San Luis Obispo is a special place — then again, maybe we’re biased. This small-but-large, rural-but-city-ish college town attracts musicians from all up and down the California coast. Every once in a while, it snags a gem from another state; this is the case with Nashville-raised musician Dante Marsh, an active member of the ever-growing music scene in SLO.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Dante about his experiences as a musician. You might find Dante at Hotel SLO on Thursdays or, on occasion, at concerts in the plaza downtown (either on his own or with his band, the Vibe Setters). Catch Dante and the band at SLO Brew Rock on July 10th.
Robbie: Thanks for meeting with me today, Dante.
Dante: Thank you for talking with me!
R: Of course! So, what is it like being part of the riveting scene in San Luis Obispo?
D: It’s amazing. I have roots in Nashville, Tennessee, and played in Los Angeles as well, too. So I really didn’t know what to expect coming to San Luis Obispo — but it definitely over delivers when it comes to having a scene. The people that appreciate the scene continue to come out to support the scene as well, too. It’s just an amazing community to be a part of.
R: Definitely, it’s super important. How do you think that the local scene and culture of SLO sort of shaped your music?
D: I would say that I already had certain types of songs written before I got here, but I never really got quite the response from such large groups of people before. Everyone is just dancing and just having a good time! So, we’ve gotten to a point where we want to make people dance. That’s our mission after we’ve made people do it once — that’s what we want to do every single time. That also has made us pay attention to how we want the experience of our sets to be.
R: That’s super cool. Speaking of your music, I was looking around on Spotify and Apple Music and different streaming sites — your music isn’t on there?
D: There was some stuff up there, like my first album that I wrote — it’s a solo album that I did before working with the Vibe Setters. It should be back up within the next week or so. It’ll be under Dante Marsh, not the Vibe Setters. I have another album that I wrote during quarantine of last year that I’ll be releasing. I’ll be putting out singles first starting in July and then I think by October or September, we’ll have the whole album out.
R: That’s exciting! Is it under Dante Marsh or with the Vibe Setters?
D: That’s under Dante Marsh, not the Vibe Setters. Even when we release music under the Vibe Setters, it’ll be under Dante Marsh and the Vibe Setters — just so all of the stuff comes up.
R: Gotcha, good to know. Do you have any plans now that things are reopening?
D: We have a very, very busy summer in SLO. I’m playing music full time. Every weekend, I play anywhere from two to five times a weekend. I play at hotel SLO every Thursday, I’m playing at the Old Ale House in Los Osos, I’m doing a Juneteenth event for the NAACP of SLO, and on Saturday I’m playing Tooth and Nail in Paso Robles. But, the stuff that we’re most excited about is SLO Brew Rock on July 10th. We’ll also be at The Siren on June 26. Next Saturday, we’ll be doing concerts in the plaza. And we’re also closing out the Midstate Fair as well. Everything is getting back to what it was.
R: Totally. As far as I can tell — I was just looking at on the Vibe Setters website — Glimpse of the Moment is the only album you’ve done together so far, right?
D: So, that was my first album. That’s the album that will be back on Spotify. I spent a month in Hawaii and I wrote that album while I was out there. We play a lot of those songs with the Vibe Setters at the live shows. That particular recording was done before I even had the band together — we’ve only been a band for about two years now.
R: Okay. So you wrote the album in Hawaii, which is obviously where you came up with Hawaiians Don’t Whistle at Night, right?
R: What does that mean?
D: That’s one of my favorite songs of mine. It was all a freestyle that I happened to catch on voice memos. I just recreated it for the recording. I was in the grocery store one night, and I was just whistling throughout the store. The cashier looked at me and he was like, “Son, Hawaiians don’t whistle at night — they believe it disturbs the spirits.” I went home and I thought about that. I felt if they do hear me or feel me, and it wakes them, they’re happy to be up in my song, you know? They’re probably happy to be in that moment with me. So, I created that whole song based on that experience in Hawaii. In the beginning of the song, I was just holding my guitar and strumming. My buddy and I were stoned and hungry. He was like, “What do I want right now?” Then, I just started singing, “What do you want right now?” And then it just went into that whole seven minute excerpt.
R: Yeah, I really like that. Yeah, it’s probably my favorite song from the album. I really like that one.
D: Thank you. I appreciate that. That one doesn’t resonate with everybody, you know, but if it does, it means something.
R: Totally. Where do you find — this is maybe sort of a cliche question — but where do you find your inspiration for some of the music that you make?
D: At first, most of my first songs were written about my relationships with people. A lot of them come from relationships with people, whether it’s my mom, my brother, or a girlfriend. Being in Hawaii definitely inspires me a lot too. My next album that I recorded is called To Be in the Sun. The entire album is written about my previous girlfriend — it’s all just love songs. The whole thing is basically me confessing my love to her.
R: If you could collaborate with any artists (within or outside of SLO) who think you’d most be inclined to collaborate with on a project?
D: Either Drake or Anderson Paak. Or Pharrell, too. I like to rap as well, and I definitely like the artists that are dynamic — ones that aren’t just singing or aren’t just doing one thing. I like people that are doing multiple different things.
R: Yeah, absolutely. Pharrell is like a wizard at that.
D: He’s been a wizard like that.
R: Agreed. Do you have any questions for me?
D: No, I’m happy to be working with you guys.
R: I appreciate you working with us!
D: Sounds good, bro. Nice to meet you, Robbie.
R: Yeah, good to meet you. I’ll see you at one of those shows in SLO!
Robbie Baker is a .WAV’s Playlisting Director and a .WAV staff writer, he wrote the article. Renee Kao is .WAV’s Creative Director, she created the graphic. Photos taken by Jo Anna Edmison, WAV’s Photo/ Video Director.