchen and make a sandwich halfway through if you want to, you know, like you're not like at somebody's house or at somebody's studio where there's like just a level of like, you're a guest there. And now it's cool because like, yeah, I can like water my plants and write the song at the same time.
E: I think it's like definitely different compared to like...even just like a year ago, this time around last year, like you wouldn't have expected it to become what it is now, especially with I know you released your EP around this time last year. I know, you probably didn't see this coming, but, how do you plan on like, tour and stuff with this?
JD: I was literally the other two meetings I was in today. We were talking about like live stream events and stuff and I've done a little bit of that, like even especially early on and in quarantine when kind of everybody was doing like the Instagram Live thing, right. And it's super exciting to me the idea of like being able to do, like a live stream that's like super, it's almost like a live music video, you know, like, because it's something that you can film, you can curate kind of every aspect of it and make it look you know, like really cool and different and make it sound really good on like, it would be in like a music venue. And so I think that's really cool. And I'm like, excited to do more of that, especially as new music is coming out. But this year, but yeah, I really miss touring a lot. Like I'm not gonna lie. It's like, hit me this week, a little extra hard. And I've been like going back through my videos and watching stuff from tour last two years ago and whatever. Yeah, I miss it a lot. I'm really, really ready to get back out whenever it's safe and okay to be doing that.
E: Yeah, definitely the same way I feel with like concerts just going to one it's definitely like, the vibe is different, like in-person concerts compared to live stream ones.
E: So, I completely get what you say.
JD: It's cool. Because like, as a fan, I'm like, even me watching my favorite artists. Like it's cool. Because I feel like I can you can connect with people at a different level. Like you just see them in their pajamas or whatever in their room. Like, there's, there's a level of like, casualness that goes on that's really cool with live streams, I think but there's room to be like really creative, you can do it a million different ways, you know. And so I think that's really, really cool and exciting. But I'm excited to get back to like, real live shows, you know?
E: Of course, yeah. I also want to touch a bit on your influences, too. So, was there an artist or like a group that influenced your writing style or your creative process or any of your songs in general?
JD: Yeah, I growing up I realized, like, I love Motown music and like old r&b soul from like, the 60s and 70s. And so I think that that has been this constant influence in artists like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, are like, some of my favorite artists of all time. I also love I think Amy Winehouse like really changed the game for me like listening to her music. Just because her lyrics are like, I keep talking about lyrics, but her lyrics are so so honest, and like raw, and you can tell that they're, you know, really coming from like, from inside of her. And so I think that that was like a huge influence. She also has a really cool way that she blended genres, like, now we're so used to it because everybody genre blends all the time. Everything is like a blend of different things, you know, but back in the day, she was really one of the first people that I feel... she had like, hip hop drums in a song with like jazz guitars, and kind of Motown trumpets. And it was like, it just blended to make this mix of a lot of different things that were like a lot of my favorite genres of music. So I think that even her production is like, super cool to me.
E: I feel like you have like an aesthetic that makes a song recognizable to you.
JD: That makes my day, that is so awesome to hear!
E: I love finding artists who like have a sound to them. Do you think it's important to have a distinguishable sound?
JD: I mean, this gets into like a deeper, like, I'm gonna go deep for a second. But I think the whole role of being an artist is to create this world around, whatever you do. So like, I think Tyler the Creator is like really, really amazing at that. It's like, he has his clothing and the colors that he chooses. And his artwork and his music videos and his sound and lyrics and everything makes you feel like you're in this other aesthetic. And that's always been my goal. That's always been my goal is like, to kind of create this other little world that like people could live in because I don't know, I'm really happy with the way that I see the world like I['m] a really happy person. And to bring a little bit of that to people is like, the most rewarding thing. It's like why I do this, you know, even bigger than like, it's fun to write songs and it's fun to sing and play the guitar. It's like it's fun to make people happy and if my songs can do that and like be this little alternate world for people. That's like the greatest thing.
E: Yeah, so is like looking back now would you like tell your younger self something different or like a piece of advice to like create like, I guess geared more towards like your career process?
JD: Oh, dang, I would say I would say, 'sis you need to write more alone'. And I would say, 'trust your gut'. Like, there's so many things that like, for whatever reason, you're like, Oh, this feels a little inauthentic to who I am or whatever, and you just let it go. And I would just say, like, always stay true to that and fight for what you think is cool, you know, because that's the most important thing is like, if I think it's cool, then maybe other people will think is cool.
E: Right! Yeah, I'm gonna kind of like wrap this up. Is there like a setting yet that you would describe to like people who maybe don't listen to your music, like, kind of a setting that describes what your songs would sound like, like, you know, how people curate, like playlists specifically towards like a mood. Kind of based on that.
JD: What would mine be?
JD: Mine would be like, it's hard to put into words. I have like many Pinterest boards that would do the trick. But I feel like it would be like, it's very colorful, and like pastel colors all around. And I love like mid-century modern vibes. So I think, like, if you can picture like a Wes Anderson movie. And but there's, but I'm wearing glasses and a sweater vest. And people I don't know. And it's happy people are like dancing around and like having a good time. I would say that. I love Wes Anderson. He's the, he's the man.
E: Absolutely. Thank you so much, have a great day!
JD: Yeah, it's so great to meet you. Have a great rest of your day!