Recently having been named Best Singer-Songwriter at the Toronto Independent Music Awards, the spotlight is increasingly on Dahlia Fernandes and her new EP Shift, released under the name Dahlia. Although it contains only five songs, Fernandes managed to achieve her goal of crafting an alternative indie-pop record that thematically revolves around love, pain, and hope.
Born in Mumbai and transplanted to Toronto in the late 1990s, Fernandes found her voice as a self-taught pianist in the mold of Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, but it’s her ability to collaborate that stirs the pot on Shift.
Those connections are an outgrowth of Fernandes’ past work as a successful songwriter-for-hire, something she continues to expand upon as part of Toronto production company Eggplant Collective. At the same time, she’ll be focusing on bringing the diverse sounds of Shift to the stage, beginning with a RedPine Music Presents show on Nov. 3 at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern. For more info, go to dahliafernandes.com.
What makes Shift stand apart from your previous work?
This EP involved me having to dig further into my songwriting. Writing from an honest and more vulnerable space started to surface its way through lyrical content and piano riffs. I think the production by Nick Londono, aka Nick Name, glued those ideas beautifully and somehow manages to stitch ballads to up-tempo tunes in his signature production style that makes things sound different.
What songs on the EP do you feel best captures your current musical vision?
“Wash Away” definitely has my soul and vision buried deep within it. I love how minimalistic it is in regards to the writing and presentation. I think it gives you this sense of haunting space. Also, my vocals are even more apparent in the mix, which is my central vision for my next record, hint hint!
What did you learn from the people you collaborated with on Shift?
I have truly been fortunate to have worked with some talented and kind personalities on this record. My producer, Nick Name, carefully crafted this record over two years and taught me that great things cannot be rushed. I am so glad I took his advice. Steve D’Angelo, partner and composer at Eggplant, was very generous with his talent and time. The opportunity to write with him made me so nervous at first, but 30 minutes into our writing session for “Back to the Days” I felt comfortable and away we went! Both Steve and Nick have such an attention to detail—you cannot slip anything “unnecessary” on a track past them. Everything you hear is deliberate and with purpose. Roy Hamilton III and I had worked on writing many songs together, and he taught me just to find freedom when writing—a lesson I took with me as I wrote other songs as well.
And taking this record to the one and only Joao Carvalho for mastering was a glorious day for Nick and myself. When you have put years of work and love into a project, it was so nice to have it mastered by his golden ears. Learning from Joao happens instantly in his presence as I sat there watching him work and listening to his years of wisdom and stories. To hear how much he loved this EP and that he wanted to be a part of it was such an honour.
What's been the most significant change in your life in the past year?
Leaving my corporate job to pursue my full music time was a big change. But giving up the comfort to go after what I love was the best move I made. In pouring my collective efforts into all things music, I have seen so many wins already in such a short period. It’s crazy! My parents, family and friends, have supported me so unconditionally and I am so grateful.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
My fondest musical memories are all family related. If it weren't for my dad playing music from various genres, I would never have the breadth of influences I have today. From hearing my dad and sister perform [Paul Simon’s] “The Boxer” to singing “From a Distance” on stage when I was nine. I also grew up in a boarding school with nuns that taught us a variety of music and singing the alto harmonies in the choir was always fun!