We had the good fortune of connecting with Darynn Dean and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darynn, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I believe that the greater the risk, the greater the reward, and that everything we do has an equal and opposite reaction. Approaching “risk” means that I am willing to completely
let go of what I am believing, thinking, and doing in this situation for the opportunity to
become something different.
Entering the creative space to begin singing and songwriting often feels like a big risk
because there is so much exposure involved. There is a level of vulnerability needed to
access the realness of a song and a lyric. In the process of getting to a still place, or
what some may call “the zone”, a lot of neurotic thoughts arise to try and hijack my
attention. The “risk” is moving past these thought forms and allowing my creativity to
come out on the other side. There is a voice in my head that I call “the ally” that lovingly
helps me succeed and move past my fears and insecurities. “The ally” shows me that
my dreams are possible and is a comforting voice of support.
Singing on stage in front of thousands of people feels like a big risk because I am
tapping into an emotional space and sharing that connection with the audience. It’s hard
enough to share how you feel with one person, let alone thousands of people!
Nonetheless, there is a big reward with allowing that place of openness and real
emotion to arrive.
Throughout my career I am constantly taking risks to grow and succeed. Whether it be
developing my brand, reaching out to new people, applying and accepting opportunities,
or expanding my team, it’s all a risk because the outcome is unknown.
Finally, simply being an artist is one of the greatest risks of them all because I am
putting myself out there in ways that are both uncertain and invigorating.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I recently released my first single, “We The People” on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. The song was inspired by current divisiveness as well as racial injustices committed
against black and brown people in America. I thought it was critical to release a song
that spoke to the challenges we are facing as an entire country at this time. My music
bridges the gap between old school and new school and brings a message that
everyone can feel. One of the reasons I love jazz so much is because it forces me to
define my own voice in communion with others. It’s very democratic in nature.
Jazz was never meant to be stuck in the 1940s; it’s meant to evolve, push, challenge
and shift as the times do. What sets me apart from others is my unique ability to deliver
a timeless message. No matter the era, there is a generational voice that needs to be
heard. I’d like to think of my music as that voice that responds to the times.
I am really excited to be working on my first EP this year. There has been so much
going on in this global pandemic and I’ve had a lot of revelations and insights that have
informed my music. I’m grateful that the quarantine has been a time of deep reflection
and has allowed me to delve into my art unlike ever before. I’m proud of my work and
the progress I’ve been making, as well as everything that’s happened to bring me to this
moment right now.
This artist path is never easy. It may be easy at times, but there’s peaks and valleys,
you know? Each day is really different from the last one. One thing that has contributed
to my success is being honest with myself and trusting the team of people around me. I
have a lot of big dreams and I’m learning to take one bite of the elephant at a time. I am
vegan, so the proverbial elephant!
My brand is music, life, and now! I’m really excited to achieve my goals and uplift people
in the process. Sometimes the culture that we live in is a very “me” “my” “mine” centric,
but I think underneath all that is a longing for connection. At my core I believe music is a
healing art, one of redemption, grace, and change.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am an advocate for all my friends to visit Los Angeles! When my friends visit I like to take them to: the beach, a plant-based eatery, and Leimert Park (my second home). I
just passed the three-year mark of being a vegan, so my friends know that wherever we
go out to eat, there will be some plant-based option.
I like taking people places they haven’t seen before, whether it’s a quaint store, concert, or a new art exhibit.
Some of the most fun I’ve had with my friends is just exploring Los Angeles, there’s
always something going on. I typically like them to meet my family, connect with cool
musicians, and hear live music.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout and successes to my family, mentors, team, and community. In essence, my “village”. I am extremely blessed to be surrounded and
uplifted by truly incredible people.
I was born into a very musical family and they are the foundation of the
legacy I stand on. My grandfather, Donald Dean Sr., is a world-renowned drummer who
played on the iconic record, “Swiss Movement” and toured with Les McCann. My father,
Donald Dean, followed in his footsteps and played the drums with artists like Kenny
Burrell. My cousin Jamael Dean is an accomplished pianist who has toured and
recorded with the likes of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. He was recently
featured in a Lexus commercial as well!
My family’s talent and support inspire me to keep going. I wouldn’t be where I am today
without their love and generosity. My dad, Donald Dean, has always been in my corner
pushing me to be my best and helping me achieve my goals ever since I was little.
On my team now is producer and songwriter Lou “Buster” Brown who has produced
artists like Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, and many more. Buster has been instrumental
in developing my artistry and brand, as well as bringing my music and vision to life.
My mentors, acclaimed jazz singer Barbara Morrison and pianist Howlett Smith, from
the Leimert Park community, taught me just about everything I know growing up. I also
have the privilege of being mentored by NEA Jazz Master and vocalist, Dee Dee
Bridgewater, and MacArthur Fellow and pianist Jason Moran, alongside so many other
The music programs I participated in when I was younger, like “Jazz America” directed
by bassist Richard Simon, and “The Harmony Project” chaired by Howard Banchick,
gave me a true taste of life as a musician from an early age. In a lot of ways, it prepared
me for the next level and graduating from The New England Conservatory of Music.
There are so many people along the way that have made it possible for me to be where
I am today. I am so grateful for their continued guidance and support on this amazing
Lenwood Young, Donald Dean, Lou Buster Brown, Craig Cochrane, Shannon M. West