Tess Dunn Interview

Tess Dunn is an upcoming artist with an inspiring story. A young woman Tess is a gifted songwriter with a huge sound and incredible voice. You can find more out about Tess on http://www.tessdunn.com . Tess recently took the time to do an interview with us, and we are very grateful. Here it is.

Rescue Music Entertainment (RME)– First things first, what inspired you to get into music?


Tess Dunn- I started playing piano at 5 because I loved hearing my mom play. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote my first song, but swore I would never sing because people made fun of my voice. When I was 13, though, I realized that only I knew how I wanted my songs to be played/sung, so I started singing. I love writing music because it’s an amazing outlet for me. I can write and just clear my head, work things out, etc. I also think meeting Nina Storey was a huge component of my getting into music. I saw her play at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival and wanted to meet her. Bill Welch, who runs the festival, is like an uncle to me, and he introduced Nina to me. She’s been a mentor ever since.

RME- For your fans, many people see you as inspiration because of you battling through your illnesses. How have your illnesses affected the music you write?


Tess Dunn- I don’t write about my illnesses, but I think that having all of them adds depth and dark undertones to my music. I have a rasp in my voice, though, caused by the cystic fibrosis.

RME- Have they affected you as far as giving you the courage to be on stage. Or just with being comfortable with who you are?


Tess Dunn– They haven’t affected me at all when it comes to being on stage. It’s funny, I’m actually a REALLY shy person, but when you see me onstage, you would never be able to tell. I’m more comfortable onstage than I am in a room with people I don’t know! In terms of being who I am… I’ve always had a very strong sense of self. And I had to grow into the person I am a bit quicker so I could stay on track with and take care of all my illnesses. But now that I’m 17… it’s not that I’m suddenly changing, but I’m looking into the things I believe in and stand for and figuring it all out.

RME- When you write do you have any writing rituals or recording rituals?
Tess Dunn- I don’t! I don’t have any place I go to write, I don’t have any things I say to myself or do before recording…. I just write lyrics/music when it comes to me and warm up. Maybe I’ll start some rituals….

RME- So your new EP is about to come out, how excited are you?


Tess Dunn- SO EXCITED. I am so so so proud of Honesty Box. Every single song sounds even more amazing than I imagined, and I have Ari Shine and Noah Shain to thank for that. Recording it with them was beyond fun – we make such a good team. In terms of the songs’ topics, each has its own meaning that’s close to my heart. Not that Darling Just Walk wasn’t like that, but I’ve experienced more things and grown as a person in the past three years, so these songs are especially close. And every song, with the exception of Before You Go, is autobiographical.

RME- How long did it take you to write it?
Tess Dunn- There are six songs, and I wrote them over the course of almost two years. The Year of Discovery is the oldest one, I wrote it in January of 2010. Let It Go is the most recent, I wrote it last October. Shame to See, which is the only song out right now, was written about a year ago (Fun fact: Before recording with Ari and Noah, I presented them with three songs to choose from. The other two songs I had written at least a year prior – Shame to See was written only a week before. And it won!) The great thing about having recorded with Noah and Ari, though, is that every song sounds brand new now that they’ve worked on them. I should add that I’ve written a lot of songs that I perform regularly but that did not make it on this EP. There wasn’t enough time. Maybe the next one?

RME- Do you think it’s your best music yet?


Tess Dunn– YES.

RME-  What really influenced this upcoming release for you?
Tess Dunn- I’ll start with the term Honesty Box. On Facebook, as I’m sure you know, there’s an application called Honesty Box. You can write in people’s “boxes” anonymously. It’s supposed to be used to ask questions, but everybody abuses it and uses it to send hate instead. So Honesty Box represents my album – I’m expressing pure honesty through my songs. It’s just a little reversed – instead of saying things to people and being anonymous, I, Tess Dunn, am saying things to people, but they’re anonymous. It’s a power position! In terms of content, half of the songs are about love. The other half are a mix. Like The Year of Discovery, for example. It’s the only happy song on the record, and it’s about being happier than you’ve ever been! A bunch of things influenced me, and led to the creation of this EP.

RME- For you, what’s it like performing on stage?


Tess Dunn- It’s the best feeling in the world. I know I said that writing a song is the best feeling in the world, but it’s a tough call. I love performing. I’ve been dancing for 12 years, so I was technically onstage eight years before I started singing. Being in front of a crowd gives you the biggest adrenaline rush. Whether they like it or not, those people are listening to you, and knowing that they’re listening is such a thrill! I perform acoustically, but I have the most fun when I’m performing with my band. I have four guys up on stage with me, so I have to be tough and hold my own – all five feet of me (yep, I’m super short. And I love it!). So far, my favorite performances have been at the Vans Warped Tour – I’ve played on it three years consecutively at the Bay Area date. For me, the hardest part of being onstage is the talking. I can sing my songs and rock the keyboard/keytar, but talking has always been hard. Am I talking too much? Am I talking too little? What do I say? I’m getting better at it now (I better be), but I still get nervous when the music’s done and it’s just me talking. But overall, being onstage is the greatest.
RME- If you had to pick one of the three what’s your favorite; writing & recording? Touring? Or Shooting music videos?


Tess Dunn– Oh boy. I’ll have to say….. argh! This is tough. I think it’s writing and recording though. Nothing is better than feeling like you’ve written an amazing song, and I love being in the studio more than anything. And without the songs, then there wouldn’t be touring or music videos… so writing and recording it is!

RME- How many times have you made it out East?


Tess Dunn- NEVER! The farthest I’ve been is Florida! And I was only there for two days, mostly in the hotel. It was for a Novartis event (they’re a pharmaceutical company that manufactures a medication used by many people with CF. They actually funded the Breathe Song Event http://www.cfvoice.com/info/breathe/index.jsp and the follow up is this: http://www.cfvoice.com/info/where-are-they-now/tess-now.jsp. But I want to go!

RME- Well then can we expect to see you out East in the near future?
Tess Dunn- I don’t know – soon, hopefully! I’m hoping Honesty Box will take me places – figuratively and literally.

RME– We hope so too! So in the spirit of that, why should we buy your new EP? (Best sales pitch haha!)


Tess Dunn- Hooray for sales pitches! I think you should buy Honesty Box because you will be able to identify with at least one song on it, and find the rest catchy! Haha. On a serious note, you should buy it because, in my opinion, you can relate to it. Everybody’s been heartbroken, everybody’s missed someone at some point, everybody’s felt like they’re floating on air. The emotions that these songs depict are all very strong emotions, ones that people will feel at one point or another in their lives. And I think that being able to relate to something makes you feel as if you’re not alone. Not to get all cheesy, but I love hearing my songs have helped someone move through something, or that they’re going through a hard situation and my song’s helping, or just that they can identify with my songs. And knowing that makes me feel like I’m not alone, either. That was a really long sales pitch. But most of it was an explanation, so I don’t feel too bad.

RME- Tess I just want to say I got really into music in middle school. It was an outlet and an escape for myself. Though being a musician did not pan out for me, Rescue Music Entertainment has now become my escape. You truly are an inspiration. The songs you write are so advanced and elegant for a person your age, and your story is truly an amazing one. We wish you the best of luck, and when you do make it out East we’d love to meet up and do another interview. Good luck on your upcoming release, “Honesty Box”. For all of you out there make sure to check out Tess Dunn at www.tessdunn.com. Tess thank you so much for doing this interview with us, we appreciate it so much.

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