Dalal has arrived. An artist of astounding range -- citing among her inspirations Beethoven, Prince, Kylie Minogue, and Céline Dion -- Dalal is at home in classical or pop, film scoring or live performance. Learning piano and violin from age four, composing from age five, Dalal took to the stage in her native Austria, branching out across Europe. She's a direct descendent of Franz Seraph von Bruchmann, lyricist for Franz Schubert. Her pop career (“Taste the Night,” “Suddenly”) led her to New York, then to L.A., where it's my pleasure to interview her in Hollywood during the release party for her contemporary classics E.P., The Quiet Heart.
“I started out in classical music, and I think it was my first love,” notes Dalal. “And then I sort of spread out a little bit into musical theatre, and went into pop, and a little bit of gospel music, which I loved. When I came to the states, pop music was the dominant structure that came through -- and unfortunately I had carbon monoxoide poisoning--”
“--in 2012, to 2013. I was in treatment for about eight months. It was because of a faulty furnace in an apartment. It completely took me away from all the recording, and the touring -- and just working and thinking, just altogether! (laughs) I couldn't listen to EDM records. My nerves couldn't handle it.”
Okay. And alas. Dalal continues:
“I sort of went back to the drawing board, and just started again -- with my violin, and my piano. I couldn't sleep. I had insomnia issues for so long. And I just started writing. It was so therapeutic for me, and I feel like I rediscovered my love, and at the same time, I think it made my pop work much better -- and it made me understand it better.”
Do her pop and classical inspirations emanate from the same place?
“It's absolutely the same place -- but it has a different taste to it. I love looking at paintings -- I can see a painting, and it could spark a pop track. Then I can see a painting, and I'd love to do an entire track with like a flute, and a clarinet on top, and just: seven violas. So it's all different. There's no right or wrong.”
Dalal cites Gaugin and Van Gogh. Does the latter inspire melancholy?
“There's a little bit of melancholy in all art, because it's trying to capture something that's already passed. There's something in there that you're trying to recreate: a feeling I had, a moment, like a relationship that didn't go right, the wind in the trees that will never be the same again. I'm a little bit of a nostalgic person.
“When I was a kid, I thought a lot about the future. I always thought it'd be a great adventure to leave this country behind -- and I think my mom encouraged it: she was always like, 'Let's go out in the world, and see what's out there!' And I think once you leave something, you learn a lot about it.
“The Quiet Heart originated from the idea of all these different places in the world -- that's why the songs have titles in different languages. The first one is a Greek title, the second one is a French title -- the fifth on the record was originally a German title, and then I renamed it in English, because everybody was confused about it.”
She laughs. I ask.
“The track's called 'Cinnamon,' and the original title was 'Zimt,' which is the German word for cinnamon. But I think it just seemed weird to people.”
Dalal's forthcoming pop album, All the Places, also emphasizes a global mentality. We concur that the world can be large.
“It's not as small, sometimes, as we think. Everyone's like, 'Oh, it's such a small world.' But then, it can be very big, and very daunting.”
She courteously excuses herself to bid goodnight to the Consul General of Austria. She also nods to currently-pink-haired violinist Molly Rogers, who's played with everyone from Adele to Journey, Yoshiki to Feist. Great party.
Speaking of noteworthy tresses, when Dalal returns, we discuss film as inspiration, and her scoring Hair: A Documentary (note: not the musical).
“I think it all starts with colors,” Dalal notes, sans irony. “I like colors a lot. From painting to film, it's just one more step.
“Hair was such an interesting documentary project, because it obviously made me think about hair like I've never done before. It started with the credits song, and we worked ourselves backwards. It was a really, really lovely project, and I still like to look back at it.”
Does she see a future of more film scoring, being in Hollywood?
“Yes, absolutely. Also, without bringing feminism into the whole thing, it's a good time for women in film. There are so few female composers out there.”
My mind leaps to Anne Dudley and Lisa Gerrard, before being surrounded by Hans Zimmer.
“It would be nice to see more women take over in the field, and do a little bit more -- 'cause it's such a beautiful kind of job. One of my favorite things is working with live musicians.There's nothing else like it. And it's so sad to see that so many directors think that you can do everything on a computer. If you want your film to be alive, you want to use people that are alive. That's such a big part of why I'm doing this, because I want to work with live musicians. I want to work with people that come in, and they know how to play their instrument well.”
Dalal remains true to herself on The Quiet Heart: “I just use whatever moves me, and I hope that we're not that different out there in the world, and some people can relate to that. I think that's how it all came together.”
Dalal: Official Website