Tess Dunn

Music Connection Magazine

Tess Dunn is T3TRA, whose dark, soul-baring statements are as candid and relatable to millennials as her hooks are sharp and memorable for all listeners. Her expressive voice has a bubblegum quality that belies the bitterness of her message. Targeting miserable relationships, Dunn often places herself squarely in the crosshairs.

Santa Cruz Sentinel

If you’ve been around the Santa Cruz music scene for the past decade, you might think that you know Tess Dunn, that since you’ve seen her perform once or twice, you get what she’s all about.

Well, that was the old (or, perhaps more accurately, the young) model. These days, there’s a new Tess Dunn around.

Kill the Music

T3TRA’s debut EP, Polarity, provides a rich and dynamic sound that moves beyond electro/synthpop thanks to deep sonic undercurrents and brutally honest lyrics. As T3TRA notes, “Sex, pills, cheap thrills: I write songs about the things nobody and everybody likes to talk about.” With driving beats, hints of retro synth and T3TRA’s signature raspy vocals, Polarity provides a strong dose of danceable angst.


Tess Dunn, a Sound Arts student at Ex’pression College’s San Jose campus, will be completing a two-month performance residency at Streetlight Records in San Jose on Saturday, February 21. Dunn is the first music artist to be invited by Streetlight for such an engagement, which featured performances by Dunn of music from “Daydreamers,” her critically acclaimed 2014 EP release (available on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon). (See More)

Metro Silicon Valley

At 20 years old, Tess Dunn has already got three alt-rock albums under her belt, is taking a full class load, and continues to fight a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis (CF), diabetes, and epilepsy. She’s so damn admirable that I found myself hoping she had some deep, dark secret to unearth.

No dice. Calling me from the parking lot of the Stanford Medical Center, Dunn quickly broke down all conventional interview barriers and showed that she is, indeed, the inspiring, no-nonsense go-getter so many past articles about her have glowingly heralded. But what isn’t often explored are the many layers of the person who has become a champion for her diseases. Guess what, she also gets lazy and doesn’t get out of her car when it’s too cold outside (hurrah!). And despite her incredibly positive attitude, of course the illnesses do weigh on her sometimes.

“Sometimes it does get tiring,” says Dunn, who recently released her latest EP and is slated to play an in-store performance at Streetlight Records in San Jose this Saturday. “It is a lot to handle, having these three illnesses, but my only options are to either sit around and wonder ‘why me?’ and throw pity-parties—or I can use this to empower me and push me to do great things.”

Dunn is so full of fight that it’s impossible to not get swept up in her energy. It takes tenacity (See more)

Blast Out Your Stereo

Tess Dunna five year veteran of the west coast side of the Vans Warped Tour recently recorded her third EP titled, DaydreamersDaydreamers is scheduled to be released on June 21st and happened to be crowd-funded through Indiegogo and reached a total of 101% which is certainly impressive. Dunn’s latest release is surely something else, the EP contains four emotional and fun tracks that will grasp onto fans and new listeners instantly. Daydreamers is certainly for the daydreaming.

So, with all of the above being said; does Tess Dunn’s latest release manage to hold a candle up to itself? Or, is Daydreamers just a time frame release that will see many forgetting about its existence after its initial release? You can find out the answer to both of these questions in my full review of Tess Dunn’s latest EP, Daydreamers below:

1. Daydreamers

Tess Dunn brings the heat with the EP’s title track, “Daydreamers” as it’s a song filled with passion, emotion, and whimsical instrumentals that will have listeners moving about and singing along. Dunn showcases her exceptional vocal techniques as she powers through the track, which is also a life saver when compared to the usual songs that tend to come out of the pop-rock genre. “Daydreamers” is a track I had on repeat for over a week, and I’m quite jealous of the NorCal Warped Tour concertgoers that get to experience the truthful track live. Listeners can expect a lot when going into this song, and one of those expectations certainly won’t be disappointment.

2. Say You Fell

“Say You Fell” is possibly the best track to be included on ‘Daydreamers.’ The track is a bit devious and evil, but at the same time cute and just a fun track to spin when you feel that hurting spree coming along. I know I would hate to be on the other end of this track, and with that feeling Dunn has created a pretty relatable song, one that will have many clinging onto it during their first listen.  Read More...


There's so much to love about 19 year-old Tess Dunn. Not even twenty, this Santa Cruz native not only is set to release her third EP, she's also about to perform at Vans Warped Tour for the sixth year.  She's basically doing what most of us only daydream of doing.  

As a singer-songwriter, she first caught our attention with her delicate and personal songs set to piano four years ago.  Since then, she's matured as a writer, transitioning from bubblegum pop to alternative rock.  Her newest, "Daydreamers" is off her upcoming EP of the same name.  With revving guitars and pounding beats, Dunn goes from power ballad to anthem-rock choruses that sounds like it's ready-made for any arena show and echoes the infectious sounds of another rock/alternative band - Paramore!

Good Times

When Good Times last checked in with Tess Dunn in 2012, the local teenage pop-punk rocker already had an impressive resume.

At just 17, she had played the Warped Tour for three consecutive summers and had just released her second EP,Honesty Box, produced by Noah Shain (Skrillex, Atreyu). Since then, Dunn has played two more Warped festivals, and this summer, during her sixth stint on the tour, she plans to release her third EP, Daydreamers, which she aims to finance largely through the crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo. This time around, the now 19-year-old Dunn is again working with Shain, but is taking a co-producing role. “I think my writing on this album has really matured,” she says, explaining that she learned a lot from her production partner during the Honesty Box sessions.

She recalls Shain giving her suggestions for melody choices, different ways of wording her lyrics, and writing a pop arrangement. That advice stuck. “My writing has definitely grown through that,” she says. Her Warped Tour schedule has also grown. In the past, she has played only the San Francisco Bay Area stop, but this year, Dunn will play in Portland and Seattle, “which is really exciting,” she says.

As many of her fans are aware, Dunn suffers from cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and diabetes. A portion of the proceeds from her Indiegogo campaign will support Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc., and the Epilepsy Foundation. The rest will support her life goals of signing to a label and touring the world. She plans to shop Daydreamers around in the hopes of landing a record contract. And, in a way, the money will also help with her health issues.  Songwriting helps her deal with emotional stress and singing helps combat lung damage caused by cystic fibrosis. “It’s an amazing outlet for me,” she says.

Living Louder


If Hayley Williams and Avril Lavigne were to spontaneously have a lovechild, Tess Dunn would definitely be the outcome. From Santa Cruz, Tess has managed to make quite a bit of noise in her area. She’s played the San Fransicco date of the Vans Warped Tour for 4 years, released 2 albums, and was named one of the top Bay Area performers.

This chick is seriously a breath of fresh air. Not only is she a female artist, but she reminds us a lot of both Avril Lavigne and Blink 182. With poppy dark lyrics like Avril, and a pop twist on a garage punk sounds like Blink, Tess Dunn is definitely an artist that should inhabit everyone’s iPod. 

Monterey Bay News and Views

It was her wish being fulfilled when Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Tess Dunn, just 14, recorded her first album “Darling Just Walk” in February 2009.

When she was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening health conditions, Dunn knew what her heart desired.

“My wish was to go to Los Angeles and record my CD with my musical mentors,” she said. “I recorded six songs there. That was the beginning of my being a musician and a performer. I was so happy. The top wishes are usually Disneyland and shopping sprees. They had never done this one before.”


Santa Cruz Weekly

TESS DUNN HEADLINES CYSTIC FIBROSIS BENEFIT: Santa Cruz's Reigning Pop Princess Takes the Stage at Moe's Alley Aug. 12

It’s 12:30pm, and Tess Dunn, having just woken up, is sitting on a café patio and carefully cradling a carrot cupcake, her first meal of the day.

Dunn, who was in January named the 11th-best Bay Area artist by 99.7 NOW FM, is eagerly preparing for life’s next journey: to California State University–Monterey Bay, in two weeks. Dunn says she’s “so excited” for life in college, where she’ll major in human communication—a field that includes creative writing, one of her first passions.



Tess Dunn Talks About Her New Album, “Honesty Box”

Monterey Bay’s gurrl rocker, Tess Dunn has just released a new six song album titled  Honesty Box. Her second. This feisty 17 yr old Santa Cruz high school senior can do it all: writes her own songs, sings, plays keyboards, makes a video and performs with her high energy band while juggling school and prepping for college at the same time. On top of all this, Tess has cystic fibrosis and epilepsy and is continually dealing with health problems, but that didn’t stop her from recording the new album in LA in just three days back in November.

Honesty Box has a great caffeinated garage sound not too dissimilar to the punk bands of 30 years ago. For someone of her age, Tess’s lyrics are brutally mature honest observations about friendship, love, sadness and romantic breakups. Honesty Box ends on a high note with Tess singing that 2012 is going to be her year.It certainly looks that way.

Listen to the full interview here.

Santa Cruz Sentinel

TESS EVERLASTING: The Only Thing Singer/Songwriter Tess Dunn is Sure About When It Comes to 2012 Is That She Won't Be Bored

Her life is a whirlwind of recordings, meet-and-greets, correspondence, conferences and radio appearances, on top of all the other stuff -- dance, friends, family, getting enough school credits to graduate a full year ahead of her class.

So when precocious Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Tess Dunn says, "I'm having a mid-life crisis," it sounds like something any 17-year-old girl would say, particularly one living the breakneck life she's living.

But there's an undercurrent to that line.

"All my friends hate me when I say that," she said. "But it's so funny when you get it."

The stark fact is that Tess -- who will not yet be old enough to vote in this year's presidential election -- may already be at mid-life. Since birth, she has lived with a burdensome and devastating chronic disease called cystic fibrosis, as well as diabetes and epilepsy that are, in her case, secondary conditions of CF. The median life span of those with the disease is around 37.

None of this is news to those who love and admire Tess and her improbable drive to become a serious performer dating back to when she was 13. But what continues to astound is her relentless pursuit of life's bigger challenges, her insistence on filling her life with motion, creativity and accomplishment as if she were taunting the disease that makes painful demands on her literally every day of her life -- 60 pills, more than two hours of respiratory therapy daily -- as if she were standing before the CF monster inside her and cracking, "Is that all you've got?"

Whether or not her condition cooperates, Tess is embarking on what may be the biggest year of her life. It all begins Friday with her CD release party, to celebrate the release of her second recording "Honesty Box" at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, with her full band.


Good Times

Finding Grace

At 17, Tess Dunn has knocked more off of her bucket list than most people will in their lifetime.

A three-year veteran of the Vans Warped Tour with two EPs under her belt—the most recent of which, Honesty Box, will be released on Friday, Feb. 24 at Kuumbwa Jazz—the Santa Cruz singer/songwriter is the definition of a rising star in the local music scene. Named one of the Top 11 Bay Area artists of 2011 by 99.7 FM and winner of the radio station’s Triple Ho Show 2.0 Local Video Battle, it’s easy to forget that she’s still in high school.


Rescue Music Entertainment

Tess Dunn Interview

Tess Dunn is an upcoming artist with an inspiring story. A young woman Tess is a gifted songwriter with a huge sound and incredible voice. You can find more out about Tess on www.tessdunn.com . Tess recently took the time to do an interview with us, and we are very grateful. Here it is.

Rescue Music Entertainment (RME)- First things first, what inspired you to get into music?

Tess Dunn- I started playing piano at 5 because I loved hearing my mom play. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote my first song, but swore I would never sing because people made fun of my voice. When I was 13, though, I realized that only I knew how I wanted my songs to be played/sung, so I started singing. I love writing music because it’s an amazing outlet for me. I can write and just clear my head, work things out, etc. I also think meeting Nina Storey was a huge component of my getting into music. I saw her play at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival and wanted to meet her. Bill Welch, who runs the festival, is like an uncle to me, and he introduced Nina to me. She’s been a mentor ever since.

RME- For your fans, many people see you as inspiration because of you battling through your illnesses. How have your illnesses affected the music you write?

Tess Dunn- I don’t write about my illnesses, but I think that having all of them adds depth and dark undertones to my music. I have a rasp in my voice, though, caused by the cystic fibrosis. 


Monterey County Weekly

At just 16 years old, Tess Dunn has a lot of experience from living the life of a highly toured musician to coping with epilepsy, diabetes and cystic vibrosis. A three-year veteran of the Vans Warped Tour, Dunn takes the stage with a little bit of keyboard and whole lot of talent belting out vocals in a distinctive voice that ranges in tone from sultry-smokey to sugary-sweet. With lyrics dark yet hopeful, Dunn counterpoints the Rebecca Blacks of the world playing a range of songs that hit with the energy of Blink 182 and the emotional intensity of a Fiona Apple ballad. 

Good Times

You'd be hard-pressed to find a young woman with more tenacity than Tess Dunn. The 16-year-old Santa Cruz singer-songwriter has cystic fibrosis, diabetes and epilepsy - but you'd never know it, considering her glistening personality, and the fact that she's scored a spot in the Vans Warped Tour lineup for the last three years. A force to be reckoned with, the alt-pop rocker has been lighting up the stage since age 12, and her debut album, 2009's Darling Just Walk, proves we ain't seen nothin' yet from the promising young star. You won't regret attending this Backstage Lounge showcase - Dunn's zest for life is infectious.


New Song: "Shame to See" by Tess Dunn

Living with cystic fibrosis hasn't stopped 16-year-old Tess Dunn from living out her musical dreams. Hailing from Santa Cruz, Dunn has been playing music since the age of 12 and is already a seasoned veteran of the stage, performing on Vans Warped Tour three years in a row. She released her debut album, "Darling, Just Walk" two years ago. It was a powerful debut for the then 14-year-old. Her songs inspire, pulling from experience and delivered with tender yet vulnerable lyrics over heroic keyboards in such songs as "Silent Conversations," "One Heart's Battle," and "Goodbye Hero." But Dunn's new single, "Shame to See" is a far cry from songs off her debut album. Evoking the punk attitude of Avril Lavigne, "Shame to See" is a girl-powered pop song with rough-chick melodies, reminding us that, even through her tough experiences, Tess is still just a teen and proving that nothing can slow her down. 

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Piece of Her Heart

As crowds hustled in every direction, Tess Dunn sits cross-legged in the grass eating French fries, excited to see some of her favorite rock groups perform.

The 15-year-old Santa Cruz girl is not, however, merely another fan. She's actually waiting to perform at the Warped Tour at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View.

Tess started playing the piano at age 5, writing songs at 11 and first took to the stage at 12. And now, she is glowing with excitement because in less than an hour she will be playing on stage at one of the most prominent alternative music festivals in the country for the second time. The Warped Tour, now in its 16th year, has launched the careers of No Doubt, Katy Perry, My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. 


SanJose.com metroactive

There's lots of intelligence, spirit and tensile strength, the Lesley Goreness in Tess Dunn's young voice: a plain-spokenness that fits the songs of break-ups accompanied by percussiony piano. The 15-year-old Santa Cruzan's talent is showcased in Darling Just Walk. Dunn's backstory (a struggle over a terribly debilitating disease) is less important than what's up front: the kind of toughness that got her a berth on the Van's Warped Tour, and a repertoire of songs about "skulls and hearts and crossbones."

Festival of Songs

Tess Dunn - Marionette of Me

I have to admit, when I first discovered Tess Dunn on the MySpace Music charts, I didn't pay much attention to the details. I heard a few songs and liked what I was listening to. So, I contacted Tess and asked to feature her music. As I did my homework, I learned that Tess is 15 years old, and living with Cystic Fibrosis. Or, as she puts it, "I have cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and epilepsy. I'm different."


Santa Cruz Sentinel

The night before she was to go into an L.A. studio to record her first album, Tess Dunn was up much of the night coughing.

For the 14-year-old Santa Cruz girl and her family -- who shared that mostly sleepless night with her in a hotel room -- the trip was the culmination of a dream. But the coughing, that was certainly not unusual. Tess has been battling cystic fibrosis since birth. CF is an incurable respiratory disease that causes thick mucus buildup in the lungs and one of its primary manifestation is a chronic cough. The next day, said her mother Siri Vaeth, the coughing persisted through that first morning at the recording studio. But on the takes in which Tess was called on to sing, the cough, however temporarily, vanished. 


City On a Hill Press

Wish Upon an Up and Coming Star

At the Cayuga Vault last weekend a graceful, raspy voice rang out over the sultry drumming of a piano played in a minor key. The voice and music belong to Tess Dunn, a 14-year-old eighth-grader and Santa Cruz local with a terminal illness and an inarguable musical gift.

Dunn, who has played the piano for nine years, first started writing songs two years ago.

“I actually originally didn’t intend to sing them because I didn’t like my voice,” Dunn said.

Last week, upon receiving a donation from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fulfilling the “wishes” of children with life-threatening medical conditions, Dunn recorded an album under the direction of prominent musical producer and UC Santa Cruz alumnus Ari Shine.

“I love Tess’s voice. It’s really passionate. It’s very real,” Shine said. “And she also really has a range. She can sing really low and kind of intense, and then she has this really lovely high part of her voice that she opens up at the end of a couple of her songs, and it gives me shivers. It’s just really excellent.”

The concert at the Cayuga Vault on Saturday was entitled “Tess Dunn and Friends,” and sold out days in advance. It featured Dunn alongside other musicians, including Cayuga Vault manager Amanda West, saxophonist Alex Bignell and acclaimed vocalist Nina Storey.


Metro Santa Cruz

The Young and the Fearless
(an excerpt)

Tess Dunn is living the dream. The local 14-year-old songstress was recently flown to Los Angeles through Make A Wish Foundation to record her first album with indie artists Ari Shine and Adrienne Pierce, as well as Dan Burns, a music engineer who has worked with the likes of Michael jackson and Rob Zombie. "It was the greatest. I was recording in a studio with fur-lined walls!" Dunn exclaims.

Dunn's music has been described as Taylor-Swift-meets-acoustic-Avril-Lavigne, but her lyrics delve into deeper and darker spaces than the pop stars of her time. Her voice sounds beautifully pained - a direct result of living with cystic fibrosis. Though it may seem odd, the scars left by her illness add an undeniable dimension to her expressive style.