Dennica Pearl was an international relations major before deciding she’d have a bigger impact through music. A creative in every sense, she’s a singer, songwriter, photographer, self-taught guitarist… and kicks butt at all of the above!  Get to know her—and Gypsy—in this exclusive open-hearted interview then connect on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and Behance.

Dennica Pearl in Black - Red Wall & Guitar
Photo Credit: Damion Kare

Tell me about your upbringing. How did you start singing, when did you pick up the guitar?

In almost every introduction to a story about my childhood, my father would tell people the story of his guitar and my mother’s belly. When my mom was pregnant, my dad would serenade the both of us with songs on his guitar. He played everything from The Merrymen (Caribbean Calypso) to Gordon Lightfoot (Canadian Folk Music). My parents would laugh and tell me that I would kick excitedly and vigorously whenever my father played… I suppose my affinity for music began before I could even make sense of an external world, snuggled inside the comfortable darkness of my mother.

I began taking classical singing lessons at the age of 12, and was soon competing regionally in South Florida with a repertoire of Italian Opera, Broadway, and Folk/Spiritual songs. My mother enrolled me in classical piano instruction around the same time too, which gave me a comprehensive musical foundation that paired well with the singing lessons.

It was not until I was 19 that I picked up the guitar with any seriousness. I taught myself with the aid of the internet, and the push of a newly broken heart which provided me with an almost obsessive voraciousness to learn the songs that spoke deepest to me, and my current journey. Some of the first songs I learned to play were I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt, and Rainy Day People by Gordon Lightfoot. My favorite guitar, (a red Ovation Celebrity) is named Gypsy, and was a gift, an heirloom, from my father.

What would you like to achieve through your music?

My goal as a songwriter is to strip my thoughts down to their quintessential bareness, and present them through song and verse to a crowd. The more vulnerable and open I am with my craft, the more people can feel and connect to it, and I to them. Through the sharing of my music, I hope to make people feel something.. I intend not only to entertain, but to inspire, uplift, provoke, inform and challenge.

I’m dying to know, what inspired your rendition of “All I have to do is dream”? It was so heartfelt, there has to be a story behind it!

Hah! *blushes* Well.. Yes, I was missing someone special as I sang, and was meditating on the yearning feeling I had inside to be reunited with him. I always loved this particular tune growing up, but I was ultimately inspired to learn the song on guitar and post it from an experience I had at Washington Square Park in New York City.

Washington Square is historically known for being the central hub and meeting place of many Greenwich Village folk musicians, who would flock together by the hundreds to gather and sing the popular political acoustic songs of the 1960s.

This past summer I took a songwriting course at NYU, and would spend most of my free time walking around Washington Square people watching, and listening to the musicians who gather there in the present day to sing and perform for eager crowds hungry for creative sustenance.

One day on a lunch break from class, myself and my special somebody were walking around the park, when we happened upon an acoustic jam session with older folks who have inhabited the village with the likes of Bob Dylan and the Mamas and Papas. They were singing the tune All I Have to Do is Dream, and we both sat down (indian style of course) and sang along with them, swaying our bodies to the music. I can remember the shining summer sun, and the warm hum of steel guitar strings commingled with a chorus of voices, both raspy and sweet. It was a beautiful day.

All I Have to do is Dream Cover – Dennica Pearl “When I feel blue in the night And I need you to hold me tight Whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream.”

Posted by Dennica Pearl on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dennica Pearl in Black - Guitar Case
Photo Credit: Damion Kare

Where would you like to see yourself go with your talent? What are you working on?

My goal is to continue to travel the world, and connect with people through sharing my music. I am currently working on a short collection of songs about the concept of freedom from different emotional perspectives.

Where are you scheduled to perform in 2015?

The next performance I am preparing for is for “Things to Do D.C.” at the Barbados Embassy in Washington D.C. on September 12th.

After D.C., I will have some upcoming performances in South Florida, and again in New York City. I will post more details about these upcoming shows on my Facebook Music Page (Dennica Pearl) so anybody interested in coming out can feel free to connect with me there.

Aside from singing and playing the guitar, I know you’re also in photography. Any other ways you express yourself creatively?

Photography and music are my main outlets of expression. I also enjoy writing and listening to live spoken word poetry as well. A couple of my favorite South Florida local artist showcases are Cuisines & Poetry at Midtown Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, and the Lyrics Lab at Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach.

When not creating, what are your some favorite places to go to re-energize or draw inspiration?

The beach! I am a complete island girl. I am originally from Barbados, and often yearn for my island paradise when music takes me to the concrete jungles of the United States during cold winters.

I also really enjoy walking around the natural woods of Florida. The melodies of the birds, Earth’s original singers, serenade and inspire me. Sparrows and Bluebirds are my favorites.

Not too long ago you were featured on Humans of New York. How did that happen?

*Smiles!* Yes!

I met the photographer, Brandon Stanton, at Washington Square Park. I was running a bit late to a scheduled photoshoot in SoHo, and decided to take a shortcut through the park. I saw Brandon photographing an elderly man, and recognized him from an interview I saw of him on the internet. I freaked out!

Instead of approaching him, I decided to sit down at a bench across from him and his subject to collect my thoughts and journal my experience. As I was writing, Brandon approached me, and asked if he could take my picture. I felt ecstatic.

We had stimulating conversation about using art as a stimulus for change, and the internal and external challenges that creatives deal with in a left brained dominated money oriented world. Brandon excitedly told me that his visa was just approved for him to visit Pakistan, and that it would be his first time there. As both an artist, and photographer, I am so inspired by this man, and all of the people he has helped armed with a camera, and a notepad. He’s quite personable, and easy to open up to as well. It was a surreal experience.

“I was an international relations major. I was thinking about going into government, but the more I learned about bureaucracy, the more I realized I’d be better off just writing political songs.”

Posted by Humans of New York on Monday, July 13, 2015

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would you like to meet and why?

I love this question, and I have given quite a bit of thought to who I would love to meet. I find it unbearably difficult to limit myself to just one person! I would love to meet the visual artist, Frida Kahlo. Her ability to translate her inner pain to the canvas has always captivated and moved me, deeply.

I would also love to have a roundtable discussion about the challenges that Africans in America face in today’s political climate with Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Tupac, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela.

What are some of your favorite dishes and/or local food spots?

I am extremely partial to my mother’s home cooked meals, particularly her Oxtail and Rice, Chicken Empanadas, and Vegetable Spring Rolls. My mom is from the Philippines, but also spent much of her life in Barbados. She includes aspects from both cultures in her meals, which makes for a unique delicious hearty meal every time. My mom recently started a catering company, and has been cooking up meals for customers located in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami Dade County. You can find out more about her food by searching “Mama Luz Cuisine” on Facebook.

I’d love to hear your take on beauty and being comfortable in one’s skin.

I believe that beauty emanates internally from knowing your roots.

Self love is beauty. Compassion is beauty. Love for the environment and fellow mankind is beauty. Gentleness is beauty. Open-mindedness and acceptance is beauty. Creativity and sharing is beauty. Standing up for yourself is beauty. Letting go of the past pain that inhabits your being is beauty. Gratefulness and generosity is beauty.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences. It has been such an honor and pleasure working with you Lawrence!

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