Sweet TimeBliss - Pasadena Weekly - September 2010

Jazzy singer-songwriter Dafni returns Sunday to POP Champagne Bar

Inspiration comes in curious waves, often from unexpected sources. Singer-songwriter Dafni, whose light, jazzy sound has drawn comparisons to Madeleine Peyroux, says that sometimes other artists' music moves her to pick up her guitar and write. Listeners may be surprised by one source of inspiration behind certain tracks on her forthcoming album "Sweet Time": Radiohead.

"I tend to get obsessed about certain records and listen to them a lot," she confesses with a laugh. "I listened to Chet Baker for months and months and months. Before I started [recording "Sweet Time"], I was in a big-time Radiohead mode. I just love how the music is orchestrated. The lyrics almost don't matter, but the lyrics are deep. Everything works. So I was listening to a lot of Radiohead, and I wrote a couple of songs ... "Floating" and "Run Away," and "Anything at All," the poppiest song on my record. It actually started off more folky.

"Certain things that I hear in recordings — even just a bass line, one note in a bass line. ... things like that just inspire me in a weird way."

If you were playing Name That Influence over Dafni's music, Radiohead would not be the first response; Billie Holiday maybe, or Nina Simone — and Simone did inspire a keyboard phrase in one chorus. But how Dafni channels what she hears is, like her style, unique. "Sweet Time" is more refined than her last release, 2007's "Charlie's Lonely Sunday," with dreamy arrangements enhancing songs like "Floating," "Under the Blue Skies," "Oh, How I Wish" and "Part of Me." Dafni credits producer Dan Janisch, a respected songwriter and LA music scene veteran ("It was a complete joy working with him"), as well as bassist Geoff Rakness' knack for arrangements.

"Writing the song is almost the first step, then you bring it to the band and it takes on a whole other shape," she says. "It's almost my favorite part. It's still a songwriting process, but it's different to hear it come alive with the band."

Over the past few years Dafni has coordinated several charity-benefiting songwriter showcases and tribute nights (including a couple in which this writer has participated). But she's more focused on her own music now. She returns to POP Champagne Bar Sunday with Rakness and drummer Mark San Filippo. Her approach to music is instinctive rather than scientific — although, as owner of a PhD in organic chemistry, she can rhapsodize about chemistry as a kind of creative process.

"Math is the last thing I think about," she says, laughing. "I don't analyze what I'm doing when I write. I think more about melody."

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