Her 2016 album, Under the Influence, marks Babinski's debut venture as a recording artist, after spending many years as a touring and recording musician-for-hire.
Dre Babinski (Steady Holiday): Anger comes out in various ways. I think that the way it comes out in my world, at least in my past, is in a very self-deprecating way, and it comes out as insecurity. I take ownership over a lot of feelings that oftentimes aren't even mine, so it's kind of tricky to decode sometimes.
Songfacts: I notice that you play guitar and violin. What instrument do you write on and what's your process to writing songs, generally?
Dre: The process usually starts with a vocal melody and lyrics. Almost always. And usually without an instrument.
Songfacts: But do you hear instruments in your head?
Dre: Always. Especially strings. Writing and arranging for violin is just something that has been a part of everything I've done in music.
Songfacts: Is that the first instrument you learned to play?
Dre: Yes. Absolutely.
Songfacts: Are you classically trained?
Dre: I suppose so, but I was only trained for a very short amount of time. But I took lessons and know how to write and read.
Songfacts: Who were your influences when it came to the violin?
Dre: Motown. And Burt Bacharach. String arrangements in beautiful pop songs. That's all I want to do.
Songfacts: I can hear the parallel between classic Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick because it sounds like a lot of your songs are sort of modern versions of classic pop. So would you say, as a songwriter, Hal David and Burt Bacharach were your influences on you as a songwriter?
Dre: I'm not really sure where songwriting happens for me. It's still completely mysterious to me. But subconsciously, absolutely. I adore those songs. I think they're wonderful and precious.
I'm not much of a songwriter that listens to something and is inspired to make that kind of music. And because songwriting is so new to me, I don't even know how to fake it. It doesn't happen to me. It just comes from a really honest place.
Songfacts: You said it's new for you. How long have you been writing songs?
Dre: Ever since I started playing guitar. Six or seven years.
Songfacts: There is a song in your set that has a pattern that reminds me of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." What was that song called?
Dre: It's called "So Long," and it's on the record.
Songfacts: And was that a subconscious influence, perhaps?
Dre: I adore Leonard Cohen! Yes, absolutely.
Influences are a weird thing. You know, I love listening to music. I never relate the two: Listening to music and then writing a song with that in mind, it doesn't happen like that for me. But those are things that I love. Burt Bacharach, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson.
Dre: The first single on the new album, called "Your Version of Me." That is a high point for me.
Songfacts: What is it you like about it?
Dre: It's one of the most bold songs I feel like I've written. Lyrically, especially, because it's a complete confession of insecurity. It's about when you just hide and let someone else tell you what to do because it's oftentimes much easier.
Songfacts: What are some other songs you like?
Dre: "Open Water" is the most recent single and I released a video for it. That song I'm very proud of.
Songfacts: What's it about?
Dre: It's about a literal fear of water that I have.
Songfacts: Did you have a bad experience when you were younger?
Dre: I have had bad experiences. Yes. [She pauses. Seemingly unwilling to elaborate.]
Songfacts: You say that songwriting is still relatively new to you. Did you do something else and then went into music?
Dre: I've done music for a very long time, mostly just playing violin. Playing in lots of bands and touring quite a bit.
Songfacts: What are some of your most memorable experiences, as far as touring?
Dre: You know, the most recent band I was touring with – they're called Hunter Hunted – they are just some of the most lovely people I have ever met. I played with them in a hire capacity - I was a hired member - and they really showed me that touring could be fun and sustainable. I was pretty exhausted and thought I was done being a hired gun. I was just doing it for so long until I met them and started having a lot of fun and doing it in a really healthy way, being active and being conscious on the road. It's just a really difficult balance to strike sometimes.
Songfacts: Was there a moment that prompted you to step out on your own?
Dre: I was struggling a lot with being in that role, and constantly putting myself in a position of service, which I've done with jobs and bands and relationships across the board. And it all came to a head a couple of years ago and I decided to remove myself from a lot of things all at once - take a step back and really look at how I was living. And as I got healthier, things started lining up. Especially creatively.
Songfacts: Your image on stage seems to be as crafted as your songs are. What kinds of things inspired this image, such as the backdrop that was behind you [during a recent Coachella appearance]?
Dre: It's a play on the album artwork.
Songfacts: Your outfit looked like something from ancient China.
Songfacts: Is that what you were going for?
Dre: It's a look like Ty Dollar $ign or something. I like really intricate designs. I like the idea of framing me so it looks a little otherworldly or dated.
Songfacts: Why is the album called Under the Influence?
Dre: Because a lot of these songs came from a place where it was either under the influence of my own negativity and fear and insecurity. Or literal, actual influences.
June 30, 2016
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