Alt Pop Artist Daniella Mason Premieres 'Cruel Summer,' Talks Upcoming Album & Horsebacking in Africa With Joe Jonas
"My pop melodies are constantly battling my inner weirdo."
Daniella Mason may be best known for her brushes with A-listers: the Nashville-based pop singer has written for Nick Jonas, toured with Demi Lovato and opened for DNCE. But with a knack for creating hook-driven confections, Mason’s latest releases prove that can keep up with the company she keeps.
In anticipation of her forthcoming self-titled full-length debut (due Oct. 13), Billboard is premiering “Cruel Summer,” a sugary serving of electro-pop. We talked to Mason about the sweaty inspiration for the track and what it’s like paling around with the Jonas bros.
Tell me about "Cruel Summer.”
This song came out of a hard summer spent in LA a couple of years back. I was very lonely and feeling very lost, and it didn't help that we were in the middle of a drought with crazy high temperatures. I had no AC in my house or in my car. I basically was just sweating for six weeks straight, and when you're already miserable, it really just sends you over the edge.
I remember lying on my bed talking to my husband on the phone, sweating profusely, and just crying. I went into a writing session soon after with a couple, Dan and Leah -- who would actually end up becoming dear friends and my saving grace in LA -- and Leah came in with this idea for a song called “Cruel Summer."
It was an easy write that flowed straight from my life and spilled right into the air. It really had been such a cruel summer, I had no lover, and I literally was lost in the heat of the moment.
It's your second offering off of your upcoming self-titled album, following "Tell Me It's Over." How would you describe the album?
The whole thing kind of bounces back and forth between love and heartbreak -- my journey with my husband inspiring the love, and my journey with my career inspiring the heartbreak. Sonically, it sits in a space between pop and alternative, which is where I feel at home, actually. My pop melodies are constantly battling my inner weirdo, and I'm always interested to see what side of the spectrum a song comes out on. I think the pop side definitely won out on this track, but the rest of the album floats around a bit more.
What's a current hit song that you wish you wrote?
Kesha's song “Praying" really got me. The storytelling… The way it unfolds. It’s so unique. I love it.
On the reverse, with the added lens of being a songwriter, what's a trend in pop music that you're over?
Listen, I know how hard it can be to navigate this world and constantly feeling pulled between music and its industry. So if a song is resonating with people and they're enjoying it, even if I think it should have been done a different way, I just try not to judge it. Honestly, good for them that a song has actually made its way from conception all the way to human ears. That's a feat… But maybe I could do without a drop in every song. [laughs]
You've written with Nick Jonas and toured with Joe and his band, DNCE. Were you a fan of the Jonas Brothers prior to working with them?
I've actually known the Jonas boys for a very long time. We grew up together and we're lifelong friends. It's just a bonus that we ended up working together so well creatively.
Do you have any fun stories from working with them?
One of my best stories involves going on a horseback safari with Joe in Africa. Yes, you heard right. And I'm allergic to horses, so my face fully blew up far beyond Will Smith in Hitch. It was bad. There's a picture and I keep in on my phone just to show people how ridiculously over the top this reaction was. It's my party trick.
And, yes, I know I should not have ridden a horse considering how allergic I am. The FOMO was too strong, but I did learn my lesson. My other funny story involves one night I was out with Nick in L.A. and there were so many paparazzi -- which I am not used to. I had a very serious pant-ripping situation. But I think we'll just have to save that story for next time.