Just shy of her 25th birthday, Brazilian cellist and songwriter Dominique Pinto has learned to live in motion. Born in the coastal city of Porto Alegre, she spent her childhood split between her hometown and Paris, studying cello and piano while her father pursued his doctorate. And as music developed from a passion to a career, her studies brought her to the doorstep of acclaimed American cellist Christine Walevska, who had lived in Buenos Aires for many years before returning to New York City. Dom moved to Buenos Aires at the age of 13, and whenever Christine visited they would get together for intensive teaching sessions. It was in Argentina that her older peers dubbed her “La Nena” (“little one”), a nickname that has followed her since.
It is no mystery, then, that the musical voice Dom La Nena grew into is transient and unbounded, taking shelter in the in-between spaces of life. She has drawn comparisons as disparate as “a young Brian Wilson” (Wall Street Journal), “a bossa Joanna Newsom” (Time Out New York), “Cat Power’s … lost sister” (Pop Dose), and “the shadow of Lhasa like an angel passing by” (Voir). A common thread in this collection of artists might be a sense of intimacy—Dom, like her musical forebears, invites you into a cloudy and fascinating interior. Long, wandering melodies are ornamented by cellos, pianos, and other chamber folk elements that come and go like guests at a party.
Before her first work as a solo artist, though, La Nena already had a substantial resume as an accompanist. Her first exposure to big stages was at the age of 18, on a two-year worldwide tour with English actress and singer Jane Birkin, which led to a string of collaborations. Shehas since toured with French stars Jeanne Moreau and Etienne Daho, and collaborated with Camille, who also appeared briefly on Ela.
One of the first artists that Dom met and performed with in Paris was Piers Faccini. After Dom had written the collection of songs that would eventually become her luminary debut Ela, Piers kindly suggested she use his home studio in the Cevennes Mountains of France to record the compositions. Once all the basic tracks were captured on tape, Faccini assisted as a coproducer and arranger.
Ela was hailed as a “sonic masterpiece” (NPR), and Dom once again found herself on the road, touring rigorously and internationally for eighteen months behind the release. Out of these tours, on nighttime drives, between sound check and show time, came the songs and seedlings of her ambitious new sophomore album, Soyo, out March 3, 2015, via Six Degrees Records. Coproduced by Brazilian songwriter/singer/guitarist Marcelo Camelo (formerly of the band Los Hermanos), Soyo builds upon the vocabulary of Ela.
The new album is anchored by La Nena’s unmistakable voice and cello playing, but it also plants a few flags in new sonic territory. The songs were written in Portugese, Spanish, French and English, and the recording process began much as Ela had, with Dom working on the arrangements in isolation. “I like to start new ideas on my own,” La Nena says, “and when I’ve done some recording and sketched out how things fit together, it’s even more exciting to have someone join in.” Indeed, when Camelo joined the recording process, he immediately contributed a percussive and rhythmic dynamic reflective of his singer/songwriter background, infusing the shine of Rio de Janiero and bringing lighter and more upbeat elements to Dom’s melancholic undertones, while dipping equally into indie rock and Latin dance forms. And in the end, every instrument you hear was played by either Marcelo or Dom.
Recorded in Mexico City, Paris and Lisbon, mixed in Sao Paolo and mastered in Miami, the album is international to its core – a story that La Nena reflects in her tales of vast distances, longing, and nostalgia. “All the musicians and artists who have influenced me and my songwriting over the years, they make their way subconsciously into my music – but one of the biggest influences for this album was being on the road: continually experiencing the feeling of biding your time, waiting to depart, waiting for soundcheck, waiting for the show, et cetera, all while time continues to pass and you are far from home and family. So in addition to musical influences, the underlying anticipation and the mundane things that happen in life while on tour tend to find their way into my songs.”
Having toured the world throughout 2013-2014 in a solo capacity, Dom is looking forward to performing the songs of Soyo, with a trio, in 2015.