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Meet Jonathan Dalin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Dalin.

Hi Jonathan, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I grew up in suburban Detroit, close listening to pop music while coloring to my Fischer Price… or dancing under my parent’s turntable… or roller skating to our Sanyo boom box… on the swings, in the sandbox… You get it 😉 … Music was my portal to another place, entering my imagination and spirit. I could envision other architectures, lands and experiences. And as my story developed personal and family hardships, it was music that stayed a supportive and comforting solid ground, always available.

I was a born into the Regan era to a first and second-generation immigrant family. While my parents were romantics and people helpers, during this time, commercialization and corporatization advanced, overtaking some of the gentler parts of our humanity. Why do I lead with this? A lot of my creative life, the way I problem solve, has been about utilizing beauty, symbolism, and contemplation to address some of that spiritual ungrounding. I design and write by thinking about how people really feel and live. Looking back, it has been the root of my creative stuff-making to date. I’m following a desire to supplant intelligent and supportive ways of validating inner lives and sensitive natures.

This has taken the form of writing and producing four song collections, a dozen or so music videos, photoshoots, gut-renovated interiors, landscapes, light fixtures, jewelry, event experiences, trade environments, books for fundraisers, and music performances (even the lewks). The best of these experiences have involved collaborating with other’s passion, talent and taste.

In Los Angeles, relocating after 12 years of living in Brooklyn, I’ve enjoyed returning to some of my early loves. I’ve roller skated weekly at the Moonlight Rollerway, explored the suburban/urban landscape by foot, savored deli (Brent’s in Northridge in particular) with childhood friends, and connected back to some reimagined Jewish traditions through Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim, gathering new and inspiring folks. I’ve also gotten to indulge in some of those historic LA fantasies; I’ve played keyboards in a rock band (The Latest) at the Whiskey on Sunset, enjoyed the Laurel Canyon community vibes of Valida’s KCRW Desert Nights concert series, and taken in the nightlife community from my DJ friends such as Victor Rodriguez at The Party By Ostbahnhof downtown. And I’ve returned to designing and installing landscapes.

Creatives will tell you we are problem solvers, but more importantly, we make poetry from everyday experiences. That can run the gamut in an artwork or just the placement of a throw pillow. We imbue the common day with ephemeral shades of meaning; We order and draw out contrasts, instilling more meaning. We strive tirelessly to realize visions and then do it again, and then again. And so, I continue to express my joy in the details of all that I make. Every instrumental part and song lyric, every choice in my design process. I celebrate fellow creatives by showing up for our collected victory of survival in a world with an eye on power and insensitivity. I’m embodying my purpose; Through stuff-making, songwriting, and expressing what I value, I’m uncovering deep love and inspiring it in others.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’ve been presented, a fair amount of challenge, loss, and emotional struggles. I now understand that by relating my struggles to other creative people, I’ve been able to expand my awareness of the fullness of things. Identity-wise, however, in songwriting, finding an audience of listeners has been daunting. In addition to the flood of production due to technology, American culture, singer/songwriters are often seen as self-identifiers as opposed to reflecting a larger perspective. Increasingly, promotion of creativity has been rooted in branding a personal narrative. My intention has been to absorb an amount of personal identity and reflect deeper universal truths. So, as someone who likes to put the work upfront, I’ve danced around that challenge, ultimately enjoying it best when I’m presenting a slight persona, using my perspective rather than my story. I am currently most interested in the writing part of music-making.

That resistance to be identified may have to do with a larger one of settling into one mode of creative action. I grew up in an era with staggeringly less media and filled my time drawing blueprints and making things while listening to music. The two complemented each well. I felt pulled to study design and to work in that field, but when I discovered I could write a song with its visceral, emotional/spiritual energy, I got hooked. Design for me utilizes a more logical and pragmatic talent while music is an expression of being. I’ve not landed on a way of combining them and so my time and ambition get divided between things, often leaning on one or the other.

Just to reflect, as a creative, a lot of our time and patience is not expressed to our clients and patrons in the world. There is vulnerability in showing up from our personal voice, leaving us to wrestle sometimes with a certain kind of shame. In some cases, it is almost self indulgently taboo and hard to explain. And that’s totally ok and workable… but often a corporation or a table of shareholders doesn’t fully validate our creativity financially or in their business behavior. We have become the giving tree, a resource imagined to replenish itself, knowing all too well that it doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from the time we take to nurture our spirit and draw it out. Then, adding a love of people, other arts, and work, maintaining the skills that are involved (computer, instrumental (I play keys, violin and sing) and importantly, promotional components) has been tough over the years. It’s hard to make it all happen. In Los Angeles, I have looked for opportunities to combine community with the arts by joining the Selah Gospel choir in Pasadena and Sofar Sounds. These days, I’m learning more than ever before how to simplify and let go of expectations, knowing our efforts are extremely valuable.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I like to think of myself as an experience designer. I’ve been using production, event design, graphic design, photography, interior design, object design, landscape design, illustration, you name it, for much of my work; But I specialize in songwriting and experience making. I have been singing since I can remember, so the foundation of vocalizing is really where the idea of writing began. I also have a BS in architecture and MA in three-dimensional storytelling or exhibition design. I’m most proud of some of my songs, installations, and videos. I’ve also been known for one particular music video (You Look Good) that was made in almost by magic in Brooklyn with a community of creatives.

I think what sets me apart is the ability to craft a really catchy song hook, an ability to adapt and borrow from things I experience and to channel and spread joyful sensitivity. Also, I excel at setting a mood, being a host, and utilizing a childlike quality that to me brings a spiritual element to my work. I believe I make soul music as well as soul experiences.

Do you any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
I have so many favorite childhood memories, many of them just being at home vibing to our household energy.

On one particular Michigan spring day, while in first grade, my parents accidentally didn’t realize we had a half-day of school. When I arrived home on the bus, the door was locked and I had no way of contacting anyone. I can’t recall my initial reaction, but upon discovering that the garage side door was open, I took out the gardening tools and began to till our winter-worn vegetable garden. For the rest of the afternoon, I cleaned up the soil in preparation of planting. And when my parents arrived home, I can still recall the pride and independence I felt. It was then that my personal lifelong love of gardening began and the awareness of how to transmute anxiety through action.

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Image Credits:

Record Covers shot by Tony Coelho www.tonycoelhophoto.com

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