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Song premiere: Dua nails their ‘First Take’

"First Take" cover art
"First Take" cover art

by Cecilia Johnson

May 10, 2017

Some “making of” stories are more significant than the next. On the less captivating side, there are the songs that take steady work, their authors adjusting minute details at every turn. And then there’s “First Take” by local artist Dua, featuring a beat by Ness Nite compatriot Mike Frey.

Dua has been creating art for a long time, even making it onto Button Poetry’s YouTube channel, where their poem “Pins and Needles” has racked up tens of thousands of views. But they just started singing and performing music last fall. “I never thought I had a good voice,” they say. But when they worked up the confidence to try to record, they reached out to Frey on a mutual friend’s recommendation and set up a time to experiment.

When Dua came over, Frey says, "I started playing beats, and my beats are in chronological order, so I went to beat 01.” While he played it, he says, “Dua was behind me mumbling. I was like, 'Okay…' I just left it on loop.” A couple minutes later, Dua blurted, “Can I record?”

The original beat lasted for four bars, so Frey stretched it to eight or twelve, just to give Dua space. But they weren’t planning on singing the four or eight bars he thought they had. They kept going, with Frey duplicating in real time, and they ended up recording the entire song. “It's not necessarily the cleanest recording,” Frey says, “but it's such a good performance that we decided this is what we're going to run with."

It is a great performance. Eloquent and colorful, it’d be the first to beguile you and the last to apologize. On certain lines, Dua’s voice sounds like an electric fence, surging with all its charge.

Maybe the best news is that it wasn’t a fluke. The next day, Dua went back to Frey’s house and asked if he had any other beats. Frey says, “I played beat 02 and the same exact thing happened.” Look for more from Dua soon.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.