Dessa returned to Minnesota State last week for an appearance in the Minnesota Storytellers series.
Minnesota Storytellers is a program in the music department that invites inspirational performers to campus. Music Industry graduate Jada LaFrance opened the show.
Dessa has built a career out of breaking expectations and bending genres. Her musical background includes appearances with the Minnesota Orchestra, concerts at Lollapalooza and Glastonbury and co-compositions for a 100-voice choir. She said performing at these events was “exciting, nervousy and electrifying.”
Even though she is a singer now, Dessa did not start in music. She began as a slam poet. Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition and audience engagement.
“I had aspirations of becoming a writer, and I wasn’t trying to get published. My best friend encouraged me to go to a poetry slam and compete,” said Dessa. “From there, I ended up connecting with musicians in the Twin Cities.”
Some of Dessa’s musical influences are musical artists she grew up listening to around the house. They are a mix of genres and can be heard in her music.
“The songs we had at home are part of my influences, like what was played when I was a little kid. That’s like Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Sade,” said Dessa. “But also, I was listening to Tracy Chapman, and I loved Lauryn Hill too, and she was a super big influence on me.”
Dessa said she hoped everyone who went enjoyed her performance and was able to listen to her lyrics and hear what they needed to hear.
“A lot of the songs that I write are based on true stories, and in some ways, I don’t presuppose that I know exactly what people will get out of them. I write them because they felt like important moments in a human life, which just happens to be mine,” said Dessa. “I think I share those stories hoping that people will know what resonates with their own experiences, but a secular worldview is part of it.”
Dessa encourages those who want to pursue a music career to go for it.
“Even if it’s a really humble setting, go for it. If it’s somebody’s birthday party, do it. Or if it’s an open mic night. Those are both great places to start and then build on from there.”
To learn more about Dessa, you can follow her on Instagram at @dessa, on Twitter at @dessadarling or on her website at https://www.dessawander.com/
Header Photo: Dessa (above) has performed all over the world, from the Minnesota Orchestra, to stages in Glastonbury, to the Lollapalooza festival. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
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