“Be glad that you get to share something as powerful as art with those around you.”
Dakota Wright is one of my favorite humans. He is incredibly talented without ever being a hot dog about it. He is humble with his artistry..and, to me, that is beautiful. So excited to share this feature!
About Dakota by Dakota:
I’ve been playing since I was 14. Inspiration comes from mostly personal stuff that I go through or that I see my friends go through that I don’t know how to directly talk about or that I’m too scared to confront people about. It’s also how I sort out emotions I’m confused about or don’t entirely understand how to process. Art, literature, and comic books play a big part in the music, too. I look up to people like H.P. Lovecraft, Ernest Hemingway, John Connolly, Lewis Carroll, Mike Mignola, Jack Kirby, Gabriel Ba, or Frida Kahlo as much as any musician. I don’t think that people give enough credit to those that express themselves in ways other than music to convey an emotion. I play guitar and bass comfortably. I dabble a little bit with mandolin, banjo, and ukulele. I got started playing guitar when I found a guitar lying around the house that my grandpa had bought randomly at trade day. I had an older cousin who played, and he showed me a few things. I spent a year learning how to play before I started playing shows, around fall 2007.
AH: Musically, I know you from Headwires; however, I know that this is not your first music project. Tell a little bit about some of the other projects you have been/are a part of.
DW: When I first started playing shows nine years ago, it was as the bassist of a band called Dead Heroes. We were a hardcore punk outfit based in the Rainsville area, and I quit early in 2009. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m proud of everything I got to do with them and everything they did once I was gone. After Dead Heroes, I played banjo in a folk band from Jacksonville called Don Raye. We put out one self-titled record before everyone kind of parted ways. Then, I was in Gunsmoke Suns with Lucas and some friends of ours for two years. It was a southern rock band that gigged all over the state for a while, and we were lucky for the good times we spent with them. After that band’s dissolution, I moved all my attention to Headwires, which I had been making demos for since I had been in Dead Heroes.
AH: Just Friends is a project created by Headwires’ bass player Jesse McClendon and yourself. What is Just Friends? How does it differ from previous projects you have worked on, including Headwires?
DW: Jesse and I are lovers of acoustic music like folk and country and bluegrass, real Americana stuff, as much as we are fans of punk rock and hardcore and stuff. Maybe even more so. We both write softer songs that don’t quite fit with our other bands (Headwires and Jesse’s band, Mants Brothers), so we decided to begin work on a new project around Christmas 2014. We decided we would use it to get all the stagnant, depressing feelings that winter brings off of our chests, but we also wanted it to be more of a collective than a band, open to any participants. So while we do have a clear idea of the kind of softer, more tender brand of music we would like to focus on, we don’t really have a set list of members. In that way, it differs from other projects I’ve been a part of.
AH: I spoke with Lucas about Headwires in “Lucas Smith: records,riffs, and recording,” and he mentioned that you started the band. How did Headwires begin? What are some of the different stages the band has undergone? Did you image Headwires to be what it is today?
DW: Headwires began as a series of acoustic demos I recorded in my bedroom when I was around seventeen. I would pass them around to a couple of my friends at school under a different name because I was too shy and afraid of criticism to tell them it was me, so I would just pass it off as something I had been kind of listening to lately. When I realized that not everyone totally hated it, I started writing more. I also wanted to try playing music that wasn’t as heavy as Dead Heroes had been, so I got with a couple of friends from my class and we wrote Trailer Trash and a couple other songs that never survived. Several temporary lineups came and went over the next couple of years until Payton Wilborn and Matt Walters joined in 2012. We started playing shows locally in the Spring of 2013, and that lineup kind of fell off the map early in 2014. In October that year, I messaged Lucas, Jesse, Dylan, and Buddha. Although that lineup has changed since then (Buddha and Dylan have left and Nick Bryant has joined on drums), the band has expanded and grown into something I feel beyond privileged to be a part of. It’s a family, and that’s really a great feeling, to know I work and play with people that I can call my brothers.
AH: What advice would you give to the young musicians who are looking to start a band or get involved with a band? Pros? Cons?
DW: I’ve seen a lot of younger bands get caught up in their frustration at the fact that they aren’t automatically getting good at their craft and they aren’t getting shows, and it makes them give up. My best advice would be that it takes a lot of work and time and effort to put your best self out there, but your creativity is a muscle like any other. You have to work it out and push it beyond its own limits, and you will eventually see growth and development. Above all else, though, it’s important not to worry about the current standard or a third party’s opinion. Just have fun building your body of work and getting to know each other and new people better every day or every weekend. Be glad that you get to share something as powerful as art with those around you. Do what you love and people will love what you do. My friend Harmless told me that last part, and it’s one of the truest things I’ve ever heard.
AH: I know this may sound cheesy to ask, but how has your involvement in music changed your life? Would your life be different without music? What role does it play in your life?
DW: Local music raised me. Not to discredit my family or anything, they were amazing and have backed me 100% even when they maybe shouldn’t have, but I figured out who I am as a person through local music. It really taught me for the first time that it’s okay to just be myself and do what I do, because everyone else is as weird and confused as me in their own way, and that it’s okay to operate on my own terms and to find my own foundation to build my existence upon. It taught me not to fear the unknown. So without music, I would probably be drowning my life away at some job I hate, living for bills. Even in the smallest moments of life, everyone has music. You have a song in your head or in your heart every time you see a certain person, or playing in the car when you pull into work, or a song that takes you back to senior prom or your first date or your favorite meal or the day a loved one died, and I think that certain music resonates with everyone a certain way. It really is the most important thing we have, and I feel lucky that we get to live in a world with such a huge amount of music and the technology at our dispense to trade it and share it together freely.
AH: I have seen some of your artwork and think you are really talented. How has visual art been incorporated in your life?
DW: I’ve always had an interest in art, as long as I can remember. I’ve always drawn or painted or taken things apart to see how they tick. And I’ve always been in love with colors and shapes and the thought that everything is made of them. I’ve also got a long history with cartoons and comic books. Cartooning is second only to music for me, ever since I’ve gotten into music. I’m not as public or vocal in my interest for cartooning because it’s much more of a personal, diary entry-type thing for me, but my close friends and family know a good bit about it. In that way, music definitely takes priority over visual art because I’ve built my whole life around music and its importance to me and the debt I feel toward music as a whole eclipses most aspects of my existence, but I think the two are very intertwined in that I have the same influences and inspirations in both fields. I believe that music can be described in terms of color and shape and that visual art can have a very similar effect on people as music. Mike Mignola influences Headwires’ songs as much as Bad Brains can influence a piece of art I hang in my room.
AH: This is pretty personal, but I would like to discuss the emotional aspects of your music.
DW: I’ve never really understood emotions very well. If I get upset or sad or something, I’ll then get confused about why I feel that way, and it will splinter off into a hundred different tiny things bothering me at once until I don’t even know what I’m feeling or why I feel that way. So, Headwires’ music, especially lyrically, is shaped entirely by what’s going on in my head concerning a certain event or emotion. It’s kind of my way of dealing with how I feel and sorting out all those mixed emotions and all the things that bother me or hurt me that I don’t feel like sharing with my friends because I feel like I would just be a bummer or that they wouldn’t understand. And sometimes certain songs may be a way to get things off my chest that I otherwise would have to take to my grave. It’s a big journal.