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Dende Q&A: Houston crooner cruises to acclaim in a ‘‘95 Civic’

Photo courtesy of Dende PR

At the crossroad of passionate soul ballads and classic, harmonious R&B, Dende sonically thrives from the throes of a battered heart.

Months removed from his teaser EP “Before We Crash” — which featured hidden snippets of his latest album 95 Civic (March 8) — the Texas-based singer has a fondness for love-torn escapades whether it’s for better or for worse. The precision on his proper full-length LP is not only inherently exquisite, but strategic with each passing track. ‘95 Civic not only invites listeners with the iridescent nostalgia of smooth ‘90s R&B — a la “‘95 Civic” — but showcases Dende’s undeniable breadth of talent as a captivating, generational vocalist.

“Releasing ’95 Civic feels like the last thing I needed to do to move on to the next phase of my life. Although it’s a sad project, the time it allowed me to spend with A&R Mizz and producer Billy Blunt is something I will never forget. This is our best work yet.”

Dende via release

Of-the-moment and perfectly imperfect, Dende expresses eons of passion that translates to shimmering sonic bliss. Slow burns and sad anthems like “Swerve,” “I Drove By Your House Today” and “I Wrote You A Song” tie together undisputed hits in “Nightmares,” “Selfish,” “Lost” and “Wish You Well” featuring fast-spitting CXR superstar Chris Patrick — who interpolates Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” on his opening lines.

“I’m just your part-time lover / clock in, clock out / blow your back out as friends,” he introspectively sings on “Part-Time Lover,” as Dende draws back on his southern gospel roots on “Perspective” which sees the CXR mainstay beautifully riff over uplifting choral layers. A takeaway worth one stream: Compassionate crooning meets raw thoughts on ‘95 Civic, revealing a poignant balance between emotionally striking lyricism, pure-of-heart vocals and innovative production. For those running from turmoil, let Dende show you serenity.

The singer just went viral for his emotive UPROXX live session as well as sharing the visual for “Nightmares” on Wednesday (April 12). Check out our full conversation with Dende below!

Listen to ‘‘95 Civic’ below!

A Q&A with Dende…

JB: For fans that don’t know you quite yet, how would you describe your sound? What is the best representation of yourself as an artist?

Dende: “My sound is a blend of R&B, Gospel and hip-hop that I grew up listening to. The best representation of me as an artist would probably be my song ‘Better Than Him’ from my EP ‘Before We Crash‘.”

JB: You’re from Texas – a hotbed for rap icons of past, present and future. How has your city shaped your ear for music? What is one all-time dead or alive Texas collab you’d want to make happen?

Dende: “Houston definitely shaped my ear for being more drawn to slower music in general. We are the city of ‘Chopped N Screwed,’ so I love all forms of slowed music. An all time collab from Texas I would want has to be Erykah Badu.” 

JB: Your voice is truly the star of the show: When did you know you could sing? What was the moment you realized you knew you had a special gift? In other words, was it always about music for you?

Dende: “I grew up doing all of the extracurriculars. None of them really stuck besides music… I grew up singing in church, so honestly I knew my voice was special around 12 years old. I had a passion for music and wanted to make it [my] career around when I graduated high school.”

JB: You just dropped your new album ‘95 Civic — a masterclass of pure emotion. What have you seen of the reception? What was the biggest thing you wanted fans to take away from the record?

Dende: “So far I have seen that people genuinely rock with the project… Which is a relief. What I wanted people to take from the project: 1) That I am a human and I make mistakes and go through emotions just like everyone else and 2) Billy Blunt and I are the future when it comes to music.” 

JB: The record predominantly centers around love and heartbreak… so who hurt you? What weighs heavy on your heart? What moment(s) led to the escapade of raw, emotive thoughts found on ‘95 Civic?

Dende: “To answer truthfully, I hurt myself. I was engaged at one point and was not a good partner. Between early infidelity on my end and becoming too busy and less present due to my career towards the end, I had my fair share of reasons the relationship ended. Now was she perfect? Absolutely not. She contributed to the inevitable demise of the relationship as well. But I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m some innocent guy whose heart was broken even though my heart WAS broken. All of the emotions that I portrayed on the album are very much real.”

JB: What is the meaning/message of ‘’95 Civic’ then? Did you own the car at one point? What is it an homage to?

Dende: “I wouldn’t say there is a message as much as I would say there is a story. A chronicle of my emotional state throughout the breakup process with my ex-fiance. Her and I were both born in 1995. The same month actually — our birthdays were five days apart. Both Tauruses. She used to drive a Honda Civic. We wanted the ‘95 Civic to represent this failed relationship that crashed.”

JB: One thing I love about your recent drops is on “Sensually” off “Before We Crash,” you tease a few album cuts on the radio… Why decide to leave the EP off the record?

Dende: “While I was the one to decide to tease album songs on the EP, MIZZ (My A&R) was the mind behind structuring the way we did. The EP IS a part of the album. You can even effortlessly listen to them one after the other. But, it’s meant to just tease a feeling of happiness and love for it to be ripped away with the album. If you notice, the beginning of ‘Sensually,’ the relationship already has hints on being on the rocks. The woman’s voice at the beginning has an attitude and the radio alludes to these “breakup songs” already being made. The final track of the EP ends with the woman storming out of the vehicle and slamming the door behind her. The relationship is actually over before the EP starts, we just haven’t had that conversation with each other yet.” 

JB: Performing at SXSW and being on Chris Patrick’s tour: Describe what it’s been like being on the road performing these tracks? 

Dende: “I love making songs. A lot. But my all time favorite is figuring out how to perform them CORRECTLY. Like traveling on the X Files Tour and then doing four SXSW shows definitely gave me and my band the time to really perfect some performances. I love being able to accurately portray the emotion that I had when making the song live.”

JB: CXR is slowly taking over… how has your chemistry with Chris and the rest of CXR channel into your own work? What makes the collective special in your eyes? What makes y’all different?

Dende: “Chemistry is one of the most important things in a successful collective. I feel like ours just generally makes it more easy and fun to work together. CXR is special because where some collectives have to act like they like each other or don’t even try to make it seem that way, CXR is genuinely a family and very comfortable with each other. Outside of music, I love all of these people and trust them.”

JB: A few of my favorites are “Nightmares,” “Swerve” and of course “Wish You Well” — which sounds so different from the rest of the LP. How did that track come together with you and CP?

Dende: “That was actually one of the first songs made on the album. We were both in Atlanta at the same time and happened to walk into the studio together. I was feeling a way about my relationship and wrote about it and he kind of volunteered to add to the song.

JB: Looking back on when you were just starting your career, what is some advice you would say to your younger self?

Dende: “Be patient and intentional.”

JB: What would be your all-time dead or alive dream collaboration to make?

Dende: “All time dream collab would have to be either Usher or Luther Vandross.”

JB: What do you listen to daily and how does it inspire you to channel the music you take in for your own?

Dende: “Honestly, I mostly listen to comedy podcasts everyday. They inspire me to make great music but also not take myself too seriously.”

JB: What’s your message for Our Generation?

Dende: “My message is be yourself and live authentically in your truth at all times.