This is the main concept running through Houston artist’s Dende new album A Happy Man. Dende will perform at Warehouse Live on Friday, June 11 for a special evening of performances by DJ Infinite, John Fuggin Dough, JonoJono, Skyrah Bliss and Tink as part of the Flight Concert Series.
“This is what I live for,” says Dende about returning to the stage for the first time since the COVID shutdown, with the exception of a drive-in concert at NRG as part of the MOVE Texas voting rally.
“I love making the music, I love when people listen to it and stream it but my favorite part of music is performing.” Dende is looking forward to giving his new songs legs in this performance and others he is currently planning.
A Happy Man, available now for streaming and purchase and on vinyl in the upcoming months, is a personal glimpse into the inner workings of Dende’s mind blending together the good and the bad times which he has gone through in his attempts to be "a happy man."
“When I first started writing, it wasn’t songs, it was poems to portray questions that I had and a voice that I feel has always been in my head,” he says describing the crippling thoughts of self-doubt that he and so many others experience frequently.
“I just wanted to make it cohesive. I know that other people have those thoughts too but those are real thoughts that go through my head all the time,” he says of the album.
A Happy Man starts out with the title track where Dende philosophizes on the paranoia built up internally that every time he got something positive in his life, a negative quickly came along. He speaks firsthand about the eerie connection between dropping an album, and in turn losing a grandparent, a phenomenon which happened twice in his life leading him to believe that maybe on some level, it was his fault.
“I just wanted to make it cohesive. I know that other people have those thoughts too but those are real thoughts that go through my head all the time."
“It sounds really crazy to say it out loud and that thought doesn’t make any sense but it’s a thought that I had so I feel like I needed to talk about that because there's billions of people on the earth so if I had that thought, maybe somebody else had that thought or something similar.”
In tracks like “I Cried” Dende lays it all on the line, pulling listeners into the inner struggle of self hatred with the backdrop of a joyous occasion, a theme reflected in the visual art of the album as well where a large smile has literally been taped over his mouth right below his solemn eyes.
“Phone Number” perfectly encapsulates this vibe as an upbeat and catchy song, which upon closer inspection is about the falsehood and superficial nature of some relationships in life. The song cleverly incorporates a line from TLC’s ‘90s hit “No Scrubs” that will have anyone bouncing along before they realize the actual harshness in the message of the song.
Throughout the album, Dende not only focuses on the darkness, but also the light that comes after and how one cannot exist without the other creating the ultimate dynamic of life.
By making himself vulnerable through his art, Dende is offering a shoulder to lean on to anyone who feels identified in his lyrics and in turn, breaking the isolating cycle of negative self-talk.
Dende sees how the dominating presence of social media has only made it harder for people to admit to not so pleasant feelings and experiences as many people frequently compare themselves to others whose online presence only portrays the most snap worthy moments.
A Happy Man saw Dende doing something he had never done so much of as a self admitted “control freak” — collaborating.
“I feel like I have to have a hand on everything that’s why I learned how to mix and master, produce and play instruments, because I didn’t want to depend on other people to do it but I’m trying to get out of that mindset.”
Quarantine and online connections led him to team up with and trust others for this album, especially Austin based producer Billy Blunt.
“It’s only 25 minutes long. It’s an easy listen and it flows really well if somebody really needs 25 minutes to themselves to gather their thoughts. I feel like everybody that had a hand in this project did a really good job and I'm really proud of it so I just want everybody to listen to it, share with your friends and share with your momma.”
Dende will perform on Friday, June 11 at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. Doors open at 8 p.m, $15