Photo: Anna Hutchison
Have you ever had an experience that was truly transformative? A moment, an event, or a trip to a new place that altered your direction and trajectory forever?
Have you ever been moved by a place depicted in a work of art to the point that you’ve decided to drop everything for a chance to be in that specific place?
Fayetteville artist Dana Louise has. All of those things.
For the painter and former member of the Fayetteville Underground artist collective, it was an image of a sun-soaked lava pool surrounded by wild hydrangeas taken on one of the mid-Atlantic Azores islands that, once she laid eyes on it, changed everything.
Louise started a Kickstarter, raised the money, and planned a seven-week artist residency to paint on the island of Flores in the Azores. While she was there, with plenty of downtime on her hands, she picked up the guitar for the first time since high school.
And that was where some real magic happened.
“While I was there someone showed me some music, and I just felt like I needed to learn it,” she said. “The only instrument around was the guitar. Once I picked it up, I don’t think I put that guitar down again for the rest of my trip.”
Louise spent hours on the island, first learning the shapes of chords that she had seen played countless times as the daughter of Trout Fishing in America’s Ezra Idlet, and then learning to play some of her favorite songs by other artists. Soon, she was picking out her own melodies and writing her own songs.
And what was supposed to be a seven-week painting residency turned into an intensive, seven-month study on songwriting and the guitar.
“By the end of my stay, I think I had three hours worth of material,” she said.
The Glorious Birds Take Flight
Louise had dabbled in music before that. She’d taken piano lessons as a child, picked up the bass guitar for a few months in high school, and become fascinated with the accordion later in life. But it wasn’t until her trip to paint hydrangeas on an exotic island that she truly was bitten by the music bug.
Once back in the states, it wasn’t long before Louise poured herself full-time into music, forming a band a with fellow local musician Jackson Jennings called Air Loom.
The band quickly found success, but after about a year, she and Jennings parted ways musically, and Louise honed her craft as a solo artist for a while.
Recently, she has formed a musical kinship with local vibraphonist and banjo player, Adams Collins.
Collins came highly recommended by Idlet after he’d done some recording work on a Trout Fishing in America recording.
“My dad kept saying, ‘You need to play with this guy,” she said. “So we sat down one day and played together for a while, and we just connected really quickly.”
The two played out quite a bit as a duo for a while, continuing to write songs and hone their connection as musicians.
Not long ago, Louise enlisted the help of Trout Fishing in America bass player Keith Grimwood to play on some tracks on her new album, and her father came on board to add some percussion.
With the veteran players from Trout Fishing in America providing a whole new level to Louise’s music anchoring the rhythm section, The Glorious Birds sound came to life.
All in the family
Louise didn’t fully discover her own musical ability until she was in her 20s, but she comes by it honestly. As mentioned previously, her father Ezra has been touring with renowned duo Trout Fishing in America since before she was born.
Louise said to connect with her father musically brings a whole new layer to their relationship.
“We played Maxine’s last night, and I can just feel him smiling behind me,” she said. “He is an awesome teacher, but he also lets me do my thing.”
Idlet, along with Grimwood and Collins, in addition to their veteran musicianship also bring a uniquely-seasoned perspective to the songwriting and arrangement process.
That, combined with Dana’s fresh approach help to create the band’s uncommon sound.
“Everyone’s coming from a different background, so it’s awesome to rearrange songs with them,” she said. “Everyone is such a professional, and we all want what’s best for the songs. We all love trying to make the songs better.”
Album release party
The band will celebrate the release of their self-titled debut album on Tuesday, May 5 at George’s Majestic Lounge.
The album includes 11 tracks, self described as an “alternately melodious and hard-driving fusion of indie-folk and jazz, with an often unexpected mix of instruments and influences.”
The album, already available for pre-order online, will be released on Idlet and Grimwood’s label, Trout Records.
After the CD release show, the band will hit the road for seven more dates across Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas (full schedule is below).
For more information, or to keep up with Dana and the band’s musical adventures, check out their Facebook page.
Dana Louise and the Glorious Birds Tour Schedule
5/5 – George’s Majestic | Fayetteville, AR – 7 p.m.
5/7 – Poor David’s Pub | Dallas, TX – 8 p.m.
5/8 – Lindberg’s | Springfield, MO – 9:30 p.m.
5/12 – McGonigel’s Mucky Duck | Houston, TX – 7:30 p.m.
5/13 – One2One | Austin, TX – 7 p.m.
5/14 – White Water Tavern | Little Rock, AR – 9:30 p.m.
5/15 – Blue Door (w/TFIA) | Oklahoma City, OK – 8 p.m.
5/16 – Dana Louise @ Will on the Hill Festival – Claremore, OK