The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Singer/Songwriter and Guitarist, Dina Regine
By Gabriella Steffenberg
Dina Regine’s newest album, Right On, Alright, has the stylings of a dreamy, late-60’s/early-70’s summertime haze. With influences of that time featuring the spirit of vintage rock, soul, and country, the final product is something truly worth giving a spin (or 20).
Right On, Alright, was recorded in Regine’s hometown Long Island City, in Queens, N.Y., at Spin Studios with GRAMMY nominated producer Nik Chinboukas. Check out all that Regine has been up to as of late here.
WiMN: Love the retro feel of your new album. What made you want to go back to your childhood years and make an album heavily inspired by those times?
DR: It happened pretty organically. I started reading the Keith Richards book Life, and his enthusiasm about the great artists of the ’60s (and music in general) was so contagious, I decided to revisit some old records I hadn’t listened to in awhile. I pulled out a few guitars I had been ignoring, and started playing along with my record player, just like I did when I was a kid. Then I bought this beautiful one-of-a-kind electric tenor guitar for a hundred bucks, made up a tuning, and that was the final magic ingredient. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I had this vintage-flavored album.
WiMN: All of the musicians featured on the album are friends of yours. How did that impact the recording process?
DR: All these musicians are not only friends of mine, but they are all really close with each other. They’ve toured/played together, with various artists (Norah Jones, Rosanne Cash, Bill Frisell, Levon Helm, to name a few), and they all hang out together when they’re not working.
I also had my best friend, Michelle Casillas from the band Ursa Minor, helping through out the process, singing backups, being my second “ear” with the mixes, as well as engineering Tony Scherr’s guitar overdubs at his Brooklyn studio. So it was truly a family affair, with a seriously creative and talented family. They sprinkled magic all over the songs, and did it with a lot of love. Nik Chinboukas was awesome at stirring up all that magic into a pretty tasty stew, and made me laugh so hard, I had to ice my face once!
When it came time to do the cover, I had my good friend (and sometimes shooting partner on photo projects) Laila MirOku photograph the cover (her concept), and my buddy Scarlet Rowe pulled it all together with his killer graphics. The core band on the record is Tony Scherr, Dan Rieser, Tim Luntzel, & Jon Cowherd. The horns are Erik Lawrence, Briggan Krauss, and Frank London. Shaky Dave is the guy wailing on harp on “Nothing Here.” The lovely backing voices gracing the record are Michelle Casillas, Toni Ridley, Ricky Byrd, Michael Wildwood, and Nina Tolins. I have a big family
WiMN: What are your favorite tracks on Right On, Alright?
DR: Well, if you ask me on a Monday what my favorite track is… it won’t be the same answer on Friday. Each of the tunes resonate with me in a bit of a different way, which I think is a good thing. But if I had to choose which one I lean towards the most, it would be the opening track “Gotta Tell You.”
I guess I wasn’t alone in that thinking because Steven Van Zandt picked that song for his TV show Lilyhammer back in December of last year. Then in January, he featured it as “The Coolest Song In The World” on The Underground Garage, his radio station on Sirius XM. Van Zandt is such a creative guy; aside from his work with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Wicked Cool Records (his label), his acting and producing, he still finds the time to discover all these interesting unknown artists all over the world, and break them on The Underground Garage. Personally, I think he’s about as cool as it gets.
WiMN: Are you considering putting your album on Spotify?
DR: Absolutely not, I have this record on iTunes and Amazon, and I sell physical CDs from my online store, and mail them from my home.
I have my first two albums Be As It Will and Blame It On The Moon on Spotify, and they have been getting a lot of play lately. I just got a check for 17 cents. 17 cents! My feeling is, keep your 17 cents; I’d rather stream the music from my own site, and at least develop a relationship with my listeners, than give away a penny to a company that shows musicians and writers such little respect.
This is a topic that could easily be longer than this whole interview, but in short I will say this: I think that there needs to be some sort of regulation to protect musicians and writers. Nobody says movies should stream for free, why should music? What’s the difference? I spend a fortune on movies, and pay sites like HBO and Showtime. I’m not trying to fight the future, I’m all for the modern concept of streaming. I’m just saying it needs to be done in a fair way.
I can’t understand how anyone could argue that, yet there is a major war waging over this right now. It’s going to take one hell of a big band aid to fix this mess. Many people get up and go to work every day and make a salary for a job well done. How can anyone think it’s cool to get music for free from musicians and writers who do exactly the same thing? What makes one person’s work worthy of a paycheck and another’s worthy of nothing?
Also, these artists pay a hefty fee out of their pocket to record, and share their music to the world, most do not have major labels behind them, and many work a 9-5 to finance their art. Unless you’re recording a solo acoustic album in your bedroom, the overhead to make a record is a lot. Even in the best situations. I spent every dime I had making Right On, Alright, my future shopping will be “window shopping” only.
Perhaps because the spokespeople for this fight are so rich and famous, it clouds what is happening to the majority of artists who are not at the fame level of Madonna, Béyoncé, or U2. I sometimes think the average consumer thinks all musicians live high on the hog. I don’t even have a hog! As you can see, I have pretty strong feelings about this.
WiMN: Who have you found to be your most consistent musical inspirations over the years?
DR: I have many. The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Rait, Aretha, most of the old Atlantic soul artists, and old blues, is what I grew up on, and still adore and listen to.
I was fortunate as a kid to get to go to more concerts than most, so, it was a constant education. Through the years many artists have really gotten under my skin, and being a DJ has kept me right on the pulse of everything new since the ’80s.
My friend Chris Whitley was a massive inspiration and a mentor at times, always gracious in sharing his wisdom. I think his work is just brilliant, and he will always inspire me. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mark Lanegan; I think he’s pretty fantastic.
WiMN: Two of your songs from your newest album have been picked up for use in television and film productions. What does it feel like to see your work being recognized in different forms of media?
DR: It’s pretty exciting to turn on the radio or TV, and, ta dah, it’s you playing! I could get used to this; really, I could.
Aside from Lilyhammer, I just recently found out that “Nothing Here” will be in a new movie directed by Venita Ozols-Graham, and I’ve heard it will be an all-female soundtrack. So, for my record being out only a couple of months, it’s off to a sweet start.
WiMN: How has your music evolved since you first started playing?
DR: When I was young, I really focused on my acoustic guitar playing, and finding my singing voice. I was very into fingerpicking styles, and being able to accompany myself solo.
In the beginning, I wrote a few songs, but they weren’t all that good, so, I covered a lot of songs that I felt at home with. I’m a late bloomer as a writer; it’s taken me a long time to say what I want, in a way that I feel satisfied. Sometimes words are my best friend, other times, they want to duke it out. It’s all a process, and I’ve really been enjoying the ride lately.
I think most artists continue to evolve for as long as they are capable at doing what they do. I still have a lot of ground to cover.
WiMN: In addition to being a killer musician, you’re a photographer as well. What are your favorite kinds of projects to be a part of? What have you been working on recently?
DR: As a photographer, my favorite topics are street and music photography. I also like working with abstract images as well. Presently, I’m working on a book of music photographs I took as a young teen back in the ’70s, along with some fun stories, and I’m pretty excited about that.
I have some incredible photographs in this collection that I’m very proud of, all major bands. I’ve also been playing around with video editing as well. I made two lyric videos so far for this album, and it’s been a lot of fun. I think this is something I want to explore further.
I’ve been working on a video for “Wildest Days” over the past year, featuring images (some mine, some donated, some old stock footage) of challenging periods in history past and present involving political, social and ecological topics.
Lastly, I’m also trying to put together a program for children and young teens, sharing what I know about DJ-ing, photography, and music. When I was growing up, I had to figure most things out on my own; I could have used a little help from time to time. I’d love to introduce something artistic and creative that might spark a passion in a child, and watch what blossoms. That is a magical thing.
WiMN: Do you have any advice for fellow female musicians trying to break into the industry?
DR: I’m not sure I would give women any different advice than I would give a guy these days. Back when I was younger, yeah, I would have had a ton of advice on how to roll with the boys club. But, things are different now, and you don’t hear “yeah, she’s pretty good for a girl” on a regular basis like I did when I was coming up.
There are some areas of music that are very male dominated, but, hell… if there’s a closed door, just open it, and walk in. If you have to kick it in, then kick it in. Sometimes you got to make a little noise to be heard, and that’s just fine. If you love what you do, be the best you can be, and be true to your art. Don’t try to be someone else. Learn from the best, then, make it your own.
Be curious about artists that came before your time. You cheat yourself out of so much when you only listen to what’s happening now or just the style you play. Don’t be fooled by what you see on TV, you could win a contest, have your 15 minutes of fame (as Andy Warhol would say), and be gone tomorrow. A true artist will endure the storms, and never look at their watch.
WiMN: Any touring planned for 2015?
DR: I don’t have any tours planned at the moment … but you know, that could always change in an instant. I’ve learned how to pack a suitcase real fast.