Ask your grandparent to spill some dirty laundry on tape and most grannies would be hard-pressed to talk, but for Arkansas’ ironically named Whoa Dakota, her Nanny was willing to not only chat, but tell a story that would someday anchor her granddaughter’s entire new album.
Handing the spotlight over to her late grandmother Hattie Jo Ott, Whoa Dakota’s new album Patterns pivots around Hattie Jo’s example of clout, as she herself lays it down on the interlude clip “[nanny].” Her grandma’s breakthrough — and break away from her then-alcoholic husband — sets the entire tone of Patterns, officially out Friday (August 17).
“Nanny was my dad’s mom who died in 2011,” Whoa Dakota tells Vanyaland. “She lived with us growing up and she and I were really close… she used to tell me stories of her extremely tumultuous relationship with my grandfather. She exhibited a lot of strength because she had been through so much and was still joyful and excited about life. In the same way though, a lot of the stories she told sort of romanticized toxicity in relationships for me. It’s almost as if psychologically I felt it was a right of passage to go through some emotionally abusive relationship in order to come out on the other side a strong woman. So I have had to learn to recognize that the first rule in having strength as a woman and a human is to remain true to your authentic self and never compromise on that for anyone.”
Moving away from her family history and towards her own cyclical behavior, the album addresses how Whoa Dakota herself slipped away from her own negative situations, which had sprouted out of people she had artistically collaborated with and dated.
She first took the reigns by breaking out of Arkansas (although, as an adult she now affirms that “I had no idea how cool Arkansas was until I moved away”), moving to Chicago for music school, and later relocating to Tennessee in 2013, where she now resides. The major life shifts have all accumulated on the 17 songs of Patterns, a testament to the goodness of breaking them.
“I used to be so passive in all areas of my life,” she explains. “Creatively, I let other people sit in the driver’s seat and romantically I would accept mistreatment. I think I’ve started to grow out of passivity by recognizing how it feels to be controlled and pushed around, and the eventual outcome, which is a compromise of self. It’s possible to find a balance and to work with people who want to help you represent yourself in you most authentic way. I recognize how that feels now and it’s really great.”
Sink into all the self-reflection below, and get a taste of Whoa Dakota’s upcoming LP with “Animal” below.