Del Osei-Owusu interviews Shayne Dalva…
Hi Shayne, how are you?
I’m doing pretty well, thank you. I’m happy things are opening up for musicians at least here in US.
Love Is Hot, Love Is Cold was your own composition and very different from your usual style, how did it come about?
Well, even though I am primarily an opera/classical soprano, I’ve always loved many genres of music my entire life. I have collaborated with different musicians and electronic music producers in the past, as a guest singer and co-writer.
You are a singer/songwriter from LA, how did it all begin for you?
I started writing poetry and lyrics when I was a young girl and teenager, but as I was saying in previous question I had only written vocals and not the music. During this long, restricted year, it was just me and my piano. I suppose practicing and experimenting with different sounds and harmonies opened me up to writing songs completely on my own.
What did you listen to growing up?
As a young girl my parents got me into a lot of classic rock, soul, Motown. My Mom went to Woodstock as a teen and my Dad went to Monterey Pop. As I got into my teen years, I was really into Post Punk, alternative and Goth Genres and I realize now more than ever why I was so gravitated to those particular genres. When you think about it, they were heavily influenced by baroque, Classical and classic rock. You can just say I’ve always been a bit of a music nerd, and had very mature tastes in music.
You’re also an opera singer, what’s your favourite piece to sing?
It’s difficult to just say one piece, but currently my favorite aria to sing is: Pace, Pace from the opera Le Forze Del Destino by Giuseppe Verdi. I am actually learning it for an audition I have in London, July 13th (the director really liked my recordings), but quarantine might make me miss it and have to sing for the director after it is lifted.
Your mother worked as an arranger at Motown, and you used to spend a lot of time in the studios, do you have any favourite memories of that time?
Oh, yes indeed I do. I would have to say my first favorite memory I was 6 years old, and my mom brought me with her to Smokey Robinson’s studio. She told him, “My daughter is a really good singer for her age, would you like to hear her sing something?” At the time I didn’t realize what a big deal he was, and literally rolled my eyes like, “Mom, are you really going to make me sing right now?” She told me to sing, “Tomorrow” from Anne into the studio microphone, so I did. Then Smokey looked down at me and said, “You’re going to be a singer when you grow up, little girl.” My other favorite memory is when Sly Stone stayed with us, because my mom was sick of having to stay out in the studio with him sometimes for 48 hours. So, he set up his synthesizer in the guest room next to my bedroom for a couple of weeks. I called him Uncle Sly, and he would always ask me to make him Macaroni and cheese with Tobasco sauce. At the time he was a solo artist, older and trying to make an album with the help of my mom’s arranging skills. Unfortunately, he never released it, but I remember some of the songs and he ended up giving me his synthesizer, so I was always playing around with it in my bedroom. I also had a Pearl Drum kit in my bedroom (went through a drumming phase).
You won a scholarship to study Vocal Arts, under the mentorship of Vladimir Chernov, what was one thing that you learned that surprised you?
Actually, I won a vocal arts scholarship with California State University of Long Beach, and they assigned me to a professor that didn’t give me the technique I needed to succeed and progress as a young opera singer. She had a wobble in her voice as well, but some of her students were quite talented so I thought she would be OK. Then I had a vocal coach named Wendel Raymond Phillips approach me and give me roles in his opera company, Golden West Opera. He told me my professor doesn’t teach breath support properly, and he knew her for many years. Wendel was the caretaker for Nicholas Cage’s mother and we always rehearsed in her house in Hollywood. She was a huge fan of opera and really loved my voice, went to all my performances. I don’t want to go on and on, but let’s just say I studied with one more professor who also owned an opera company and gave me leading roles, but again did not teach a healthy, professional technique to be taken seriously in the professional world. I was approached by Professor and pro singer, Dennis Parnel after he saw me sing The Countess in Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. He told me he enjoyed what I did with the Countess even more than the one he saw at The Met in NYC. I didn’t believe him, but felt super flattered. He then told me Vladimir Chernov had joined the UCLA music staff as a vocal art’s professor, and that I would be a great match to work with him. Vladimir was always booked with students, but after he heard me he told me I had the instrument and musicality to become a world class opera singer, but he would need to start me from the beginning with technique because my previous professors almost caused damage to my voice. I worked with him many years, and I have received a lot of positive feedback about my voice quality and technique by directors and conductors ever since. I teach my vocal students what he taught me, and they are grateful for finding their resonance and stability.
You have stated previously that you miss performing live, what’s been your favourite moment on stage in the past?
Oh my God, OK this is funny instead of serious… but, it truly was my favorite moment. I was singing the role of Brunnhilde in the opera Siegfried (the third opera of the famous Ring Cycle) in San Francisco. If you don’t know about this opera, Siegfried the lead character (Tenor) literally has to sing for HOURS with barely any rest. Brunnhilde is only in the last 25 minutes of the opera when he rescues her from being in a deep sleep for 20 years inside a cave/mountain surrounded by a fire and a dragon. At the end of the opera we are singing a duet, and the tempo is basically at a horse trotting pace (you can even hear the sound of the trotting in that section of the music). At this point the conductor’s shoulder was probably about to fall off (4-hour opera), and the tempo was extremely slow. I was looking at him while he was singing, and having a telepathic moment, like, “you alright mate? This is super slow.” We got through it with laughter inside, acting outside… Afterwards he said to me, “I almost really LAUGHED instead of getting through the music because I read your mind as your eyelashes were batting at me.” Then I said, “I’m sorry, but that horse was dying instead of trotting and I just couldn’t help myself.” We laughed so hard about it, good times.
Your aim is to get into recording music for soundtracks what’s your favourite film soundtrack of all time?
That is a tough one, so I will just say my first favorite soundtrack was Legend by Tangerine Dream. Later on, I got really into Hans Zimmer and my dear friend Paul Anthony Romero.
2020 was a time to reflect. What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I can write my own music, and truly need to become more technically-inclined so I can be as independent as possible. I have become very interested in sound design, and I am trying to accumulate what I need to get a better sound production for my music. It’s just that this past year has been a nightmare, financially for all musicians. That one song I layered on my friend’s MacBook, keyboard and mic, on GarageBand, Grant Skibitzke (pro multi instrumentalist). He also made it all come together since I will not be using GarageBand once I slowly get set up. I’m not satisfied with the sounds, and want more clarity and realism in the instruments, but like you said, “Gotta start somewhere.” Grant did the bassline to Love is Hot, Love is Cold. I am actually getting a keyboard and mic delivered to me tomorrow, so STAY TUNED! 🙂
You are practically a musical chameleon with your collaborations, who would your dream collaboration be with?
Damon Albarn or Thom Yorke.
COVID has affected the creative industry in a big way, what kept you motivated during this time?
Hope for the world opening up again, and the depression that haunted me drove me to write on my piano and create. I never thought I would last this long with such restrictions. I have never gone this long without singing in front of people since I was 4 years old. Teaching my students on video has been very rewarding as well, and now I can teach any one from any part of the world.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been really into Chelsea Wolfe lately, she is beyond brilliant.
You are from California, what are your three favourite things about that state?
Northern Cali Redwoods, mountains, diversity in general. I want to get back to England, more my cup of tea in every way.
What are you looking forward to doing next?
Mixing and layering more of my songs, making better recordings with my new equipment, preparing for opera company auditions, growing my online Vocal mentorship business: Global Vocals Dalva. I mostly just want our freedom back, musicians need the ultimate freedom to be successful and happy.