Lanisa Dawn

by the partae
Lanisa Dawn

Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?

I live in Montreal and we definitely have a vibrant music scene here! We are the home to many poets, artists, dreamers that’s for sure :). There’s a plethora of restaurants, bars, and clubs that host open mics & live bands, big underground music scene, as well as festivals in practically every genre: the iconic jazz festival, Osheaga, Heavy Montreal for all the metalheads, POP Montreal celebrates many emerging acts from all over the world, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for classical music. Party goers may get enjoy Piknic Electronik in the summer and Igloofest in the winter if they love electronic techno music. We have a massive french music festival called Les FrancoFolies. The list could go on and on – SO much happening here!

When and how did you first get involved in acting?

My first experience acting was at the age of 11 when I was given the lead role as a rabbit in the school’s theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit. I got that role either out of pure talent, or most likely was type-cast since at the time my two front teeth stuck way out & I just looked perfect for the part 😉 (yay for braces in my future!). After high school, I studied acting at the DOME – Professional Theatre Program at Dawson College here in Montreal. I completed two out of the three years, then left to study something else because at the time I felt societal pressure to pursue a “normal” career. I only got back into acting years later when I attended the Summer Conservatory Program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Training in NYC for a summer was one of the most enriching artistic experiences of my life! Fast forward, after being involved in the musical theatre scene in Montreal, I was then selected for a one year contract as a “Resident Actress” for a theatre company based in Hong Kong. Right after the contract was complete, I was cast in my first feature film which shot on location for a little over a month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Haven’t stopped since and it’s been quite the adventure…the journey continues and never stops!

How has your acting career developed since you first started?

Unfortunately the film I did in Malaysia never saw the light of day due to post production issues and an investor had pulled out of the project. However, it was a great experience because it was my first time on a film set and it’s what got me my agent when I returned back home. Since having representation in the last couple years, I booked a national commercial which got me into the actor’s union ACTRA (equivalent to SAG-AFTRA in the states, but the Canadian version). I was also fortunate to work on a short film that was selected for screening at TIFF, an actor role in the CBC TV series The Detectives, recurring principal roles on two award nominated french web-series. I also had a major role in a horror film which is supposed to come out eventually. The investor was a new media digital platform called Blackpills…James Franco is also making content for this media space, so pretty cool! The last project I worked on was a feature film called Gut Instinct starring Josh Hartnett (my crush when I was a teen)! I had gone in to audition for a major role for that one, but didn’t get the part. I ended up being offered a small role in the production & it’s always amazing to be on a set and inspired by the whole cast and crew surrounding you:). I’ve been having a great time, and continue to develop myself as an artist!

How and why did you first start playing music?  

Singing was a natural talent for me as a kid. My mom is a singer and we used to sing together by the piano when I was really young, so those memories are very dear to me. Adults would always tell me that I had a unique voice, and they would be surprised when this little girl would open her mouth to sing, and a deep full voice would come out. My vocal range for a woman is quite deep and was pretty much the same tone when I was a kid (you could say I grew into my voice haha) so it made even more of an impact coming from a small human LOL. When I started acting, I combined the two and was heavily into musical theatre, but then I found myself writing lyrics and humming melodies in the last few years, so I thought hey why not bring these words off paper and just create create create! So that’s what I’ve been doing. 🙂

Your single ‘Witness’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting for this track?

Witness was the first song I ever wrote so it was a completely new artistic process for me. The bottom line was that I wanted to tell a story, and a story that people could relate to. The songwriting for this track was influenced by the feeling of inspiration, motivation and conquering your insecurities and fears. It’s not always easy, even for me, because I overthink a lot and feel things very deeply… but that is what WITNESS stands for – aim to be a witness to those negative times, reflect on it, but dont allow it to consume you. The human mind is complex and much stronger than we think and we have the power to control it. Life is beautiful! For sound, we went for a melodic tone, piano, lots of harmonies on the chorus, electronic pop elements, and of course because the song starts off as more of a slow ballad, we went for that uptempo pop chorus with a hook so it can get stuck in your head;).

Where and when did you record?

I recorded this song about a year ago or maybe more at a studio in Montreal, with a production team called “The Lost Boys”. I’ve been working on music with them since then. Witness was put aside for a little while after we recorded it, because I wasn’t sure what I’d release first. I was happy just going through the process of creating material, until finally I got antsy and wanted to make my debut. I’m happy I went with this track as the first. The reaction and feedback has been very humbling and positive!

How do you usually go about writing music?

I prefer collaborating with people because I believe as a team you can be way stronger. So far, anything I’ve written myself came to me in a few different ways: either I just get a jolt of inspiration out of nowhere and get myself into a state of conscious flow where I’m writing down whatever is in my head. Usually have a melody in mind as well, so that after I can structure it accordingly. Or a lot of times, I’m walking down the street and a phrase with a melody will pop into my head, so I’ll record it into my phone really quickly and develop it later. The easiest for me, is when an instrumental track is already made. I can easily get inspired through the music alone and then create lyrics and melody over that. I think a process which is very organic and probably the most fun though, is when you’re jamming with a bunch of your musical friends in a dark room, just singing absolute nonsense until you come up with something awesome:). I need to do more of that!

Please tell us how the concept for the ‘Witness’ video came about?

It took some time with the production team to come up with the concept, but we absolutely knew we wanted the video to bring the song to life and tell a story that could affect people. We ended up using the concept of a young girl losing her parents and then growing up and finding peace. As a child we are at our most innocent and purest state, not yet jaded by the outside world, and so we wanted to show that even when the most negative things happen to any of us (no matter what it may be), as we grow we must move forward and be resilient, find our inner peace and happiness. You meet people who have gone through so much, and yet they are extraordinary! It’s truly inspiring. So we wanted to touch on that and felt that concept would make the biggest impact. 

Where and when did the filming take place?

The filming for the video took place last winter! Fun Fact: The video was shot in a vintage home in Old Montreal that used to belong to the Papineau family who are big part of Quebec’s history. Although previously inhabited by citizens in the last few years, it’s now been repossessed by the City of Montreal to preserve its heritage, and this happened shortly after the owner let us shoot there!

Who did you work with?

For the video I worked with a production team called Rubicon Pictures & Media, who have collaborated with many of Montreal’s artists & they are such a fantastic team. Extremely professional and vibrant! I also worked with director Alberto D’Onofrio, who cast Florence (the little girl in the video), and I can honestly say the performances from both myself and Florence would not have been the same without him. The whole team was undeniably passionate. It was a great shoot! 

What do you like to do away from music?

It’s pretty ironic that I’m saying this, because I have a huge fear of planes and yet I love traveling ha! One day I’d love to be able to take off for a good few months and travel all over. Go on adventures and discover more of the world. I’m fortunate to have been able to travel a lot already… but that’s what makes me crave seeing even more!:) 

I’m also into hitting the slopes skiing in winter, I enjoy hiking and being outdoors in the summer, boating, waterskiing. I like going out, social events, networking with my peers, eating at good restaurants, delicious food, wine, etc. 

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Ohhh boy, that is probably the toughest question for me of this entire interview because I listen to Spotify and my playlists are a mashup of so many different artists and styles. I can tell you recently I was introduced to Khalid and Post Malone, and I’m into that. Through listening to their music I also discovered H.E.R, love her deep vocals and music production is on fire. For the less mainstream stuff, I listen to Banks, FKA Twigs (her voice & style is crazy good), Howling, Bob Moses, Joy Williams – she’s an amazing folky singer, LOVE Labrinth he was my favourite for a while. As for the mainstream popular stuff: I’ve always loved the Weeknd, Bruno Mars (great performer!), Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Lana Del Rey… been into a few of Dua Lipa’s songs for fun easy listening recently, Alessia Cara, Daniel Caesar. I also listen to artists of deep house, techno, jazz, classical, rock & roll, old school tunes….. it really just depends on my mood, but everyday I’m listening to something different. 

Plans for 2019?

Lots of plans! I finally have enough material for a solid acting demo reel, so I’ll be putting that together for the new year and aiming at getting more auditions and roles. I’ve also continued to work on new music, so there will be a lot more singles rolling out throughout the year. I’ve started conceptualizing my own short film ideas and I’d like to write those scripts and get into creating my own work. I think the best thing an artist can do for themselves is create their own opportunities, instead of sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring. 

Favourite food and place to hangout?

Favourite food is sushi…but has to be good sushi, not like the fast food kind. Fave hangout spot…hmm… recently went for a Jam Night at Rosewood (it’s a restaurant/bar in the old port of Montreal that hosts different music nights, open mics for singers and bands first Tuesday of every month). My friends own the place, so I always know people there and it’s a good time! Other favourite place would have to be at home in bed, with my cats…haha. I can’t deny that! 😉

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