Tess Dunn
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Tess Dunn

Santa Cruz, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Santa Cruz, California, United States
Established on Jan, 2009
Solo Alternative Pop

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Feb
21
Tess Dunn @ Streetlight Records

San Jose, California, United States

San Jose, California, United States

Feb
07
Tess Dunn @ Streetlight Records

San Jose, California, United States

San Jose, California, United States

Jan
31
Tess Dunn @ Streetlight Records

San Jose, California, United States

San Jose, California, United States

Music

Press


"Blast Album Review: Tess Dunn | Daydreamers EP"

Tess Dunn’s upcoming third EP, Daydreamers is a compilation of some of the best sounds and hooks to show up from the “underground” side of the pop-rock genre in quite a while. Each track showcased on this upcoming release is well catered and filled with passion and a keen eye for detail that should have new listeners craving more, and loyal fans falling in love even more. - Blast Our Your Stereo


"Artist of the Month - Tess Dunn"

If Hayley Williams and Avril Lavigne were to spontaneously have a lovechild, Tess Dunn would definitely be the outcome. From Santa Cruz, Tess has managed to make quite a bit of noise in her area. She’s played the San Francisco date of the Vans Warped Tour for 4 years, released 2 albums, and was named one of the top Bay Area performers.
This chick is seriously a breath of fresh air. Not only is she a female artist, but she reminds us a lot of both Avril Lavigne and Blink 182. With poppy dark lyrics like Avril, and a pop twist on a garage punk sounds like Blink, Tess Dunn is definitely an artist that should inhabit everyone’s iPod.
Tess’s current release is “Honesty Box,” which can be purchased via iTunes. Our favorite track off it is, “Dormitory.” You can stream it below! - Living Louder


"Flamed-Haired Femme to Rock The Atrium"

After overcoming many obstacles -both physical and emotional- and beating the odds, the flame-haired, spunky 18-year-old pop-rocker Tess Dunn will light up The Catalyst Atrium stage on May 15.


Small and mighty sums Dunn right up. Standing at only five feet, the CSUMB freshman faux-redhead exudes confidence beyond her years and lyrical depth that only someone who’s grown up as fast as she’s had to could write.

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, the local teen has gone through trials. Not only has she faced the trivial heartaches of young love and bad friends, but her health is a constant concern. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby, then diabetes and epilepsy, her perception of life is slightly misconstrued — having to endure respiratory therapy for at least one hour, consuming 19 different medications and about 60 pills throughout the day.

“My day is plagued by it,” Dunn said, but she doesn’t let that keep her from persevering and staying positive. “Not being normal is totally okay because there is no definition of normal. Everyone faces their own challenges, even if others don’t see them.”

Making the most of life, Dunn has pushed the boundaries for her young age, having already experienced what many up-and-coming musicians dream of. Dunn’s first album “Darling Just Walk” was released in 2009 when she was merely 14. That same year she was able to play the Kevin Says stage at the sold-out Vans Warped Tour in San Francisco. Since then she has been invited to return every year and will be performing at this year’s Warped Tour in Mountain View in June.

Though her first album was a valiant effort, Dunn rarely performs songs from it. She prefers her sophomore album, “Honesty Box,” which was released in 2012. Featuring the same lyrical strengths as her previous release, this album kicks it up a notch vocally and offers more of an upbeat, pop-rock feel.

With an enticing bass, seductively sweet vocals and a finger-snapping interlude in the middle of the track that transitions back into the chorus, “Fire” is amongst the top tracks to listen to before seeing Tess Dunn live.

Dunn’s personal anthem for 2012, “Year of Discovery,” is a tried and true pop-punk track, featuring steady drums, upbeat guitars and simple yet relatable lyrics for anyone who is trying to find themselves: “I searched the whole world to find/All the missing pieces of me/But they were already there/Not put together properly.”

“Let It Go” is one of the slower songs off of “Honesty Box,” and definitely worth giving a listen to. With a lamenting synth and warm guitar setting the tone as Dunn’s voice creeps in with “I don’t recognize you in the least anymore/The silhouettes of your face fill the empty space.”

Tess Dunn’s lyrical substance, spunky attitude and musical talent incorporated with a full band will make this concert worthwhile.

Dunn is excited about headlining at The Catalyst Atrium for her first time.

“I love getting up on stage with my band, giving the best performance and feeling the energy and adrenaline,” Dunn said. - Lupita Uribe


"Tess Dunn Headlines Cystic Fibrosis Benefit"

It’s 12:30pm, and Tess Dunn, having just woken up, is sitting on a café patio and carefully cradling a carrot cupcake, her first meal of the day.

Dunn, who was in January named the 11th-best Bay Area artist by 99.7 NOW FM, is eagerly preparing for life’s next journey: to California State University–Monterey Bay, in two weeks. Dunn says she’s “so excited” for life in college, where she’ll major in human communication—a field that includes creative writing, one of her first passions.

“I was thinking about minoring too,” Dunn says, “but that’s already enough work for someone with cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and diabetes.”

At 17, Dunn, who finished up high school a year early so she could leave Santa Cruz, has already accomplished a lot. She’s released two EPs, performed on four Warped Tours and been featured on the Vans Off the Wall Pass the Bucket show online. She’s done all this in spite of three incurable diseases. And before she leaves for CSUMB, Dunn will also be headlining Moe’s Alley on Aug. 12 for a benefit for one of those diseases, cystic fibrosis.

Dunn, who has candy-red hair and a pop-punk attitude, has made a name for herself in the face of tremendous adversity, starting with diminished hours in each day. Epilepsy requires Dunn to get more sleep than the average person (she usually sleeps until about 1:30pm), although the optimistic piano player calls the illness an “excuse” to do so.

Coping with cystic fibrosis requires that she daily use a nebulizer and wear a special vest for over an hour to shake the mucus out of her lungs. And on the green patio table between me and Dunn are two canisters of prescription medication—she must take 50 to 60 pills a day.

“Other people think it’s not much fun,” Dunn says, “but because I’ve had to deal with it my whole life, it’s just like brushing my teeth or eating breakfast—or lunch, since I don’t actually eat breakfast because I wake up so late.”

Dunn has been writing music since she was 11, when the classically trained pianist told her dad, “I’m done with this bullshit, and I want to play my own stuff.” These days, her pop rock songs focus on mostly teenage frustrations, certain annoying boys and other themes that resonate with her high school peers. They feature dynamic piano riffs, grungy guitars and catchy melodies over plaintive chord progressions and honest, revealing lyrics—not totally unlike a more candid Katy Perry or perhaps an in-control-of-her-life Courtney Love. Dunn's songs are well structured, too. In many songs, her quiet, contemplative verses build into exciting pre-chorus hooks and ultimately catchy choruses filled with interesting revelations.

At the upcoming benefit concert, Dunn will be playing five or six new songs, most of which she’s never performed live.

Dunn’s already illustrious career has been aided by support from industry players a generation older than her. Dunn’s parents, Siri Vaeth and noted Santa Cruz author Geoffrey Dunn, both point out that she has been blessed with notable mentors, starting with critically acclaimed songwriter Ari Shine, who’s opened for Rhett Miller, Silversun Pickups, the Donnas and others. Shine co-produced Dunn’s second EP Honesty Box with Noah Shain, who’s also worked with dubstep demigod Skrillex. Shine and his wife Adrienne Pierce played on both of Dunn’s albums. Jack Johnson’s drummer, Adam Topol, has also played on Dunn’s records, as did soloist Carina Round, who’s currently on tour with Tears for Fears.

Additionally, it was the Dunns’ neighbor Bill Welch, owner of Moe’s Alley, who started the annual fundraiser where the young pop singer will perform Sunday at 7:30pm. Welch only does two other fundraisers a year, one for the Surfrider Foundation and another for Second Harvest. He sees a lot of talent in Dunn.

“She writes with a lot of emotion, and she has a great mind,” Welch says. “In years to come, she’ll keep writing things she knows about. She’s just starting. She’s growing by leaps and bounds.”

Welch calls Dunn a “very sharp, young, literate person,” and whether in songwriting or in conversation, Dunn appears to finds her words easily and with a certain eloquence, a trait that makes her seem wise beyond her years. But Dunn says she doesn’t think of herself as eloquent “at all.”

“When I write, it’s typically about how I’m feeling and the truth,” Dunn says. “There aren’t any lies about how I’m feeling. I don’t try to be eloquent in my music because the truth isn’t always eloquent.”

Dunn’s parents say she has always been a decisive go-getter, the kind of person who figures out what she wants and then starts trying to achieve it. “She is very intense and creative and has been since she was a little girl,” Jeff Dunn says. “I’m way more of a fan than a mentor. She has her own sense of what she wants to do and has always had. It’s just a joy for me to watch.”

Researchers have made tremendous strides in cystic fibrosis studies over the past half-decade. In the 1950s, victims of cystic fibrosis weren’t expected to reach their first birthday. Now those with the disease often survive into their thirties—still by no means old age. “At that age I was about to have my second child,” says Vaeth, 49. (Their younger child Dylan is now 13.) “If at my age now I passed away, people would say, ‘What a tragedy! She was so young.’”

The search for a more effective treatment and research—and ultimately a longer lifespan for people like Tess—is the motivation behind Welch’s fundraiser at Moe’s Alley. The disease currently affects one in 3,000 live births. As far as life expectancy goes, the outlook is brightening. When Tess Dunn was diagnosed in 1995, life expectancy was 29 years old. Now it’s 37.

If Dunn, who jokes about being in “mid-life crisis” mode, has any fear about life’s finish line, she’s not showing it.

“I’ve always had a clock ticking above my head subconsciously,” Dunn says. “Knowing that the median age for survival for CF is 37 makes me less afraid. I’ve known that for such a long time that it’s settled in now. I’m not that scared.” - Jacob Pierce, Santa Cruz Weekly


"New Song: "Shame to See" by Tess Dunn"

Living with cystic fibrosis hasn't stopped 16-year-old Tess Dunn from living out her musical dreams. Hailing from Santa Cruz, Dunn has been playing music since the age of 12 and is already a seasoned veteran of the stage, performing on Vans Warped Tour three years in a row. She released her debut album, "Darling, Just Walk" two years ago. It was a powerful debut for the then 14-year-old. Her songs inspire, pulling from experience and delivered with tender yet vulnerable lyrics over heroic keyboards in such songs as "Silent Conversations," "One Heart's Battle," and "Goodbye Hero." But Dunn's new single, "Shame to See" is a far cry from songs off her debut album. Evoking the punk attitude of Avril Lavigne, "Shame to See" is a girl-powered pop song with rough-chick melodies, reminding us that, even through her tough experiences, Tess is still just a teen and proving that nothing can slow her down. - Picksysticks


"Tess Everlasting"

Her life is a whirlwind of recordings, meet-and-greets, correspondence, conferences and radio appearances, on top of all the other stuff -- dance, friends, family, getting enough school credits to graduate a full year ahead of her class.

So when precocious Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Tess Dunn says, "I'm having a mid-life crisis," it sounds like something any 17-year-old girl would say, particularly one living the breakneck life she's living.

But there's an undercurrent to that line.

"All my friends hate me when I say that," she said. "But it's so funny when you get it."

The stark fact is that Tess -- who will not yet be old enough to vote in this year's presidential election -- may already be at mid-life. Since birth, she has lived with a burdensome and devastating chronic disease called cystic fibrosis, as well as diabetes and epilepsy that are, in her case, secondary conditions of CF. The median life span of those with the disease is around 37.

None of this is news to those who love and admire Tess and her improbable drive to become a serious performer dating back to when she was 13. But what continues to astound is her relentless pursuit of life's bigger challenges, her insistence on filling her life with motion, creativity and accomplishment as if she were taunting the disease that makes painful demands on her literally every day of her life -- 60 pills, more than two hours of respiratory therapy daily -- as if she were standing before the CF monster inside her and cracking, "Is that all you got?"

Whether or not her condition cooperates, Tess is embarking on what may be the biggest year of her life. It all begins Friday with her CD release party, to celebrate the release of her second recording "Honesty Box" at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, with her full band.

The concert comes on the heels of the release of a video of the song "Shame to See" in 2011, and the video of another, "Dormitory," shortly after the concert. "Honesty Box" was co-produced by singer-songwriter Ari Shine, who has been a friend and musical mentor to Tess since the beginning of her musical journey, and accomplished session producer Noah Shain.

It is a spirited collection of rich, often upbeat, occasionally plaintive indie rock, including the high-energy infectious "The Year of Discovery" and emotionally revealing "Before You Go."

The album has been in the works for more than a year now, with Tess writing songs and sending them to her producers, who laid down the instrumental tracks before flying the young performer down to Los Angeles. "It was great," she said. "I just flew down there like a rock star and we spent 12 hours in the studio for two days. We worked on songs together. It was a very cool and different way of working and I really liked it."

With the recording in hand, Tess and her management team -- that would be parents Siri and Geoffrey -- are planning a big spring/summer to get the attention of the music-industry apparatus. She's sending a video off to the Eleven Eleven label, owned by Ellen DeGeneres. Next month, she'll be featured on "Pass the Bucket," an online series of documentaries on artists, performers and athletes.

The "Pass the Bucket" segment, shot mostly in the Dunn household, is much more revealing of Tess's daily struggle than her songs are. It shows her daily routine of wearing a vest and using a nebulizer to help her clear out the mucus deposits that gather in her lungs.

"I don't know what a normal life is, really," she said. "For me, this is my life."

"It's been this daily battle from when she was born," said her mother, Siri. "I think that's the hardest thing for people to wrap their heads around, that she has periods that she's in the hospital and that there are times when she's sick. But even on her very best days, she has to put in hours, literally, to maintain her health."

While she feverishly pursues a musical career, she is also preparing for the eventuality of college. She's waiting to hear about her acceptance to Stanford, her top choice of colleges, but has already been accepted to Dominican College in San Rafael and Cal State Monterey Bay. Right now, she's unsure whether she'll be attending college in the fall.

"I really don't know. I'm going to follow the music right now, but I would really like to go to college at some point."

Still, she is hoping that 2012 is as eventful as 2011 was, when she played for the San Francisco Bay Area date of the Warped Tour for the third straight year and won a video contest sponsored by the radio station Live 105. Another rock station named her as one of the top 11 recording artists of the Bay Area.

Research into cystic fibrosis has yielded positive results in recent years. The life expectancy age has risen dramatically. It was not too long ago that those with CF rarely escaped their teens.

But Tess Dunn is moving on with her life, regardless of what CF demands from her. "What pushes me is that other people think I can't do it. I'm very defiant."

Her example is beginning to penetrate on a national level, and she regularly receives messages from other young people with CF, letting her know that they inspire her to keep going.

"I wish I could climb into Tess's body," said her mother, "and know what it feels like every day. What is her normal, compared to my normal? She's got three separate things that, each taken alone, is a devastating disease. I find her inspirational. And she's very understated about it, but people reach out to her all the time." - Wallace Baine, Santa Cruz Sentinel


"Finding Grace"

At 17, Tess Dunn has knocked more off of her bucket list than most people will in their lifetime.

A three-year veteran of the Vans Warped Tour with two EPs under her belt—the most recent of which, Honesty Box, will be released on Friday, Feb. 24 at Kuumbwa Jazz—the Santa Cruz singer/songwriter is the definition of a rising star in the local music scene. Named one of the Top 11 Bay Area artists of 2011 by 99.7 FM and winner of the radio station’s Triple Ho Show 2.0 Local Video Battle, it’s easy to forget that she’s still in high school.

But when we sat down with Dunn in her living room on a Thursday afternoon at the end of January, school was the first thing on her mind.

Having just finished her last final of the fall semester at Alternative Family Education (AFE), Dunn is one step closer to college. With plans to graduate in June—one year early for her age—and acceptance letters in the mail, she is bursting with energy and anticipation for the future.

“I got my first acceptance call—not a letter—from Dominican University in San Rafael,” Dunn says, barely able to contain her excitement. “I called back assuming they wouldn’t know who I was, and the person who answered the phone was like, ‘Tess Dunn?! Congratulations on your acceptance!’ ... I screamed a lot.”

Dominican University is just one of seven colleges to which Dunn has applied, including Stanford University and UC Los Angeles. She intends to major in English, with a minor in creative writing.

Attending college after high school may seem like a natural progression to many, but for Dunn, the opportunity to study at a university is a gift after 17 years of battling adversity—one that will not be taken for granted.

Born with cystic fibrosis—an incurable life-threatening disease that causes progressive damage to the lungs, pancreas, liver and intestine—epilepsy, and diabetes, Dunn’s daily life differs greatly from that of her peers.

“I take a total of 60 pills per day, including seven pills each time I eat,” says Dunn. “I wear a vest for 45 minutes to an hour twice a day that inflates and shakes to release mucus build-up—three times a day if I’m sick. I also inject insulin once a day and I use nebulizers.”

Having to deal with all of that on top of homework, boys, her budding music career, and the stresses of being a teenager, sounds nearly impossible. But Dunn manages to do it all with great aplomb.

“This is a normal life to me,” she says. “And the bright side of having epilepsy is getting to wake up late.”

Her refreshing sense of humor and optimism, despite the dismal reality of her disease, is a true testament to her character. She’s the first to admit that the median age of survival for people living with cystic fibrosis is 37, but that’s not stopping her from milking life for all it’s worth.

“Having CF is like having a clock above your head,” she explains. “I’ve been forced to grow up faster than other people. Inconsequential things, while they affect me—life is a big picture thing. Life passes by so quickly, you have to make the most of every day.”

She’s not all talk, either.

Dunn has been playing piano since age 5, songwriting since age 12, and singing since 13. Today, she rocks the piano, keytar, glockenspiel, melodica, and bass (on a good day).

During a recent trip to NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim, Calif., Dunn had the opportunity to see one of her idols, Stevie Wonder, perform; a month before she was invited up on stage in front of 18,000 people at HP Pavilion in San Jose for the debut of her music video “Shame to See”; and she’s been working tirelessly on her latest effort with Ari Shine and Noah Shain at White Buffalo Studios in Los Angeles.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had in a weekend,” Dunn says of her recent trip to White Buffalo. “We went into the studio on Friday night just to listen and then we did 12 hours each day with a one-hour break for dinner. Ari and Noah know I’m capable of doing things, so they push me. They treat me like a professional. ... It was magical.”

The result of her hard work is a sophomore alt-pop/rock album, called Honesty Box, on which Dunn showcases a matured sound and mindset. While 2009’s Darling Just Walk—recorded with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation—was an opportunity for Dunn to show off her songwriting skills, her uniquely raspy voice and vocal range on several ballads about heartbreak and boys who lie, Honesty Box kicks up the tempo, production value, and girl power.

“For my first album, it was just pure me and my piano,” she says. “There may have been some backing, but it was really just me and my songs, the way they were written.”

This time around, a newfound confidence—especially prevalent on feisty album opener “Shame to See”—sets the tone for the EP, which is brimming with dance-ready anthems a la rock outfit Paramore that showcase the talents of her bandmates: Santa Cruz locals Rory Freeman (guitar, back-up vocals), Ty Wallace (drums, percussion), Austin Corona (bass, guitar), and Will Kahn (bass).

“It’s about a guy unceremoniously dumping me,” Dunn says of “Shame to See.” “I wrote the hook for that song in the bathroom,” she laughs.

For someone who is only a senior in high school, Dunn is far from short on life experience. Asked where the inspiration for her songs comes from, she joked, “I hate boys—no, seriously. I don’t write happy songs. I write when I’m angry or sad. Actually ... I did write one happy song, called ‘The Year of Discovery,’ about discovering myself and being OK with not being put together.”

When feeling discouraged about her cystic fibrosis, Dunn finds songwriting therapeutic. “It’s such a freeing way of writing emotions. I’ve had people tell me that my lyrics have helped them through something. It’s nice to hear that people feel they’re not alone, and it makes me feel like I’m not alone.”

Out of solidarity for others with the disease, Dunn participated in a Breathe Song Event in Seattle, Wash., put on by CFVoice in 2009, as a means of raising cystic fibrosis awareness and hope for a cure. Together with fellow singer/songwriters Rose Harting and Josh Mogren, the then 13-year-old Dunn participated in a remix of the late English rocker and cystic fibrosis fighter Matt Scales’ song, “Breathe.”

While none of the participating artists could be in the Seattle studio at the same time—people with cystic fibrosis have to be at least three feet apart and can’t touch the same equipment due to their weak immune system—Dunn jumped at the opportunity to lend her voice to the project.

“It was so fun—a huge tribute to people with CF,” she says of the making of the “Breathe” music video. “It’s amazing how many people have seen it. I was at the doctor’s and a woman walked by with a baby who was newly diagnosed with CF. She turned to me and said, ‘You’re the ‘Breathe’ girl—thank you.’”

Her advice for others living with cystic fibrosis? “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do anything. And don’t be afraid to go after your dreams.”

Next month, Dunn will continue to spread awareness on season two of Vans’ Pass the Bucket television series—which examines the humanitarian side of today’s most celebrated athletes, musicians, artists, and foundations to educate and promote change—on Vans’ Off the Wall TV. The film crew documented her birthday concert at Moe’s Alley in mid-December, filmed her at school, on the beach, dancing, and playing piano at home.

“It was a great experience—I’m excited to be a part of that group,” says Dunn. “I’m the Hannah Montana of Santa Cruz,” she jokes.

She may not have the name recognition or fan base of Miley Cyrus—yet—but Dunn hopes to one day load her band onto a tour bus and perform around the country, attend red carpet events with her friends, and produce more albums with White Buffalo Studios.

Encouragement to pursue her dreams recently came from a group of concert attendees at 99.7’s Triple Ho Show 2.0. “As we were leaving, these girls pointed at me, ran up, and asked to take pictures with me,” Dunn recalls, beaming. “It was one of the highlights of my career.” But, she maintains that the Warped Tour is “the best day of my life every year.”

For someone who openly admits that it’s physically painful for her to stand in a room filled with strangers—she says her 13-year-old brother is the outgoing one, though her dyed candy-apple-red hair says otherwise—a music career sounds like it should be Dunn’s worst nightmare. Yet, when it comes to sharing her craft and educating others about the health issues she faces, she’ll put on a brave face and strap on her keytar any day. “It’s been a crazy journey,” she says. “I hope to inspire a lot of people.”

That’s just one of the reasons why Dunn’s mother/manager (affectionately called “momager”) Siri Vaeth started calling her a “CF Warrior”—a title that Dunn wears with great pride.

“I can’t change anything, so I have to push through the obstacles,” Dunn says of her inner strength. “I’m not going to throw myself a pity party … except for two hours every Sunday night,” she adds with a laugh.

Instead of dwelling on her health woes, she chooses to look forward to the future. And right now, that means setting her sights on college.

“Dormitory,” track No. 4 off Honesty Box, perfectly encapsulates her feelings about the transition: “Oh darling please don’t cry/ I’m not too far away/ And don’t blame yourself/ It just became too much to take/ This town is beautiful/ Because it has you in it/ So count down the days/ Until I come visit.”

“It’s about moving away from someone,” explains Dunn. “It sucks, but things will be OK.”

Though her parents—her father is well known local writer Geoffrey Dunn—will be sad to see her go off to college, Dunn is eager to take the next step in her journey.

“I read that if you’re not scared of your dreams, they’re not big enough,” she says. “You can either live on your knees or die on your feet. You have to take a risk at some point. Everyone takes a wrong turn at some point, but it’s not the end of the world—unless, of course, it’s Dec. 21, 2012 …” - Jenna Brogan, Good Times


"Santa Cruz’s Tess Dunn turns 20 with a big bash and a new recording"

For those who have followed her career thus far, it’s hard to fathom that Tess Dunn is not quite yet 20 years old (Sunday is her birthday). Considering how long she’s been around the Santa Cruz music scene, you’d guess she would have a few years on Taylor Swift.
But that’s not the case. Of course, you have to factor in that young Tess first started performing and recording her own songs at the age of 13.
Dunn’s career only looks precocious because she works on different time scale than the rest of us.
Her fans also know that Tess Dunn has, for her entire life, been dealing with cystic fibrosis, an ugly respiratory disease that has no cure and though life expectancy for those with CF has been steadily moving northward in the past three decades, it’s still only right around 40.
Now, 20 years old doesn’t seem that young, does it.
On Sunday, Dunn celebrates her 20th birthday with a big bash at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz. It’s a three-part event, really – a birthday party, a benefit for Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc., and an opportunity for the singer/songwriter to share her new recording with her audience.
“I would say it’s more alternative,” said Dunn of her new four-song recording titled “Daydreamers.” “It’s a bigger sound, and more of an accurate representation of who I am as a songwriter right now.”
Even before she’s graduated from her teen years, Dunn has played six consecutive years on the Warped Tour up and down the West Coast. She’s been a TED-x speaker and performer. She’s been featured in a TV series on inspirational young artists called “Pass the Bucket,” been named one of the top performers in the Bay Area by a San Francisco radio station. And now, her music has been featured in an upcoming independent film titled “The Cover-Up.” On top of that, she’s attending college at Ex’pression College for the Digital Arts in San Jose, in audio engineering.
Her new recording features a variety of new sounds from the title track, which she calls her “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to the jangly, discordant “Stay” to the song “Say You Fell,” a sarcastic fantasy of pushing someone down the stairs.
“Two years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be writing a song about pushing someone down the stairs,” she said.
Even as she’s diving into her musical opportunities, the CF continues to affect her health with surgeries and rounds of IV antibiotics on top of the punishing day-to-day treatment of the disease — she also is epileptic and a diabetic. She has performed several time connected to a catheter.
“Yeah, I’ve hit some bumps,” she said. “All I’m doing is surviving.”
In her songs, Dunn rarely addresses CF directly, but she said that there’s always a subconscious undercurrent in her music about her struggles with the disease. Still, the best way she knows how to live with CF is to live in spite of it.
“Every year, I just want to go out and do something crazy,” she said. “I just tell myself, what do you want to accomplish this year. I have to focus on going forward and I have to progress. There’s no down time with me.” - Santa Cruz Sentinel


"Love Your Local Band: Tess Dunn"

When Good Times last checked in with Tess Dunn in 2012, the local teenage pop-punk rocker already had an impressive resume.

At just 17, she had played the Warped Tour for three consecutive summers and had just released her second EP, Honesty Box, produced by Noah Shain (Skrillex, Atreyu). Since then, Dunn has played two more Warped festivals, and this summer, during her sixth stint on the tour, she plans to release her third EP, Daydreamers, which she aims to finance largely through the crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo. This time around, the now 19-year-old Dunn is again working with Shain, but is taking a co-producing role. “I think my writing on this album has really matured,” she says, explaining that she learned a lot from her production partner during the Honesty Box sessions.

She recalls Shain giving her suggestions for melody choices, different ways of wording her lyrics, and writing a pop arrangement. That advice stuck. “My writing has definitely grown through that,” she says. Her Warped Tour schedule has also grown. In the past, she has played only the San Francisco Bay Area stop, but this year, Dunn will play in Portland and Seattle, “which is really exciting,” she says.

As many of her fans are aware, Dunn suffers from cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and diabetes. A portion of the proceeds from her Indiegogo campaign will support Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc., and the Epilepsy Foundation. The rest will support her life goals of signing to a label and touring the world. She plans to shop Daydreamers around in the hopes of landing a record contract. And, in a way, the money will also help with her health issues. Songwriting helps her deal with emotional stress and singing helps combat lung damage caused by cystic fibrosis. “It’s an amazing outlet for me,” she says. - Good Times


"Tess Dunn To Play Residency At Streetlight Records"

At 20 years old, Tess Dunn has already got three alt-rock albums under her belt, is taking a full class load, and continues to fight a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis (CF), diabetes, and epilepsy. She’s so damn admirable that I found myself hoping she had some deep, dark secret to unearth.

No dice. Calling me from the parking lot of the Stanford Medical Center, Dunn quickly broke down all conventional interview barriers and showed that she is, indeed, the inspiring, no-nonsense go-getter so many past articles about her have glowingly heralded. But what isn’t often explored are the many layers of the person who has become a champion for her diseases. Guess what, she also gets lazy and doesn’t get out of her car when it’s too cold outside (hurrah!). And despite her incredibly positive attitude, of course the illnesses do weigh on her sometimes.

“Sometimes it does get tiring,” says Dunn, who recently released her latest EP and is slated to play an in-store performance at Streetlight Records in San Jose this Saturday. “It is a lot to handle, having these three illnesses, but my only options are to either sit around and wonder ‘why me?’ and throw pity-parties—or I can use this to empower me and push me to do great things.”

Dunn is so full of fight that it’s impossible to not get swept up in her energy. It takes tenacity to take a small boat-load of pills at every meal, wear a respiratory therapy vest for a few hours a day, breathe in three nebulizers, and then add some other fun IVs and hospital visits every so often—all before driving over Hwy. 17 from San Jose to band practice and heading back the same night to make it to class at Ex’Pression College.

“Go-getter” is a good description for Dunn, but she has enough sarcasm and mirth to jab back at anyone who mistakes her for the giddy cheerleader type.

This past June, Dunn released her third album, the Daydreamers EP. She began writing songs at age 1, has played at six Vans Warped Tour shows, recorded with award-winning artists and producers, and performed all over California. Making music for almost half her life, Dunn says her song-writing and artistry has developed greatly in a short time.

“I look back through the albums, and my perspective on things has changed so much. I feel like I’ve grown up a bit,” she says. “I’m really proud of where I am, and Daydreamers is a perfect representation of that.” - Metro Silicon Valley


Discography

Darling Just Walk EP - 2009
Honesty Box EP - 2012
Daydreamers EP - 2014

Photos

Bio

Raspy-voiced singer-songwriter Tess Dunn has accomplished more in 20 years than many performers with decades behind them. A six-year veteran of West Coast Vans Warped Tour dates who was named one of the top Bay Area performers by a leading S.F. radio station, Tess has already released three albums of her original music, while reigning over stages from San Diego to Orlando to Seattle. Reviewers and fans have described Tess as fearless, a songwriting phemon, a creative wunderkind, feisty, witty, a smartass. With her passion, drive, and stunning talent, Tess takes girl power to a whole new level.

Tess is noted for her powerful vocal range that goes from unique raspy lows to crystal clear highs. She is also a talented keyboardist, keytarist and ukuleleist. She started writing songs at 11, and took to the stage at 12. She released her first album of original music when she was only 14. Tess’ most recent EP, Daydreamers, was recorded at the legendary Jackpot! Studio in Portland with award-winning singer-songwriter Ari Shine and engineer Sean Flora (The Shins, The Black Keys) and showcases Tess’ mature talent. In its first review, Daydreamers was praised as a “compilation of some of the best sounds and hooks to show up from the "underground" side of the pop-rock genre in quite a while.”

Her previous EP, Honesty Box, released in 2012, was produced by Ari Shine and Noah Shain (Skrillex, Dead Sara, Secret Handshake). Jenna Brogan of the Good Times wrote, While Darling Just Walk was an opportunity for Dunn to show off her songwriting skills, her uniquely raspy voice and vocal range…Honesty Box kicks up the tempo, production value, and girl power.” Eric Berg of KUSP FM noted that Honesty Box has “a great caffeinated garage sound not too dissimilar to the punk bands of 30 years ago.” Wrote another reviewer, “With lyrics dark yet hopeful, Dunn plays a range of songs that hit with the energy of Blink 182 and the emotional intensity of a Fiona Apple ballad.”

"Shame To See," the first single from the EP, was recorded at the legendary EastWest Recording Studios in Hollywood. The accompanying music video won a San Francisco Bay Area contest for Best Local Music Video, and Tess was named one of the top eleven S.F. Bay Area artists of 2011 by 99.7 FM NOW Music.

Her 2009 EP, Darling Just Walk, was recorded in North Hollywood with a host of internationally-recorded musicians, including Carina Round, Adrienne Pierce, Ari Shine and Adam Topol (Jack Johnson’s long-time drummer). A reviewer wrote that Tess’ lyrics, “…delve into deeper and darker spaces than the pop stars of her time.”   

Dubbed “the young and the fearless,” due to her fierce battle with cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and diabetes, Tess says it’s “…almost like having a clock ticking over your head, but it has a way of putting things in perspective." She adds, “What pushes me is when other people think I can't do something. I'm very defiant.” An affecting advocate for anyone battling life’s challenges, Tess inspires others by her refusal to bend to life’s unfair hand.

Tess is a dynamic performer, including at West Coast Vans Warped Tour shows in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. She has had numerous sold-out solo shows in Santa Cruz County, and has opened for artists including Karla Bonoff, James Durbin, Nina Storey, Ari Shine, Adrienne Pierce, and Dresses. Her music has been scored in a soon to be released indie feature film, and she has participated in three national film and music productions, including Vans Off The Wall TV’s "Pass The Bucket" series, which features inspirational athletes, artists and performers. To listen to Tess is to be inspired.

Band Members