Music’s Dana Glover keeps getting flooded with attention. So why is she gripping a Hoover and wondering whether her clothes are folded?
Dana Glover stands off to the side of a not-at-all glossy gas station somewhere on the road to Hartford, Conn. with her finger plugging one ear, her cell phone digging into the other. She watches an 18-wheeler roar by and turns around to find her brother fueling up the car with some regular unleaded. It’s about the only “regular” thing being injected into Glover’s life at the moment, which becomes blatantly evident in the 25 minutes it takes for the North Carolina-born model-turned-up-and-rising music icon to wax philosophical about how ironic things have become—she craves slow “journeys” but can’t help but be surprised at how her music career is suddenly racing along at break-neck speed.
Glover has Testimony to thank for that. Her debut album has made industry heads turn and listeners digging the music vibe she’s putting off. Her first single “Rain” has become a chart-topper and she’s been on tour consistently since October. Look for Glover at the Concert for the Homeless, which unfolds this weekend in San Jose.
One thing is certain: Glover is like a blossoming southern wildflower rising out of music industry manure—she’s refreshingly unpretentious and her soul-baring vocals smack of post-modern pop crooner but you can’t help but ignore those tinges of I-got-gospel-in-me fervor, or even the old-school soul, which runs through her creative veins. Many of Testimony’s songs dig deep: “Cherish,” for instance, was inspired by the Columbine shootings.
Glover left her southern upbringing at 16 for a career as New York City model. The catwalks may have been fun, but she found herself longing for her love—a career in music. (She’ll be the first to confess how she lingered in a state of musical bliss whenever she passed the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir on the way home from work.) After moving to Nashville at 18, she learned to play the piano and, in time—and with the help of her brother, who was a musician—the right music connections fell into place and she found herself being produced by hotshot exec Robbie Robertson. In the past few years, her songs have been featured in The Wedding Planner and Shrek.
For Testimony, she says she was inspired by the Train song “Drops Of Jupiter’’ and wanted the album to have the same kind of energy. It does. With “Rain” being soaked up in the collective unconscious, she now admits that she “really wanted people to understand that the character in the song is abandoned, uncertain of her life, questioning.”
Questioning, it’s soon learned, is the perfect place to begin any journey with Dana Glover. Even if the gas is regular.
GOOD TIMES: What inspires you?
DANA GLOVER: It doesn’t always have to be something happy. It can be sad, you know … sad moments. But I am driven to communicate. I get inspired, that in the end, I get to communicate with people—that inspires me to write. My own life experience inspires me; the things that we all have in common. And the hope—gosh, this sounds like an answer from a beauty pageant—but the hope is that is there [in the music]. It leads me to write what I want to write. It inspires me to be honest. That’s actually a much more difficult question than I thought.
GT: What CD are you listening to now?
DG: Well, we’ve been in the car in a little town called Mt. Sisco, I think. Let me look for that sign … I’m on tour with manager and my brother is with me and we are traveling. At the moment, the CD in the car is Tommy Simms. You probably have no ideal who he is, but he’s more well known as a writer. He was behind the Change the World album by Eric Clapton, and he is an amazing producer too. But we’ve been listening to everything on the road—there is so much driving.
GT: Your work is getting a lot of play these days. What are your thoughts about success?
DG: What do I think of that? It’s really exciting. I’m in the midst of it. I feel like there is such a long way to go.. I am kind of in the moment, if there is such a thing. It’s surreal and I know that there is a long way to go. I am satisfied where I am and hoping there is more to come. People recognize the music and it is totally surreal. It’s wonderful and strange.
GT: When you say you have a long way to go, what do you mean—as in the amount of work you’d like to produce?
DG: Yes. There’s just more work to create. Also, the goal of anybody putting out a CD, no matter what they write about, is they want as many people as possible to hear it and to make a decision if they are touched by it or not. We have a ways to go. We have a slow but steady positive start. I never feel like there is time to sit back. There is much more to do with this project.
GT: What’s more challenging? Learning a song or singing it live?
DG: Well, both are equally challenging in totally different ways. You can’t really do anything until you can get that song written and sometimes it is a helpless feeling. I work to get it. Unless it really happens—the inspiration—you cannot conjure up and make it something special. There is that mystery element to it. When writing a song, the hope is that it shows up. After that, to perform it, I have to get it under my hands and in my head so that I am not thinking technically when I am in front of people. I want to connect emotionally with the people through the song.
GT: What makes you laugh?
DG: So many things. My brother—he is so funny. When you’re in a good mood, when I’m ‘heavy,’ it’s hard to make me laugh. Sarcasm —I love that. You know what I found that makes me laugh? I have a few cousins that we grew up with and there is the Southern memories; the things you say that nobody else knows and nobody else understands. And there is that specialness of that and it’s your own words and because it ours completely, it becomes funny. It’s our memory and the memories get funnier over time, and crazier over time.
GT: Who’s been you’re greatest inspiration?
DG: I’ve been racking my brain over this so much and then I hear somebody on the radio and I say to myself, ‘Why haven’t I said that person’s name and here I am throwing out the same name all the time. You know, right now, I cannot even tell you. Sometimes it was the goofiest gospel music because it was available when I was a kid, but it also inspired me. And it has nothing I would want to sound like today.
GT: Any guilty pleasures?
DG: Gosh. I love chocolate and I haven’t had it in three weeks and I am especially craving a little. I was eating it every day when I was on tour in Europe. But I love chocolate—and food, in general. And I am having to be good right now and it is just miserable.
GT: Why? Do you have to follow a certain workout regime when you’re on tour or …?
DG: No, there’s no workout regime really. I don’t know how everybody else does it. I don’t know how they fit in. To me, all I can do is keep going. I bought this little pilates DVD, but I had not had the time to do it in the hotel room. That’s such a goofy thing to do—a pilates DVD— but I can tell you that having a lot of junk food on tour has caught up with me physically, but if you take away all that stuff, it also takes away some of my spirit.
GT: What’s a quirky thing about you?
DG: I don’t know what’s quirky about me. I am sure my family would have something to say, but let’s see … Oh yeah, I like to fold all clothes—dirty and non—I like everything to be folded. Not that I am a neat freak. I just love to fold things. And I vacuum, but not so much to clean, I just like to vacuum.
GT: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
DG: It’s things that I heard but until I was in a place to test them, it didn’t mean as much to me. There is a real balance to the music and the work in this industry, and there is a lot of give and take. You are constantly trying to find that balance and you find it every day when in the process of making the album. I need to know when to listen to other people and when I need to stick to my own guns. Robbie Robertson [the producer of XXX], was amazing. He would shut me up because he’d say, ‘All I care about is the result.’ And I know why he said that. He said, ‘If it takes forever, or if it comes in a day, all I care about is the result.’”
GT: Best advice you’ve given?
DG: Somebody asked me a question not too long ago and they were talking about why young people follow their dreams—that kind of thing—and I think the best advice I’ve given, but I may be totally hypocritical for saying it—is to seek contentment above things like stardom because we are so stardom driven in this society. And here I am trying to get my music out, but I can say it because I am in the middle of finding my own way. I hate to see so many kids out there think that to find fulfillment in that lifestyle—because you can look at a star who made it beyond anybody and they are still looking for the basics. I think it’s important that people aim for contentment instead of bigger-than-life concepts and ideas. In a way, to work for a healthy simplicity is much more fulfilling, and having said that, my life is anything but simple right now.
GT: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about yourself lately?
DG: Oh gosh—you know, these are hard questions.
GT: Yeah, sort of like turbo therapy in a way …
DG: I know … it is. But let’s see. Lately? Hmm … I feel like it’s the same thing I am constantly learning. I am not sure if this is new really, but I am constantly amazed at how vulnerable I am and surprised at when I feel strengthened.
GT: There’s a lot of strength in your hit single, “Rain.” What does that song mean to you?
DG: I love that song. It’s very special to me and probably the one I most proud of.
DG: A lot of reasons. It represents a time to me where I felt destined to be something. I was traveling in the car with my two brothers from Tennessee to California to live there and it was a major change that was out of our hands. We were driving and I wrote it and I felt it was special and a defining moment, and even then I knew that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew [the song] was something that was going to happen but I didn’t know how. Musically, it stepped out of the ordinary for me and it was nice when trying to write something and you’re not close to what you’ve done—a little more original than other things.
GT: Do you have a recurring inhibition?
DG: Yes. Oh goodness yes. Oh my! I am always … well I usually don’t … let’s see, how can I say this. I am learning that I haven’t gone with my gut feeling enough and I am looking back on that and trying to figure out why I have to learn this over and over when, in the end, I know know I will eventually go with that gut feeling. I inhibit myself.
GT: Deep or practical?
GT: Meat or Veggies?
GT: Tea or Coffee?
DG: I love coffee, but tea is my discipline now.
GT: Letterman or Leno?
DG: Oh gosh. I can’t answer that. I need both of them.
GT: Rock or Pop music?
DG: It depends on what you call rock—that’s so hard to define. But I am more pop than rock.
GT: Dogs or cats?
GT: Drama or comedy?
DG: I like comedy first.
GT: New York or L.A.
DG: New York is great, but I am content in L.A.
GT: Looking back, what are your thoughts about your modeling career?
DG: It was an incredible opportunity, but it was not my passion.
GT: What was one of your first thoughts this morning?
DG: Do I have time to go to Starbucks before this interview?
GT: Was there?
GT: What did you get?
DG: The most boring tea, and it was wrong one. Tea is boring itself, but when you get the wrong tea, gosh …
GT: So, what’s the road ahead look like from where you’re standing talking to me on your way to Connecticut—career-wise that is.
DG: The road ahead … Hmmm … the road ahead is a long slow happy one.