Did you ever think a ukulele could change your life? Danielle Birrittella, the creative force behind Dia, knows it can. Starting out as a classical and opera singer, she was feeling a bit lost one Christmas when Santa, in the shape of Danielle’s brother, brought her a uke. She started to create her own music and the rest, as they say, is history, culminating in the recent release of her Tiny Ocean EP.

A native of New England, Danielle graduated from New York University (BA) and California Institute of the Arts (MFA) and has travelled the world with her music, which provides a rich seam of influences to draw on.

The impact of that ukelele is apparent from the first chords of opening track “Covered in Light”, contrasting with the floating dreaminess of a song that carries Danielle’s haunting vocals perfectly. If you want to drift away, this is the music to do it with. But not for long. Track two “Synchronised Swimming” picks up a latin beat with lyrics of summertime and lost love. If you like a bit of tantalising percussion “Synchronised Swimming” delivers. Prepare to tap those toes!

Title track “Tiny Ocean” opens with a fascinating mix -electro with shades of gregorian chant. Danielle’s classical roots shine through in the layered harmonies, slightly spooky, with a sci-fi edge and – yes – more fabulous use of percussion. This time it’s a snare, which shouldn’t work, but does.

The ukulele returns in “Gambling Girl”, providing a simple intro that offers a clever contrast to the preceding tracks, proving that there is more to putting an album together than throwing a few tracks down. The juxtaposition of arrangements keeps you keen to hear more, while Danielle’s melancholic siren-song of a vocal weaves a constant, alluring thread.

“St Paul” continues the baroque-pop theme. This time guitars provide an insistent backdrop to multi-layered vocals, before passing the harmonic baton to “Big Man” – rhythmic, demanding and deserving of space in any self-respecting music collection.

Where does this confection of creativity come from? Danielle explains:

‘My musical influences are pretty broad. I notice that my classical background seeps into my melodies and that most of my songs come from the desire to express through singing rather than some technical, instrumental idea… although, it’s always evolving. I grew up on a lot of 1950/60’s pop and folk as well, so that is in there for sure, especially in terms of tones.’

Thank heavens for the ukulele that unlocked this musicality – and let’s not forget to thank Danielle’s brother for providing this four-stringed inspiration too!

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Tiny Ocean is released by MANIMAL Records – get your copy here

Dia - Tiny Ocean

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