Staying Power – Lisa Danaë Tackles Challenging Internal Terrain on ‘Focus on Me’ Single

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Lisa Danaë surmounts unexpected personal peaks and valleys on “Focus on Me.” Photo – Sam Scarce

Lisa Danaë beautifully carves a refreshing pathway to self-love and personal empowerment.

The Pasadena, California dark pop artist quickly surmounts unexpected peaks and valleys along challenging internal terrain on her latest single, “Focus on Me.”

Throughout “Focus on Me,” pulsating synths, exuberant bass and hopeful electronic drums push Danaë toward a courageous, rewarding future.

She boldly sings, “I’m feeling mesmerized/I don’t know just why/But can’t look away/I need to control my mind/Have so much to say/I won’t be afraid.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Danaë about her uplifting new single, current releases, background and plans for 2022.

Focus on Me

TSS: “Focus on Me” highlights the importance of being your best authentic self, having a positive mindset and staying true to your dreams. How did those experiences inspire the track for you?

LD: I have been on this journey of self-love and empowerment for the past couple years as I navigated through a huge breakup and dealt with executives in the music industry telling me how to dress, what to sing, etc. I got really tired of non-industry people telling me that a career in music was unattainable, so I started cutting them out over time.

Self-love isn’t something that you achieve and then you’re done, like you will always be in that mindset. It’s a constant roller coaster, but learning how to control it and knowing how to overcome a slump without getting stuck too far in that rabbit hole is the lesson and key to staying there.

You hear that in “Focus On Me,” lyrically and musically. I know that I am great and have purpose, but I’m telling you the story of what makes me forget all of that as well as what snaps me back and the affirmation-like chorus that pulls me out of the dark.

I know how relatable this topic is, and it’s inevitable that you will not lose track of yourself. I hope “Focus On Me” encourages listeners to take time to study their mind and explore methods that can help them get back on track to focus on themselves.

TSS: How and when did you come to work with John Frame as producer on “Focus on Me?” How did he help shape the track? 

LD: I was introduced to John Frame through my co-writer, a girl named jaen. They met through the synch community, and I heard a song that they collaborated on and was really impressed with his production.

We all got on a call and discussed the production references that we had for this one, but I still wanted to make sure it was within the Lisa Danaë sound that I’ve worked on over the past couple years. That warped, moving bassline was very important to me, and I remember he sent over the first production demo with that bass and the vocoded pre-chorus.

It was more than I could imagine and the use of vocoders in the pre-chorus was such a great surprise. We mainly worked through texting and voice memos as we’re all in different locations. We jumped on a FaceTime probably halfway through production to solidify every section.

John is so talented, and I loved working on this one with him and hope to work on more with him in the near future. I was planning to film a music video, but I want to finish up the EP before I decide which song(s) to create visuals for.

Current Releases 

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Lisa Danaë revisits internal growth on “Starlet” and “Press Reset.” Photo – Josh Suguitan

TSS: You recently released an “Audiocrisp Remix” of “Starlet” with Brian Ireland. How did that remix help take “Starlet” to a new dancey stratosphere?

LD: I’ve known about Brian’s work since last year. He’s in the synch community and has worked with my co-writer, a girl named jaen, on briefs for TV/film. He is also a DJ in Toronto and his production company is called Audiocrisp.

I really loved what they were creating together, and I was looking for someone to remix “Starlet.” I sent him a few of my songs, and “Starlet” really spoke to him. He had an idea to take it more toward a drum-and-bass jungle-type of EDM production.

I’ve never had a dance remix of my songs before, so I was really looking forward to what he would come up with. He sent over some production references, so I could get an idea of the direction he was envisioning. I remember getting the first draft, and there was this cool bendy effect on the word “say” that I immediately fell in love with. Everything pretty much made it to the final mix!

TSS: Earlier this year, you dropped “Press Reset.” How did you come to meet and work with Alex Bochel on that track?

LD: I met Alex Bochel through a fellow artist, Kat Somers. He was looking to collaborate with artists to topline his tracks. I introduced myself in 2019, but we didn’t work on anything then.

In early fall 2020, Alex reached out to me because he had a track where he felt my voice would be a perfect fit. I took a listen and fell in love with the light, video game-inspired sound! It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say. I also don’t normally topline, so that’s something that I was trying to figure out as far as where to take the melody.

TSS: How did the challenges of the past inspire the need for a fresh start on “Press Reset?”

LD: Last year, I helped my dad move from California to North Carolina, and with everything going on throughout the pandemic, I was feeling really stagnant even though I had a lot of things happening (“Starlet” music video release and “Weigh Me Down” was in the visual stages, etc.).

While my dad and I were driving, I kept playing Alex’s track and started seeing a video game in my head, more specifically a Super Mario Bros-style game. I also thought about how you can’t go backward, and no matter what you encounter, good or bad, you’re forced to keep moving forward on the same path.

Also at that time, I kept hearing how people were using the pandemic as a way to reset their lives by either figuring out their passions and applying that to their careers, or learning old/new hobbies that they love to help balance, which was very relatable to my pandemic life.

As hard as the pandemic was and still is, it was inspiring to see how many of my peers took advantage of this time to self-reflect and realize that there’s more to life than just chasing after money, (especially when you’re in a career you hate), and deciding to take that leap to make a better life for yourself.

I really wanted to write lyrics using gaming terms as reflected in the production, so I had to figure out ways to use them without making it cheesy. I sent it over to Alex to see how he felt about it, and he picked up on the message right away and loved the use of gaming terms. I got his stamp of approval to record the vocals. We never discussed a video, but I would love to turn this into an animated video!

Background

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Lisa Danaë credits Christina Augilera and Britney Spears as her musical influences. Photo – Chris Rodarte

TSS: How did you get involved in music while growing up in Ladera Ranch, California?

LD: My love for music came from my parents. They both have an appreciation for various genres and use music as an outlet to express their emotions. I was exposed to music at a very young age and was taught to be well-rounded when it comes to your knowledge of music.

I started singing when I was a child and would line up my stuffed animals in front of the TV while I stood on the couch and performed for them. I didn’t start writing songs until I got older. I participated in many extracurricular activities, like piano, violin, dance, choir, musical theater, figure skating and more.

TSS: How have Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears inspired you along the way?

LD: Christina was able to take control of the direction of her music with her Stripped album, which was almost unheard of in the early 2000s. Britney was heavily involved in the creative process, especially visually.

Not only were they both talented, but their hard work and dedication was motivational to me. I always knew I wanted to create infectious pop melodies and be an international superstar, so I looked up to these women and will never stop looking up to them.

TSS: How did your musical journey lead you to write, record and release “My Way” in 2013?

LD: As I got older, my musical taste started to drift from mainstream pop, and I was experimenting with different genres. “My Way” was the first pop song I wrote. I met producer Nico Hartikainen through my then-boyfriend, Duck Leary, and collaborated with them on this one.

It was my first experience with a producer who really cared about me being involved and wanted me to have input with the sound. I don’t remember too much about the process or what inspired the production other than it was a very collaborative experience.

We built a basic structure, and then I took it home and worked on some lyrics and a melody with Duck before we went back in the studio. We finished the chorus in the studio, and we played with the line “You only live twice,” but we scratched that and somehow got to “My Way” because Drake and Lil Wayne released “The Motto.” It has the infamous line, “You only live once/That’s the motto.”

Overall, “My Way” turned out to be an electro pop song where I wanted people to just let go, especially from the daily 9-5 grind. (I wanted to) give them something that would inspire them to do things that they’re passionate about and focus on the longevity of their happiness.

TSS: In 2016, you released your first EP, Patience. The project addresses themes of love, relationships, dreams, persistence, growth and reflection. Did you intentionally weave those themes throughout those six tracks to share your personal experiences?

LD: I would love to give myself credit with putting together those themes intentionally. But if I’m being transparent, back then I was just writing, and people were telling me that I could slap it together and call it an EP. I wrote about my relationship then and the beginning stages of falling in love, but also about feeling stuck in the (same) relationship.

It wasn’t until I had all of the songs done when I realized there was a common theme in all of these lyrics, which brought me to call it Patience. I’ve always struggled with being patient, and it’s a word that my grandpa lived by (the others being “persistence” and “perseverance”). It did sum up what I was learning and striving for while putting this project together.

Plans for 2022 

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Lisa Danaë is working on a new EP, which will drop in 2022. Photo – Chris Rodarte

TSS: How did you come to start your “Sound Scrub” podcast in 2019? What plans do you have for your podcast for season four?

LD: I was inspired by my own creation process in the studio in 2018 with producer John McLucas and my co-writer, a girl named jaen, and how we would bring my songs to life. Being in the studio every day and watching how we would create certain sounds with everyday items was cool to me.

I just thought it would be awesome to talk about, so “Sound Scrub” started out being about my songs and breaking those down from start to finish on my YouTube channel. Eventually, I thought it would be cool to start a series where I could bring my fellow independent artists to learn about their process.

Everyone has their own way of songwriting, and I think it was a girl named jaen who encouraged me to turn it into a podcast. As I continue my show, I’ve thought about bringing people in the music industry, like music industry supervisors. They could break down their process of how they find the right song to fit the scene.

I’ve also thought about bringing on choreographers to learn how they piece dances together to music. I’m constantly thinking about ways to expand the series to those who share a love of music and songwriting.

TSS: What plans do you have for writing, recording and releasing additional new material later this year and into 2022?

LD: I’m currently writing the last couple of songs for my EP, which I plan to release in 2022. It will feature “Starlet,” “Weigh Me Down,” “Focus on Me” and four new unreleased songs. I’m looking forward to sharing this collection as each song reflects my life presently rather than how I’ve pulled inspiration from past relationships.

It will feature themes of empowerment, change, grief, new beginnings, happiness and loss. This is a new chapter of my life, and I can’t wait to share that with everyone.

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