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Madison-based singer and songwriter, Dana Perry, is a one-woman acoustic band who shares her music with strangers in Midwestern coffee houses regardless of the weather outside. With just a guitar, her voice and the tap of her foot on the floor, or the slap of her hand against the wood grain of her guitar, Perry delivers stripped down, soul-baring folk songs that cut through the mundane buzz of everyday humdrum life. Perry's music, while planted firmly in folk soil, isn't about protesting against any particular governmental action. Instead, her songs grow out of her own campaigns in the personal politics of relationships and all our struggles to remain sane in an increasingly insane world.
In 2013, Perry arrived in the university town of Madison, Wisconsin by way of the university town of Macomb, Illinois. Located on the east fork of the La Moine River, Macomb is home to Western Illinois University where Perry spent three years studying music. Singing operas and Italian arias wasn’t quite doing it for her creatively, however. The desire to make her own music compelled Perry to quit the music program and concentrate on writing and performing her own songs. Perry stayed in Macomb for seven more years gigging in and around town, often as one half of the acoustic guitar duo known as Jill and Dana. It was hercounterpart in that project, Jill Miller, who became a mentor as well as a friend and collaborator. Miller taught Perry a lot about music and helped influence her percussive style of guitar playing where the hollow body of the instrument is played like a hand drum along with the strings. Miller also introduced Perry to the music of Ani DiFranco whose staccato guitar style and pointed, socially aware lyrics appealed to her. Perry had grown up listening to her parents’ record collection which was heavy on great rock blues players like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King. She also loved strong female singers like Alanis Morissette and Aretha Franklin. Mix that with DiFranco and 90s country acts like The Judds and Garth Brooks, and you have a sometimes gritty, sometimes delicate folk and country sound with a fiercely independent streak running right through it all.
Perry recorded the 18 tracks of her 2009 debut album, Here,Try This in her mobile studio. The songs on the album are personal expressions of highs and lows and shades of light and dark. “I look at the whole album itself as a personal documentation of a journey I didn't realize I was on at the time,” Perry says about the record. “If you listen to it straight through, you can hear a journey happening and things get really light and positive by the end of the album.”
Perry plans to stay in Madison, at least for now. Madison audiences have been receptive to her music which has already started to open a few doors around town. As Perry says, “Coming from a smaller town, playing mostly bar gigs and such, most of the time people want to hear songs they know. I've noticed that original music is very much celebrated here.”
So Dana Perry will continue playing her music live in coffee houses and bars and any place that will have her. All she asks for is an open mic, maybe a tip jar and an audience who will lend her songs and her voice a receptive ear. Once her mobile studio is up and running again she’ll take her one woman show on the road to play and record (hopefully in all 50 States) and gather new life experiences to draw upon for future songs and the cycle will continue.
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