“Bruises can be dangerous, because they don’t quite break the skin, so you feel like you’re actually okay, but the pain is buried underneath”. These are the words Dia Frampton uses when describing her upcoming album Bruises (released March 3rd). “I felt like over the years I had accumulated many bruises: fear of failure, fear of ageing setbacks in my career, trying to find happiness, trying to figure out what “success” meant, etc.”
In August, Frampton wrote a deeply personal article in Medium entitled ‘I’d Get to the Top of the Mountain If It Would Just Stop Fucking Growing’ where Dia laid out her personal and professional struggles as someone trying to be happy in a world where the goal posts are constantly being moved.
“I honestly didn’t think too much about it. I just sat down one day and wrote it in one quick sitting and that was that. The overwhelming response from readers and friends about my article was very surprising to me and not at all expected. I’ve always been a pretty honest person as far as my everyday life goes. If you ask me, “Hey, how are you doing?” I’ll answer pretty honestly…while most people, by society’s standards, answer, “Great. How about you?” I feel like…the more open and honest we are about our feelings and our fears and our joys, the more open others can be as well. I was surprised to hear a lot of people saying, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one who felt this way!” The article made people, I think, feel less alone. We’re not all happy, bubbly reflections of our perfect and filtered Instagram pages.”
When Dia talks of success her idea that allusive ideal seems to have softened since her Medium article. “My idea of success is always changing. But right now, with the somewhat chaotic and fragile state the world is in, I just feel lucky to have a bed and a roof. This perspective has changed things for me a little bit. Music is very important to me, but it’s not my life. There are so many things going on in the world right now… I’m just trying to keep my head down and enjoy the happiness I get when I sing (for an audience or alone), or write music. The joy is in the journey, lately for me, at least. Not the destination.”
“I don’t want a protected heart…I want to fall in love, and feel what it feels like to have a broken heart too. I’m the person that would rather love and have my heart broken, than never love at all.”
Bruises opens with ‘Hope’ an orchestral score worthy of those classic epic films filled with determination, self-discovery, resilience, and hope. The track is cinematic both in sound and scope; opening with church bells, the sound of children playing, and Dia’s delicate and determined sparsely placed vocals. “While trying to write lyrics to convey this emotion and this message, I realized that the music was already doing so much of it for me, and adding in words and more vocals just seemed to pull you out of it.”
The song gathers momentum with a string and a horn section giving ‘Hope’ a soaring quality until it reaches its crescendo with the culmination of all three elements, each one fading slowly into the background until all that’s left is the lone ring of bells. ‘Hope’ is not a song that one expects to hear on a typical pop album but then Bruises is not a typical pop album nor is Dia a typical pop artist. The opening sets intentions for the rest of the album and leaves the listener feeling full. “I wanted to write a song called, “Hope,” especially since that’s what the entire album straddles for many of the songs”.
Bruises was produced by Dan Heath (Lana del Rey) whom Frampton was introduced to by Joseph Trapanese, a co-writer/producer of another project she is in called ARCHIS. “When Heath and I met up for breakfast, I just knew he was the perfect man for the job. He is such a magnetic, wonderful and magical person. Everyday working with him was something special.”
The album is bookended with ‘Hope’ and ‘Die Wild’, the former which sets intentions for the rest of the record and the latter as a state of being. When I talked to her about the album and the way in which it was crafted in terms of sound, lyrics, arrangement and the journey Frampton wanted to take the listener on, she confirmed my suspicions that nothing was left to chance or luck with the story she wanted to convey. “The sequence for “Bruises” was picked very carefully and with purpose.”
The very first song Frampton wrote for the album was ‘Dead Man’, “it was about a 4-year relationship that I had….it was very difficult to break free of.” This heaviness can be felt not only in the instrumentation, a sparse repetitive piano part but also in the oppressiveness of the words. At times it feels like the lyrics are dragging you down like weights; chains that you’ll never be free of.
“I know you won’t let me dare forget you/ I know that I’ll never really want to…I know that it’s too late/ I feel good in my chains/ You’re looking at a dead man.”
When I asked Dia if there’s a particular song or lyric that she’s proud of, she cites ‘Lights’ and ‘Out of the Dark’ as being two of them tracks that are very close to her. “Lyrics from both of them, always hit me a little bit. Especially lately since I’ve been performing live again and now I’m saying them to people, not just to myself. “I’m all I’ve got now, and I forgive me for not making it home.” That always makes me want to break down a little bit. “I’m searching for a way, I’m closer than I’ve ever been”, from ‘Out of the Dark’ also gets me, too. I just feel like my light/hopeful side of me is trying to pull me out of the crazy voices in my head. The voices that are so cruel and so incredibly daunting.”
Bruises closes with ‘Die Wild’ an understated yet ever so powerful song. Bittersweet might be one word to describe the track with Frampton’s delicate and vulnerable vocals detailing a life she has chosen for herself that may not be easiest on her heart and body but it is the only one she would ever want.
“You either take your wins or bet it all again/ I was never good at settling/ And I will break my heart just to feel it stitching up/ And I will leave every cage rattling/ Cos I just wanna die wild.”
“I’ve chosen a somewhat stressful life. A life where I’m told no all the time. (I’m not patting myself on the back. I know being a Doctor is way more stressful!) I’m just saying, as an artist, I put myself out there a lot. I open myself up emotionally and sometimes it’s pretty scary, because I also open myself up to criticism on something that is so personal to me. Die Wild is about embracing this lifestyle. I don’t want a protected heart…I want to fall in love, and feel what it feels like to have a broken heart too. I’m the person that would rather love and have my heart broken, than never love at all. I want to get out of life with a bunch of scars and cuts and bruises. It will at least tell my story of trying to get up that mountain….”
Bruises is out March 3rd on Nettwerk Music. Dia will be performing at The Grammy Museum March 2nd.