Photo: Annie Noelker

Dylan Dunlap

The gifted singer announces new EP 'In Case We Don't Come Back' and chats East Magnolia Records

New Announcement 

“The new EP is called In Case We Don’t Come Back, and it comes out later next month,” announced singer-songwriter Dylan Dunlap when probed on the connectedness of his most recent releases. “Everything is conceptualized. Everything is almost a cinematic universe in my head. This five-song project is going to dive into trauma, and childhood, and repressed memories, and it’s going to do so chronologically.”

Dunlap, an LA-born singer-songwriter now based in New York, exists within the pro-ballad indie pop space with artists like Cian Ducrot, Fly By Midnight, and Benson Boone. His music is defined by stirring electro-pop production and well-written revelations of love and life, some with intentionally hidden meanings waiting for the listeners curiosity to get the best of them . The influence of Coldplay, one of Dunlap’s frequent muses, is evident on new songs “Scared As Hell” and “Turn Me On, ” both with a clear Ghost Stories feel.

As a reference point, Ghost Stories, a filmmaker’s dream score, is a divorce project that combined melancholy and exuberance with purposeful experimentation. Pulling from it was almost a given for Dunlap, who has been entrenched in cinema, classical music, and other forms of non-contemporary performance for many years.

“Oh, I’m just window shopping…” 

“Scared As Hell” depicts Dunlap in a relationship on the rocks… one that sees him holding his breath at every moment: “I never know how to please you / On the surface… is it working? / Your pleasure weighs down my feelings / Now I’m nerveless, pulling the curtain.” “Window Shopping” explores an aspect of modern dating that inspired Dunlap to put pen to paper: “I’ll be the goods on display / Let you drive me away / We’ll take it real slow if you turn me gently.”

“I have felt objectified in the past,” he said. “There’s a level of self-respect that I think I was lacking… I was like, ‘I’ll do whatever you want. You can take me anywhere you want to go. I’ll take care of you… I’ll drive you home at the end of the night.’ So I came up with ‘Window Shopping’ because I was literally told that on a date last year when I was asking about intentions. I was told, ‘Oh, I’m just window shopping.’ In that moment, through all of the hard work I’d been focusing on in therapy, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be here. I feel like I’m here to please somebody else at this moment.’ How can I find a way to be the utmost respectful and loving, but also leave? Find a way to put myself first for the first time in my life.”

His new single “Out Of The Way,” out this Friday, was also inspired by a real-life interaction. “There was a phrase that was said to me about physicality,” he said. “About somebody wanting to get it out of the way. I internalize things and I hurt so deeply, but I’m just trying to figure out how I can lead with love and tell my story at the same time.

Birth of East Magnolia Records

After years of working his way through the LA music scene and honing his craft, Dunlap was signed to a major label. A few years into that experience, he decided to not only leave that deal but to start his own label, now called East Magnolia Records. “I’m extremely grateful to have been seen for my hard work right at the start of the pandemic and to be able to have the partnership that I did for two-and-a-half years,” he said. “But, I think that the way that my brain works, there is a lot that needs to be done and can be done. There’s a lot that I see for the future that I don’t want to tie myself down in any kind of contractual obligation kind of way that doesn’t let me see the future in the way that I see it happening.”

“It reminds me of when I would start open mics in LA and try to build community,” he continued. “There have been so many instances in my life… in my professional life where I’ve felt so alone. I’ve absorbed all of this negativity, but I’ve tried so hard not to project it and perpetuate things. As a business owner now, I am so inspired to treat people the way I want to be treated.”

As an artist himself, Dunlap, who says he believes in artist-friendly deals, has a clear idea of how the business works and what it takes to make it, which will factor into the artists he signs. “The most attractive quality in an artist, and the most attractive thing that I hope to continue to portray, is a relentless drive,” he said. “There is a balance of caring about the outlets that you need to… to try and make your moment, but there is also a normalization that I find really attractive. A lot of this we can’t control, so we’ll do our best without expecting things to happen.”

Ten Years

Musically, Dunlap is able to hone in on a sound and drive it home for a project but isn’t aiming to create carbon copies of things that land. His most streamed track “If That’s Alright” sits at close to 61 million streams, but he won’t make 10 other mid-tempo acoustic ballads with light elements of vocoder just for the hell of it. Tracks like “Savior Self,” Right,” and “Hurricane,” off recent EP’s Stranger In My Head and When You’re Feeling Blue have not and may never reach the success, numbers-wise, of “If That’s Alright,” but showcase the range of Dunlap’s abilities as a writer, vocalist, and producer.

“I know I’m going to be here in ten years doing this same exact thing,” he said. “Being a kid hitting instruments and trying to bring people together. I know that is going to happen no matter where I’m at in my financial insecurities. That gives me comfort in today and knowing that if my career as Dylan Dunlap, the artist, doesn’t take off tomorrow… It’s not that I’m not good enough. It’s because there are so many variables out of our control, and if I can preserve the true childlike love and excitement that I have for this, I’m going to be ok.”