Date: 01/17/2012 Print This Post



In Search Of A Vocalist To Help Her Realize Her
Unique Musical Vision, San Luis (based in St. Louis)
Met the Ukranian-Born Layzis (New Jersey) On
And Developed A Dynamic Songwriting Partnership

This summer, the two prepare for the release of Dreamland, their debut album that breaks ground on a magical musical hybrid they dub “Lullaballads,” vocalist/songwriter Dina Layzis and songwriter/composer Theresa San Luis could easily become the Lennon & McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel or even Jagger-Richards of their new genre.

Except for one thing—they’ve never actually met in person!

Illuminated with 11 sweet, charming and whimsical “ballads” designed to take listeners of all ages on a soothing, multi-faceted ethereal journey, Dreamland is a recording that could only happen in 2011.

From “Magic Unfolding,the collection’s first single, the slightly dark-tinged fan favorite “Paint Your Dreams” and “Fairyland” (a sweet song that San Luis sees rich animated film possibilities for), all of the songs were written created via the transmission of MP3 files between San Luis and Layzis–living, writing and recording their music several hundred miles apart. The long distance collaborative nature of Dreamland—with San Luis in St. Louis and Layzis in New Jersey–extends to the album’s musical arranger, Andrew Linn, mastering engineer Lance Day and illustrator Olga Ziskin, who all work independently in different cities around the world.

Last year, seeking representation, the Illinois-born and raised San Luis sent her first two recordings—a lullaby album called Andrew’s Lullabies, inspired by a child she knew with cerebral palsy, and her award-winning, gospel-oriented follow-up Awakenings–to Eugene Foley of Foley Entertainment, Inc., a renowned East Coast music industry consulting firm and entertainment agency.

She pitched Foley on a potential recording that would develop her unique concept of “Lullaballads,” which she described as a “blend of universally friendly lullabies and ballads for children and adults.” Children can engage in the vibrant fantastical imagery and portrayals of the innocent imagination while adults can find joy, comfort and escape in her soothing music.

Out of 400 submissions that month, Foley made San Luis one of only two new clients he signed. She only had three songs written for the new project at the time, and quickly got to work on new material. She then began an arduous search for the perfect vocalist to bring her songs to life, first at Interlochen Arts Academy (where she once attended as a viola major on a partial scholarship before going to the University of Notre Dame), then locally in the St. Louis area.

As she began realizing how difficult it was to find someone who could put the necessary time, heart, soul and money into the project, San Luis began searching on and soon hooked up with the Ukranian-born, New York raised Layzis, who described herself as “a singer, songwriter, musician, dreamer and pharmacist.”

Pharmacist? While music has been a part of her life since the very beginning, Layzis chose a career path that would guarantee a more stable future. Her grandmother was very sick for many years and the singer had always cared for her – managing her medications and learning firsthand about various diseases. After careful consideration, she decided pharmacy was a field she was well prepared for. But as someone who still harbored deep musical dreams, she found little time to pursue her creative passions during her six years at pharmacy school, which she maintains were some of the hardest years of her life.

Raised in a household of a classical violinist and an opera singer, you could say music was embedded in Layzis’ DNA. “Since music was the basis of my parents’ lives,” says Layzis, “it was only natural for them to fully surround me with it. They started giving me piano and violin lessons at a very early age. I was 4 years old when I had my first miniature screechy violin with Muppet stickers all over it. My earliest memories all involve music. Thinking back, I can almost view my life as playing out to a soundtrack. My house was always engulfed in music: classical, jazz, various concerts on tape…etc. I took part in as many school plays and productions as possible as well as was a part of school orchestras (playing the violin). I was first violin in my high school orchestra and sang solo performances with the HS guitar group. We even had a small pop band for a little while.”

San Luis, who was impressed with Layzis’ voice from the videos she watched on YouTube, knew from their first correspondence that the two shared similar goals and was pleased that Layzis was open to the possibility of singing her material. Likewise, the singer enjoyed San Luis’ first two albums and saw great potential in the collaboration. San Luis was grateful that Layzis taught her how to operate a digital MP3, which would be one of the keys to their collaboration. With the tech connections in full swing and the music flowing, the two soon evolved into songwriting partners as well, penning five tunes together that made the final tracking of Dreamland.

San Luis says that she had lyrics for 60 percent of the songs and her partner wrote lyrics for the others as well as two songs on her own; one of these, “Paint Your Dreams” was inspired by an epic poem San Luis had given Layzis to read. The singer also wrote “Magic Unfolding,” which is about “reigning in your kingdom of dreams with kindness above…taking a journey with a dragon pulling your golden wagon.

San Luis says that Layzis has helped her grow as a songwriter, urging her to write longer pieces and compose songs in minor keys. The two are already working on a follow up to Dreamland that will be comprised of more straightforward pop ballads. In some ways, Dreamland is also the fulfillment of a promise San Luis made a few years ago to her manager at Dillard’s Department Store, where she was selling children’s shoes. Once her manager heard her music, she said, “Promise me you will make the most of your talents outside of this environment.” San Luis currently works full time at a nursing care facility, playing piano as an activity therapist for elderly residents.

“I like to say we made this album with long fingers like ET, connecting our musical passions across so many states,” says San Luis. “From the start, Dina had the drive to produce great demos, write out music and take the time and thought to flesh things out. She has it all –desire, talent and an incredible work ethic. On a deeper level, I believe she is an answered prayer. We both complement and compliment each other so well, offering encouraging feedback and words to each other at just the right moments. I knew from the start we had a great musical chemistry, but the true affirmation came when I gave her that poem and she drew inspiration from it to write ‘Paint Your Dreams.’ Creating Dreamland with Dina has been a truly magical experience – and has helped me over come all my fears of technology!”

Still working as a pharmacist, Layzis is very optimistic about the potential for Dreamland and feels that “two people believing in the same thing means one can uphold the other and help the other develop creatively.

She adds, “We still are taking a gamble because this is a huge financial investment for us as well as the time we are dedicating. Producing and writing a CD is a huge undertaking for two people who have never done so, especially on their own. ‘Dreamland’ is an album that comes from a lot of heart, friendship and dedication to music. What we share with the world we hope to be very special and worth listening to.  I hope one of the doors we knock on will eventually open and have that yellow brick road behind it, but for now I will pour my heart and soul into the music. Hopefully just a bit of luck will shine our way in the process.”