This week it was a pleasure to catch an interview with unique songwriter and artist Christoper Dallman. Following a string of releases, the brand new track So High emerged this past week, so we talk about the new song, Christopher’s journey so far as an artist, and his plans creatively moving forwards. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Christopher – great to chat with you! Congrats on the new single, another beauty. What can you tell us about So High?
Hello! Thank you for chatting. You’ve been so supportive of my new material over the past few months that it was a no-brainer to hit you up for an interview!
And thanks for the kind words. So High is a big shift for me. Even within the landscape of Digital Blue, which in many ways is ABOUT my own shifting landscape, this single is different. It’s really light and breezy and kind of a summer song. So High is the first time I wrote something that not only doesn’t really draw its energy from angst, it’s nearly blissful! It’s about leaning into your own capacity to experience joy.
Is the song directed towards anyone in particular?
In many ways it’s to my husband. He’s been such a light and a healer in my life. We’ve been together 18 years and I’m always learning from his fearlessness and ability to choose happiness.
So High makes it sound like a druggie song – and I’ve certainly been through my druggie times – but it really isn’t. It’s bliss and bliss is like a high.
Your lyrics are all so relatable yet unexpected and fresh. How long have you been writing songs, and where do you think you get this kind of inspiring use of language from?
Wow, thank you. That’s a big compliment. I have been writing songs since I was a kid! When I was 16, I saved up my money to pay for my first studio session. I recorded 5 songs that day, just guitar and vocals. When I was 17, I started playing every Friday night at a coffee shop in the city. A year later I moved to Boston where I was in a band and the year after that I moved to New York City, where I would sing at open mics with my eyes glued shut because I was so nervous.
My mom is very verbal and very creative. I suppose it comes from her. I’ve always responded to strong lyrics and been repelled by shitty ones. Joni Mitchell was big for me for many years. Her writing is unimpeachable. Good lyrics are what’s often missing from pop music. So that’s my mission.
There’s a mellow feel to the song, progressing to brighten up, reminding me a little of the old classic Big City Life. What’s in your mind when crafting a new song – is it to meet an audience’s desires, to create something you yourself want to hear, or to express a certain idea or series of feelings?
It’s rarely to express an idea. Like, I don’t sit down to write about any particular thing. With Digital Blue, I let the music and vibe of each track tell me what to write about. I think that’s why the words on this record are so steeped in the sonic landscape.
The words to this track are simple for sure. They came out quickly and cleanly. The wonder of the song made me feel like I was looking upwards as if to a teacher or healer and the lush keyboards just conjured bliss, so the words flowed in that direction. Years back, when I was in a much darker place, I would look at people who were happy and carefree and wonder what they knew that I didn’t. I figured they must have a secret and it turns out they did.
I actually got a slight Simply Red vibe from the style of this new single. Do you have any influences that might surprise people?
That is so interesting! Now that you mention it, I can hear that too. I LOVED Simply Red when I was a kid. Definitely time to revisit. As far as surprising people, I don’t know! I’m very into Pop music. I went to see Ariana Grande live all by myself last year and loved every second of it. I love Carly Rae Jepson and Troye Sivan. Robyn is a big influence. Madonna up to the Immaculate Collection. Joseph Arthur and James Blake. I don’t sound like any of them, but they’ve all melted together in me to create my sound. But for this song my biggie is probably Shuggie Otis. Inspiration Information is my jam. I listen to lots of different things.
All of your songs so far take on a sort of retro, minimalist electronic set-up. Would you say this is an intentional creative choice, a reflection of influence, or just the style you find yourself drawn to?
Retro for sure. I’m exploring sounds in genres I’ve barely listened to.
Honestly, I just don’t love clutter. And maybe I’m so green as a producer that I don’t know how to clutter with skill just yet. Digital Blue is my first foray into production.
I hadn’t thought about it until the question, but I suppose you’re right. That IS my thing. Before Digital Blue I spent 6 years out of music, and prior to that I was a folksinger. I traveled around with just my guitar and played shows in the US and overseas and only hired a band a handful of times. So, I’m quite used to distilling a song or performance down to its most basic and essential elements and still finding a way for it to shine. I supposed that’s one aspect of my old music that I have carried into this new electronic era.
Also, as far as beats go, minimal is just so much sexier. Beats that leave a little space for tension. I love that.
A personal favorite from you is of course Time Of My Life. It’s the switch to that hook, so simple yet satisfying, unexpectedly poignant. Do you remember how that moment came to you?
Time of My Life was actually only the second song I ever recorded on my own. It’s another case of the vibe of the track I made dictating the lyrical journey of the song. The first line came first “When my faith runs dry and the day grows thin.” The hook came right after. I often sing a melody with gibberish words and from the gibberish emerges one word that feels right and is a diving board from which I launch into the rest of the song. That’s how the verses went for sure, but this was the rare occasion where the hook came out fully intact on the first try. No revision. I don’t believe in God, but it was a holy moment.
Does creativity tend to strike at unexpected times, or can you sit down and make yourself write when you want to?
Well, it depends which sort of phase I’m in. With DIGITAL BLUE, I was really vibing the whole time. I didn’t have another job and spent 12 + hours a day writing and recording and shaping. I just sat down and got to work and the day would go by. I have pretty severe ADHD so to have that kind of focus was wild.
For my next record – which is almost done – I didn’t have that same set up. I was employed again but would still find time to sit down at least once a day to see what would come out. Some days nothing comes, but I always follow through with an idea because something that sounds like shit can turn around with one simple production choice.
What are your plans as an artist – is live performance on the cards, collaboration, writing for film?
I would love to write for film. I’m trying to license some of these new songs. I think they are pretty cinematic despite their minimalism. I have 5 songs in the rough cut of a new independent film. I doubt all 5 will make it, but even if one does, I’ll be so excited. I’ve licensed stuff to MTV and LIFETIME and THE HALLMARK CHANNEL and it’s such a great way to grab new fans.
Collaboration for sure. Of course, I have a celebrity wish list – I’d die to do a track with Robyn. But I’m open to anyone. It would all have to be over email of course, but I’m game.
Live performance, not so much. I did so much of it when I was younger and while it was great in many ways, my anxiety was paralyzing and overcoming that for each show took a great and profound effort. Part of my deal with myself getting back into music is that I am absolutely certain that my life is better without that particular spotlight on me and I’m going to honor that.
I do forsee some performances on YouYube or maybe a livestream. Nothing concrete as of yet. I do have an acoustic version of Time of My Life that I’m tinkering with. Another kid name Jacob Cook did a cover that is just so dreamy that I posted it a month or so back. My acoustic version is very different from his and so different from the original track. That will probably show up sometime soon.
If you could sit down for a chat with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose – and what would you ask them about?
I would sit down with James Baldwin. I’m sure he would have no use for me, but I love his use of language so I would like to talk to him about that. I’d love to have tea with Bjork and Tori Amos and ask them about where their primal musical impulses come from. I’d like to go shopping with Ariana Grande and I’d ask her to pick out all of my clothes. And I want to go dancing with Robyn. We’d vibe. I’m sure of it.
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