The last time I interviewed Dana McKeon, which was about a year ago, she was rounding off a busy 12 months that included the release her debut EP Street Art (along with an amazing video for the title track), a prominent appearance in a Pepsi Max commercial that went viral and various collaborations that have brought her in touch with a variety of artist and genres. On top of that she's quite busy on the live circuit and has maintained her position as one of the leading female beatboxers in the world, a niche genre that has in reality been the primary driving force behind not only her move to the UK around four years ago but also her musical achievements to date.
The last time I saw the young singer-songwriter perform was at this year's edition of the Malta Takes London concert last month, where she performed several tracks off her latest album Halcyon. Named after a mythical bird said to have the power of charming winds and waves into calmness, the nine tracks on offer ooze what McKeon describes as "a peaceful and dreamy state of mind, hence the name Halcyon".
Written, recorded and produced by McKeon herself along with long-time collaborator and fellow Maltese expat guitarist Daniel Cassar, Halcyon offers a different aspect to the artist's established style. There is a deep, lush quality to the songs, soothing even, yet strangely uplifting in their projected intimacy. "The style on Halcyon is experimental ambient pop fused with a few other genres which are perhaps not as common in the world of beatboxing", McKeon explains. "The songs are mostly lyrical, bar a couple of instrumentals, and all the beats and effects in the tracks were created using my beatbox techniques, then layered with guitars, synth, piano, bass and my vocals".
Published in the UK, Halcyon has been receiving a lot of interest from various international networks, with a few tracks having already been picked up by NBC Universal, ABC (US) and other labels and networks as far as Australia. "The album’s exceeded every expectation we had in terms of feedback", McKeon confirmed. "Once a couple of tracks had been aired on TV, we were bombarded with tweets and messages from viewers asking about the songs and where they could find them". Naturally, having spent so many weeks in the studio working on the songs, such positive feedback was undoubtedly satisfying. So far, four tracks off the album have been featured on NBC and ABC shows, while another has been picked up for a short film in the Philippines.
Since the release of the album, McKeon says she's been working on lots of different projects and collaborations in the studio. "I’ll be releasing more new material soon, so I'm definitely looking forward to that", she says, adding that the gigging in London and overseas has also been going strong. "One gig I'm really looking forward to is the one this coming weekend, where I'll be headlining Teatru Unplugged with Renzo Spiteri in Malta". Backed by Mark Attard and Simon Sammut, McKeon and internationally-renowned percussionist Spiteri are sure to deliver a unique and memorable performance at the Teatru Manoel.
Halcyon is available to download at http://danamckeon.bandcamp.com.
Dana McKeon photo by CK Golding