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Josie Dunne: Creating an Alternate World in Music, "Last Day" with Two Friends, & Pop Influences

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."

HAZZE MEDIA 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.

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.

E: Wow!

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…