Nerdy Frames : Interview


Vanessa Daou Latticed Dress

Latticed dress @ S2A, NYC – Photo By Olivia Divecchia

Here is a fantastic woman with a unique voice that has been echoing in my mind (as well as many others from Generation X) since the mid 90s when she released her hits Near the Black Forest and Two to Tango. Her love for Jazz mixed in with her husky vocals, erotic subtext makes her stand out from the offerings of that time period.

Vanessa Daou is back and although that the playing field pertaining to the music industry is different today; she has optimism, clout, experience, wisdom and knowledge as well as self-awareness on how it is now.

She started doing music with her then Husband Peter Daou who was behind engineering and production (also related to novelist Erica Jong who became an close confidant to Vanessa) between the two under the name The Daou.

This led to her working in various other genres, which included house; especially having remixes done by Danny Tenaglia!

Her debut album Zipless was on MCA as well as her follow up Slow to Burn, but during that time a restructuring was occurring unbeknownst to Vanessa who was touring Zipless which led to layoffs at the label, artists dropped from their contracts and that all important creative differences thing that runs rampant in music. Lucky for Vanessa she survived the ordeal thanks in part to her lawyer that implemented a clause to have her maintain creative control and not have her bondage to a 7 record deal contract.

Today she is now an indie artist releasing music on her own and having tastemakers like myself promote her efforts and curating those who didn’t discover her the first time around

In this exclusive interview, we talk to the lovely enchantress herself, now wiser and still beautiful.

NERDY: Hello Ms. Daou and thanks for doing this interview with Nerdy Frames, so I need to ask this. Zipless was your debut release on a major as well as your follow up Slow to Burn and then after that we heard nothing from ya, so what happen?

VANESSA: It’s great to be here, Nerdy.

When Zipless was released, there was a ‘perfect storm’ brewing up at my record label. A company merger was taking place, quietly, behind the scenes. I was on tour with Zipless, and we were on a roll. Then, 6 months into the release, there was a huge shake-up at the label and much of the label staff was fired. Consequently, there was no ‘record label’ to speak of.

Zipless was released in June of ‘95, and by January, I already was in the studio making ‘Slow to Burn”. It was released in the Fall of ‘96. About 3 months into the release of STB, the momentum was great and we were out-pacing Zipless on many fronts. Then, the unforeseeable happened: a complete take-over of the label by Seagrams. With that event, Doug Morris became president of MCA. Let’s just say it was well-known to many that Doug Morris & Bob Krasnow did not share the same ‘philosophies’.

Luckily for me, my lawyer Richard Grabel – brilliant & forward-looking – had negotiated a ‘key man clause’ in my contract (he also wrote in full creative control – and most significantly, vinyl and digital rights. I was able to opt out of my 7 album deal with MCA and leave along with Bob.

After that, I was fully independent.

NERDY: For those that are not in the know, could you give us a brief summation on how you got started in music for our readers?

In 1990, just out of school, my brother introduced me & my then (just wed) husband Peter to his good friend Silvio Tancredi & Frank Mendez at the seminal Fourth Floor & Nu Groove Records. Peter became the in-house musician & engineer, and I would often hang out in the studio during the many all-night sessions. During a session with Victor Simonelli & Lenny Dee, I was asked if I could write and/or sing. I had been in choirs and musicals my whole life, as well as being an avid music collector & listener, and I said, why not!

The song I ended up co-writing & singing (called “It Could Not Happen”) ended up being a bestseller for the label, as well as getting signed by NETWORK UK Records. It caught the attention of Dave Jurman who was a taste-making & progressive A&R executive, then head of Columbia Records Dance department. A showcase and on-the-spot contract would soon follow.

NERDY: We love digging deep into an artist’s writing process so lets ask, where does the idea for a song start for you?

There are many ‘triggers’: a word, a color, a certain kind of light, or connection that I make between things. because it is so fleeting.

My new song ‘Bar D’O’ – produced by DJ Bander– was inspired by my reading about the Tibetan belief in the idea that there is a transitional, in-between or liminal state where the soul lingers, suspended, as it were, after death. A kind of spiritual limbo.

The term ‘BARDO’ made me reflect on the idea of that limbo state as it pertains to ‘falling’ or ‘being’ in love, where one’s emotional ‘self’ becomes lifted, un-grounded.  The word ‘Bardo’ made me think on various levels: of the infamous Bar D’O of ‘90s New York And then, there’s the further layer of reference, Brigitte Bardot.

My new material has a lot to do with Cinema, the roles we (especially as women) play, the ideals we aspire to, and the twin dangers, ‘Beauty’ and ‘Desire’, which Brigitte Bardot represents.

Sound is also a powerful catalyst for me: for a thought, feeling, or emotion. My new song ‘Break Me’, for instance, was initially inspired by a sculpture called ‘Rocket Brain’ by Charles Lindsay

( ). Built from salvaged rocket parts, it emits an electronic blipping and sub-bass sound which had a doleful yet beautiful quality about it. For me, it evoked the sound of a broken heart. A heart ‘breaking’, being ‘broken apart, as a result of Love’s demise or ending, is, essentially, a universal emotion.

NERDY: Do you tend to avoid old songwriting clichés/tropes when coming up with a song?

Luckily, I have an internal warning system, a natural aversion to those default positions that can be – and so often are – easily taken. I can only write about that which interests me, and I’m only interested in things which have some aspect of uniqueness or ‘separate’-ness.

It’s not (only) the action which is taking place that interests me : it’s the residue from that action that fascinates me, the tension and emotional complexity that is created as a result of it. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an affinity for the not-obvious, things which are suggested rather than spoken, shadows that that lurk, hover, and linger in the margins. I’ve always been one to be more interested in weeds than in roses.

Read full interview @ Nerdy Frames

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