The state of California in the United States of America is rich with talent that is waiting to be discovered. Most think of the southern portion of the state when they see or hear a new talent, but to the north of Los Angeles, there exists a region known as the “Bay Area” that is teeming with talented individuals that all share the dream of being successful in the entertainment industry. One can merely take a superficial glance at the names like actor Tom Hanks(Oakland), directors George Lucas(Sausalito), Francis Ford Coppola(San Francisco) and rapping mogul, M.C. Hammer to confirm that northern California has and continues to contribute to the talent pool of the entertainment industry.
knotmove.com’s Oscar Benjamin sat down with singer/songwriter, Claudine Dentoni at the Japanese Gardens in Hayward, California which proved to be an appropriate location as I immediately discovered how intellectual and profound the interview with Dentoni would turn out to be. Dentoni is seemingly unaware of just how attractive she genuinely is. During the course of our conversation, she stated that she was not accustomed and really never received attention from men. As if to underscore her comment, there were several moments when her sense of humor was self deprecating! Claudine Dentoni physically fits the description of a classic California blonde that artists such as “The Beach Boys” and Katy Perry have celebrated. Dentoni has startling piercing blue-green eyes that accents her heart stopping smile that naturally compliments her rich flowing blonde hair. Upon first meeting her, it is difficult to comprehend that she doesn’t have a club size line of suitors waiting just to catch a glimpse of her arresting beauty!
Although it is advantageous that singers are attractive, Dentoni will no doubt surprise and impress people who are quick to draw conclusions from appearances. Claudine quickly sets the tone of the interview with her opening salvo, “my initial attraction to music came from writing. Writing for me has always been very cathartic. I started writing when I was really young. My brother passed away when I was a child. Writing was something that I learned helped me get through things”. Dentoni continues with this fascinating comment that immediately evokes imagery, “as a child when I would write there was always music that accompanied the process(in my head). When I was young it was almost a distraction and then I kind of surrendered to the fact that the music was just there”. Dentoni recalls her home environment when she was a child, “I always loved to sing, but in my family environment it was something that was not supported”! This statement was further clarified by Claudine, “I have great parents, but my mom struggled when my brother passed away and has never been the same. I believe just like every child your own environment is what you assume everybody is used to! Music(for me) was everything and I thought music was everything to everybody”! It is at this point that I notice that Claudine is wonderfully introspective and yet she hasn’t lost her child-like sense of enthusiasm with her answers! She continues, “when I got to the part where I discovered I could write and sing, I tried to share that with my parents, my dad would say oh, honey that’s very good, but a lot of people try to be singers and you are a bright girl, so let’s just concentrate on that. I did just that, and I enjoyed school a lot and I was academically successful because I was a straight A student, so I thought I can take this path and kind of let it go”.
There are moments in everyone’s life when the dark hand of self-doubt can grab and not release you. Claudine discusses this, “I had always kept my hand in music and a few years ago I had performed and was seen by someone. His name was Mark Kenoly and he was the musical director at the church I performed at. He used to be a big bassist in the late 60’s and 70’s. He definitely had his hand in the music scene back then. He asked me if I ever had done any writing because he loved my voice. I said yes, but I really never shared it with anybody. Music became something that I almost felt that I needed to hide. I kept writing and writing over the years and I had a huge binder of songs that I had written! I handed them over to him and he was really impressed. He then called me and asked me if I would be interested in creating an album”. Dentoni’s smile begins to widen as she continues, “it was a dream come true and it was something I had always wanted to do, but didn’t believe in myself enough! So, to work with somebody who appreciated what I did and what I wrote and felt there was value in it was huge for me”!
This was a pivotal moment in Claudine’s life and it is evident that she was able to discern the infamous “Y in the road” moment that most cannot distinguish. She continues, “we continued to work together and it took us about two and half to three years-partially because of the fact that I teach and I have two children! It was something I had to do in the wee hours when I wasn’t performing those duties”.
The interview with Claudine provided a unique opportunity to discover the song writing process and perhaps obtain a better grasp of how music is written because Dentoni’s amazing ability to articulate and illuminate the art. She begins, “my process is very unique and possibly, frustrating! I don’t play a musical instrument nor do I read music. My producer was kind of amazed at the way that it came to me. When I write a song-the melody and the lyrics come simultaneously. I write them usually very quickly in a thirty minute sitting! As I keep singing the song I start hearing the other instruments”. Dentoni’s fascinating reveal continues, “I automatically hear some sort of guitar lead line of some sort. I always hear bass and I always hear drums. Sometimes like in one the the songs I wrote called Stay, I could hear strings in that piece”. Claudine’s process reminded me of a poet struggling with a sonnet. She responded to my comparison, “I wouldn’t call myself a poet! I have a hard time writing songs or lyrics that don’t rhyme. It’s really weird and strange to me because I don’t know any other way. Writing is very much an out of body experience because there are times when I can hear another line in a song and it will take me on another tangent. It is so powerful whatever that thing is that I am going to write that I am moved to do it right then and there! I don’t have any control over it, so it is a little bizarre”!
I was able to carefully listen to Dentoni’s debut album release entltled, “Wrestling Consciousness” and was immediately struck by Claudine’s incredible vocal range on a number of tracks. Her voice immediately reminded me of Pat Benatar at the height of her career. The just released CD is an amazing debut that includes a dizzying array of tracks that one could easily imagine being released as singles. Claudine has not only proved that she is a hard rocking and driven singer in many of the tracks like “Vice”, “Play Me”, but she honestly bares her emotional soul in moving ballads such as “If I Ran To You” and “Fallen Angel”. Her sense of humor and intellectual prowess is especially and keenly displayed in the track entltled, “Play Me”. As Claudine explained in the interview, it is a song taken from the viewpoint of a guitar, but as she humorously stated, “it’s a little naughty”! This album is surely one of the finest debut efforts that I can recall being released by any other singer or band out there.
It is inevitable that artists are influenced by other artist-so who influenced Claudine? “I’m a 80’s and 90’s girl! As much as I am condemned for that fact and the style of my music-I have no apologies for that! I love that era and I love the music. My influences are Pat Benatars, Heart, Patti Smyth from Scandal-I can’t deny it. Although those influences are deeply ingrained in me, I also have some influences like Nikleback, Foo Fighters and some more current rock groups”.
What kind of person is Claudine and will that help or hinder her performance on stage? Dentoni respnds, “I am not shy, I am very comfortable in front of people, I am very comfortable in a work setting. I am not shy to interject my opinion. I am very strong willed when it comes to what it is that I need to share. I don’t cower to anybody and I am not easily intimidated”! She continues, “on stage there is always that nervousness, but I am very comfortable there, especially when I have my musicians with me and we are doing our thing. It is something I knew I could always do! I think the biggest battle for me has been those voices in my head from just so long ago repeating you shouldn’t be doing this! If that has a moment to take hold-it might kind of knock me down for a minute, but when I am up there and the music starts playing, I know I am where I need to be. I’m not the kind of person that films myself and says I have to put my hand up here and there! I’m just moved by the music and so whatever I do-good or bad-that’s what you are going to see! I am not uncomfortable on the stage”.
Wisely, Claudine Dentoni still is a teacher while balancing her multiple roles as mother, wife and singer/songwriter. This writer sees a time when she will have to choose singing or teaching. What choice will Claudine make? “If I had an opportunity to make some money in music-then that is my dream! I love singing and writing-any arena of music I would love to be involved with if it could actually be involved with getting a paycheck-which is hard to find! I love music and that has always been my first choice”. Claudine wraps up the interview with her a finely wrought message that is timeless, “I think music is the most powerful artform that there is! When there is an opportunity to give back to somebody in need, using this artform-I think that is an important place to be”.
Claudine will be hosting her record release party on the 21st of October at the Rockit Room in San Francisco, California. She will also be teaming up with the “Make-A-Wish Foundation” in her musical performance that evening. Further information can be learned at her website linked below.