Del Amina: On Love, Music, and Finding Your Voice
Conversation Beverage of Choice: A Cappuccino - Crema
Del-Amina is this beautifully gentle human with a passion for love and music. She can currently be found mesmerizing audiences around Nashville with her original Jazz, Soul, and R&B songs.
Friends, If you enjoy being inspired, read on:
The conversation began with a simple question...
Start by telling everyone...who are you?
I like to describe myself as...a lover. A lover of love and life and beautiful things. And I consider myself a writer. I was writing before I wrote music. I was writing poetry and essays and short stories...fun stuff like that. And I've always liked to sing, but I haven't always written music. I started writing music when I was 22, and then I didn't write the next song for maybe five or six years after that. So most of the songs I've written are from the last four years or so.
I had gotten married one time, and divorced soon after that, but I was really young. I got married when I was twenty-one. It seems like a lifetime ago... But I remember one time, he told me I couldn't sing. So I stopped singing. And that was a big thing because I haven't always been a person who really cares a lot about what people think, but specific people...
my eighth grade yearbook says, when they ask you what you want to do when you grow up...I said I want to be a pediatrician, I want to be a professional singer, and a cosmetologist. I've always wanted to be a singer, and when he told me I couldn't sing I stopped singing. I wouldn't sing for anything or anybody.
How long did that last?
But when I left that relationship I started going back to school for degrees in music. My first one was in composition, but I started as a vocal performance major... I dropped out when I got married. When I went back to school I said 'Okay, I can do this music thing,' and the first song I ever wrote was a song about music and it was basically saying that I'm back to my love for music.
I never would have guessed you stopped singing, based off of seeing you perform live, you were just...in it.
Yeah I guess I started singing live a year ago. Actually, coming to Nashville. I didn't come to be a singer... I came for grad school and my degree in classical composition... I didn't think I was coming to do music but it just happened. And I LOVE it! I don't want to stop! I want to keep doing it!
When you sit down to write, what do you do first?
It depends, but most of my songs I write at the same time. So...lyrics, melody and chords are all at the same time. I do have one song where the goal was to write in a different meter. It's on the EP. It's called "Solitude." But most of my songs don't happen with themes in my head. ...I think that if I feel any strong emotion, it makes me want to write.
So, you have an EP out, what is it titled?
I do. 'This Moment the EP.'
And when was that released?
August 23, last year. It's not been a year yet.
Writing and recording it, what do you think your biggest challenge was?
My biggest challenge was sounding like me. Because I worked with a co-producer, and other musicians...and anytime you work in a collaborative group, the musicians will play what you ask them to play when you give them charts, but they're still bringing pieces of themselves to it. My biggest challenge was trying to figure out: How much lee-way am I giving? And does this still sound like me?
And at the end, I don't feel like it completely sounded like me, but my challenge was accepting it. ...The EP is called 'This Moment the EP,' So I like acknowledging that as a moment and letting it be beautiful for what it was. And I love the EP. I think it's great and everybody's voice was very clear, but I feel like mine wasn't as clear, so my biggest challenge was being able to collaborate without losing my voice.
What projects are you working on right now?
This is a difficult one, because I can play the piano well enough to put my ideas down. However, I'm gonna experiment and just do this one all myself. It's gonna be completely self-produced and for the bulk of it, I'll be playing everything too. I'm excited and nervous! I feel like when I put this project out, it's gonna sound like me, and that's important.
What's it gonna be called?
Well, I was listening to a podcast that was talking about digital things and she said that right now we're experiencing time in two different ways and one of them is 'The Digital Now.' I said 'Hmm,' interesting...just the way she described it. BUT, then I listened to another podcast, both TED Radio Hour, favorite podcast. And this guy was talking about how time is a construct, and that there is not time, there's just 'The Eternal Now.' So then I'm like, "I like that even better!" Cause I'm really infatuated with time...I'm playing with those two ideas.
Where do you hope to be in a year with your music?
This new project...I'm hoping to be done in a year and go do a little tour. Cause I haven't been doing any touring on my own. And I really hope I can be making at least sixty percent of my income from my music. I would like to ultimately be completely self-employed so I can have the flexibility to move through the world like I want to. I work in a hotel now, and I'm grateful that they give me the freedom to go play shows if I request off with enough time, but if I want to tour for a month...I want to know that when I come back I can still live.
Hopefully with my music, next year, I will be touring, I will have released this project...I don't know if it's gonna be an EP or a full-length album yet, but I do hope to have something next year to tour off of.
So I did the math, you're 32. Do you feel that beginning this journey in your early thirties gives you an advantage over someone who is, say, 21?
I think that my advantage is, that being older, I've seen really low lows and really high highs...so even if I fall down right now, I know that I'm gonna be back up. I've experienced all of that.
When people tell you no, you can take that personally. If someone doesn't like your music, you can take that personally. And I have. I stopped singing for ten years cause someone I cared about told me I couldn't sing! But when you get to a point later on in life, when you're more assured of yourself and you also have learned to surround yourself with affirming people, you learn to move through the world in a different way...some of those things roll off.
I think that if I tried to do what I'm doing now, five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do it because I still get as nervous as I ever have. But five years ago, that would have stopped me from doing it...I would have been like 'I'm not doing it. I'm not good enough.' ...I wouldn't be this far and it just has to do with experience and maturity.
Do you have any advice to people who are just starting their songwriting journey?
Yeah! Just do it. I write what I want to write, and it resonates with people. I think it's important to find your voice, know what you want to say, and say that. And people are not going to like some of the things you say and it's okay. We censor ourselves a lot, as a society. We do it because we have to live in a society. But I feel like the only place where I don't have to live by those rules is in my music. You can turn it off or not listen if you don't want to hear it. I just write what I want to say and feel. I don't want up-and-coming songwriters to think that there's just one formula. ...So live your life and don't ask for permission. Just do it.