27 September 2019

America’s rising RnB star making a difference; Dijon

There is no ‘me and them’ with Dijon. He and his fans are united over, simply, a true love for music and this is the message he wants to spread across the industry.

Making his UK debut last week at a snug basement in Dalston, Dijon, full name Dijon Duenas, was quick to make a lasting impression. The hotly-tipped RnB artist has risen to fame in America for his powerfully vulnerable and emotive lyrics, yet what was most evident at his show was the amount of energy and expression he puts into performing for the sake of his audience. At one point, Dijon even got off stage to sing in the crowd. There is no ‘me and them’ with Dijon, he and his fans are united over, simply, a true love for music and this is the message he wants to spread across the industry.

First entering the indie music world through his college years at Maryland University, Dijon was one half of the SoundCloud duo ‘Abhi//Dijon’ who reflected the city’s eclectic mix of music scenes across their own experimental RnB production. Growing up Dijon never stayed in one place, his parents were both in the army and throughout his childhood lived between The United States and Germany, although now based in LA, Dijon regards Maryland as home and his time there was pivotal to his creative development.

Being dubbed ‘music’s next biggest thing’ is no throw away comment, Dijon is learning to cope with his own self-pressures but also figure out who he wants to be in such a competitive industry, Dijon said in his Brick Magazine cover feature back in April: “I don’t want to be cool, I don’t want to be sexy, I just want to be a guy”, and that is who Dijon is, a young guy making music as a form of self-expression. With lyrics like “Oh baby, I’m lonely and I’m fucked up by myself / could you call me up? / well I’m wasted and I’m anxious and I’m fading from myself” who else has ever related? It is these raw, honest lines that listeners find comfort and adoration for the singer-songwriter in, but it is also through these candid lines that Dijon wants to define himself in the industry; He is just a guy, Dijon is fed up with the precarious celebrity/star stereotype and wants to re-imagine live performances with accessibility, authenticity and music being at its core.

Scroll down to read our interview with Dijon, the artist who is making a difference.

Photo by Taylor Clark

I went to your gig last week, it was great! How did you find your first time performing in London?

Everybody is really nice. I was a bit sick, it was actually residual bronchitis, I was very paranoid before the show that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I think it might be from e-cigarettes, I just got some mental anxiety about it and made my body shut down and got really freaked out by it… but no everyone was amazing, it was definitely a bit of a different energy for sure but it was nice.


Has the music in the city influenced your sound at all?

Yes, but in an abstract way. My music is very consciously trying not to have a production on it, but I grew up influenced by the production that was coming out of here.


"I find it super unique about music that it’s just implied emotion through expression."

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My favourite artist of the last ten years has been Mica Levi (aka Micachu), The Shapes and Tirzah. I love a lot of stuff that goes on around here, I’m a very big fan of Burial, even before any of my music was released publicly.


I’ve heard you’ve been working with Two Inch Punch in the studio…

Yeah, I have, he’s an amazing guy Ben. It’s been one of the first sessions that we went in there, made something and finished something, so it’s been really fun.


Why did you choose to work with him? 

I actually have heard of him for a very long time, he’d worked on some Jessie Ware stuff and I also had heard of him because of the Rex Orange County music he worked on which was great.

The amount of emotion and expression you put into your performance live, I can’t believe you said you had bronchitis!

I self-diagnosed. (laughs)


Oh, is see haha – So the amount of expression evident throughout your lyrics is insane, has your sound always been an emotional output or is it something you have constructed with age? 

Yes, it’s mostly an age thing, I didn’t start singing until four or five years ago. I think lyrically you can only go so far and the older you are the less you have to say, I want to restrict what I’m trying to say strictly to words. It sounds silly, but I find it super unique about music that it’s just implied emotion through expression. It’s beautiful, being live is just a little easier to go there because on record it can be a bit aggressive. I’m really adverse to performance being this ‘cool’ thing, I don’t like it. I think the entire exchange is actually pretty silly and strange, so being able to go for it accessibly and intensely is more important because it’s more authentic in that way, I don’t like the idea of swaggering around.


"I’m just desperately in love with making music and presenting music and the older I get, the harder it is for me to make."

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Like when you stood in with the crowd (at the gig)?

I wish I could do that all the time. There’s theatre involved when you see someone live, I want to acknowledge it and confront it. Especially because my music right now has been quite restrained and a bit more low key, being able to cross the line is important.


Going back to what you were saying before about performance, how do you want to breakdown this barrier of ‘artist and fan’? 

Like when people ask you questions about music, I try to answer them as if there’s no divide. It’s all really interesting to see how you can brand and market (yourself), but I’m not interested in it. I’m just desperately in love with making music and presenting music and the older I get, the harder it is for me to make. I don’t know how else to express it, dude I’m just making music and I don’t have any other idea about anything else with it. Five years ago, I was in school, there was no separation between doing it as a hobby to doing it now, I’m just making music and I’m not interested in doing many of the aspects of it… I’m sure I’ll learn to, but even doing live shows has been amazing, but to work myself up to do live shows is like pulling teeth. I just want to sit inside and make music.

Photo by Taylor Clark

Your lyrics are very emotional and discuss situations that many people wouldn’t be as open with, do you think your music a form of escapism for listeners?

Maybe, yeah! Based on a series of circumstances I got introduced to at a specific time were really emotional, but not sad, just… not always upbeat. I tried to model how I wrote, which is super simple and stark, to be very direct emotionally. I try not to be big on metaphors or flowery stuff. I don’t know whether its escapism or just comfort, because when I grew up listening to music it was comforting to be a little more vulnerable, even when you’re listening, to hear somebody vulnerable makes you feel vulnerable and comfortable. I hope that’s what mine does, but that’s the goal.


"There's theatre involved when you see someone live, I want to acknowledge it and confront it."

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I know you moved around a lot growing up, how pivotal was your time at Maryland to your sound?

A couple of friends know this, I started making music in Maryland using tape, really, really janky do-it-yourself and ugly sounding equipment informed and encouraged by how loose and strange the scene was in Maryland. I can’t say I was involved with the scene too much, but I would go to shows, I would get tapes and that steered my impulses in more of a less refined way. Without seeing everything that happened (at Maryland), I don’t think I’d be making music at all.

Photo by Joaquin Bartr

What advice would you give yourself five years ago?

Just find a way to lower your expectation for what you’re supposed to make, just to be a little more free. It drove me crazy for a long time, way before there was an audience, I was trying to create this mythological idea of what my music could be… most of it was pride based.

What are your future plans?

I want to put all of my efforts into making one great record, that sounds really boring but it’s really the only way – nothing else really interests me. The future is to take all of the impulses I have right now and put them into a body of work.

Scroll down to listen to Dijon’s new single Good Luck, released today.

  • words Phoebe Gardner cover

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