This life can drag you down if you let it. Finding herself caught in a wearisome cycle of the 9 to 5 and smoking weed, Dominique Pruitt wanted more out of her life. She often waxed romantic about the sprawling, twinkling landscape of Los Angeles and dreamt of the day she could ride off into the sunset. The San Fernando Valley lies only 30 minutes away, but it felt more like a hundred miles.
Born into a musical legacy — her father Larry Brown once played in The Association and Smothers Brothers before joining Engelbert Humperdinck in the ‘80s, where he met and forged a romantic relationship with her mother Anne Murray Brown — Pruitt embarks on her own with a comeback singled called «High in the Valley». From the Nancy Sinatra-smattered jingle to fusing rockabilly with the pop styles of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the young performer is a lost soul far removed from our own.
The song snarls and winds its way through the smoke of neon lights, transportive but modern. It’s her first bit of music in five years and shows remarkable growth, owed in large part to just living a life worth living. She’s battered from life’s blunt waves knocking her down, but she claws her way back up time and time again. It’s that kind of exposure to reality that breeds singers and songwriters with something worthwhile to say.
«Closest that I’ve ever been to God is a Bible on a nightstand at an old roadside motel», she paints, drawing a parallel to her youth and upbringing that lacked a religious direction. «I had written down that song title a few years ago. It was such a part of me at one point to feel like I was trapped in this hopelessness of being so close to what you want in a way but so far away», she says of the song, written with Joseph Holliday and Kenny Fleetwood. Amidst the flecks of cracked motel paint and peeling wallpaper, Pruitt finds herself plucked down in a Spaghetti Western.
She didn’t come to fully realise music was her destiny until her teen years. «It scared the shit out of me», she confesses with a chuckle. Having been surrounded with her parents’ music and a well of musician and songwriter friends, Pruitt felt the pressure to lead the same lifestyle. She began singing out at 18 or 19, and it was evident the stage never felt more like home to her. The spotlights bearing down on her sequinned costumes and larger-than-life braggadocio, she finally and fully flies free.
It wasn’t until about seven years ago that she began recording demos. At the time, she did nothing with them, but randomly, an old neighbour, who once worked in A&R but now in radio, stumbled onto her collection of demo work. He then handed them off to Jack Ponsei, who has certainly worn every hat there is to wear in the industry. He was immediately struck by Pruitt’s charming caramel-rich alto and signed her to both a management and record deal (to Merovee Records).
An EP called To Win Your Love arrived in 2013, and while she had her debut full-length all ready to go, things didn’t exactly feel right anymore. So, the record was shelved. The label went belly up soon after, and she was left wandering around to find her next moves.
With space and time to breathe, Pruitt is more energised than ever these days. «High in the Valley» is a smokey concoction of forlorn spirits caught in grungy dive bars in nowhere middle America, the dust of the open road crawling along the floor and the neons piercing the crowd’s dilated pupils. Her spirit and heart are on full display, culled together with remarkable musical depth. «I love Wanda Jackson», she says. «I went head over heels for her the first time I heard her». I saw the movie ‘Cry Baby’ when I was nine years old, and it shaped the form of my life».
Her love of everything vintage is pretty evident when you see her live. «I saw the movie Cry Baby when I was nine years old, and it shaped the form of my life. That’s something important. I want to put on a show with a spectacle», she says, citing how the movie Gypsy, starring Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell, carries an equally indelible impact. She also culls the flash of Show Girls and the mystique of burlesque into the music and performances, beckoning the listener and concertgoer into a world long gone.
The accompanying visual, directed by Dana Boulos and styled by Shana Anderson, is inspired by fame French photographer Guy Bourdin. The aesthetic is classic without being pretentious, accessible but universal, colourful but not overexposed. Pruitt’s vocal is sly as a cobra whose venomous itch unleashes utter bedlam on an unsuspecting audience.
The singer is currently working on new music, expected soon on the heels of «High in the Valley».