Summer is here, and it’s time for reading, writing and listening to the wind. This spring I was given a huge honor, to be asked to teach some teens about the craft of songwriting at Macalester college. They were absolutely wonderful, but the best part was the thank you note. They listened and incorporated a lot of what I talked about into their own songs that very week! I can see now the charge that teachers get when things go well.
In August, I’m going to be retreating to a little writers’ workshop of my own on Madeline Island. I hear it’s a great place to listen to the trees... before I go, I’ll play a show with my band at the lovely Aster Cafe on the prettiest street in Minneapolis. You should probably come.
We are hip deep in the most murderous, soul wrenching winter in my own memory, which is really saying something for a Minnesotan. The good news, is that it forces a person to stay in, dig into their own psyche and embrace the demons. Someone told me once that we all have demons, the trick is to harness them and let them do the work for you. With that in mind, I am going to keep writing, and see what springs up once the thaw hits.
One cool thing that happened this winter was a release of a fantastic compilation of music in honor of the Leah Rule Memorial fund, which I was so happy to be included in. Lots of great songs, but you can scroll down to find my little contribution: Track 27, ‘Dana Thompson & The North Coast - Everything's Alright’.
Welp, I took the spring off from music because I had a little surgery on my footsie and didn’t know how long the recovery would be. The foot is starting to feel better now, so I’m going to get back in the saddle and see what happens. Stay tuned for more show bookings this fall.
There are many inspirations lately, which is lucky because this freakishly gloomy Minnesota spring is getting tough to fight day after day. So I focus on the beauty of my peers and luckily there are good things on the horizon. This month will find me with some of my greatest champions— Erik Koskinen and Molly Maher, who are hosting the Live Letters series. Later in the month, I will enjoy a whole night of my favorite pedal steel player in the history of country music, Jimmy Johnson, who will open our set at the Aster on 4/20 with his other band, so it will be all steel, all night. If that doesn’t give me a reason to keep fighting, I don’t know what will. Come on, sun! Let’s do this!
Minnesota has this wonderful function in the winter. It’s called, “buckle down and get some work done.” I have been doing just that. Lately I have had such a great time meeting and playing with some fantastic musicians. It’s inspiring to find out about artists that have made music you couldn’t have imagined making, like the beautiful Barbara Jean. Amazingly, she claims she chose Sacred Heart studios to do her record because of a recording I did there for the Iron Country compilation through Spinout Records. (Hearts bursting with joy and humility) But this is how the world goes around. Check her out. She’s a goodie.
Well the new year is upon us and I couldn’t be more happy about that. Thirteen has always been my favorite number, so no pressure, Universe! ha ha. January is shaping up to be quite the month. If you look at my shows page, I have some fun opportunities ahead and would love to see you there. As the sun spent time hiding from me in the winter/fall, I felt like maybe music was not in the cards, but as it comes back I am renewed and excited to create and produce something. We’ll see what happens!
This fall flew by, in fact I barely remember a single thing about it. However, thanks to people uploading picture of events onto the internet, I know that I read another excerpt of my forthcoming book at the James J Hill library in November for the Real Phonic Radio Hour. That was such a thrill! I'm contributing to a benefit compilation record this next month, as well, so I will have the information about that ASAP. Have a great holiday!
The summer went by way too fast again, but it ended with a bang. My Minor Planets partner, Eric, and I signed up for the MN State Fair duet competition. We heard it was a fun time, and it was, but it was also very scary! Lotsa great singers and players up on that stage! Somehow we were awarded the second place prize. You can see the video of our final song right here.
Whew! We finished scoring a ballet this last week! It was a lot of work, but it felt great to stretch (ha ha) and get outside my usual repertoire. Thanks to everyone to made it out to the Ritz.
Together with my musical partner, Eric Christopher, we have been in writing mode for our next record. We have quite a few songs in the bag, and we're getting ready to begin pre-production. Stay tuned!
I've been in writing mode for the early spring, so sorry if I have seemed absent. I'm going into the studio with The Minor Planets again at the end of April, and we're really excited about it. I've also been working on my book in earnest, and I plan to post a few excerpts here with a few months. Scary but fun! That should be my motto. Story of my life. <3
March in Minnesota has been ridiculous. I mean that in a good way. I have some fun things planned for this spring, including working on more music. One piece of the action that thrills/scares me is that Eric and I are going to be doing original music for L'Affair De Ballet at the Ritz Theater. We have been working with the dancers and we are so excited to get outside the ol' comfort zone. Dates are May 17th-20th. More to come on that.
Hello and happy February! This month has been amazing so far. Eric Christopher and I released our new record, Shadow in the Water last month, and it's been fast and furious ever since. The amazing reviews and support we have received has been difficult to process, in a good way! We are so grateful. Here are some examples:
In addition to that, Jim Walsh wrote a beautiful piece about our new album (and much larger topics) on Minnpost here.
And finally, we just got a fantastic review from across the pond — a five-star review in the UK by Paul Riley in the upcoming issue of Country Music People Magazine (preview here) — here's the highlight:
“[★★★★★] There is nothing minor about The Minor Planets. This is a band who write incredible songs, have a unique feel for music, and are doing something a bit different. [Shadow in the Water] is a disc I will return to many times. It is special.”
And don't forget, we are still giving away a free track of our new single, "Before You Know It" at our website as a taste test. We really hope you like it.
Update: Thanks to everyone that came out to the Aster last night to support the release of our new Minor Planets record. The house was packed and the love was palpable. A special thank you to the great musicians that played the show, Richard Medek, Eric Struve, Jimmy Johnson and Seth Hogan.
Dana is releasing a new The Minor Planets record this month, entitled Shadow in the Water. The LP Release event takes place at the Aster Cafe on Saturday, January 21st.
For more info, check the Shows section!
On January 19th, Dana opened for Paul Cebar at the Real-Phonic Radio Hour.
The Real-Phonic Radio Hour is a live monthly show featuring American Roots music and conversations on poetry, music, the arts, and a world gone mad. Presented at the historic James J. Hill Reference Library in downtown St. Paul.
Natalie Lovejoy and Dana Thompson hosted a songwriting discussion and performance:
The Pursuit of Songwriting —
featuring Chris Lynch & Jon Rodine Which took place on Saturday evening at the Aster Cafe. It was an intimate evening of music and conversation. The songwriters talked about the process of how they each channel melody, lyrics and eventually, complete songs.
Dana is playing with The Minor Planets the first and third Thursday of each month at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. Come for the drinks and voorgerchten, stay for the folky goodness.
The Minor Planets new record, Shadow in the Water will be released on Saturday, January 21st at the Aster Cafe.
Born in Sandstone, raised in Hibbing, graduating from high school in Duluth, and having lived in Minneapolis for most of her adult life, Dana is truly the Girl From the North Country. Music and writing have been integral throughout her life, whether through theater, choir, singing, or writing songs with bands.
Dana has received the City Pages’ Best Female Vocalist award, and is a founding member of The Strawdogs, Hot Head Fiasco, Marina Glass, The Minor Planets, as well as fronting her own band, Dana Thompson and the North Coast. She has enjoyed touring the US and Europe in support of her critically-acclaimed first solo record, Ox.
Currently, Dana is in pre-production for her second solo record.
After some impressive turns on recent House of Mercy and “Iron Country” compilation CDs, hip country crooner Dana Thompson finally has polished off her first solo CD, Ox . . .
The Iron Range native — who got her start locally in the Strawdogs — enlisted MVP guest players for the album, including Dave Boquist, Jessy Green, Eric Heywood and Rob Skoro, who produced. Plus, her full-time band includes Jimmy Johnson (Bellwether) and Bob McReedy (Volebeats).
In upbeat songs such as “Stars At Night”, Thompson’s wispy voice and imaginative lyrics recall Victoria Williams, while pretty ballads like “Straight Lines” sound more Allison Krauss-like.
Dana Thompson has done time with The Minor Planets, Marina Glass and the Strawdogs. Now she's branching out on her own (with her band, The North Coast, in tow), celebrating the release of her debut album, Ox, produced by former Mason Jennings Bassist Robert Skoro.
With a clear, angelic voice that exudes hope, sadness and longing from a woman who grew up on the Iron Range, Ox shows off Thompson’s skilled songwriting abilities and incredible vocal stylings. From the poppy “What Lies Ahead” and the heartbreaking ballad “Empty” to the old-school country of “When I Left You”, Thompson proves there is no reason she shouldn't be the Twin Cities’ next big thing.
Acoustic guitars and lighty-brushed drums flow together effortlessly, with pedal steel guitar haunting the space around them; Thompson’s wonderfully clear voice quavers above all of this, completing the melancholy tone.
. . .
The overall tone of the album seems to be one of acknowledgement that life can deliver pain from time to time, but that maybe this is OK. Like lots of the best old-timey country music, Ox would be a fine album to listen to if one had a case of the blues but didn't feel too bad about it.
Like [Iris] DeMent, Thompson has a voice that is at once heartbreakingly fragile and startlingly robust. Every note she sings is somehow imbued with a sense that this whole damn world could collapse at any moment.
. . .
Both Thompson and DeMent convey a fragile intimacy that's unnerving — as if they don't expect anyone else to be listening.
She's as close to a female icon as the swingers are going to get in the Twin Cities, with attitude and soul to burn.
“Best Female Vocalist” — City Pages Best Of 1999