Adrien Daller: A creative reaction of artistic elements
Published on April 8th, 2014 | by Joe Lawler
Adrien Daller: A creative reaction of artistic elements
It wasn’t live music that first brought Adrien Daller to the stage. It was theater.
Once you know that, so many things start to click about her musical project Trouble Lights. The unusual costumes, her movements around the stage, even the breath control that lets her sing a song like “Ready.”
“I think that’s what made me fall in love with the collaborative element of music, because I never liked working by myself very much,” Daller said. “That’s what I like about the local music scene here; for me, it’s all about the team effort and working with other people. I’d rather be part of a band than be the one star.”
Daller’s route to living in Ames started in a small southeast Iowa town, then to Los Angeles and London before bringing her back to Iowa. Now she’s putting down roots in the area while continuing to work on her music career.
Daller, 31, grew up in rural Iowa, but Fairfield is unlike so many small towns that dot the countryside. In school she had meditation breaks, practiced yoga, learned Sanskrit and studied different philosophies. This wasn’t college, but her K-12 classes growing up in Fairfield. The town has attracted followers of Transcendental Meditation over the last 40 years, thanks to the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. It was the school that brought Daller’s parents to town, and she grew up in the unique setting.
“There’s a lot of culture and art in Fairfield because people are moving there from all over the world. It was an artistic community. There are definitely a lot of artists and musicians there,” Daller said. “It was just around.”
Daller left Fairfield after high school to attend a community college in Santa Monica before auditioning for a theater college in London. She was accepted and lived there for five years, working in music theater and taking gigs singing jazz standards at bistros, bars and hotels in London. From there she started getting booked at different resort hotels in Portugal and Italy, where British tourists stayed. After years overseas, Daller’s work visa expired and she had to return to the U.S.
“I came back to Iowa and didn’t know what to do,” Daller said. “I spent five years building a career, so the idea of moving to New York and starting at the bottom again was so daunting. I was already getting told I was too old for the industry, and I was 27. I was so exhausted from the pressures of the career that I decided to stay in Iowa. I almost didn’t want to do music anymore. I was done.”
But she started making regular visits to the Fairfield cafe/music venue The Beauty Shop. It was there that Daller met the Rabalais brothers, Dominic and Philip.
The brothers were involved in bands like Porno Galactica, Utopia Park and many others. There was a whole music scene in the city composed of second-generation Fairfield kids whose parents had moved to the town. At its center were the Rabalais brothers.
Daller started performing some shows in Fairfield, but just covers. She had resigned herself to that being her musical outlet.
“There’s just a huge sense of trust, that whatever she does is going to be very high quality,” Phil Rabalais, 28, said. “Anything I can suggest that she do, she can pull off. In a way, there are no real limits.”
Said Daller: “My first performance with Trouble Lights was so much more exciting than any of the shows I had done playing covers. I felt so much more uninhibited. I think it helped me not to care what people thought.”
Despite growing up in a free community like Fairfield, Daller said that as a child she followed the rules. She said that was what attracted her to theater, with its set lines, timing and blocking. It wasn’t until she stopped working in theater that she started to push toward the edges a little more.
“I just reached the age where I wanted to make things,” Daller said. “I’m not interested in breaking the boundaries; I’d rather make art and see what happens. I definitely like the idea of confusing people and putting together elements that haven’t been together before, but I don’t sit here thinking, ‘What would really blow people’s minds?’
“I think wanting to do that is caring what people think. That’s not how I find creativity flows most easily. I have to push myself not to care what people think. My go-to is to care. I have to really focus on an idea and work so as not to be swayed by if everyone cares.”
It was through the Rabalais brothers that Daller met Nate Logsdon of the Ames band Mumford’s. They booked several Mumford’s shows at The Beauty Shop, then Logsdon booked Trouble Lights at his Maximum Ames Festival. The two began dating and Daller eventually moved to Ames.
At last year’s 80/35 Music Festival, Logsdon dropped to one knee at the end of Mumford’s set and asked Daller to marry him. If you weren’t there or didn’t see the photos, she said yes.
In June, she and Logsdon are getting married, permanently attaching herself to not only the relationship, but also a music scene that Logsdon is as instrumental to as the Rabalais brothers are in Fairfield. After two years, she said Ames is feeling like home.
“I don’t feel like I settled in until recently,” Daller said. “Now I’m committed to the community and feel rooted there, but I was back and forth to Fairfield a lot and touring the first year. Now I’m excited to get my hooks in a place. It’s a really good place to experiment and try new things.”
Among the new things Daller has tried is joining Leslie Hall’s band, Leslie & The Ly’s. She recently completed a months-long tour doing percussion, dancing and singing back-up with the group. Daller didn’t play any instruments before Hall put a drumstick in her hands, and Hall also got her started playing guitar.
Daller also learned bass to play in Dean & The Delilah’s, which opened for Leslie & The Ly’s on the tour.
“I think she’s got great stage presence and command of her audience,” Hall said of Daller. “Her live show is becoming more and more developed. I’m really excited to see another woman lead electronic music in Ames and Des Moines. She’s a good comrade and ally.”
Daller is currently working on a solo project, though she’s not sure if it will be an EP, full album or just singles. She started out writing her own electronic music, taking what she had done to Phil Young, Kris Adams and Joey Del Rey to help her flesh out the material.
“My goal is to eventually have a solo album that’s 100 percent by me,” Daller said. “I’d like to write some songs that are pared down, slower and acoustic. I’d also like to write some songs that are easier to sing. I tend to write songs that are hard to sing and athletic. But my natural voice is lower. I’d like to write more in that register.”
Young thinks Daller has a natural confidence that can make the move toward composing her own material work. Young has also recorded Daller’s vocals for Trouble Light songs.
“With her, there are almost no bad takes when recording,” Young said. “She’s really good at throwing the headphones on, standing at the mic and killing it.”
But before that material is released, Daller and Logsdon have a wedding to finish planning and a three-week honeymoon to take. For Daller, it will be a chance to return to familiar ground.
“My last job in Europe was a six-month contract in Italy, singing at a hotel,” Daller said. “It was the most beautiful place, and it seems like a jumping-off point — in a good way. It’s just impossible to be sad there.”
See Daller perform:
Trouble Lights with Doctor Murdock, Bleujack and T.A.R.A.M.I.S.
When: 9 p.m. April 17
Where: DG’s Tap House, 125 Main St.