By Bob Marovich
“Keep pushing and hold on to God, because there’s a way out.”
That’s how Grammy and Dove Award nominee Dayna Caddell describes the theme of her first full-length solo album, Push, released July 8 on Forty Entertainment/eOne.
The album’s positive disposition and personal testimonies encourage listeners to overcome their own personal and professional struggles.
Or as Dayna told JGM, Push is about “my stories, stories I’ve witnessed, and perseverance in knowing there’s a way out.”
To say Dayna was brought up in a musical home would be an understatement. She was surrounded by music, largely because her father, Oscar Caddell, was a music industry insider. He served as road manager for Latin jazz artist Willie Bobo and promotional agent for the jazz fusion group, Weather Report. Oscar also owned a recording studio on Vernon Avenue in Los Angeles.
“We grew up on rock, jazz, Latin music, Brazilian music, everything,” Dayna recalled. “There were always people in and out of our home, doing jam sessions. I couldn’t help but be influenced.”
But of all the musical styles Dayna absorbed as a youth, R&B was her favorite. Seeking to pursue a career as an R&B vocalist, she studied Patti Austin, Phyllis Hyman, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and especially Chaka Khan. (“I would study [Chaka] like crazy”). She also followed the career of Los Angeles instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer Warryn “Baby Dubb” Campbell.
Fifteen years ago, Dayna got saved. She agonized over what that would mean for her music career. Could she minister to people if she sang gospel? Could she invite audiences to an altar call? “It was a real tug,” she admitted.
Warryn Campbell’s wife, Erica, of award-winning gospel duo Mary Mary, helped Dayna overcome her concerns. Dayna met Erica through her sister, entertainment publicist Phyllis Caddell, who was working as Mary Mary’s publicist at the time.
Hanging out at Erica and Warryn’s home late one night, Dayna shared her anxiety about singing gospel music. “I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t minister.’” Erica spoke up: “Dayna, you’ve been to our concerts – have you ever seen us do that? Just do what you do!”
It began to make sense. “I was always one to write about love and relationships,” she considered. “Now it would just be at a higher level.”
Still, an early religious single, 2005’s “(Everyday) He’s Good,” found the singer struggling to blend her eclectic music background with sacred music. “[‘(Everyday) He’s Good’] was what I thought I was supposed to do, if I was going to go in this direction [of gospel],” she said. “The song was necessary for that time, but that was because I wasn’t sure of how to be myself.”
She’s since learned to better balance the two musical worlds. Push shows what she’s learned, and she did it with help from industry friends Erica Campbell, Eric Dawkins, and Israel Houghton.
Eric Dawkins collaborated on “Overjoyed.” Dayna recounted: “The funny thing about that song is that I was up in the studio late at night, trying to finish it. [Eric] was in the B studio and came over. We chatted and I asked him to write the second verse. He said we should write it together. Then he did the scratch vocals and it turned into a duet. It was the first time we sang together!”
Just as with Erica Campbell, Dayna initially met Israel Houghton through her sister, Phyllis. Houghton appears alongside Dayna and Erica on the album’s “So Grateful.” Dayna explains: “I was writing a song, ‘Every Prayer,’ with Aaron Lindsey at his studio in Texas. Israel stopped by and liked the song.” “Every Prayer” ended up on Houghton’s album, The Power of One, and was nominated for a Grammy in 2010.
Dayna is flabbergasted over the controversy surrounding her Motown-esque “Crazy,” a love song that could be construed as about the Most High or about a person. “I never got that [ambiguity], but that was the consensus. It was not deliberate at all. God is who I’m speaking of.”
As for the brevity of the title track, Dayna explains: “Now THAT was deliberate. ‘Push’ has a lot of meaning, but it was just a note, something to get off my chest. It came out of frustration with radio, with situations where I worked with people and they basically stole my songs. And you don’t have the money to fight, or even start the fight.”
Industry struggles notwithstanding, life in general has not been easy for Dayna. Some time ago, she was struck by a drunk driver, leaving her temporarily disabled and dependent on a cane for three years. Her continued battle with autoimmune disease makes it difficult to schedule an album tour. Although she did some promotional work in March 2016, which was Autoimmune Awareness Month, a later promo tour was cancelled because of flare ups of her illness. “It’s so unpredictable,” she said. “My days are up and down. But Push may be that little engine that could!”
Dayna Caddell acknowledges her growth as a songwriter, but is firm that on Push “the vibe hasn’t changed. It’s the message that’s different.”
For more information, visit www.daynacaddell.com.