Piano lessons at a young age can go either way. Some kids hide under the table or refuse to practice while others master the instrument as the foundation of their bag of tricks. Dakota Theim started taking piano lessons at age 7, before later teaching himself guitar after a stretch of enjoying the popular video game Guitar Hero. With piano and guitar in the bag, Theim went on to teach himself bass and drums. When he wasn’t playing or practicing, he was listening. Artists in the collection of his parents who had stood the test of time held his interest, those with strong, catchy melodies and classic pop sensibilities. These elements would become the crux of Theim’s approach as a songwriter.
Leveling up as a multi-instrumentalist came in handy for the recording of the songs on Tangled Heart. Theim played and recorded everything on early demos for Tangled Heart himself before sharing the recordings with his bandmates, guitarist Ben Bilotti and bassist Alex Werner, and soliciting input. Bilotti and Werner have been playing with Theim since the spring of 2019 and have been friends with him for longer than that. Bilotti and Theim met interning as studio assistants at the recording studio Hallowed Halls in Portland, while Theim met Werner in the halls of Portland State University and later the University of Oregon. Werner and Bilotti’s appreciation for and understanding of Theim’s songwriting means their additions or influences on the songs make sense. Inviting Werner and Bilotti to “do their thing” is a natural evolution of the strong friendships the trio share. Werner’s loping bass and Billotti’s shimmering, jangly guitars shine among Theim’s arrangements, underpinned by Theim’s bouncy melodies and bright, inviting voice.
With an open calendar during the early stages of the Covid-19 shut down, Theim approached his songwriting process initially without the intention of recording an album at all and without a sense of pressure to follow up his debut album Somewhere Under The Sun. This was an opportunity to experiment with songs that people might not even hear. Now they will.
Tangled Heart was recorded in Theim's home studio, and at the Billotti family home, mixed in Los Angeles by Daniel McNeill and mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk.