Whoa Dakota, Julia Cannon
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Alanna Royale makes classic-minded R&B and soul music for the modern age. It’s a sound rooted in big melodies, blasts of brass, percussive punch, and old-school grooves. The songs shine a light not only on frontwoman Alanna Quinn-Broadus’ larger-than-life voice, but her songwriting chops, too.
The band formed in Nashville, where Alanna and guitarist Jared Colby relocated after cutting their teeth as working-class musicians in Boston. Once in Tennessee, they teamed up with bassist Gabriel Golden, forming a core lineup that often swells to as many as ten members — including backup vocalists and a two-piece horn section — in concert. Together, the band looked beyond Nashville’s country-filled past and, instead, took inspiration from Motown’s soul, Stax’s funky strut, and rock & roll’s rebellion. Tattooed, brash, and unapologetically unique, they stood out in a town dominated by Americana music, charting a unique course whose highlights have since included an appearance at Bonnaroo, a string of cross-country shows supporting acts like Lee Fields and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and an audience that celebrates the band’s diversity.
On their fourth release, 2018’s So Bad You Can Taste It, Alanna matches the brassy spirit of the band’s previous records — including their full-length debut, ACHILLES — with rare vulnerability. There’s still plenty of soulful stomp here, from the upbeat sweep of the record’s lead single, “I Know,” to the funky fire of “Giving It All Away.” There’s also a more mature, sober look at the demands thrust upon independent artists — or anyone’s who’s willing to chase down an uncertain horizon, no matter how rough the journey may be. With songs that examine the midpoint between desperation and drive, So Bad You Can Taste It is the band’s most genuine work to date.
“There are mountains and valleys to any journey, and this record is about being in the valley,” explains Alanna Quinn-Broadus. “It’s about the low moments. It’s basically the opposite of someone’s Instagram feed, because it’s not a highlights reel. It’s just real.”
Low moments notwithstanding, So Bad You Can Taste It marks a creative high for Alanna Royale, whose members recorded the record’s six songs with producer Kelly Finnegan and engineer Mindy Watts across multiple studios. Joining them were guests like trombonist Nadav Nirenberg — known for his work alongside artists like Wyclef Jean, Breakdown Brass, and Wu Tang — as well as Kirk Donovan, Meggan Utech, and Alexis Saski. Working with this expanded crew, Alanna Royale carved out a song-based sound that targeted not only their audience’s dancing shoes, but their heads and hearts, too. Songs like the powerful, poignant ballad “I Used to Dream” were reworked multiple times, resulting in a record that’s nuanced, heartfelt, and unafraid to show off its own scars.
“The title, So Bad You Can Taste It, says it all,” Alanna explains. “This record is all about the idea of something that’s in front of you, and you can see it and feel it, but it’s just out of reach. That thing can be your sanity or your sobriety or your success. I sometimes think it’s harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel, rather than not seeing any light at all. Once you know the possibility of light is there, you have no option but to go after it. That can be really hard and really dangerous…which makes it really worthwhile to sing about.”
On her first full length album, Patterns, Whoa Dakota (Jesse Ott) spins a web of lush indie pop, graceful melodies and ardent lyrics. Building on 2015’s debut EP, I’m a Liar, the Nashville-based artist expands the sonic landscape on her new LP to an amalgam of electropop and R&B. Rife with raw lyrical honesty and enchanting textures, Whoa Dakota’s sophomore effort, August 17, 2018, is destined to captivate listeners everywhere.
Patterns bounces from 80s-influenced-pop reminiscent of HAIM to indie folk ala Jenny Lewis while artfully maintaining consistency. The debut single “Patterns” serves as a thesis for the entire album: a brazen examination of "self" that grapples with toxic cycles and emotional accountability through layers of pop melodies and powerhouse vocals. The record is as much about self-discovery as it is about creation of self.
“I’m kind of strange.”
Julia Cannon is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter and music producer who is hard to forget. Her soothing, honeyed voice and quirky personality offer a pleasing contrast to the bittersweet honesty of her lyrics: “I like to drink by myself...I like to smoke weed by myself...Feel like I can breathe when there’s no one else...” she sings in Mashed Potatoes.
Julia Cannon was raised in Alaska by a hardworking Filipino mother, in a household Cannon could only describe as “unorthodox.” She developed her wicked sense of humor and offbeat persona early on. As one of only a few people of color in a mostly-white, ultra-conservative community, Julia’s creative voice cemented her identity as a young woman who could not – and would not - be overwritten.
After the successful release of her aptly titled first EP, College Fund, Julia attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she acquired her degree in Contemporary Writing & Production. At Berklee, Julia found a new passion in production and engineering. Although songwriting was her first love, Cannon quickly began producing demos and EP’s for peers to sharpen her skills.
In 2015, Julia wrote, arranged, and produced the EP My Name is Julia, which garnered significant attention with bloggers and local radio stations throughout the US. Tracks such as Mashed Potatoes, Batty, and Tracking have been featured in podcasts and playlists across the US and UK.
In 2016, Julia’s “electronic butt-anthem” (humorously inspired by Bob’s Burgers) called TOUCH! was featured on actress Elizabeth Bank’s website WhoHaHa as a stand-out comedy music video. Directed by (and featuring) fellow Alaskan RJ Fontaine, the music video involved deadpan girl-friends hula-hooping in spandex, gender-bending burlesque performers, Oreo cookies, and “man butts.”
“People do what they think they should do and act how they think they should onstage instead of just having fun and being themselves,” Julia says. “When you’re having fun, the audience has fun. That drives me the most.”
As comically brazen as Touch! may have been, Julia Cannon’s main body of work has matured in tone and depth. In 2017, Cannon released her debut album, Lack of Will. Songs such as Finite Pages, You Wouldn’t Know, and The Talk gave fans a deeply personal glimpse of the multi-talented producer and artist that Julia Cannon is becoming.
“[Lack of Will] just hits me in the chest immediately,” says indie critic Josh Fryfogle. “[Julia’s] voice is so elegant, with effortless control over pristine melodies. Julia’s voice is somehow convincing, like you can trust it...you will be hard-pressed to find music of this caliber on corporate radio.” Written, produced, and recorded by Julia Cannon herself, Lack of Will is her highest acclaimed record to date.
Julia Cannon’s sound has been described as playful and relaxing, but her tone transcends the indie-folk genre to include comedy, classic rock, and jazz influences. Cannon credits her genre-bending style to influences such as Ella Fitzgerald, Paul McCartney, and Paul Simon. Cannon now has a growing fanbase in Nashville, who join an existing community of ardent supporters both at home in Alaska and across the US.
For now, Cannon is focused on performing live shows and recording new singles, two of which are expected to drop in Spring of 2020. For booking inquiries, media links, and more information, visit juliacannonmusic.com.
–written by RJ Fontaine
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