Des Moines native Dang Felton picked up his first instrument — the viola — at the age of 10. At 14, he taught himself how to play the guitar. From there, he was off and running.
“I went from metal to reggae to jazz to blues — a little bit of everything,” he said. “My grandfather had taught me some finger-picking patterns, and I heard Nick Drake for the first time, and I became obsessed with the idea of songwriting and doing everything myself and having full creative control.”
Thus began Felton’s first foray into the world of songwriting. By the time he was 22, something seemed to have clicked for him, and he was beginning to put together songs that, in his words, “made sense structurally.” It was his grandfather who taught him the nuances of finger picking, but most of his early musical inspiration came from his mother.
“My mother had raised me on the country music of the ’60s and ’70s,” he recalled. “I did gravitate towards Patsy Cline and similar artists. Real mellow, sometimes dreary recordings.”
Felton’s current work, while showing no country influences, does carry with it a certain sedated melancholy that draws its lineage from those days listening to Cline and her ilk with his mother. His most recent single, “January,” was posted to Bandcamp this past spring and is a light, synth-poppy tune undercut by Felton’s simple vocals. His music comes at a more deliberate pace than some, but that suits him just fine.
“I went through this intense writing phase where I thought it was rude to the audience if at least half of the material on my set list wasn’t new,” he explained. “Those shows were nerve racking on account of my not having my material completely memorized. Now, I give it about a month’s worth of rehearsing.
“I still believe that every show should have new material. But I’ve calmed down quite a bit after I realized that my performances were lacking the professional appearance by not having everything as tight as possible.”
That’s not to say he will stop exploring some unfinished material live, though.
“My show (at The Basement) will have a song on there that I haven’t finished yet,” he said. “But I believe it will be very well prepared.” CV