An Interview With Dean Station
Artist: Dean Station
Title: Dean Station
Dean Station is husband and wife team Levi Dean: Mandolin, Guitar, Bass and Amanda Dean: Guitar, Percussion. With rich two-part harmonies, introspective writing, and musical accompaniment ranging from mandolin to acoustic guitar, they create a progressive acoustic style that draws heavily on folk, bluegrass, and country to make a distinct sound that is rooted in tradition, yet contemporary.
Levi Dean, 23, was born into a family of songwriters and artists. He got his first mandolin from his dad when he was a teenager, and as a self-taught musician, has been playing and writing music ever since. Levi grew up in Virginia and went to school in the Appalachian Mountains. There, he played in a progressive bluegrass band called The Blueweeds. He moved to Taos, New Mexico, three years ago, where he formed a band with his brother, Andy, aptly named The Dean Boys.
With a mind to making music that would reach a broader audience, Levi moved Albuquerque in 2004 and formed Dean Station with Amanda Trainer. Levi's style is influenced by a diverse group of musicians and songwriters including his dad and brother, Michael and Andy Dean, Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Band, Led Zeppelin, and David Grisman.
Amanda Dean, 25, was born into a family with a love of music and fine arts. She grew up singing with her mom and began playing the guitar at the age of 11. Amanda is from the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to New Mexico in 2001 to pursue a career in fine arts. At this point, Amanda had moved away from music, but after having met Levi, she was drawn back into her childhood passion. She considers herself more of a poet than a songwriter, and credits Levi with helping her turn her poetry into music. Amanda's other influences are Tracy Chapman, Tori Amos, and Billy Joel.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Hi Levi and Amanda. It's a pleasure to talk with you. So how did you two meet?
Amanda Dean About a year and a half ago, Levi's band, the Dean Boys, were playing at a club in Albuquerque and I came to see them with a co-worker. Levi's voice and mandolin playing captivated me, so I went up and introduced myself. I told him I was a singer and that I wanted to learn to play the guitar better. He said he would teach me if I would sing in his band. At the first practice everything clicked. The sparks began to fly and we sounded better together than alone. From there, sparks began to fly romantically and we've been together ever since. When Levi asked me to marry him, he proposed, down on one knee, with an original song. The chorus to the song asks, "Baby won't you be my wife?" I was so nervous that it was just a regular song and that if I screamed, "YES!" he would say, "What? Oh, no, that was just a new love song I wrote. At the end of the song I was crying because the song was so incredibly sweet and he said, "So, will you marry me?" He took out the ring and I said, "Of course." We were married in May.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Who are some of your favorite artists, influences?
Levi My number one influence has always been my dad. Growing up I idolized the way he played the mandolin and the guitar, and some of the best memories I have are of listening to his jam sessions. The pain in Hank Williams Sr.' voice, Bob Dylan's words, Neil Young's guitar, and Led Zeppelin's driving back beat have also shaped how I play and what I write.
Amanda Dean Music and art have always been in my life. One of my fondest memories is when my mother taught me how to play "Bridge Over Trouble Water." I made a connection with her and with music that day, and I think that is what propelled my interest in writing my own songs and playing the guitar. I have also been influenced by artists like Tracy Chapman, for her voice (and one of my mom's favorites), Tori Amos' lyrical style, and Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac for their songwriting and her unique voice.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] And what inspired your song "Feather"?
Levi The inspiration for the song "Feather" came when I was sitting on the porch and I looked out the window at a friend sitting against a tree, looking carefree and relaxed and just tossing some pebbles. It got me thinking about the constant quest for happiness. Our society thinks they are going to find it in the latest fad diet or by listening to Dr. Phil on TV. It was in that moment that I realized I was taking things way too seriously in my life, and that the secret in obtaining that constant quest for happiness is to live life more carefree "like a feather floating in the wind."
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What do you like to write and sing about?
Levi I write music as a way to communicate. Growing up, I struggled with a stuttering problem. So I spent much of my childhood wanting to tell people how I felt, but I couldn't get the words out. When I sing, I don't stutter, so I was grateful to have music as an outlet. I'm not the best communicator in everyday life, and it is much easier for me to get out what I'm trying to say in a lyrical melody. I also use stories and metaphors from nature to get my messages across.
Amanda Dean I tend to write about personal experiences because music is a way I can get my feelings out and take some of the weight off my shoulders. I used to keep journals, but by putting feelings in a song, you can take a terrible situation and transform it into something people can appreciate.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Do you accept songs for outside songwriters or cowrite with others?
Levi We play 99% original music because covers are often hard to replicate exactly how they sound, but mostly because we would much rather write something new. I've always been that way. Immediately after I learned my first three chords, I wrote my first song. Part of what we love about what do is the songwriting. It allows us to express ourselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with covering songs, but we don't want to try to re-do something that someone has already done so well. It's like someone other than De Vinci trying to repaint the Mona Lisa.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What are your goals?
Together Our goal is to be able to write play music for a living for the rest of our lives.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] How do you like living in New Mexico? What is it like there? Is there much of a music scene?
Levi We love living in New Mexico; it's unlike any other place in the country. You can see for miles and there's always a sunny spot in the sky, even when it's raining. Other places we both have lived are like living in a womb of trees and clouds. After a while, things begin to feel claustrophobic. New Mexico is a place where we feel very alive. The environment and the way of living are pretty exciting, but can be harsh at times and also very unforgiving. The terrain is rugged, diverse; it's the Wild West where you feel like you can still be an individual. This is probably why so many artists flock there. While we loving living there, the music scene in New Mexico isn't the greatest. That's why we spend so much time traveling to other places in the country to get our music out.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What's the best advice you've been received and from who?
Levi The best advice I have received came from a family friend soon after I moved out to New Mexico. He said "Don't let the bastards get you down."
Amanda Dean The best advice I have gotten so far was from my dad: "Don't take any wooden nickels." This can be applied to life on the road as a musician in many ways!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Sounds like good advice. Any funny road stories?
Amanda Dean We had a really funny thing happen to us while we were in Austin, playing some gigs. We had to find a place to sleep (we sleep in our Taurus station wagon to save money) and drove around looking for a secluded street somewhere out of the way. We finally settled on a street in a residential neighborhood that seemed to not have much traffic. It was really hot and humid, and there were tons of mosquitoes, so we had to sleep naked with no blankets, and with the windows up. Around seven in the morning we heard some dogs barking. Bleary eyed and covered in sweat, we sat up to find a large group of people power walking. It looked like a family of six had about nine relatives and three dogs staying at their house, and all of them were headed straight for us! We were frantically trying to get our clothes on but we were so sticky and sleepy we only managed to get partially clothed before we jumped out of the car just as they were walking by. We didn't want them to think we were homeless, so pretended we were packing the car up to go on a trip, when really, we were moving all of our equipment from the front seat (where we'd stuffed it to have enough room to sleep) to the trunk (where we sleep). Since then, we've learned to always keep our clothes on, no matter how hot it is outside!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Any special plans for the fall?
Together We will be on tour this fall through the East coast. Right now we are in California. In October, we are going back through New Mexico, and then it is onto Texas and Nashville. We plan to spend November in Virginia, which will give us a chance to see some of our friends and family.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] That sounds great. Anything else you'd like to add that we didn't cover?
Together For more info or to check out our music visit: http://www.deanstation.com or to order a cd go to www.cdbaby.com/cd/deanstation.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Thanks guys. We wish you the best of luck with your CD and upcoming performances!
Together Thanks Cindy.
PO Box 558, Smyrna, TN 37167-0588
Phone: 615-825-0019 Fax: 760-437-4633
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