Rapper-singer-writer Dessa’s upcoming debut with the Minnesota Orchestra is one of the most-anticipated programs of the season. The indie music star, a member of the Minneapolis-based Doomtree hip hop collective, answered a few questions about her music, kites, Broadway musicals and what’s in store for the April 14 and 15 concerts conducted by Sarah Hicks.
What’s it been like preparing for these concerts?
This collaboration with the Minnesota Orchestra and my arranger, Andy Thompson, will be one of the biggest shows of my career. It’s been both gratifying and humbling to work with a big, prestigious arts organization that’s legitimately invested in the art. I’ve pitched wild ideas, cartwheeled across the stage to promote the concerts on social media, enlisted a team of research scientists to help me design the show—and the Orchestra has offered help at every turn. I can’t wait to share the stage with such virtuosic talent and pull the sheet off the project we’ve developed together!
How do you and Andy Thompson approach the job of combining your music with a symphony orchestra?
Andy is made out of music. He’s got the technical expertise and the artistic sensitivity to make for an incredible collaborator. Sitting at a piano, he can play ideas before I’ve finished properly describing them. He’s been able to find the central feeling of each song and expand it to the scope of an orchestral presentation. He’s also really calm. While I’m running around with my bangs on fire, he’s eating a healthy snack at his standing desk.
Describe the upcoming concerts in 5 words or less.
Love, loss, science, whiskey, lipstick.
What are some “crazy ideas” you’ve had for this Minnesota Orchestra collaboration that turned out, well, maybe a little too crazy?
I texted Andy Thompson to ask if we could make the orchestra rewind. He thought I was kidding. I pretended I’d been kidding.
Lin-Manuel Miranda of Broadway’s Hamilton picked you to be on The Hamilton Mixtape. If you wrote your own Broadway musical about a historical figure, who would you pick?
Marie Curie seems like a bawse. Plus, we could make her glow in the dark at the end of production.
Okay, we have to ask. What is it about kites, a recurring theme in your lyrics?
I could wax philosophical here: kites fly without wings, they seem both free and captive, they are fragile, but safely out of reach. But really, I'm not sure why I write about kites so much. Kites are…true. They’re like us, functioning precariously.
Hear Dessa answer more questions about her music and the upcoming Minnesota Orchestra collaboration in a recent Back to the City video podcast hosted by Simon Calder.