In The Mix: Dana Williams Moves Mountains With Generational Voice

In The Mix is a recurring series from Stem that spotlights some of our favorite artists. This is Dana Williams.

You already know the girl with the golden voice. Her name might elude immediate recall, dodging the tip of your tongue, but Dana Williams has already gone national. Chances are she’ll do it again. It might seem odd to say Williams’ story has only just begun, given the laundry list of accomplishments—Rising Star alum, Apple ad centerpiece, major motion picture soundtracker. However, early career accolades have sparked, rather than spawned from, audience development, and an electric buzz orbits her long-term potential.

The daughter of late guitarist David Williams, Dana grew up around stars like Michael Jackson, who worked with her father for decades. Towering icons filled her childhood as casually as Sunday cartoons. In awe of music’s capacity to transcend space and time—the way in which it forms connective tissue between performer and listener—she followed in her dad’s footsteps. Day by day, vocals sharpened, skills diversified. 10,000 hours led to the effortlessness we perceive in her songs today. Some artists defy time and sound like forever. That’s Dana Williams in a nutshell.

To date, the LA-born, NY-raised singer-songwriter-instrumentalist has specialized in jazz-informed R&B. Her best songs tackle love’s inevitable end (“Oh No No”) and the palpable absence of long-gone romance (“There You Go”). Her lyrics carry the subtle sadness of a faded photograph. Her voice could make an arena tour feel like one-on-one conversation. From her film work to her viral covers to her own songs, Williams handles universal themes with grace and precision. (The lyric, “Should we stop before we start to avoid a broken heart,” exemplifies as much.) Yet there’s more to this prodigy than love songs and pretty chords.

“Sunny Day,” Dana’s newest release, digs deeper into the watchful, thoughtful mind of a poetic artist who counts David Lynch among her favorite directors. She dissects Los Angeles—the good and the bad—in three minutes. As birds chirp in the background, the proverbial white picket fence practically visible, Williams prods at the devil’s resident city and the cruel irony of endless sunshine in a place filled with depression and struggle. The song, dark undertones and all, ironically points to a bright future. Continue scrolling to learn more about Stem artist Dana Williams.

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Photo of Dana Williams, by Rhedd Morton Jankel

Dana Williams On: Her Dad’s Impact

I think I always knew I wanted to make music. When I was little, it was always something I did with my dad. Even in middle school, he’s write a track in the studio, bring it home, and ask me to write a topline to it. Two verses and a chorus and a bridge. He’d tell me the chorus should express the song’s overall meaning. We’d always do that together. So I guess there was no pivotal moment where I knew because I was always involved in it. He passed away when I was in college. I was 20 or so.

Advice She Still Treasures

A lot of people have said this to me, not just one, but consistency is so important. That’s why I started releasing a song a month, last July. I think consistency is really important because your audience knows there’s something to look forward to. That’s why I did YouTube covers every week. I try my hardest to do that. One thing my dad always said to me, also, was, “Play every show like it’s your last. You never know who’s watching, and it might be.” So whether it’s five people or 500, you have to give it your all. I think that’s a really good attitude to have with anything. Just give it your all.

The Pursuit of [Independence]

Stem has been such a great resource for me as an independent artist and my collaborators.  Not having to worry about accounting and payments has been a dream. It really helps me focus on the music.

Charting Her Own Course

I’m excited to grow by showing another dimension of myself. A lot of my songs have been about heartbreak and love and so much more goes on in my life that I’ve normally avoided talking about. Heartbreak is just a thing everyone knows about, and it’s easy for me to talk about it, but I want to express more than that. It’ll be cool to show another side of myself.

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Listen to Dana’s In The Mix playlist for songs from Ella Fitzgerald, Radiohead, Elliott Smith and other all-time greats. Stream her new single “Sunny Day” right here.

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