Finding narrative bliss
Local Juno-nominated musician Maria Dunn makes narrative recourse her music’s primary focus, using story through song as a force for change.
When it comes to her songwriting approach, Dunn puts heavy emphasis on ensuring each piece works within its own musical structure.
“I want the emotion and the individual story to speak to me, and from there I will construct a narrative,” Dunn explains.
Dunn pursued a life of music while in University, developing a distinctive style taking heavy inspiration from her Celtic roots as well as musical cues from American folk and bluegrass styles. Her early career focused on these methods, and as Dunn progressed, she focused on a solid narrative structure in her songs.
Her 2012 album Piece by Piece told the story of immigrants who came to Canada and were put in the textile workforce. Additional stories from across the globe began to thematically bleed into Dunn’s songs and this resulted in a dynamic shift in her future albums.
With the success of Piece by Piece, Dunn’s storytelling became increasingly integral in portraying the hardships of her characters.
“It’s all about reflecting the stories of these people,” says Dunn.
Dunn crafted this philosophy around her 2016 release, Gathering. Unlike her previous album, Gathering focuses on telling a different story each song, as opposed to a linear theme. In this creative territory Dunn wanted to embrace the cultural and musical styles of the geography the songs are influenced by.
“When I’m writing these songs I want to evoke those countries of origins,” she says.
Dunn enlisted the help of local musicians as well as players from the countries of inspiration. The result is a mighty sound that blends Dunn’s style with the flavour of each culture she’s portraying in song.
“It seems natural to blend those elements musically,” she explains. “It’s been an extremely rewarding mental and musical exercise.”
The songs on Gathering each have a unique story to tell, with a heavy emphasis on love, humanity and community. Dunn is most exited for audiences to hear the song “Malala,” which was inspired by the actions of the famous Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
“These are different stories with different themes, but at the core of all of that is a love that fires you up,” she says of the work.
Dunn believes that the power of stories in music can benefit the world and hopes that her music will stir people’s hearts enough to share stories that need to be shared.
“I hope that my music can inspire people in moments where they feel like the world is a thankless slog.”
Sat., Apr. 22 (8 pm)
Maria Dunn Trio
Northern Lights Folk Club
$23 in advance, $27 at the door