It’s common to hear a professional musician say that music was one of their first passions; that they resolved at a young age to pursue a career in music. For singer-songwriter Rory D’Lasnow, who grew up in Bergen County, let’s just say his first ambition was… different.
“Weirdly enough, I grew up with a passion for maritime stuff,” says D’Lasnow. “I wanted to be a captain of a ship or a naval architect.”
Though D’Lasnow didn’t fulfill that childhood dream of navigating a ship, he has been charting a course through the music industry, more so recently: “I saw that I was getting older, and realized there’s no time like the present. There’s nothing like turning 30 that will put the scare into you just like that. I had a couple EPs that I put out in 2011 and 2015 so I wasn’t totally stagnant, but I was too nervous to step into music because it seemed too confusing and complicated.”
Aware the music ship would sail if he didn’t put aside his inhibitions, D’Lasnow committed to simply showing up and playing.
“You just need to do it,” says D’Lasnow. “Don’t be afraid to screw it up, or don’t try to anticipate what is going to come next. I thought in 2011 that there was nothing, and nobody was going to help or nobody was going to listen. I thought it was either be a big rock star or be nothing. None of these things were true. It only took me one open mic to start playing, and now I can’t stop. I don’t have to be Taylor Swift to have a really good time doing this.’’
One way that D’Lasnow hones his craft is playing cover shows all throughout the Garden State, and it has helped him realize some important things when it comes to music.
“It’s a fun little challenge to see how you can give songs that people know a different spin,” says D’Lasnow. “I force myself to listen to other things that I normally wouldn’t listen to, and try to branch out to keep different people happy.”
In addition to being a musician, D’Lasnow is also a mental health counselor. He went to the University of Michigan for psychology, and he sees the connection between music and mental health on a daily basis.
“One of my passions has always been mental health and psychology,” says D’Lasnow. “I found that it really overlaps with music, and there’s been a lot of ways that I combined the two in my career. A lot of my music is done in a confessional style, and the mental health stuff bleeds into the music. It’s been gratifying for me as a listener and a performer. Also the people I work with love music and play it themselves. It’s been a great combining force even for people who are struggling with other things mentally. “
Mental health is also a major subject in D’Lasnow’s latest EP, Songs From An Empty Room, and it’s shown in the song “I Won’t Do Anything.”
“’I Won’t Do Anything’ is probably the most autobiographical song on the EP,” explains D’Lasnow. “I try to approach depression in that song in a candid way. It reminds me of conversations I’ve unfortunately had with people where they are like, ‘Are you OK, are you gonna hurt yourself, are you gonna make it?’ You know that kind of thing where you have dark struggles with life and death stuff, and you reassure them that I’m not gonna do anything stupid so to speak or rash.”
Loss was a major theme for “I Won’t Do Anything” and also for the rest of the EP. D’Lasnow talks about the loss of both of his parents in various songs on the EP. D’Lasnow recently released a music video for “Power of My Love,” which is dedicated to his late father. Even though at the time D’Lasnow didn’t write “Power of My Love” about his dad, meanings change.
“Initially I wrote the song about a friend of mine who had a death in her family,” explains D’Lasnow. “Her cousin was killed in a terrorist attack in NYC and I went to his memorial and his family was honoring him. I saw the impact that this guy had on his family and community. I wrote ‘Power of My Love’ in response to that experience.
“As I was about to release the song, my father passed away,” D’Lasnow continues. “The song has multiple meanings now in a way. My dad was the coolest dude, and my best friend. He was a poet and writer himself, which gave me the idea to integrate one of his writings in the beginning of the video. I’m blessed to be able to tell my parents’ story, and then hear other peoples stories which aren’t that different from my own.”
D’Lasnow explores the loss of his parents more in “Where You Belong,” wherein he considers how his parents will miss out on the people he’ll meet in his life.
“I wrote that song when I was in college when I was 21 or 22.” explains D’Lasnow. “I decided I would write a love song, but I threw in a line about my mom as well. I listen back to it and think it’s out of the blue, but it’s how I felt at that point in time and I still do. Especially if I have a romantic interest or even a friend I just think, shoot, I wish my parents were around to meet them.”
The support that his parents gave him over the years is something that D’Lasnow will never forget.
“My mom always helped me make this happen when I was young,” says D’Lasnow. “It’s a real blessing that they always had my back when it comes to music.”
Music has been an intensive focus for D’Lasnow and brought him to places like Birmingham, Nashville and Austin this past winter. He also sees the potential for his music to change, though.
“I’m hoping to do a reverse Machine Gun Kelly and have a rap career,” jokes D’Lasnow. “I’ll have to eventually get off the sad, depressing, subjects. I have a couple songs that I’m going to the studio soon to work on that are a bit more rock and roll, and less morbid. That little bit of the confessional style will always be there, but I hope to get more gritty.”
Rory D’Lasnow will be playing with Jackson Pines and Ben Dehan on May 15 at The Bitter End in New York City. Ticket information can be found here.