A Lot to Say: Dina Renee on Performing in LA
"I don’t like going to clubs where the girls don’t dance."
Singer, songwriter, Karaoke queen, and possible comedian in the making, Dina Renee is a scream. “I stopped drinking for a month. I lost ten pounds. I thought, is it worth it to be a bitch and skinny or should I be happy and pregnant-looking for a lifetime? It was a long month but Dina is back out, having fun, and doing what she loves which is performing music, gigging all over Los Angeles, hosting Karaoke nights, and just being the honest, upfront, character that she is. Catch Dina Renee at Molly Malone’s on January 17th.
MR: When did you start performing?
DR: I’ve been performing since I was three years old. I taught myself how to play piano and I used to fall down the stairs about four times a day. I think that was my element of performance or maybe I just really needed attention. My brother and sister didn’t even notice. They were like, “That’s Dina…”
MR: When did you first know you wanted to be a pop singer?
DR: My sister is a really good singer. I pretty much worshipped her growing up. She had a Paula Abdul CD and after hearing that, I knew my interest was pop. I’ve loved music since I was three or four. I was really shy and I would put headphones on and sing. I thought because I couldn’t hear myself, no one else could hear me. One day when I was four years old, I was on a plane and I realized that people could hear me singing. I was mortified.
MR: When did you start performing professionally?
DR: I started performing in venues two years ago. I always thought I would get signed by a label and then start performing but that’s not always how it works. After my mom passed away from cancer three years ago, everything changed and I decided to start going for it on my own. I bought a cheap pink guitar. I looked like a total idiot walking into Guitar Center with a Britney Spears t-shirt on and a pink guitar. My best friend Alexandra Fresquez is also a pop singer and we started playing shows together. We were both a bit insecure to believe in ourselves and sing our own songs at first but we’ve come a long way.
MR: Where did that insecurity come from?
DR: I’m not sure. In college I had no fear. I would go up to DJs at the club and ask for the microphone. They would be like, “How did you get up here?” and I’d be like, “I don’t know but can you please give me the microphone. Please let me sing.” My friends would ask, “Where’s Dina?” But next thing they know I’d be singing “Telephone” by Lady Gaga up in the dj booth. I don’t do that anymore…
MR: Where did you go to college?
DR: I went to the University of Tennessee where I’m from in Knoxville. I never thought I wanted to go to college. I didn’t think it was right for me, but I got a scholarship and studying abroad was the best thing I ever did.
MR: Do you like to go out?
DR: When I first moved here, I went out every single night for an entire month.
I don’t go to clubs as much anymore but still love Warwick and Hyde. I dig the music there. I like clubs where they actually play entire songs and they don’t stop right in the middle of them. I gravitate towards pretty places but when it comes down to it, I only want to go places where there are good people. I don’t like going to clubs where the girls don’t dance. I like to go places where I can act like an idiot like No Vacancy and Dirty Laundry. That little area is fun sometimes. I like Rock and Reilly’s on a Monday, The Belmont on a Sunday. Basically I like anywhere that has good karaoke. One of my friends’ boyfriends once said to my friend one day while they were fighting, “Why don’t you just go hang out with Dina and live a karaoke life.” I was so offended then I realized I do karaoke almost every night.
MR: What is your go-to karaoke song?
DR: I come alive when I sing Britney’s “Circus” at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood and enjoy getting on the furniture as I’m performing. When you go to a bar and it has karaoke you can’t really go back to that bar when there isn’t karaoke because it’s just not the same. There should be a reality show about karaoke. People are very serious about it here. Some people get God syndrome after they sing like one song and they get mad if you don’t let them sing twenty times. I actually host karaoke at Surly Goat Wednesdays at 10PM. Come by!
MR: Where have you been playing around Los Angeles?
MR: Do you come from a musical family?
DR: My sister, my brother, my dad, my grandpa, and now my niece are all genius singers or musicians. It’s crazy. My niece started writing songs when she was 3. I’ve been waiting for her my entire life. She’s seriously my inspiration.
My mom passed away from cancer a few years ago. I’m not sure she really got my dream when she was alive; although I think she started understanding towards the end. I was with her when she passed and I’m so grateful for that. My biggest fear was losing my mom. When she passed, I started pursuing things much harder because I’m not afraid of anything anymore.
MR: What kind of music inspires you?
DR: I’ve always loved pop music so I looked up to Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow. Britney Spears would be my favorite singer though, but it’s funny because when I first heard her I hated her voice. I had a Fisher Price tape recorder and I would hide in the closet and write songs. I was about ten years old, and I thought someone had found that tape and they were playing it. It turned out it was Britney Spears on the radio. I didn’t like how it sounded, just like I didn’t like the sound of my own voice.
But then I saw her music video and I was like, “Oh, I get her.” I hated my voice for so long, but knew I loved to sing more than anything. People have always told me I sound like Britney, but I don’t think it was until I became a fan of her that I started to believe in my own voice.
MR: Do you think your singing voice is similar to how you talk?
DR: I don’t think it’s similar to how I talk. I’ve heard that I don’t sound like I talk at all. I’ve always had a different tone to my singing voice but I’ve always sang like this.
MR: What kind of songs do you write?
DR: I try to write songs that guys and girls can relate to. My first single was called “All in Front of You” and it’s my niece’s favorite song. It is about being in the friend zone or being in love with a gay man (which I was). That relationship didn’t work out very well.
MR: Are you working on any songs now?
DR: I wrote a comedy song a few days ago called “Khaki Shorts.” People need to stop wearing khaki shorts. I really like writing about clothes apparently. I have another comedy song called “Hey Hipster, Can I Wear Your Hat?” Apparently all of my comedy songs are about clothes. I’m ok with that.
MR: What do you have coming up?
DR: I have a show at Molly Malone’s coming up on January 17th. My next song is called “What I’m Not Gonna Do.” This song is all about women empowerment. It’s about not staying in a relationship that sucks and not going for the same guys who treat me badly. It just got picked up to be released with an amazing indie label. I’m really excited.