Xenia Dunford: On Lyrics, Licensing, and LA

Dunford had been playing in Cambridge for a while when I met her, and then picked up a journey to the West Coast. I caught up with her to discuss the new album, traveling, music licensing, and songwriting.
Xenia Dunford doesn’t let us off easy with her new album, His & Hers. The melodies are captivating, and they will follow you.
The full length album, following the EP, Lonely Streets, continues the story of Dunford and the band, and gives us more reasons to love her authentic playing style and honest lyrics.
photo cred: anthony papamarkakis

photo cred: anthony papamarkakis

You went to UMass…were you involved in music and the arts while there? What was your focus there?

I’ve bounced around a few universities in my time. I don’t think it was necessarily about finding myself, but finding the courage to accept my path as an artist and commit myself to it wholly. However, my time spent at University of the Arts and Umass Boston really helped shape me as an artist before I ventured out on my own. I was involved with the arts more heavily at Uarts since vocal performance was my major. I was inundated with music, from theory and composition, to performing romantic era operas. It was in Philly during this time that I really began writing and composing my own material. It was an amazing experience, but for the price tag I knew I still wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted. I transferred to UMass Boston and focused on socio-cultural anthropology. It was here that I began hitting the bars and performing my songs. I immediately fell in love and signed my life away. I would’ve stayed at Umass, and hope to one day return, but I thought it’s now or never.

When did you start performing around Boston, and what was one of your most memorable performances from this city?

I started actively performing in Boston in late 2010/early 2011. I was living in Central Sq in Cambridge at the time and it was such an inspiring place for singer/songwriters. There was a big community of artists and venues alike who supported the genre, and it’s still the case in Cambridge. It was a great place for me to start. One of my most memorable performances in Boston was performing at a tiny art gallery in Cambridge called Out of the Blue. The place was packed, and still the owner’s Alaskan malamute roamed freely. It wasn’t anything close to amazing for most people, but I met some of the most talented, inspiring artists that I’m still friends with today. Music is all about community, and don’t you forget it.
I am so glad you mentioned Out of the Blue! It is such a great place to meet new artists, and is such a welcoming experience. Definitely a gem in Cambridge. What spurred you to move to LA?

A man. And the romance that is California. And other things, but mostly those two.

What has been the biggest change for you, performance wise, in LA?

Getting people to my show. Coming from Boston, where everyone is train hopping, bike riding, and walking about town…to LA, the most vast and segregated city I know, was quite a change. If I was playing in Silverlake or East LA, it might as well have been China to those in Santa Monica. And forget about going to West LA during rush hour. Or any time of day for that matter. Whereas on the east coast, in a week’s time you might play a show in Boston, then venture to surrounding NE states, then maybe to New York, and you’re constantly picking up new people in those areas. In LA, you’re constantly playing in LA but always changing your plan on how to get those same people to your shows, and hoping for some newbies, which is a strange and rare thing in Los Angeles. To sum it up, I had some truly amazing shows in LA and some truly shitty ones.

How did your song, “Killing Kind of Love”, end up on the Revenge spot? That was my favorite song of yours when I reviewed your music last December.

Thanks!! As a DIYer in the music industry, making money isn’t and shouldn’t be one’s top priority. However, exposure should be, and if you get paid that’s an added bonus. So I’m always looking for opportunities to get my music heard and luckily people have listened. The Revenge spot was courtesy of one of the licensing companies I work with that pitch my music to film/TV. Every artist should do themselves a favor and submit their music to as many and all licensing companies out there.

Actually, I’ve found a lot of search queries end up on my site from that review, because people are looking for the lyrics to that song! Is there somewhere they can find them?

Yes, the lyrics for that song and all my songs are on my bandcamp page. All you have to do is click the song and the lyrics will pop up. www.xeniadunford.bandcamp.com

How did you come up with the idea for the “Best I’ve Ever Had” video?

Don’t really remember exactly, but I would imagine either in a dream or after drinking a bottle of whiskey! The making of the music video was a labor of love and I couldn’t have done it without all my awesome and talented friends who helped out. It’s a story of a misfit in love. I certainly can identity with Django the mime.

“Home Waits For Me” has a very interesting feel and composition. Was the song catalyzed by your move to LA?

Thank you. It actually took me forever to write that song. I’d pick it up, then put it back down, and that went on for months. I probably would’ve never picked it back up if Forrest, my friend and bass player, hadn’t told me how much he liked it and that I should actually finish it. So I did, and it’s one of my favorite songs. It was indeed reminiscent of my transition to LA, but it’s truly just about the struggle, day in and day out, and staying strong throughout.

Also, here’s a dorky question…and since I don’t have my keyboard next to me and I’m a drummer (not a knack for ear training), what key is that song in? Did you think of the melody and words first, or pick the key, etc?

“Home Waits for Me” is in the key of Ab. I have no rhyme or reason when I write a song. Sometimes it’s the lyrics that wake first, and sometimes it’s a certain progression that’s captivating my ear. If after a while it still sticks, or if the song just happens to write itself, then it is born and alive, and now I’m just the vessel so to speak.

How was the 5th Annual Singer-Songwriter of Cape May?

It was a spectacular weekend. Coming back east to a weekend of friends, family, and music was nothing short of amazing. We played both nights at Congress Hall, the host of the festival, and played to packed rooms every nigh.t The festival was very well put together and efficiently ran, and was a very successful showcase for us. I have wonderful memories.

How did the album title come about for His and Hers?

The title pays homage to my “silent partner”, co-writer and collaborator on the album, Scotty Mlodzinski. This album is ours equally.

What advice do you have for singer/songwriters who are currently gigging around, recording, or trying to get their music placed?
Do what makes you feel fulfilled and happy. Because if you’re not happy your music is probably suffering the most. If you are fulfilled, you should fight to keep it so, because who wants to be empty? 
Check out the new (or all, actually) music here and here!
Xenia Dunford-Vocals & Keys
Scotty Mlodzinski- Guitar
Forrest Pettengill- Bass
Adam Farley – Drums

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