Summer of Dessa

Our official MC of summer sounds off on touring, her new music, and how she plans to chill out

You’re our MC of summer. How does it feel?
It feels great! I turn 30 this summer and I’m facing it with a flair. I feel like the universe is a more benign place in the summer, though I’m a hardcore allergy kid. If I did sponsorships, I would do Claritin.

You’re just returning from your first headlining tour, out west. How’d it go?
These tours are kind of a temperature-taking—how much do people like me? You get either an exciting or sobering snapshot. And I’m happy to say it’s gone well. Yesterday I even signed a couple of sternums.

How’s the travel?
We bought a van the day before we left. Let’s just say we’ve been to five auto parts stores since then. Now it’s mostly filled with fast-food wrappers—it’s not knee-high, but flirting with ankle-high. When the garbage hits the high-tops, you know you need to come off the road.

You’re working on a new album now. Any songs about Claritin?
I’m trying to diversify my song subjects, so I’ve been paging through library books on Greek and Roman mythology. On the cusp of turning 30, I’m thinking about beauty and vanity and how the physical self is not the core of the person, so the stories of Narcissus and Echo are a pretty good place to start.

You’re hosting a show at the Guthrie Theater on July 8 and 9. What’s the theme?
I’m hosting an occasional hip-hop series at the Dowling Studio, hoping to help usher some hip-hop into the theatre-going community. So we’ll have Cecil Otter and his live band, Aby Wolf, and the headliner is Astronautilus.

And when you’re not gigging?
My stamping grounds is Muddy Waters, which has moved to 29th and Lyndale—they’ve got a patio, beer, and wine now. I also really like sushi, so I’ll camp out on the Fuji-ya patio. Also, Movies and Music in Loring Park: Dark Dark Dark will do a customized score for a Fritz Lang movie, actually on the hill at the Walker Art Center.

If you’re not on a patio, where are you?

My father is a glider pilot, those really elegant planes made of light wood or fiberglass, and he sometimes lets me man the stick. I’ve landed the thing. Sometimes you can’t make it to the airport so you land in a field—you freak out a farmer pretty bad. My dad will just go up to the farmer’s house and say, “I owe you about $60 for five rows of corn.” And the farmer will look around and realize you fell out of the sky.

Here’s Dessa, from her last album, A Badly Broken Code:


Here she is with frequent collaborators Aby Wolf and Jeremy Messersmith in the Current studio:


Here she’s back in the studio in a rare a capella performance:


For more on Dessa, read “The MC of Summer.”