Dessa is one of the talents on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” musical mixtape.
She tears into “Congratulations,” a song that rips into Alexander Hamilton for the affair that ended his presidential aspirations and made a mess of his marriage, in part, because of his penchant to explain in too much detail and in print. Though the song was cut from the Broadway musical, Miranda’s inclusion of Dessa is an epic entry on the Minneapolis-born recording artist’s résumé, as she shares mixtape space with Andra Day, Kelly Clarkson, Jill Scott and Alicia Keys, to name a few.
In Part 2 of my interview with Dessa, who divides her time between Minneapolis and Manhattan, I dive into the romance from which she healed with the help of science. The column inches below cannot do justice to this subject, addressed in the “Call Off Your Ghost” chapter of her entertaining memoir, “My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love.”
Q: About the brainwave, exorcism, scan to heal your broken heart. Did that work?
A: I love that you just casually said “exorcism slash scan.” Yeah. I think it helped. Now, granted I don’t want to overstate it. Good science means that you follow a rigorous protocol, you know, to make sure you’re accounting for things like maybe the placebo effect or just random chance. For me, though, I did feel better after going through that. I worked with a team of neuroscientists. Many of them from the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the U here in town. And I did feel better. It wasn’t like it erased my memories, right? But I felt a new chill.
Q: That has to be the first time they were ever asked to do such a thing?
A: In my understanding, that is true.
Q: As beautiful as you are, there have to be guys willing to help erase the memory of your old boyfriend. Am I correct?
A: [Laughing] I’d say “Holler.” I haven’t dated a lot. I [was] on the road a bunch this last year. For me as I grow older, I think it takes more to like someone. You know, you’ve got to be funny and kind and be able to hold your own in a quick conversation.
Q: Your romance with another member of your crew is a lot like an office romance. I have this to say about office romances: Just say no. The breakups are hard on the lovers, and entertainment for the rest of us.
A: So where were you when I was 22? You’re late. You’re late.
Q: This is advice for the future.
A: OK. OK.
Q: When you hit the music scene you had dark hair. Are you having more fun as a blonde?
A: [Laugh] Ahhhhhhh. I think that the fun line is pretty flatlined. I’m feeling OK. The only time I notice it is at airports. Early in the morning ... I don’t dress like a performer, particularly. You know what I mean, it’s loose sweaters and stuff. As a brunette I think the assumption was, when I would sit down with my laptop and start typing at MSP in Concourse C, the other business dudes around were like OK, she’s one of us. Now as a blonde, particularly when the roots are all grown out, I think they think I’m some kind of ... like I’m an enemy. [Laughing] They give me a very wide berth, like I’m a punk rocker here to steal their children or something.
Q: When Lin-Manuel calls to ask you to be an artist on his “Hamilton” mixed tape, I have to assume there’s nobody in the music business you have trouble contacting?
A: Oh god. Overstatement. Yes. I mean he called me and, of course, that’s an amazing call to receive. I mean you jump. It’s exciting. I’ve got a lot of room to grow absolutely.
Q: You’re somebody who is brimming with talent. Is there a part of the day you’re more creative?
A: Yeah. That’s an interesting question. I think like the time where I’m supposed to go to bed. If I listen to music within two hours of going to bed, I know I’ll be up for a long time because it loops [she closes her eyes and makes a circular gesture under the hair over her left ear], you know what I mean? If being asleep by 2 a.m. is important, there can be no music after midnight. So for me, I’m probably a night owl. Uh-huh.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.