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Before she hit the stage at Alex's Bar in Long Beach this past February, Brody Dalle was a wreck. Despite having played at stadiums and festivals, she paced back and forth with the anxious energy of a newcomer about to play her first gig. Yet in a sense, that's exactly what the veteran singer/songwriter was doing.
"When I'm not on tour and playing every night, I get a little bit nervous," Dalle explains over the phone. "When you're on tour, you get in a rhythm and you may have some not-so-great shows but you're playing every night. The Long Beach show was terrifying and I don't remember it."
Dalle's status as a solo artist is new, but she's been in bands since she was a teen in Melbourne, Australia. Regardless, on that night at Alex's, she had the jitters. She worried she'd forget lyrics or guitar chords. She had to be cognizant of the crowd and feed them some witty stage banter to show them that she was feeling their good vibes. She claims to be shy, but when you see her plow through her set, you'd think otherwise.
"Standing in front of a room of people and being vulnerable, it's scary," the former Distillers front woman says. "Then you just let go and once you let go, it's all good. I think since that was my first show that I was kind of holding on while the train took off."
After heading to Europe for more solo, warm-up shows, Dalle joined Nine Inch Nails and her husband Josh Homme's band Queens of the Stone Age for a South Pacific tour, with dates in Australia and New Zealand. Although she was the opener, Dalle says that's when things really got going. She and her backing band were disappointed when the tour ended.
One of the main turning points for Dalle took place in 2010. Homme went in for knee surgery and actually died on the operating table before being resuscitated. The incident understandably had an enormous impact on Dalle.
"That was terrifying, absolutely terrifying," she says, holding back her emotions. "My husband is a super human. I don't think I've seen someone endure that much physical pain before in my life. It was brutal and really scary."
As a result, Dalle spent years tending to life at home before beginning work on her first solo record, Diploid Love. Co-produced with frequent Queens collaborator Alain Johannes, the collection features a slew of artists whom Dalle admires. Garbage's Shirley Manson ("She's my favorite and like a big sister and mentor"), Nick Valensi of the Strokes, Emily Kokal of Warpaint and Michael Shuman of Queens of the Stone Age all appear on the album. Working with this eclectic group of rockers brought different elements to Dalle's sound.
Unlike musicians who head into the studio with a tightly crafted schedule and songs to record, Dalle says she works best when she flies by the seat of her pants, which opens the door for more creativity. Her spirit can be heard on the harder, more rockin' songs as well as the tender, vulnerable tracks.
"All of my stuff is personal," she says. "I love writing poetry and putting words together to paint a picture and I think I'm at a point where I can eloquently [express] how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking, which comes with my experiences of writing."
After she finishes up her run of solo shows, Dalle will once again hit the road opening for her husband's band. Outside of the usual benefits of traveling as a husband and wife, Dalle says that one of the biggest net positives is taking their two kids out on the road with them.
"It's the best of both worlds," she says. "It's painful to be away from them. I have anxiety when I think about it. But they're great travelers and are pros at this point."
As her solo career blossoms, Dalle knows there are more albums to be made and more shows to be played. Spending a tumultuous half decade tending to family matters has not only strengthened her resolve, but allows her to reflect positively on her new beginning.
"It feels great and I'm actually enjoying it more than I ever did before," Dalle says. "I feel more in tune and connected to myself than I ever did before, which is something that feels awesome."