Los Angeles-based artist Dana Williams is a breakout star. The singer-songwriter, who is the daughter of musician David Williams, who has worked with Madonna, Stevie Nicks, and Michael Jackson, is beginning to make a name for herself outside of her dad’s lengthy, accomplished sonic shadow.
Lately, Williams has garnered fan after fan and stream after stream, including 10 million YouTube views for her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Her voice is compelling, her style and flare undeniable.
To some, Williams, who prides herself on combining and bending genres from rap to blues, is the next Ella Fitzgerald. To others, she’s simply a talent on the rise. Either way, Williams, who has put out a few songs this year, is clearly here to work and indulge her creativity.
We caught up with the artist to ask her about her newest song and video, “Let Me,” which American Songwriter is exclusively premiering below. We also asked Williams about her talented father, how she first found music and what’s next.
American Songwriter: When did you first find music?
Dana Williams: I come from a musical family, so music was always around. I really enjoyed going to rehearsals with my dad and watching him play live. I also really loved the jazz standards my grandma would sing to me before bed, so I just always felt like it was a part of who I was and who I am.
AS: How did your father, David Williams, and his career, which included working with Madonna, Stevie Nicks, and Michael Jackson, influence you?
DW: My dad’s work definitely inspired me. I saw how happy it made him, while he was rehearsing, recording, and performing, that I felt like it was something I wanted to do as well. It was definitely something we bonded over. He would give me guitar lessons and he would teach me a riff and say, “Okay, practice this and now make it your own.” So I think he gave me the freedom to learn who I was through music and to find my own style.
AS: How did you improve, land on your own style and decide on bridging genres?
DW: I had my dad’s funk, pop music around, and that inspired me, then I had my grandma’s jazz standards that she taught me, in my psyche. I was exposed to a lot of genres, but also I really enjoyed listening to different kinds of music and I think that they just kind of come through when I write. I am so inspired by Carole King and Ella Fitzgerald, and I wouldn’t say I improve, but mostly, as an artist and person, I’m always growing and changing.
AS: You’ve been called a “modern-day Ella Fitzgerald.” Do you like this comparison?
DW: I really appreciate that comparison and am humbled. I think if I can be a fraction of what Ella was, I’ll be happy.
AS: How do you refine, hone, work on your singing voice – especially for the song, “Let Me”?
DW: I sing a lot regularly to keep my voice in practice. I go through phases where I do vocal warmups regularly, but keeping it in practice and also staying hydrated. Drinking water is really important.
AS: Your career is really progressing with lots of streams and attention—what percentage of that is exciting and what percent includes some trepidation?
DW: I appreciate that. It’s important to acknowledge the wins. Being an artist is so fickle, I rarely celebrate myself and my accomplishments. I would say that I experience equal parts excitement and trepidation.
AS: What comes to mind when you think about the future?
DW: I try to live in the moment. I have never been big on planning, but I really look forward to continuing to release music and playing larger venues, and reaching people with my music.
AS: What do you love most about music?
DW: What I love most about music is the feeling it gives you. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. That music makes me feel so happy and so good.