Erica Dee is used to being an anomaly.
“I’ve always felt pretty different. I mean, I’m a white girl from the mountains who sings soul. When I’m traveling around people will be like where did this come from? Well, it came from the mountains of the Kootenays.”
The 27-year old multi-talented performer, who moved to Nelson with her family in the 1980s and is an alumna of Selkirk College’s music program, has been touring worldwide for the last few years. She’s performed with acts like QuestLove, Lil’ Kim and Damian Marley, but for the month of August Dee is back in B.C.
She recently finished shows at Unity Fest and MarketFest, and this weekend she’ll be performing at Shambhala before heading west. Dee said these performances are where she feels most at home.
“I definitely do feel like Shambhala Music Festival is a huge part of who I am today,” she said. Dee attended her first one when she was 11, and has been performing there for years.
“I just remember being really small and wanting to dance. I asked my Mom’s friend if she would bring me,” she said. “There were only two stages, and two food vendors. I slept in the front seat of her car that night.”
According to Dee, this musical milieu made her career possible. But while she was growing up in Nelson, her chosen genres of hip hop and soul were not particularly popular.
“Really, it was the DJs that got me started,” she said. “DJ Hoola Hoop and Soup, people like that. They would let me grab a microphone and sing over their sets.”
She said this was a crucial phase of her artistic development.
“That’s where this combination of electronic hip hop urban soul comes from, because that was my beginning. My only outlet was to sing over DJs. So I would sing soul music over house, drum and bass, jungle, whatever they put on.”
Over the years she found other collaborators and fellow acts, include Smalltown DJs, Meow Mix, Charlie Tuna and Vinyl Ritchie.
“I’ve met tons of artists who have been huge supporters, pulling me up on stage, supporting me. It’s a big, beautiful community,” she said.
These days Dee has taken a new direction. In 2014 she released three singles with Berlin producer Lars Moston—Good Hands, Do U Want To and The Light.
“That’s my main thing right now. We haven’t quite named our project yet but we’ve got 11 new tunes and I’ll be sneak-previewing new material into a live and DJ set,” she said.
She also recently completed a 10-song soul record that has yet to be released.
“It’s pretty much about my last relationship and some of the changes I went through. It’s about losing yourself in the relationship and forgetting about what’s important, loving somebody to the extreme,” she said.
“I know as a soul singer it’s kind of typical to sing about love, which I do. But I try to look at it from a different direction. Not just man and woman love stories, I’m talking love for yourself, love for life, love for fantasy, love for nature.”
Dee is passionate about making the world a better place, and she’s written some new tracks geared at youth.
“I’ve been writing a lot of songs about following your dreams, believing in yourself,” she said. “I have stuff about getting connected to nature and putting your fingers in the dirt, staying in the moment with your lover forever, saving fuel and riding your bicycle.”
She said these life-affirming tunes were partially inspired by the time she spent living in Los Angeles, and the things she saw there.
“I moved to L.A. and was disconnected from my community. I saw a lot of lost souls. People missing that support and inspiration, that underlying feeling that there are people who love you and will push you through,” she said. “That’s why it’s so amazing to come back to this feeling of community and inspiration.”
And though she plans to continue to travel the world and pursue her dreams, Dee still considers Nelson home.
To learn more about Erica Dee, visit missericadee.com.