Daisey Traynham (née Kondziola), not the easiest person to get hold of, has a new album, In My Headphones, which she’ll release at Rain Dogs on Feb. 8, her first performance in town since One Spark last year. The Jacksonville native isn’t here often: Her own records indicate that she’s worked 205 cities in 20 countries since moving to Europe a few years ago.
Still, the 904 is special. “This is home,” she says. “Our families are here, our friends are here, our very first fans are here, and that’s really special.”
I’ve been actively following Traynham’s music since the mid-1990s, when we both worked at a Kinko’s Downtown; she did design work for clients. Her talent as an acoustic-based singer-songwriter was glaringly obvious to everyone who knew her, even way back then.
It was all about finding the right context for her voice. That context was eventually provided by her husband of nearly 10 years now, ace producer Britt Traynham, aka Batsauce — who’s just released his own LP, Soledad Brothers, in collaboration with Chris “Wax” Hines.
“Batsauce provides the soundtrack to my life,” Traynham says. “He’s the driving force behind what we do. I may be the one up front with the microphone, but he produces, co-writes, mixes, masters, has the vision of how the album will come together as a whole. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect partner in life.”
His beats bolster most of her work, and their energies reinforce each other; together, they’ve been exceptionally productive, even by hip-hop standards. Calling them a hip-hop Sonny & Cher is at once simplistic and cliché, yet also surprisingly accurate, musically speaking. Besides their solo careers, they collaborate as the duo Heavenly Noise; with Paten Locke, they form a trio called The Smile Rays. All told, Traynham’s voice can be heard on nearly two dozen different releases.
Meanwhile, as her music career continues to expand, Traynham continues making a living as a graphic designer, which allows her the freedom to pursue her art holistically, unfettered by the usual commercial pressures.
“In My Headphones has a more cohesive feel about it, since it was entirely written and recorded in the past three years,” she says. “The first album was a collection of songs going back 10-plus years, so even though it was a great collection of songs, they didn’t feel connected in any way, to each other, as an album.”
Headphones makes a strong first impression with the lead single, “Get Got,” which features vocals from the great George Clinton, Funkadelic founder and longtime friend of Jacksonville; he and the Traynhams have recorded together on several occasions.
Daisey sings a classical soprano, but with a slightly raspy sheen; part-Joplin, part Madeleine Peyroux. Her acoustic-folk background has given her voice a bell-like clarity on the high notes, while her range runs low enough to plumb the deepest depths of blue-eyed (or, in her case, brown-eyed) soul. Batsauce’s beats are solid enough for the hardest of hard-core rappers, yet are infused with a basic sweetness that makes them great, with or without vocals. When combined, these parts make for a uniquely satisfying whole.
The album also features leading local artists such as Locke, Patrick Evan, Grant Nielsen and Joe Yorio, Atlanta’s Boog Brown, as well as musicians from Berlin and Paris.
The release party at Rain Dogs is part of their bi-annual return to old stomping grounds, visits that are always punctuated with performances. It’s a time to catch up with family and friends, and test the new material in front of domestic audiences. Traynham says she’ll also unveil a few videos for the new album. After a Valentine’s Day gig in Atlanta with Dillon Vaughan Maurer, they expect to spend much of 2014 on the road.
“We’re really looking forward to getting back to our sweet little 1980 VW camper van we have parked in Washington state,” she says. “We talked about it for years and finally bought one last summer. We did a few months of camping in the Washington/Oregon area and loved it. So, ultimately, we’re working our way out west for another Midwest tour and whatever else the universe has in store for us.”
Daisey, Batsauce and their crew are all key examples of a growing Duval brand that has taken root far beyond Northeast Florida — and North America, for that matter. Having developed a sustainable model for success as independent musicians, new personal peaks and professional plateaus are, like the proverbial objects in the mirror, closer than they appear. o