Finding Common Ground with Dauzat St. Marie

I’m a music lover.  I always have been and I hear a LOT of music having a gig such as this one.  Those like me can enjoy music of all sorts and genres and, no matter what, we can appreciate the heart of the artists behind their creations.  But every once in a while something comes along that hits you in that special way that means a little more.  Whether it’s a lyric that holds a certain meaning for you or a harmony that makes those little hairs all over your body stand up or a guitar riff that makes your stomach do that funny little tickly dance there are those artists that reach out and fill a place inside that you didn’t even know was reserved for them.

Dauzat St. Marie is one of those bands for me. (If you’re wondering, it rhymes with robot).  We shared their new video for a song called “Common Ground” last Friday and Heather and Mat have quickly become a part of the Fourculture family.   Their EP, entitled Falling Again, was released in 2014 and from the first they are a duo that does not shy away from digging deep.  As a lyrics girl, that is something I truly appreciate and admire.

After touring with the likes of Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar they had to put their music on hold for a time as Heather went through treatment for breast cancer.  It was something that we could discuss very openly and honestly and we applaud Heather and Mat in their bravery to put their experience out there whether speaking of it with fans, working with the Susan G Komen Foundation, or singing about it in their music.  I so enjoyed the time spent visiting with Heather and I hope that you enjoy it as well.

You guys have been off for a while but boy when you come back you come back swinging! You have two new songs that you’ve put out this year so far with “Where Were You” and “Common Ground”, both very powerful and timely songs.  Were those written during this time or was that just a happy accident?
So you know about the breast cancer and that we took some time off. It was a weird thing. The way it happened to me was my doctor left to go out of the country when the lab results came back in.  The nurse called me said “I hate to do this on the phone but I don’t want you sitting on this until he comes back. I’m not a licensed person but all I know is yes, you have cancer. Here are the names of oncologists and specialists. You need to jump on this now.” It took about 3 or 4 weeks before I could actually see a specialist and in those weeks you don’t know if you’re shopping for coffins or getting your will together or if it was caught early enough.  I mean, we had no clue.

At that point, both Mat and I were thinking we didn’t know if we were ever going to write music again.  We were just so low and empty inside, just full of grief.  After that, dealing with the cancer and the whole thing just wears you out physically and mentally. And for him too! He’s taking care of me, doing the cooking and cleaning and all those things.  We just had nothing left in us.

I finished chemo around tax day last year. It’s funny that I remember it like that but that’s what I remember and around that day the music started swirling again.  We’ve always written really deep lyrics and there’s nothing like a tragedy to bring a lot out so we just pulled on that.

“Where Were You” came from when we were just thinking of memories and thinking there hasn’t been enough time. I’m not ready to go yet.  It brought all those thoughts up of looking back and thinking where were you when this happened or when that happened.  Most people remember those things so that song kind of came out of that.

“Common Ground” was kind of similar.  You know, we kind of started seeing a couple years ago how social media is supposed to bring us together but in a lot of ways it divides us and it’s been getting worse and worse.  That’s kind of what that’s about.

We wrote those and started recording them in the summer of last year.  We got signed up with a label team, Label Logic, and we really wanted to make this go.  We wrote a third song that hasn’t been released yet.  It kind of fits into this. The name of it is “In It Together” and that’s going to be released in October. We shot the video last August and what’s funny is this whole thing came out this year and people are saying “We’re in it together,” or “We need to find common ground,“ and we’re thinking “No no! That’s our song!” (laughs). We were looking at each other knowing that people are going to think we wrote this about what’s happening in 2020 but what’s crazy is that those were all done last year.  It’s about what we went through but we try to make it broad enough that everyone can relate to some part of it.  It is kind of prophetic though.  Mat put on social media that we need to start writing about how everyone has a unicorn and it’s raining diamonds and honey or something so this year can get better.

Part of the reason I asked that is because my son went through leukemia when he was 8.  So we have been down that cancer road with him and that’s part of the reason that “Where Were You” resonated so deeply with me.  Although it is appropriate for the current world situation do you find that having gone through what you and Mat have that you look at those things differently?  What struck me about the song is that it wasn’t just about the big things like the towers that you remember but also the little things like dancing together under the streetlight.  There’s something about going through something tragic that makes you think of time in a completely different way. 
Correct.  And first off, how is your son now?

He’s fine.  Four and a half years of treatment. He was twelve when he finished.  That’s a day I remember! And he is now 24 years old.
That’s awesome.  So you get it.  Someone told me early on in this and it made the most sense and it got me through so much of it…she said “Heather, you’ve been given the most beautiful gift. It’s just in the ugliest wrapping paper.”  I thought about it and it’s like you said, all of a sudden all of the things like traffic or not having the right shoes or I wish my hair was straight instead of curly or whatever it is that people think of…and I did it too…all of a sudden none of that mattered anymore.  Holding my husband’s hand was the most beautiful, powerful thing.  The little things.  I had chemo in Santa Monica so we had this little ritual and afterwards we would walk down to the beach and just standing there listening to the waves on the beach was the most powerful thing.  You realize what truly matters when you’re faced with your mortality.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.  People might think I’m weird but the first thing I thought was thank you, cancer.  I’ve always tried to be a kind and considerate person but I don’t think I even had the capability in me to truly be empathetic for people who go through major things in their life until now.  We took that and thought there’s a reason for this. Now we’re going to help other people. So that’s what we’re doing.  With the song that’s coming out in October we have partnered up with Susan G Komen and we’re going to help raise money for women for cancer.

Initially, I wasn’t going to say anything about the cancer and then we had to start cancelling tours and people were noticing because we don’t ever do that.  So then we did a 180 and just put it all out there because who knows who we might help?  A lot of people are going to get their mammogram because of it and I know three people went and got their mammogram and found out they had cancer but caught it early enough because of us speaking.  So yes..thank you, cancer. This way you pay it forward and help other people and then they help other people.  It’s all about putting good out there in the world.  It really changes you completely.

So how does that change even how you look at your career?  I think people sometimes separate that.  It’s like you had cancer but you came through it and now it’s time to get on with it.  They think you had your cancer life and now this is your music life.  I don’t think people always realize that, as you said, it changes you completely. It’s now a part of you that you never had before.
It definitely changed me for the better, I’ll tell you that.  It’s funny because as independent artists we’re used to doing everything and we’re used to driving ourselves to the shows and doing our own promotions.  It could be 20 people or the next night 500 and the next night 10,000. You just never know. What we’ve learned from that is you just put one foot in front of the other and know that tomorrow is a new day.  The funny thing is that the touring helped us get through cancer but now the cancer is helping us with our career. I call myself Heather 2.0.  I’m a southern girl and was always taught to be polite and to be humble.  It’s kind of hard to merge that mindset with the fact that sometimes the musician has to go out and get it.  I’d always be a little hesitant but now I’m doing this and I know I can do it!

When the shut down happened I wondered what am I doing now?  Well, I’m learning how to play the harmonica which is on ‘Common Ground’ and another song we’re going to do.  I’m rediscovering the French Horn because I played that in high school and wanted to bring that back. I’m learning how to play the bass and now I’m a lot less fearful.  I faced cancer. This is nothing now.  I’m throwing it out there.  I’m never going to be the conceited jerk kind of person where it’s all about them but at the same time I’m going for it and I’m confident in where I am, where my place is, where I want to be and that I can get there.

As you said, being independent you guys do a lot on your own.  Looking at your videos for these two songs that have come out you had said that you basically went and learned how to do the work for “Where Were You”  and you made the costuming and crowns and all for “Common Ground”.  Is that something that you ever wanted to do, to sign onto a label and have them just do all that and give you the expensive videos and things or do you like that you can kind of think outside of the box and be more creative doing it yourself?
Mat and I have always said that we would be horrible on a label because they come and want to put you in the machine of how it’s done and Mat and I would be wanting to try it another way. I think we are very hands-on. They probably would not have liked us. I do wish sometimes that we had their marketing machine behind us.  We’re very proud of ‘Common Ground’ and my goal would be that as many people as possible could see it.  I sometimes do wish we had that behind us so that a bigger audience could see it.  When it all comes down to it they probably wouldn’t have shelled the money out for that video. There wouldn’t have been a budget or it’s going to be done x, y, and z and we wouldn’t have wanted to do it that way.

Instead, that video was completely our vision.  We sat down with a couple that did our ‘In It Together’ video last year. We told them we were on this compilation and we had to go big with this. We told them our idea and they get our vision.  I love it a whole lot more because we put so much into it and it’s absolutely an expression of our vision and our ideas.

And it is just an extraordinary video.  Truly breathtaking.
When we wrote the song we sat down and listened to the song and closed our eyes and both of us saw this real 90’s kind of artsy vibe like REM’s ‘Losing My Religion‘.  Both of us thought of that way so we met with the people and explained that visually we wanted a light world and a dark world and we just ran with it.  I’m just so proud of it.  Every morning when I wake up I go see how many views it has on YouTube. It’s working and spreading.  Our little child is out there!

It really echoes the lyrics of the song as well with finding that common ground between the light and the dark and each other, finding that balance.  How do you find that common ground and that balance? With all that’s going on do you think we can?
You know, it’s one of those things that is so easy but it’s so difficult.  We tour all over the country so we have fans who are really left wing and fans who are really right wing. I had hoped that this shut down would help because I think it’s kind of going to take something major, kind of like it did with me, for people to say “Wait a minute. We can have differing opinions and still be friends.”  Even now though it’s everything. It’s gotten to pro-mask and anti-mask and I don’t know what it’s going to take. We’re just trying to lead by example.  You have to take a step back and acknowledge where they’re at and accept that. Know that someone’s opinion doesn’t always define who they are.  I look back at things I did when I was a teenager and there’s a lot of things I regret.  I would hope my actions from back then don’t define who I am today and I think that’s where we need to come back to.  People just need to open their hearts.  I hope that’s what we get back to.  I think America is a wonderful country and people are clamoring to get in.  I just want to see us unite again.

We just can’t always focus on the larger scale.  It’s like with the cancer thing and my doctors told me “Don’t worry about why did I get this or is it ever going to come back? Let’s focus on today and the little steps you can do right now.” I think that’s where we have to be with this right now.  If you looked at and thought about all the problems going on right now you would just want to curl up in your bed under the covers and not get out  but we can think about the little things like just saying hi to someone on the street.  You don’t know what their day is like. Just by being kind you might change them and then they might change someone else. We’re just trying to do it through our music.

Love and music, two of the most powerful forces on the planet.  I’ve definitely seen change through music.
Music is so important because it can change your mood immediately more than anything else. I think people have lost how important music is.  People will pay how much to go to a movie, and I’m not knocking movies, but it is expensive to go out to the theatre and watch a movie.  Music has gotten down to where it’s like 99 cents if anything per song and you can listen to it over and over and over again.  I’m hoping with all this touring being shut down that people will realize how important music really is for their life.  Just to get out and go to a great concert. I hope it comes back tenfold.

Right after the cancer diagnosis and before the surgery a friend of ours gave us tickets to a Brandi Carlile show.  Let me tell you, I just sat there and tears were running down my face and it was the most powerful gift to just sit there under the stars and listen to beautiful music and forget about everything for that moment.  That’s the power of music.

And I’m sure you miss it because you are really touring maniacs!  You really love to tour and do it a lot. You must be excited to get back on the road whenever that happens. 
Oh yeah, definitely. We tour with Rick Springfield a lot.  He really has believed in us and taken us under his wing. He’s awesome and we can’t keep up with him. I can’t wait to get back out.  As I said, it’s Heather 2.0 and I’m going to be singing with even more energy out to the back of the crowd because it’s just going to be exactly where I need to be.

You’ll be bringing the fire, I can see that already.
Yeah, I will.  I’m just so lucky to have met Mat and we click.  We met as teenagers and we started singing in coffee shops together.  We’ve been singing together for over half our lives and it’s magical.  I love sharing it with other people because it’s just so special.

That was something I wondered about too because I knew something had to be up. You two absolutely blend like you’re one person. It’s amazing!
Right?  When we first came out here (to LA) we became friends with Shawnee Smith and that’s what she said. She thought we were like one soul that got split into two bodies. We’re like twins. We’ve been together for so long and there’s just a magical connection when we sing together.

So what’s your process like?  Obviously you two are together so it’s not like your meeting at a studio as two separate pieces.  Do you write together? What does that look like?
Well, sometimes I write. Sometimes, like ‘Sinking Down’ for example off of our last EP, Mat had just gotten some new gear. He asked if I wanted to just hang out while he broke it out and worked with it. I was just sitting there with my sketch pad drawing and all of a sudden he was playing this riff. I told him to keep playing it and it all just came to me.  It was one of those gift songs.  I had the whole chorus done and an idea for the verses.  We sat down and worked out the rest of the song together.  Most of the time he comes up with a riff and a lot of times it’s at night and he’ll just be playing guitar and then when it’s written enough we’ll start thinking about how it makes us feel.  What’s the subject matter? We’ll do it that way. Songs come as they come.  Other times he’ll have an idea for the melody and lyrics in his head already.

We had a band (Hydrovibe) and he sang backup for that.  This is more like we’re equal singers but back in the day I was like “I’m the singer!”  I learned to let that ego go and you do whatever is best for the song.  I think that’s our success. We just work together at it and whoever has the stronger idea puts it out or we work on it together but it’s always putting the song first.

I guess in a lot of ways, that’s reflective of a marriage.
You’re right. I never thought of that but yeah!

So you said you have a new song coming out in October. You have a Facebook concert this Wednesday and you’re doing a video every week on YouTube.  Did that come from just trying to keep yourselves busy and creative on lockdown?
When we had to cancel the shows with Rick (Springfield) because of the cancer we called his manager and said we had to back out.  Rick called us from the plane and gave us all the support and love and let us know that whenever we were ready to let him know and we had a place on stage with him.  That really kept us going and, true to his word, the end of last summer we were ready and I was strong enough.  He put our name in to open for the tour with him and Chicago.  We were going to play at The Forum and at Red Rocks. We were going into Canada.  It was going to be amazing.  Then when all this happened it got first postponed and then cancelled.  That was a real bummer and we were like now what?

Most of our life is on the road so we just decided that we can’t sit around and wait.  We needed to focus on what we can do and what we’re best at is singing and harmonizing together.  The video was the best way to do that if we can’t be in a venue.  Someone had told us that the best way to do that is on a schedule and you just don’t miss so we decided to do it and every Friday we try to put something out.  We’re loving it a lot.  People really need it now too. Anxiety and depression is higher than ever for people right now so if they know that they’ve got a set time that they can be together with others and it’s something to look forward too it’s huge. It’s also seeing a different side of us because we’re at home on our couch and we’re talking and laughing and you really get to see our personality whereas on stage it’s show business. We’re talking and laughing there too but you are on a time limit and playing these songs so it’s a different thing.  With this, you get to see that different side of us.

What else do you have coming up then?
We’re just trying to do YouTube and some live streaming concerts. We’re working on some covers because those are always fun so we’ll do some more of those.  We have our set schedule of when things are going to be coming out. We took down that set from ‘Common Ground’ and we have all those pieces. Mat and I are both artists so we’re thinking we might just start painting on some of those and then put them up to sell or just get creative with stuff.  We’re having fun while we can.

Lastly, we end with a list called My Four. I was watching ‘Common Ground’ again this afternoon and you have some really cool little surprises in that video that people may not catch on the first watch.  What are four little tidbits, secrets, or surprises that you can tell us about from the video?
Definitely the first one would be our little crow, Ernie, who makes an appearance.  He was given to me by a fan who’s last name was Ernie. We’ve always used crows and symbolism with our band Hydrovibe and as Dauzat St. Marie. Crows are creative and they work together to reach a goal.  In a lot of mythology, they’re the messengers of the gods. I’m not conceited enough to say we’re messaging for the gods but we try to put deep thought into our lyrics so it can help someone get through a tough time.  When someone is going through something we’re that band you can listen to and we’re right there with you.  That’s why we love the crows.

Another secret would be that on the crowns, the one that’s featured especially in a close up, there’s a beautiful orange colored stone in the middle.  Another crown has four more of these and those were buttons that I got off of a coat that my grandmother had.  I put them on these crowns because she’s going to be 99 next month and she has beat cancer four times, including breast cancer.  She was my hero and my symbol of if she can get through it so can I.  She definitely has helped me and really shaped who I am today. I wanted her to be part of this music video so that’s my way of having her in there.

A third thing is if you look at the rocks at my feet there is a symbol on the rock.  That is an Easter Egg for the future video that’s coming out in October.  It’s got that symbol that’s going to mean something later for people. It’s on the rock on the cart that Mat built.

Fourth would be our Zedonk.  A dear friend of ours has animals and this animal passed away but they had him taxidermied and so I asked if we could use him in the video.  He’s symbolic because he’s a Zedonk, half zebra half donkey. To me, that’s the most pure way of blending the light and the dark and meeting in the middle. We’re all the same whether we have stripes or we don’t we’re all the same people. That’s our symbol of finding that common ground in the middle.

If you have not seen the videos for ‘Where Were You’ or ‘Common Ground’ please do check them out.  You can find Dauzat St. Marie in all the usual places and, if you can, take some time out to watch them this evening as they are coming to you live on Ultimate Studeos, Inc YouTube and Facebook pages.  I’ll see you there!  

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