Speaking to Dallas Woods is very similar to listening to his tunes; he’s direct, steadfast, and he’s not afraid to make some noise. Yet underneath the politically charged exterior is a man born to entertain, one who’s incredible easy to share a laugh with.
After spending some time as a mentor and onstage hypeman to Baker Boy, Dallas is now dropping releases of his own. On 9 Times Out Of 10 and Hoodlum he tackles Indigenous incarceration and police negligence. An upcoming track, he shares, will be about his childhood home in the East Kimberley. Whatever the subject matter, these songs hit hard.
Before he hits the big stage at Bluesfest 2019 as part of Boomerang Festival, we jumped on the phone to chat about that upcoming single and an imminent debut EP. Dallas also shared the reason he had to drop a particularly raunchy tune from his live set.
Dallas Woods is a songwriter with a singular focus; being a voice for the issues he deems important. Ahead of an appearance at Boomerang Festival, we caught up to chat.
HAPPY: To talk about Baker Boy for just a second, am I right in saying that the first time you met was through the Indigenous Hip Hop Projects?
HAPPY: Were you performing before you got started with that project?
DALLAS: I got started when I was 15, so they picked me up from the Kimberley. I was just not really going to school or anything, my mum approached them and said, “can you give him some work experience or anything, if he’s good enough keep him on. If he’s not, you know, at least he’s in the Kimberley and he can just come back home”. And yeah, 10 years later.
HAPPY: What kind of stuff were you doing before they picked you up, performance-wise?
DALLAS: Just dance, man. That was my love, always dancing at discos, basketball tournaments… at the end of those we’d have a disco and battle with everyone from other towns.
HAPPY: Did you always know you wanted to do that stuff?
DALLAS: I didn’t really think of it like a job, sort of a ‘if I can do this here, it’ll be fun as’. I like being in front of a crowd, I like bringing happiness.
HAPPY: You seem to me like you were the class clown, back in the day.
DALLAS: Always, you know? If the room is a bit dead I’ll try to bring in some energy, change the atmosphere a bit.
HAPPY: I watched a couple of videos of you at the [Indigenous Hip Hop Projects] sessions, which were pretty amazing. What kind of music do you see coming out of those kids and teenagers?
DALLAS: You know, there’s always that relevance of American hip hop. That’s been generational as long as I’ve known, from 2Pac to Biggie, we’re still banging old school, like early ‘90s and 2000s. That’s what they listen to, the way they act as well. They act real cool, they’ve got their hats backwards, they love it, but you put their iPod on shuffle and the next song will be a country song, or an old school slow rock song. It’s very… anything goes.
HAPPY: Was the hip hop stuff what you grew up on?
DALLAS: I started listening to country first, ‘cause my mum was very strict when it came to swearing and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t listen to hip hop until I got older and I could actually get my Discman to where mum couldn’t hear it.
HAPPY: You had to do it in secret?
DALLAS: My nan passed me a 2Pac album when I was younger from her son and my uncle’s collection. That’s when I first heard 2Pac, that was more of a slow album. Then my mates started playing Hit ‘Em Up and Troublesome [‘96] and I was like, ‘this dude’s off his head’.
HAPPY: Your grandma gave you the 2Pac album?
DALLAS: Yeah she let me. I looked through one of my uncle’s CD collections and found it.
HAPPY: Classic, did she know that your mum wasn’t the biggest fan?
DALLAS: Yeah, we lived in the same house. She’d drop a little bit of swear words here and there, but she’d say “don’t tell your mum”.
HAPPY: Back to the Hip Hop Projects, is there anything you’ve wanted to do with them but haven’t been able to?
DALLAS: Take it global, like to other Indigenous lands or people of other countries. Seeing what it does for my people, I can only imagine what it could do for other people.
HAPPY: That’s fantastic. Before we stop talking about them, I was on their website and they have this crazy photo of you without all your hair.
HAPPY: You’ve seen it?
DALLAS: So dreads Dally is more the music side of me, but short haired Dally is the dance side.
HAPPY: Two personalities in one.
DALLAS: Yeah, but the same Dally.
HAPPY: How’s the Dallas Woods EP coming along?
DALLAS: It’s coming along good, I’m just in the finishing stages now. I’m about to release another single soon. After that I think the EP’s just got to happen.
HAPPY: Is that what you’re doing in Victoria?
DALLAS: Yep. So I moved down to Melbourne for music, there’s not really recording studios in my little town. I have a good support system here, so it’s easy to be away from home but feel like home.
HAPPY: Nice. Last time I saw you live you had this great song about “baby making music”, is that on the EP?
DALLAS: Nah [laughs]. That’s ‘cause I had a few underage gigs and that had to get the slip.
DALLAS: I like that song, but it was strategic.
HAPPY: It was a classic. There was a really funny side to your show that I haven’t seen in the two songs you’ve put out so far. Are you more keen to make noise about the bigger issues at the moment?
DALLAS: For me, all I can make music about is stuff that I’m going through. I feel like if you can relate to it, then other people can relate to it so it’s strong. Actually my next release is about home, it’s about the Kimberley, it’s about growing up. At my live show I like to be funny ‘cause that’s just who I am, you feel the crowd. But if I can say something that has meaning, I’ll say it, and I’ll do it in a way that may be hard hitting, but there will be a lot of punchlines in there that may be contradicting people’s stigmas.
HAPPY: As one last thing, you’re playing Bluesfest this year as part of Boomerang Festival. Do you ever tailor your performance when it’s part of a line-up that’s specifically focused on Indigenous artists?
DALLAS: My performance doesn’t change, more so for me it’s just identity, you know, I am who I am so I’m going to tell you my story. Even just to be mentioned amongst those names on the Boomerang lineup, even just to see my name next to them is a blessing itself. Because you know, some of them are people that I’ve been in the music with coming up and some of them have been people who I’ve idolised since I was young, like the Archie Roach’s and stuff. With an Indigenous crowd I tend my lingo a little bit because I know they’ll understand it, but that’s about it. I don’t see colour.
HAPPY: Awesome, well thanks for the time.
DALLAS: Thanks for the call, bro.
Catch Dallas Woods live at Boomerang Festival, a part of Bluesfest 2019:
April 19 – April 21 – Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW – Tickets