The road to being a successful singer is a long and windy one. The challenges and accomplishments you face help mold you into being the person you're supposed to be. Take it from singer, Dominique Pruitt, she's one bird that knows what she's talking about.
You grew up in the suburbs around LA, what made you decide to move into the city rather than go somewhere else?
I always loved LA growing up. I’m a musician and I just thought it was the “cool” place to be. When I was 18 my best friend and I decided we were going to move to LA and that was kind of it.
At the time I was working for a hair salon in Beverly Hills and commuting from the suburbs. So that was a big inspiration to coming out here. Since I was 16 I’ve always worked in hair salons. I’ve never wanted to do hair myself but I loved the energy of a hair salon.
So when you officially moved to LA were you still working in the salon or were you doing music?
I never fully immersed myself in music until I was way older, but I was singing and had aspirations to be a music artist. I worked in hair until about 2010; the salon was my day job.
Tell me about your music? What do you want to do with it?
Good question. I’ve always been really inspired by retro things. I’m not strictly a “retro girl” but I love mid-century, ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s …
I’ve been strongly inspired by the music of the ‘50s. Everything from country, R&B, soul, to doo-wop, all the girl groups, all the Phil Spector stuff. That’s how I kind of started to make music as an adult, once I had really settled into who I was.
When you’re younger you go through a lot of phases. I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be like Debbie Harry, I wanted to be super new wavy.. I’ve gone through a lot of phases but the retro thing is where I always wind up.
I made a record a few years ago that didn’t go too far and after analyzing it too much I decided to not fully release it. So we just released a few songs from it. I’m proud but as an artist you’re very hard on yourself so you always want to improve. I’ve realized in the last few years after analyzing myself, I really want to make country music.
Good country though, not like today’s overly syrupy poppy country. I really love Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Elvis.
I’ve always thought of Elvis as very “pop-y”.
Well, Elvis was very rock ’n’ roll but he did a lot of country stuff because he was from Tennessee. He had country roots.
Did you grow up with country music in the house? Is your family musical?
Yes, my whole family is in music. My parents are both musicians. My mom is a singer and my dad is a singer and guitar player. That’s what they did professionally until I came along (I was the last kid) and they were like, “Well, we can’t really tour anymore with kids.”
My dad played with The Association, who was a big band in the ‘60s. Then he played for the Smothers Brothers. Both my mom and dad played for Engelbert Humperdinck and that’s how they met.
So I came from a very musical background. All our family friends were musicians. Every birthday party and holiday there were people in the backyard playing music. My parents played a lot of old music growing up, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Otis Redding ... I guess that’s when the seed was planted.
I was shy as hell growing up and would never sing. Now, if I know my parents are coming to see a show it makes me extra nervous.
Was music inevitable for you then?
I guess I always loved music but it scared me and I didn’t know how to be a musician. I’m thirty years old and still trying to figure it out. I just know now that it’s what I love to do and I hope I can make it work. The music business is just a really messed up place. It’s really intense.
I guess it was just a natural progression for me. I was always interested in the arts. I loved to write growing up. I wrote a lot of poetry but I never did much with it. I never put it out there.
I think when I got older, my last year of high school, I realized I wanted to write and loved to sing. So I think that’s when I started putting it together. When I was 18 that was the first time I sang publicly and I thought, “I think I want to do this. I think I’m OK at it.”
What were your steps after that to where you are today?
I was terrified for years and I didn’t really know what to do. I did some weird collaborations on Craigslist. I would post ads on Craigslist like, “Looking for a band.” I wanted to be in a band and collaborate.
I’ve never really played instruments. I can barely play the guitar. I should play instruments but I don’t. It’s terrible.
I collaborated with random people on Craigslist and never really found what I was looking for. Basically it was just a way I could sing. If someone needed a demo singer for a techno song I would go and I would sing it. Sometimes you’d get paid and sometimes you wouldn’t.
Not a lot was happening for a few years and then one of my co-workers is obsessed with American Idol and begged me to do it. I thought, “I’m never going to do it!” I was very snobby about it. Finally I was like, “Screw it! Nothing is going on right now I’ll just do it.” So I did it.
It was back in 2008, season 8 of American Idol. It was the season that Adam Lambert was on. So I did that and made it pretty far to the top 72. I made it to Hollywood Week and then I got the boot. They never showed me sing on TV. They showed my face a couple of times but I don’t think they showed my name. I think it was all for the best. It happened, it was painless, everything happens for a reason.
Did it give you that reassurance that you are talented?
Yeah, it made me feel really good about it. But the whole process is really brutal. On TV it seems like there’s a lot of pressure but in reality it’s ten-fold. I realized, that for me, that’s not the way I was going to make it as a singer. It’s not a competition to me. It was not my ideal platform but I think it definitely motivated me to do other things.
I did some demos after that with my dad. I recorded some old songs of his that I loved just for fun. We recorded three songs that was back in 2009. Then randomly two years later I had this chance meeting one day with an old neighbor. He was a friend of my parents and was an A&R guy who has been in the business forever.
What is A&R?
A&R is basically the people who groom artists. They discover artists. So when we bumped into each other he asked, “Are you still singing?” I said I did some demos and he said, “Send them over.”
He called me that night and said, “I was just being polite when I asked today but when you sent them over I was amazed.” That night he sent them to someone else. The next day I had a phone call. Long story short I got a management deal, which turned into a record deal.
That was four years ago, and a bunch of random weird things have happened. I’m kind of starting from scratch again. I’m label-less and that’s fine, it’s all for the best. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself as an artist in the past few years.
When I was sixteen and thought, “I want to sing!” I thought I would be rich and famous and so established by the time I was twenty years old, and now I’m thirty and just cutting my teeth.
I feel like that’s such a standard story. You hear of someone that’s become big “overnight” and then you realize they’ve actually been doing it for twenty years.
When people actually “breakthrough” as an artist there’s so much stuff that’s happened to get to that point. Even Katy Perry had four record deals or something before she hit it big and no one knew who she was.
You are doing this full time so I would say that is a success.
Well, thank you!
Is there a milestone you have in mind that will mean you’ve “made it”?
I never want to be totally satiated. Right now I feel successful and lucky in my life, but I definitely have a lot of career milestones I want to reach. This year my goal is to play a ton of shows and develop a new following. Right now I’m really starting from scratch again because I’m not promoting my old stuff and I’m really trying to start fresh.
Are you changing your sound?
A little bit. Before it was a bit of a ‘50s/’60s kind of pop thing. It definitely had some flavor of country and old school rockabilly. Now I think I really want to make country music. It will still have influences of all my other stuff but I’ve definitely honed into the fact that I really love to write country music and that’s where I feel I am the strongest.
How do you come up with your music?
That is the hardest part. It’s taken me years to write quality stuff especially since I don’t play an instrument. Because of the way my brain works I don’t really write alone. So currently I’m trying to meet new people to write with. It’s actually like dating.
You meet someone and you go on a date and it’s a little awkward and you’re trying to get to know each other. You have to have chemistry. Sometimes you write songs easily in an hour and sometimes it takes you months to write a song.
It’s a brutal process because it messes with your head and your emotions and makes you think, “Should I really be doing this?” There are other things I really love too. I’ve had a few small businesses and I wonder whether I should be pursuing a new business or this or that but at the end of the day I never want to look back and think, “What if I hadn’t pursued singing?”
What is the best piece of advice you could give?
The first thing that comes to mind is something Ira Glass said about being a creative and it was that you can’t compare yourself to others. You have to create for a really long time before it’s good. You can’t compare yourself to someone else’s middle, or end.
You can’t compare yourself. There’s enough room for everybody.
You even can’t compare yourself to “you” five years ago.
Totally. It’s always a metamorphosis and you’re always developing and changing. You have to embrace that.
You live in Silverlake, what are your thoughts?
I love it. It gets a bad rep sometimes for being “too hip” and I get it but I’ve lived in-and-out of Silverlake over the course of seven years. I love the reservoir, I love the architecture, and I love the hills. I’m a sucker for being by all this good food.
Do you have any favorite bars or restaurants in the area?
Yes! An old favorite that’s been here for a long time is Speranza, it’s on Hyperion. It’s an Italian restaurant and they do homemade pasta. They have the most charming patio.
Ginger Grass is a great go-to Vietnamese place. Hipster pho, it’s just called Pho. It’s really hard to eat in there because you’re bound to run into someone you’ve dated before so you get it to go. That’s my advice.
There’s Julie’s Mornings Nights on Sunset. It’s a bagel and coffee shop. They have really good bagel sandwiches.
Flora Vegan on Sunset is the bomb. I’m not even a vegan but their vegan tuna melt is so good.
Two Boots pizza in Echo Park.
What’s your favorite place to take out-of-towners in LA?
It depends what they’re into. We love taking people to Sugarfish. It’s a sushi place. Honda Ya Izakaya is one of our favorite LA spots. It’s downtown in a Japanese mall. It’s Japanese tapas and small plates. It’s very old school, loud and smoky.
Places that are not food related… I think the Observatory is cool to see. The Getty Villa in Malibu is amazing, or the Getty Center.
If they’re into flea markets, which I’m really into, then the Rose Bowl. It is overwhelming because there are a lot of people and it’s huge but it’s the best. If someone gave me one place to shop for the rest of my life it would be the Rose Bowl.
What does LA mean to you?
LA to me means access to literally everything. It’s amazing food, all kinds of different culture, great areas, terrible areas, and proximity to the beach, the mountains, snow, and the desert. And then just beautiful weather. Something for everyone.
Learn more about Dominique.
Photography by Magdalena Wielopolski ©