Today’s Song: Jessica Harper’s Sinister Alter Ego Dama Blake Takes Full Flight on “Witch Hunt”

Dama Blake © 2024
Dama Blake © 2024
Transforming into the cunning sorceress of sorts, Dama Blake, has allowed LA singer/songwriter Jessica Harper to enter some dark and thematically rich musical territory with “Witch Hunt.”
 follow our Today’s Song(s) playlist

Atwood Magazine Today's Songs logo

Stream: “Witch Hunt” – Dama Blake

When she recorded her first single, “Strong Again,” at age 16, Jessica Harper wasn’t necessarily keen on establishing any sort of sinister alter ego. Rather, she simply wanted to demonstrate that this young, small-town Missouri native had a genuine gift and passion for singing and songwriting.

“That was a very ‘Jess’ release as a high school girl,” Harper reflects on “Strong Again.” “Going forward, there’s going to be a lot more character work [and] persona. It’s going to be very dramatic and theatrical.”

Harper focused on fulfilling this goal at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and then the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. While attending the Popular Music Program at Thornton, she released her first EP (2019’s Michigan) and first formal music video, “Rainy Day,” which incorporates some distinct imagery from the hit musical, La La Land.

That was a really fun time,” Harper recalls the on-location shoot, which featured her high school friend John Chigas in the director’s chair. “That music video was kind of my first look into the realm of what it would be like to be a pop star making these music videos, dancing and having fun with it.”

Dama Blake © 2024
Dama Blake © 2024

Much like the Emma Stone character from La La Land that she’d evoked in the “Rainy Day” clip (bright yellow dress and everything), Harper has been dedicated to navigating the waters of the Los Angeles creative community since graduating from USC.

I’ve been mostly performing at different hotels in Los Angeles through an agency, and that’s been really fun, especially to experience doing background music instead of being the frontman,” she explains. “People aren’t really paying attention to you as much, but I still have to be able to impact their evenings just as much, whether or not they know it.”

She’s also had time to flesh out her alter ego. Just as Lady Gaga managed to transform into the “Mother Monster” after her first stretch of fame, so has Jessica Harper achieved the leap to “Dama Blake”— with “Dama” in the name to make the Gaga influence all the more apparent.

I see Dama as this eternal being,” Harper told Atwood back in the fall of 2021. “She’s probably a couple hundred years old at this point, but I feel she’s very present in our time and very involved with us. She’s kind of scary. There’s this darkness to her – this kind of Cruella de Vil vampire-ness that’s really intriguing. She’s one of the most dramatic bitches I’ve ever encountered.”

Witch Hunt - Dama Blake
Witch Hunt – Dama Blake

Over the ensuing two-plus years, Harper has further structured Dama Blake’s personality and granted her a formal on-record inauguration with the recent single, “Witch Hunt.”

I think Dama has become a lot more defined,” Harper now tells Atwood. ‘This character that I’ve created has also inspired me to be that dangerous and exciting woman that she is. I feel like both she and I have become one person, and we’re still young women in Los Angeles figuring shit out. That itself is just a very badass adventure to be going on.”

A key adventure buddy of hers is Devon Oakley, who teamed up with his fellow Thornton School alum to work on a new track together in October 2022. Being in the thick of Halloween season, the songwriting duo had plenty of everyday contact with spooky, supernatural imagery, and they channelled much of it into the resulting composition.

“That was one of my first times really writing something with a producer, which was a completely different environment for me, but Dev made it so easy and fun,” Harper recalls. “It was right before he moved to Nashville, so we just kind of squeezed in a session in my barely unpacked apartment. It was pretty chaotic externally, but it was fun because we were able to just ignore everything else that was going on and find something that was really fun to pay attention to.”

Halloween-ready eeriness pulses through the electronica beat conceived by Oakley, and the lyrics enhance that effect by recreating, in Dama’s words, “the allure of a person just beyond reach and the games played to capture their attention.”

“’Witch Hunt’ was inspired by a string of relationships I had with a strong power imbalance,” say Harper. “I kept finding myself drawn to people who couldn’t give me what I needed, and I think I liked the chase. This song is in no way painting myself as a victim in these relationships. When I sing, ‘I love her more when there’s a game, and any time I want there’s a witch hunt,’ it’s a cheeky way of expressing the masochistic enjoyment of being played. The second verse even shows the toxic lengths I would go to keep that person giving me breadcrumbs of their attention: ‘A poison apple that she missed ‘til she’s watching my new lover; I beg she lets me stay.'”

Dama Blake © 2024
Dama Blake © 2024

Relationships can indeed be rocky… but if she continues to produce tracks as alluring as “Witch Hunt,” Harper’s future in the music biz should be much more stable.

Ultimately, though, what matters most to her is that she continues to enjoy staying committed to her craft.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun making this music,” she says. “Now, it’s just about enjoying life and enjoying what I’m creating. I’m finally proud of the product because of that.”

— —

:: stream/purchase Witch Hunt here ::
:: connect with Dama Blake here ::
Stream: “Witch Hunt” – Dama Blake

— — — —

Witch Hunt - Dama Blake

Connect to Dama Blake on
Twitter, TikTok, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © courtesy of the artist

:: Today’s Song(s) ::

Atwood Magazine Today's Songs logo

 follow our daily playlist on Spotify

:: Stream Dama Blake ::

Written By
More from Josh Weiner
Interview with Sebastian Paul: Always on the Road, Always Experimenting Stylistically
He subscribes to no genre, he knows no one homeland... but Sebastian...
Read More