Chats with WAM – Dal Jones

In this series of articles, WAM Song of The Year ‘Act Belong Commit’ category finalists chat to Bob Gordon about music and mental health.

Dal Jones has been nominated in the Act Belong Commit Category of the WAM Song Of The Year competition with Kaya.

“I was sitting with my kids talking one morning going through different words in Italian and Noongar, as they’re two of the cultures of my children,” Dal says of the origins of the song.

“When we got to the hello words for each language, and one of my kids said ’Ciao’ and the other said ‘Kaya’, it came to me. Hearing kids say hello to each other in any language or saying hello and being kind in general, is something we need to embrace and encourage as adults, as children are our future. With the original idea around creating the song, I started writing Kaya with the intention of it being for children, but it’s so boss to see now that it is being embraced from fullas of all ages.”

“I honestly believe children don’t see the bad in anything until they’re taught it or see it and vice versa with the good. So, I sat down and wrote Kaya hoping that after it’s heard from children, they’ll ‘do’ and as adults, we’ll ‘teach’.”

Being in the moment with his children and reacting to an idea that led to the writing of Kaya is very much indicative of Dal’s creative approach. Even the everyday aspects of life are full of depth and emotions that are there for him to explore.

“My process starts by me thinking about, experiencing or observing a topic that has or is making an impact in or around my life at a certain point in time,” he explains. “When this thought hits me – I could be at work up north, at home with my kids, cooking dinner, driving a car, anything – I have to stop what I’m doing and think about a bar (sentence) that is on topic to create that first piece of the puzzle. If I have more than just one bar at the time or get into a flow there and then, I’ll keep going until I bomb. It could be days or even weeks before I come back to it again, but as a new bar or bars come, I add it in until I get my verses all lined up, flowing and complete.”

“Next, I go on the hunt for the perfect beat. I could easily sample dozens before I find the right one. Then, I get to work and try to create in my opinion, the hardest part of the song, the hook/chorus. After that, I go back to the start and listen to it over and over to see if it needs anything extra in it such as an intro, outro, sound effects, bridges etc. Finally, I hit the booth and lay it down.”

Dal Jones aka Dal Coyne is a proud Menang Noongar hip-hop artist from the Great Southern Region of WA. He lives in Albany with his wife and three children and is a FIFO worker up North who makes the most of his R&R.

“I love spending quality time with my family, creating new music, involving myself amongst the community and taking my son out bush to stay in touch with our culture and continue to pass down family traditions and stories from our elders,” he says.

In 2021 Dal was diagnosed with Parotid Gland cancer and had to undergo immediate surgery. His mental health also took a turn as a result.

“I got hit with depression and I honestly felt that this could be the end for me as an artist, before I even got a chance to begin,” he explains. “But I rebuilt a mental state even stronger than before and luckily I did, because in 2022 the cancer returned. This time it had spread down my neck, leading to another surgery and radiation treatment this time. Even though these were the lowest points of my life, it has made me the person and artist that I am today.”

Dal knows from first-hand experience the positives effects that music can have on one’s mental health, even (and especially) in the darkest of times. He’s seen it in others as well.

“I think it’s very important because I strongly believe that music has the power to be able to lift you up when you’re down, make you want to dream bigger, take you on journeys and most importantly bring happiness to people all over the world,” he affirms.

“Depression doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone at any time and having artists out there that are delivering uplifting and positive music to listeners is extremely important as many people use music as therapy and search for messages and motivation when they’re lost. Personally, I’ve had people from all over the world send me messages after hearing my songs, saying that they were moved by my lyrics and it resonated closely with them.”

“To me that’s one of the main reasons why I became an artist.”

With all Dal’s been through and overcome, being a finalist in the Act Belong Commit category of WAM Song Of The Year is of great significance to him.

“It means everything to me as an artist as the majority of the music I write, I write with a hope that it will bring awareness to our communities and beyond on hard hitting topics,” Dal says.

“For Kaya to receive a nomination in a category for songs that send positive mental health messages to our communities is very humbling. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and regardless of the outcome, this will be something I’ll never forget and cherish forever. Not only for being a finalist, but also because I got to record and share the experience with my two eldest children.”

As for the future Dal has more resolve than ever to use his creativity to explore different sounds and create new opportunities for himself as an artist and communities in general.

“My hopes for the future are to collaborate and work with artists from as many genres of music and locations as I can,” he says. “I don’t want to be held back by boundaries, I want to cross them and show my versatility as an artist.”

“The advantage musicians have nowadays compared to previous years is the ever-evolving technology and what it can do and where it can take you as far as making it possible to collaborate with any artist, anywhere. I also would like to do more live gigs and work more with schools and communities.”