Meet Damaria, the electric R&B singer with a knife she calls "Femme Fatale."
Meet Damaria, the electric R&B singer with a knife she calls "Femme Fatale."
Photo provided by Damaria

R&B Ingenue Damaria Celebrates a Year of Breakthroughs

Friday night is Damaria Daniels’ night. While most are gearing up to jet off into the Houston nightlife, Daniels is preparing the last thing they’ll need before heading out: a reminder. Many choose Fridays as their day to escape and unwind. Their selective day to be assured that nothing can get in their way of a good time. Enjoy the vices, slip into something comfortable, be seen. It’s a mode of operation that has stood the test of time. In Damaria’s world, Friday night means it is time to pull back the curtains and navigate your own way to temporary mental freedom.

On three separate Fridays in September, Damaria shared information from her recently released Love Overdose (stylized Love Overdxse) EP. The first was a video, “Never Find Another,” where she sipped wine, enjoyed a bubble bath and played around with the look and feel of a femme fatale through with being wronged by the opposite sex. The song itself is about pushing faded lovers away, especially those who have used up all their “sorry” cards and excuses. The video plays up to one of Damaria’s favorite motifs: a woman of danger and mystery.

“I love the term ‘femme fatale,’” she says. “It’s even carved on my pocketknife.”

It’s a few days before Love Overdxse arrives and the singer is in good spirits. Another day of working has led her back to her home and idea of being still. If there's ever a need for downtime, she might plug herself into a documentary or any number of TED Talks for inspiration. The recent storms have cluttered nearby parks so her top hobby, mountain biking, is temporarily out of the question. She admits to being hopeful that once fall truly kicks in, the trails will show up as a parade of brown leaves and dry land. As we trade messages back and forth, most of them are laughs about life and career. If push came to shove and she wound up on a deserted island with only one song to hold and cherish until the end of her days, she picks a record that is seeped in pulling away from the braids of tension in one’s life.

“Bob Marley’s 'Three Little Birds,' if I had a choice,” she says. “That was a tough one.”

The build-up towards Love Overdxse comes from months and months of curating a specific sound. As R&B continues to entrench itself in dark, ambient spaces where the ultimate pull on the listener is through the bass drum and hi-hat, Damaria is discovering what about her music is central to her and her alone. The influences of her childhood still kick around on the short but sweet 5-track EP. In moments, she’s the confident leader of her own tribe, unwilling to let fleeting ideas of love sweep up her steps or passions. Yet, like most instances of love, the feeling doesn’t die off easily. “Damn Pride,” one of the EP’s standouts finds her sitting in a familiar position: a lover who has been hurt one too many times and is protective, guarded. Love Overdxse is meant to be a project about falling too deep in love that you lose yourself. It is nowhere near the audio catharsis that befell Mary J. Blige’s sophomore album or even the open-to-interpretation stance that Lemonade most famously delivered last year. But it is an album about lovers, for lovers.

Beyond falling in love, Damaria once found herself hesitant to even pursue music full-time. Stuck in a job that yielded her no passion, she looked for an answer to show her the light. Surprisingly, she found it in the text of a man probably most famous for flubbing a pageant victory and being one-fourth of one of the greatest comedy concert films of all-time.

“Have you read Jump by Steve Harvey?” she asks. I squirrel off a few thoughts in my head without saying a word. “Steve Harvey?!”

She laughs, “I’m a national recruiter, so I pretty much just help people find jobs across the country. It’s a fulfilling job for that reason, but it takes a lot of time away from what I love to do. I rather spend that time creating of course. I was doing it last year with a different company, and I was working overtime constantly...having to work weekends. I got really depressed because I didn’t have time to make music... I was uninspired.

Then Jump came out right before my birthday," she continues. "I read the book, and put my two-week notice in soon as I [finished] it. I needed that time off to get my mind right and start a business plan. I quit my job in January. For six months I didn't do anything but work on my music and record. Now the company I’m at now isn’t as demanding; I have my weekends off. Plus I’m able to write music on the clock.”

I ask her about whether or not her co-workers have heard any of the material, or even caught wind of the “Never Find Another” video and she breathed a sigh of relief in regards to their support. “I haven’t shown my manager because I’m scared,” she says with a laugh. Still, there is one concern that she has that lingers, beyond a natural fear of spiders. “Regret,” she said with a bluntness.

“I’m afraid of not ever making music happen as a career ... which is why I invest as much time & energy as I possibly can into it.”

If there are any distinguishing fears within Damaria, most of it bleeds into the music. Keeping up the exterior of being strong is also a sign of vulnerability. “Thinkin’” and “How I Feel,” the two closers for Love Overdxseare ripe with such emotions. Upbeat and jubilant, they’re a stark contrast to the vocal caution sign that is “Never Find Another,” and bend but don’t break methodology of “Damn Pride.”

It speaks to her early inspirations, solo stars such as Janet Jackson and Aaliyah who defined their sensuality in their music and the vocal runs of the girl groups Destiny’s Child and TLC. Growing up as a choir kid, she couldn’t escape DC; it all came full circle last January when she performed in front of one of her childhood heroes, Kelly Rowland.

“That was so crazy for obvious reasons, I’ve been a huge Destiny’s Child fan since I was 9,” she says of the day, still conjuring up the same excitement as if it had just occurred moments before.

These days, making harmony-driven R&B like the sounds of her childhood isn’t as rapidly accepted as it once was. Most young artists get hunkered down into certain notes and cadences, trapping themselves into sounds or boxes. When it came time to record her EP, Damaria went in with a simple goal in mind: make the music for her, not to fit what someone would want.

“I think I just got to a point where I just wanted to make the kind of music I enjoyed listening to,” she says. “I love ‘90s R&B just like everybody else, and I wanted to help bring a similar feeling back...like that time period. Even though I sing R&B, I like my beats to knock. I’m a rap fan too, so I love hard drums in my beats. Beats that make your head bob.

"it gets difficult sometimes, so I try to find a balance with it," she continues. "I have a few tracks on Love Overdxse that are more mellow and “dreamy” like ... those tracks might not get as much appreciation and the others. I don’t know, but they’re really chill and remind me of the R&B we grew up on. I feel like you gotta have transitions in the mood so it’s an experience. Felt like I needed slow jams in there too.”

Which brings us all the way back to the “Never Find Another,” video, the initial introduction where everything matches up. The glances, the feels, and allusions to Lynn Whitfield’s character of Brandi Webb in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and her favorite knife. A small script tattooed on her forearm simply reads “Faith.” As Damaria sighs and prepares to start her day over again tomorrow, she hugs onto one thing about her that won’t soon be forgotten.

“I’m comfortable in my skin, and in my imperfections,” she says. “I don’t have a perfect body according to today’s beauty standards. But I love my body. It took me a long time to get to this point. And I’m not afraid to express sensuality with my music. I’m actually kinda proud of myself. You kinda gotta know you’re the shit and have the right confidence. Cause it’s gonna be a lot of people trying to say otherwise.”

Hear Damaria’s Love Overdxse EP in full below.

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