Interview: Dakota Brown

Sep 16 2020

Christian Pop/Soul singer Dakota Brown has just released his first single as a solo artist, called "Safe in His Hands." Louder Than The Music caught up with him to hear how his music career took a new direction following a serious car accident, and to find out more about his forthcoming solo EP due out next month.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

I’m Dakota Brown, I’m 29 years old and grew up in the small town of Pendleton, Oregon. Home of the world famous Pendleton Round-Up. I have three brothers and three sisters, I’m the baby of the family. I love playing all kinds of sports, listening to music, hanging with friends and family, watching movies, eating hot cheetos, playing games, singing, playing guitar, fellowshipping with other believers, reading the Word, making people laugh, and being in God’s beautiful creation. I now live in Kennewick, Washington. I’m married to my beautiful, talented, loving, and amazing wife Emily. We actually met in choir during college and were paired up as dance partners, and ever since then we’ve been quite the duo, she’s very musical herself. We have an almost two year old daughter named Zelie. She is such a joy in our lives, and quite hilarious and intelligent i must say.

I didn’t really first get involved in learning to play music until I was 16 or 17 years old. I saw my older brother playing a guitar, who was actually in a band himself. I looked at him playing and thought to myself, “That looks fun, I want to learn how to play guitar.” So I got started with very basic guitar lessons righthanded, because I’m right handed. The reason I say that is, I got in a serious car accident when I turned 18 years old. In the car accident I was with my friend. I was driving us to school, no less than two miles away from the school we went around a corner and the car hit black ice, fishtailed violently back and forth, and my friend panicked and reached over and jerked the steering wheel to the left.

The car hit an embankment and flipped through the air. While it was in the air, my hand was flung into the windshield and then got crushed and completely mangled between the car and the road. I was rushed to the hospital, the damage was very extensive to my left-hand and fingers. I could no longer play guitar right-handed anymore due to the damage. So, I had my guitar restrung backwards to a lefty-guitar and began to practice and retrain my brain to learn the opposite way.

I started with my right-hand doing the chord fingerings because I couldn’t strum with the left-hand obviously. It was extremely challenging and frustrating to say the least, but that’s how I discovered my love for singing. This was the start of my musical journey. I believe God was telling me, “I don’t want you to just use your hands to serve me, but I want you to use your voice to glorify me.” I had a ton of physical therapy and three surgeries on my hand and fingers to repair as much of the damage as possible.

A year and a half later my friend and I started to form a band. We called it “Dakota Brown Band,” we actually met at the college I attended in Pendleton. I joined the choir and studied music at Blue Mountain Community College and graduated with my AAOT. I then studied Music at Eastern Oregon University for two years as well. My band and I gigged throughout the Pacific Northwest for 6 years and released two EP’s, and shot a music video in Kauai. One of our most notable gigs was at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. I’ve always loved Christian, Soul, R&B, Pop, Folk, and some rock music as well. And have been involved with the Worship Team at my church for five years. But, all this time, God has been moving me towards my Solo career as a Christian artist. Ultimately, He’s given me these songs to share and encourage others in these difficult times, and to glorify Him.

Tell us about your new single 'Safe In His Hands' and what the inspiration behind it was?

“Safe in His Hands” is all about the safety, assurance, and freedom we have in the promises of God. The inspiration behind the song is that can rejoice in Him even through our trials and temptations, because all His promises are Yes and Amen in Him. God never forgets or goes back on His promises. No matter what we’ve done, we’ve all fallen short of His glory. But there is forgiveness with Him, for all who turn from their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ.
God gave me this song and the scriptures intertwined throughout the song. We can rest and rejoice in

His plan. The current timing of this song amazes me, because I wrote it before this pandemic and the current world crisis we are all facing simultaneously. Everyone longs for safety and freedom in this moment in time, this song is about the only One who can offer that.

The song is taken from your forthcoming solo EP - what more can you tell us about the EP?

The EP is set to release in late October, I’m very excited about that!! The timing of the EP fits very well with the challenges we currently face in this world. The overall concept is that of freedom, hope, a call to discern and wake up to the truth, our safety and assurance in Christ and His promises, fighting the good fight of faith, and how we can tend to run away from God, but He continually draws near to us and never stops pursuing us.

The lyrics of the songs all relate to today, incredibly so. It amazes me. The music is soulful, emotional, uplifting, encouraging, uniquely inspired, and definitely has a lot of pop aspects to the sound. The songs are meant to encourage others and give hope. One song I’m particularly excited about is the Title Track of the EP called, “Draw Near to Me.” This one is something very special to me, it is very true to my own struggles I’ve had personally in my walk with Christ and struggles in my family as well. It is heartfelt and emotional to me. I think it will be very relatable to many who hear it and will give them a sense of hope and motivation. No matter how much we’ve ran away from God, He will always say, “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.”

What message would you like people to take from your music?

That people would be uplifted and encouraged by it. I want them to pursue the calling God has for them in their own lives. Inspired to pursue the truth and create their own art. And realize that there is great hope! Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of freedom, joy, happiness, peace, strength, and our true safety and assurance, despite all the craziness in the world. It’s not about me or you, it’s all about Him.

When we understand that, it brings everything else into focus. Music is meant to bring us closer to one another and closer to Him. We can all relate to it, and point to times in our lives where it’s lifted us from the depths of despair, and has motivated us. Music is everywhere around us, and has great power to build up or tear down. To strengthen, or weaken, I want my music to build up others.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

My genre of music is tough for me to classify, always has been. I guess I would sum it up as Christian/ Soul/R&B/Pop. Some of my favorite musical artists as I started discovering my voice were: Christian artists like Chris Tomlin, The Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, and quite a few others. More secular influences on me have been: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Jason Mraz, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, The Eagles, The Beatles, Journey, Justin Nozuka, Allen Stone, and many more!

And a few artists that I’ve been compared to many times, to name a few are: Jason Mraz, Kenny Loggins, John Denver, Tauren Wells, Don Henley; it’s always interesting to hear what other artists people compare me too.

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

Oooh. Let me think...hmm....How about Stevie Wonder! He is a musical and lyrical genius. I love his unique and soulful melodies. The music he creates is unbelievably awesome, skillful, funky, poppy, soulful, and catchy. And the chord changes he utilizes, makes the songs stand out and sets them apart musically. And boy, he sure likes using his modulations, haha.

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

Good question, there would be many different answers depending on which artist you ask for sure. For me, it’s how I’ve used my gifts and talents I’ve been given. If I’ve used them to encourage, strengthen, lift up people from whatever they’re going through; if they can relate to my music that’s important. I want others to pursue their God given gifts, that is amazing to me as an artist if I can somehow facilitate that a bit. Success really would be if my music would help others love one another more, and point them to the One who is love itself, as long as God is glorified, than I have succeeded.

What is your favorite album of all time?

That’s a tough choice. I would say, one of my Top 5 favorites is “Innervisions,” by Stevie Wonder.

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

Another very hard question! I’ll say, “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. A timeless and inspiring song.

What does the next year hold for you?

Who knows? I believe it’s something more awesome than I could imagine. I think my music will have a bigger impact than I might think. It will give hope, and encourage many. I’ve committed my music to the Lord, and He will have His way with it. When you’ve surrendered to Christ and His will, there’s no telling what He will do. But I know, it’s safe in His hands.

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