In need of hope, a year-and-a-half ago, singer/songwriter David Dunn and his family released balloons the color of sunshine into the sky at the memorial service for his 2-year-old niece. It was a blow that hit without warning and a cloud that hangs over the singer’s head to this day. The cause of death remains illusive, leaving the family with a broken heart and a well of unanswered questions. Over the course of nearly nine months, Dunn channeled his grief into his sophomore set for BEC Recordings, Yellow Balloons. His 2015 full-length debut was well received and even spawned a Top 20 radio hit with “Today Is Beautiful.” Dunn originally began performing his own songs during his college years. He graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in engineering and then spent a transformative 13 months in Africa doing mission work. It wasn’t until he returned to the States that he started pursuing music full-time. Dunn now calls Nashville home and has had the opportunity to write with some of the Christian community’s finest songwriters, many of whom he collaborated with on Yellow Balloons, a synth-soaked pop album boasting heavy beats and honest, heartfelt lyrics. We recently had the opportunity to talk with David about his sophomore release and the journey that lead to its creation.
First off, congratulations on the upcoming release of Yellow Balloons! To begin, what would you say makes this album stand out from your previous music?
Thank you! I am definitely excited about this project. The major stand out for this record is the cohesiveness of the record and it ended up being an accidental concept album. Almost all the songs are inspired by little kids and Heaven. Also, I’m a huge fan of where this record landed sonically; old school drum samples and synths are my jam.
Would you please describe the story behind and the process of writing the title track “Yellow Balloons?”
Cliff notes version – My 2 year old niece Moriah died unexpectedly, no scientific explanation. “Yellow Balloons” is my attempt to specifically address what myself and my family went through. It took me eight months to finish the song and I probably rewrote the song 50 times because I wanted it to end with an explanation…a reason for why God let something like this happen…but I couldn’t. I knew with my head that He is working all things for the good, but when a 2 year old is taken from you, it’s hard to see anything from that perspective. So, I showed my sister (the mother of Moriah) the song, and she “gave me permission” to not have an answer and that is how the song was finished.
How has writing the album impacted your relationship with your family and your walk with God?
It’s been very therapeutic to write these songs. It made me address things I would normally put in a proverbial closet and pretend they don’t exist. Art is my outlet, to be real with God and myself, which is one of the main reasons I cherish it so much.
Though the title track deals with heavy themes and has a darker tone, there are a fair amount of light, upbeat, and nostalgic tracks. Could you please explain the connection between these songs and “Yellow Balloons?”
Most songs on this record have to do with what was in my mind and heart for the last two years, Heaven and little kids, because of Moriah. Songs like “I Wanna Go Back” and “I Don’t Have To Worry” are me thinking about little kids and songs like “Grace Will Lead Me Home” and “Kingdom” are me contemplating Heaven.
Last October, you pre-released the track “I Wanna Go Back.” How has it impacted listeners thus far?
I think the nostalgic nature of the song has really taken people by the heart. A lot of us kids who grew up in church associate our childhoods with these simple songs we sang in VBS. When what was important was the simple things, and faith was as simple as “yes, Jesus loves me.”
How has God been working through your music, both in the studio and when singing live?
Live music is my opportunity to connect with people on an intimate level I wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain without countless hours of one on one time. Music is a God given gift that that bring people together and continues to amaze me.
What do you hope listeners take away from Yellow Balloons?
I am trying to not tell people specific things with my albums. I don’t want to preach at people, I want people to get a glimpse into my life and the things I’m learning and slogging through…to relate with me on my struggle to chose life and recognize death for what it is.