It has been a big year for Dala, the Canadian folk duo comprised of singer-songwriters Sheila Carbine and Amanda Walther.
The lilting vocal harmonies and affecting lyricism of new album, “Best Day,” have garnered some of the highest praise of their 10-year run, along with three nominations for the forthcoming Canadian Folk Music Awards. And this fall they hope to make a big splash south of the border, as well, with a West Coast tour that will culminate in their first appearance in Tacoma, at Broadway Center’s Theatre on the Square on Oct. 25.
Recently, we caught up with Walther as she was enjoying a little down time on Nevada’s Lake Tahoe. And, for starters, we had to ask …
Dala in concert 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 Broadway Center Theatre on the Square 901 Broadway, Tacoma $36 (253) 591-5890 www.broadwaycenter.org
TW: What is a Dala?
AW: Dala comes from the “la” of Sheila and the “da” of Amanda. Very deep and insightful. It's hard to find a name for a duo, and Sheila & Amanda just sounded pretty boring. So we decided to create a word and just fill it with meaning.
TW: You should just make up a different answer for each interview.
AW: Yeah, we've said that we felt the calling when we were in India and the name “Dala” was written in the sky and all sorts of others things. But I actually told you the truth this time. Booooooring.
TW: You are pretty huge in Canada. What kind of reaction would you say you get here as opposed to up north?
AW: Well, Canadians are, in our experience so far, much more reserved than American audiences. We weren't sure if what we do would translate to the United States, but it totally has – and especially on the West Coast and the East Coast. ... They seem to love us. (Chuckles) I hope they're not lying.
TW: You are known for having those great vocal harmonies. How did you develop your style?
AW: Vocal harmony is really the heartbeat of our songwriting. ... It's always come natural to us. I mean, I was ecstatic to find a friend who could sing melody so that I can harmonize to her. And ever since then it's just grown into this other thing. I feel like our voices combine in a very organic way and become something new.
TW: For your latest album you are getting a lot of good feedback. You are up for a couple of awards in Canada. What was maybe the jumping off point for “Best Day?”
AW: We wrote a couple of songs a number of years ago while we were still touring the last record that set the tone for the album, I think. One of them is the song “Best Day,” which felt like it came from somewhere else. It was a melody that I had written very quickly and left an answering machine message on my phone so I would remember it. And then it took a few months to find the right words for it because we felt that it had sacred simplicity to it, and we didn't want to mess with that. But on the whole, I think the album is very personal, very much our best work. And I feel like we simplified the production on the album to highlight the melodies, the words and the heartbeat of where we're coming from.
TW: Which songs are closest to you or have the most meaning?
AW: The song “Good As Gold” is close to the heart for both myself and Sheila. The song “Father” is pretty much word for word my experience with my father. And the song “First Love” is also one I wrote about my first boyfriend and the insanely beautiful experience I had with my first innocent love.
TW: Does he know you wrote a song about him?
AW: Actually I still have his contact information, though we're not close any more. But I shot him an e-mail and shot him a copy of the album when it was released just so he could get a kick out of it. I hope he got a kick out of it. I hope he didn't burn it or something.
TW: He will think of the one that got away.
AW: (giggles) Yeah, maybe.
TW: And what is your live show like? I hear you guys are funny.
AW: You know, we're just ourselves, so we end up saying ridiculous things from time to time and just having fun. It's infectious. We giggle when we're together. We laugh, we tell jokes. We bring our friendship onto stage so people get a sense of what we're like on long drives – when we have had no sleep and lots of coffee.
TW: That is when the magic happens.
AW: Yeah, that's where the magic is – in your fifth cup of coffee.