Feeling Digital With Dizzy Fae
Dizzy Fae is the R&B-inspired, classically trained musical artist with a distinctive take on the increasingly electronic sound of today’s music scene. Former member of TU Dance and alumna of the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, Dizzy is somewhat of a Renaissance woman. Her sultry, smart, and playful vocals range from soft melodies to atonal cadence to straight up rap; combined with her use of synths and bouncy, digital percussion, you already know it’s Dizzy just a few seconds into any one of her songs. In tracks like “Booty 3000” off her Free Form mixtape and her latest single, “Lifestyle”, her serious vocal chops are supported by instrumentals that might call to mind disco or techno, depending on what era you’re feeling. True to theme of Free Form, Dizzy Fae sat down to chat with Milk about all things spontaneity—whether emotionally, musically, or in finding artistic inspiration. While she appreciates the classics and is enthusiastic about studying technique, she also stresses the importance of doing what you want. Recent performances include touring with Lizzo and headlining an NYFW rager at Next Century. Check out her music videos for “Don’t Hate for Me” and “Her/Indica”.
First can you just tell me a little bit about your performance at Next Century?
Oh yeah, that shit is cool. I feel like every show I do in New York is completely different from the other. At Next Century, you know, it’s a department store. So like—I performed in a room upstairs, and I’d walk out of the room onto a balcony and see all the clothes below, so that kinda tripped me out, every now and then. I love being in New York because everyone has style. In Minnesota [laughs], everything is pretty plain Jane.
Are you from Minnesota?
Yeah. Minneapolis, St. Paul.
Do you have a favorite type of venue to perform in?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I went on tour about two years ago with Lizzo and we hit a bunch of stops, but on tour it’s like you get to see a place, and then you go to the next one the next day. So I don’t have the best memory of it, but I feel like every show I’ve done in New York—it really comes down to sound. I don’t think I have a favorite place yet.
Speaking of tours, you’re touring with Toro y Moi in November. Are you excited?
I’m excited, yeah! Me and Chaz have been working on the music, and we know each other so that’s cool, and he’s just like a chiller. He’s really cool, very calm, and everyone else from Toro y Moi as well. And the shows in New York are sold out! So that’s gonna be super sick.
Tell us about your name and how that came about.
It took me a second, but I kid you not—I was lying on my bed going through names in my head and Dizzy came up. Then I was like, ‘Well, there’s a few Dizzies in the world,’ so I took the word “fae” from the word “fate”—I took off the ‘t’ because it slips off the tongue better.
Fate, cool. That reminds me of your song “Temporary,” and the sense of things being impermanent, or letting things take you where they lead you.
Yeah, definitely. What I’ve realized is that I’m really into the journey, things evolving and constant change and like, being okay with it, because it’s all who I am. “Temporary” definitely has that vibe where it’s like—it is what it is right now, and at the end of the day I’m just figuring out who I am.
What are some of the other themes and emotional threads running through the mixtape?
I actually got off tour with Lizzo and—I think I wrote that project in two or three weeks. And we made a mixtape because it’s just more of a collective of songs, and each song is different from the other, but it has the same kind of vibe. The overall theme, Free Form comes from—well, I went to this museum, actually, when I first met Chaz from Toro y Moi. He took us to the Berkeley Museum of Modern Art, and the exhibit was Free Form. And it was actually a traveling exhibit from The Walker in Minneapolis. The world is small! So basically, “free form” is just being who I am, not involving the system in the ways that I live, you know? It really helped me, that theme of this project, because it allowed me to be more open and more experimental with the things that I worked on, and everything else beyond that would feel like an evolution of what that was.
I think the name has a lot of other meanings that listeners might think of. Like I was thinking about free form jazz—and even your name reminds me of Dizzy Gillespie.
Yeah! That’s definitely—that’s not the reason why my name is Dizzy, but I used to play trumpet when I was younger. And so it was probably in the back of my mind when I did think of Dizzy. That’s definitely an influence in my life.
Can you talk about your former training in music and bringing that into your work now?
So I trained in opera, classical music, and jazz for four years in high school, at the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. It’s high school, but it was intense training. It was every day for about three hours a day.
That’s a lot.
It was a lot. But that kind of let me experiment with my voice training as well, especially because those years are just really important because your body’s changing. Even now, I need a vocal coach. Yeah, it’s just intense training. I really got to broaden my vocab for the love of jazz music that I do have, and I actually kind of like classical music. If I were to go to college, it would definitely be for opera or classical training.
Do you think that plays a role in your music now? You seem to draw from so many different genres. Trap, hip-hop, jazz, even house.
Yeah. I’m all over the place. My style—if you were to look at any of the playlists I have, it’s all over the place. I go so many different ways. It does play a big part. Because if I didn’t to go to school where I did, I wouldn’t be the singer I am today.
Tell me more about your playlists. What are you listening to?
My playlists are all over the place. It changes all the time. I’ve been listening to a lot of Nate Dogg, like West Coast music, hip hop. Let’s see. Yeah, I listen to a lot of ‘80s music. I love Rico Nasty. And Blood Orange. Like, for real, so talented. I always love Frank Ocean. I listen to a lot of Tierra Wack. I listen to a lot of female artists that rap and then a lot of male artists that sing; yeah I’m just now realizing that.
Seems like there’s a stereotype that men rap and women sing.
Yeah, and honestly I don’t like that. It’s like, the same shit every day. [Laughs] But again, I’m also trying to not keep the gender thing going.
How do you do that? Like, subverting gender in your style and your music.
I really kind of started with giving the concept of—like if I have a love song, even the concept of it being about a woman, or about a man—in a music video, in a visual way. I did that recently with my song “Her” and “Indica”, which was about a woman. But I really want people to feel what they feel, and I just kind of give them that visually. I think with gender, it’s tricky. I’m still trying to figure out how to describe it—that it is what it is.
That reminds me of one of your lines in “Kosmic Luv”—“You don’t wanna be scripted, you wanna say what you feel when you feel it”. That seems to be another theme—emotional honesty. Does that play a role?
It does. And it plays a role in my style too, and how I present myself. Because I do believe that I should, as a human, be sensitive to other people’s feelings, but as a human, also be doing whatever the fuck I want, when I need to and when I want to, because I think that’s what’s going to help me grow the most—but being empathetic is what’s going to keep me grounded. And I’m just young. I just wanna do. You know?
Going back to singing versus rapping, can you talk about the role of melody in your music?
Yeah. On Free Form, I thought about melodies a lot. I’ve been getting more into harmonies. Harmonies are hard. I don’t think people give people give people enough credit for how well harmonies they can do. Like, you know Ravyn Lenae?
I don’t think she gets enough credit for her harmonies. Like, that shit is hard. And I was training for four years. I was in choir and all that, and I’m still figuring out an ear for it. I’m getting better with that. But melodies just kind of come. I’ll be anywhere and I just have a melody in my head. I probably have over 500 voice memos of just fucking around, and sometimes I never look back at it. Because when I’m in the studio, it’s just damn near freestyles.
I also think there’s a digital, almost futuristic sound that’s trending—kind of like Blood Orange, which you mentioned—is that sound something that speaks to you?
Yeah, for sure. Especially Blood Orange. The digital, futuristic flair just comes, and it’s been coming more naturally, too. Like, I’ll hear something and I’ll be like—hey, can you pitch that voice lower, or can we add more of this sound that breaks it up in a way that sounds more futuristic? But yeah, I mean, Andre 3000 kind of set the ball for that. Yeah, it definitely is something that resonates with me in constant ways.
What’s it like coming from a classical background but working with the voice in a digital way? How do you balance and prioritize the two sounds or techniques?
Honestly, when I first made the mixtape, that was my first project ever, and I kind of just did whatever I wanted to do in the studio. And then I started performing more, and I was doing things that were unhealthy for my voice. And I just turned 20, so that would be a lot of years of singing with bad technique, so now I’m starting to really—like in “Lifestyle”, for instance. That’s me belt-talking, singing, and it won’t ever strain my voice. Especially with the new music that’s coming out, there’s a little bit more melody—not melody, but better technique with my voice that will be better in the long run. Because this is some shit I want to do for the rest of my life. I mean, I knew I was going to be performing—I’m definitely an entertainer, but I’m starting to realize my priorities with my singing style the more I perform, the more I tour, the more I’m out here. You don’t really realize priorities when you start something and you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. And I think that’s how the music industry is.
Did you have an ‘aha’ moment?
Yeah, I actually just got an apartment in Minneapolis, and my mom just moved to California. So like, literally a few days ago. So that’s when it kinda hit me. I’m like — okay, this is some shit I want to do for the rest of my life, and I gotta fucking push towards it — not only for me, but for my people. But that was a turning point, when I realized that family-wise, I’m by myself where I am. It’s like going off to college, but I didn’t go off to college.
Can you say a little more about singing for your people? Who, or what, are you singing for?
Yeah. So one time, I was talking to my manager, and we were talking about shows and stuff, and he really brought it to my attention that all these people that are in the audience came from a different place. Some people might have gotten ready in their car just to see me perform, or some people rushed from somewhere really far, someone’s family member might have died that week—you know, there’s so many different worlds and different stories, and I live for that. I live for giving them that moment and that space—just like, people, all around. Seeing how my mom gets really happy. And fans are really cool. People are so sweet. So I do it for people. All of it.
How would you describe your performing style?
Still figuring that out. It’s definitely something that’s going to keep evolving with time. But I’ve been working out and singing as I work out so I have enough air and endurance to keep going. I didn’t realize how hard singing and dancing were at the same time, but I dance a lot. I used to dance ballet, African, modern, like almost five years. It’s intense, and actually that was another turning point. When I quit dance, I had to take music more seriously, because music was becoming a more time consuming thing for me. Girl, days are like—you got like five hours in the studio dancing. I was dancing with a company too, TU Dance. So I had to really pick and choose there. I had a lot of aha moments though.
I feel like you never stop having those.
You never stop! You never stop.
How does your visual style relate to your musical style?
When it comes to style, I used to work at a thrift store, so that kinda helped shape me. I wore uniforms until high school, so after that I kinda went ham and tried different things. There was one point when I wore a bowtie and basketball shorts [laughs]. Oh, I hope no one grabs that photo off the internet! But yeah, I kinda went crazy. And I’m also a Leo, so I like to be on the wild side, wanting to be seen. And I enjoy eyes. I think people listen with their eyes these days, since we’re constantly on our phones.
That’s an interesting phrase—listening with our eyes. I do feel like a lot of my favorite songs are because of music videos I’ve seen.
Yeah, exactly. And it gives you something else to connect to. Talking in a more sensual way. And everyone wants to connect to something, so I’m down. I definitely want to give people a journey. It’s kinda hard, style, because I’m always switching it up, but I’m like, damn. People are gonna grab onto it, but whatever.
The list you curated for the Walker Museum is really cool. Where else do you find inspiration outside of music?
I think it’s more like, when I see something outside the box, it brings me outside the box that I’m in. I think I grab more inspiration for music from things that aren’t music. I go with feeling a lot, like my gut guides me. So visually—a lot of visuals help me. Every time I listen to a song, I have a movie in my head every single time. If I’m just listening to something, there’s like a scene that I make up in my head. I can’t wait to bring my shit to life. So I was talking about this artist on the Walker piece. Her name is Dain Yoon, and she does illusions with her makeup. She’s so tight, so sick. That inspired me in a way where it’s just like—it’s the little things that bring out the big things.
Another thing I wanted to ask you about was storytelling. When I was listening to your mixtape, I was thinking about how there were so many different moods—humor, love, etc. How do you see yourself as a storyteller?
It really depends on how I’m feeling when I get to the studio that day, that moment. That’s cool that you bring up storytelling though, because I’m definitely trying to get into it more. I hope that you got some storytelling out of it.But I’m still trying to get into it more, because I think I can tell a story. I definitely want to provide a journey, something you can latch onto and be a part of. Like, for instance, Frank Ocean always has a story. Every song he has. And I think storytelling makes you a really good artist.
You were in the Billboard Top 12 LGBTQ Musicians to Discover during Pride Month. Does queerness play a role in your music at all?
Hm. I think the only time it was a thing was in “Her” and “Indica,” but I’m so queer that it’s not a thing. Like, love is love, and what I feel is what I feel. I really am a gut person.
If there’s a person and I’m like—this person’s so fine, and we have a good thing going, in this moment, and I’m feeling that in the studio, I would definitely write about that. But it really depends on how I feel in the studio. I think my best music comes out when I just get in the studio and don’t think about anything outside of it.
So are you writing with something in mind, or where the music takes you?
I kinda go where the music takes me. And then I listen back to the songs, and I’m like—oh shit. All this music is like the person that I want to be. I’m literally manifesting who I am within my music. But I like to leave things up for interpretation, so people can feel connected in every way, because no one sees the world the way you see it.
What’s up next for you?
So I’m going on tour with Toro y Moi. And my life has been so spontaneous after the mixtape came out so, I couldn’t tell you where I’d be in a month. But I’m working on music, I have a project coming out this year, and I’m recording a few music videos. I’m also just trying to focus on the music, and self care.
Super important. Trying to get on that road now so that it’s easier.
What are your self-care go-tos?
I really love me some good kombucha. That’s just like one of those things that I can have every morning. I like cooking my own meals. That’s a good self-care thing for me. So therapeutic. And it’s time-consuming, so it gives you enough time to meditate, think about what you’re putting in your body—like, you are what you eat. I’m a big believer in that. I spend time alone. Too much time alone or I think too hard, so I’m trying to think about that balance, but I’m trying to enjoy my own presence and who I am. I’m still figuring it out. Hit me up at 22, and I might have a better idea of self care [laughs]!
Stay tuned to Milk for more artists on the rise.