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Rock the Garden 8-Ball: Dessa

Bringing the Twin Cities music scene’s definitive earnestness to a national audience, Dessa’s solo work in alternative hip hop is long overdue for a slot at Rock the Garden, where local artists have maintained a crucial presence since its inception. Dessa, though, is no stranger to the festival, performing in 2012 as a part of […]

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Dessa. Photo: Bill Phelps

Bringing the Twin Cities music scene’s definitive earnestness to a national audience, Dessa’s solo work in alternative hip hop is long overdue for a slot at Rock the Garden, where local artists have maintained a crucial presence since its inception. Dessa, though, is no stranger to the festival, performing in 2012 as a part of Doomtree, their set of homegrown hip hop energizing the sold-out crowd like none other in Rock the Garden history. Lately, she has been taking her intensely personal music around the country as a part of her Parts of Speech tour, and on Sunday, June 22, she brings her verses and melodies to the Vineland Place stage. A lover of writing from Seneca to David Foster Wallace, Dessa is an expert wordsmith herself outside of her musical life. This fall saw the release of A Pound of Steam, a poetry chapbook published by Rain Taxi Review of Books, and a visit to the Walker to read her work. Like her poetry, Dessa’s music is both intelligent and viscerally emotive, often getting to the heart through the head. “And for the most part,” she told The Rumpus in an interview, “my songs are about true lived experiences, are true stories.” We sent her an 8-Ball questionnaire, and she took the time to answer some questions about lived experiences both big and small, from working her with fear to being forced to sit through The Deer Hunter

What is your current musical obsession?

Eastern European and Indian scales. I don’t have any foundation in music theory, so I’m sort of freestyling a study regimen, but I love the sounds–dark, melancholic, a little sinister. 

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret you don’t mind sharing?

Maybe not quite a secret, but Sugar, Sugar on Grand Avenue definitely warrants a visit–custom made exotic candies and chocolates. The chocolate bar with lime tortilla chips doesn’t sound like much, but is damn good. 

Write a haiku about your current location.

Nobody should watch

The Deer Hunter on a plane.

Window seat, crying.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of falling short of my creative ambitions–afraid I might reach the limits of my talent, or become too discouraged to make brave, passionate material. Nothing to do but carry on, though. I think a career in the arts often asks a person to learn to coexist comfortably with fear and uncertainty. 

What is your favorite sound?

Human voices, in harmony. (A quarter’s worth of Reese’s pieces in a vending machine might be a close second.) 

Do you think you were anyone specific in a past life?

Nope. Hard enough trying to figure out who I am in this one. 

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Half a dozen little courses: sushi; the melty, smashy sandwiches they serve in Brazil; cashews and avocados. Then a half dozen desserts: peanut butter cups, cake with buttercream frosting, maybe some marzipan. This game is making me both hungry and sad. 

What’s the last (or favorite) book you read?

Just finished Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal. 

Rock the Garden 2014 takes place on Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22. See the full lineup and buy tickets here.