Over the past decade, the New Jersey born vocalist/writer/musician/producer (now dividing her time between New Orleans and the mountains of Vermont) has been bestowed with many awards and praises, including being named the Female Songwriter of the Year by the National Academy of Songwriters.
Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt have raved about her in interviews, and she’s performed on such high-profile radio shows as World Cafe, Mountain Stage, NPR’s Morning Edition, and Tell Me More. She’s toured and opened for the likes of Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, Mavis Staples, Rufus Wainwright, B.B. King, Dr. John, Richie Havens, Keren Ann, Chris Whitley, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Festivals that have asked Dayna to perform include the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the French Quarter Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn, Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Roots on the Rails.
Dayna’s new disc (Here, Vol. 1 released March 2017), is a live record with career spanning tracks, culled from her 2016 Dutch theater tour with guitarist Robert Mache. It manages to capture the heart-stopping edge-of-your-seat mesmerized silence that Dayna Kurtz seems to magic from her audiences. “I began my career as a teenager as background music in crowded Jersey Shore beach bars,” explains Kurtz, “and I used to make a game of seeing what it would take to shut people up, and I got kind of good at it. Although there’s some tricks to it, it was really more a kind of witchcraft than anything – I learned to draw whatever power and attention there was in the room being sent my way and send it back out again. Other people got caught in the loop and started paying attention too. And as long as the crowd wasn’t shitfaced or distracted by a TV I could usually get them. It was good training, even now that my audiences are more inclined to listening already anyway. A lot of my music requires some attention, so it was a good skill to learn.” On her work and friendship with Robert Mache (Continental Drifters, Steve Wynn) Kurtz says, “I’ve loved Robert’s playing for such a long time, and we’ve been friends longer than we’ve been touring partners – he was one of the first musicians to befriend me in New Orleans. That we had such undeniable chemistry has been one of the greater recent gifts of my life, and I just wanted to document it somehow, and quite a few people in my life have suggested a live record. I’d been hesitant, only because there’s only a few live records I listen to with the devotion I’d give a beloved studio record. It’s notoriously really difficult to capture the feeling of being there in the dark experiencing it. Then the challenge of it intrigued me.”
I’ve spent a good part of my life in the library, a good part of my life in music venues and a good part of my life next to the record player. I grew up like most American suburban kids in the 1980’s, watching MTV and listening to top 40 radio. I also raided my friends’ parents’ record collections for all of the cool old stuff they had.
“The Harder They Come” was one of the first albums I loved and it’s still one of my favorites. My songwriting heroes have always been the really smart ones who write great poetry over great tunes: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Hank Williams, Bob Marley.
My favorite singers were always the real churchy ones: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Ralph Stanley, Dolly Parton, Toots Hibbert, The Staples. I also love raspy, intimate rock singers like Rod Stewart and Paul Westerberg. More than just about anything in life, I love a tune that you can’t wait to hear again, a story that takes you somewhere and a singer that you can feel in your heart.