An Americana Family Affair

The Dinallos—the husband and wife team of Michael Dinallo and Juliet Simmons Dinallo—have quite a story to tell. Currently, they are making roots music that is gaining attention throughout the Americana music world, featuring an exciting blend of classic country, blues, gospel and rock & roll. The story of how they ended up on that musical road together is just as compelling as the stories they tell through their songs. You can hear those songs on their recently released self-titled album, and hear their story in this Americana Rhythm interview.

Juliet Simmons Dinallo grew up in Maine and came of age as a musician in Boston, where she studied at Berklee College of Music. She later moved to Nashville, gathering a wealth of experience there that influenced her songwriting, singing and performing style. Michael Dinallo, a formidable songwriter, producer and guitarist, grew up in Ohio and moved to Boston to attend Berklee as well. He led the Boston-based Radio Kings, and produced Nightfall, a gold and platinum album by the Norwegian star, William Hut, among many other credits. His guitar provides a solid foundation and powerful focal point for everything he does.

So what’s unique about this married musical duo’s backstory? It’s how they made their separate ways through the same musical spaces earlier in life, only to end up making music together later. While Michael jumped into a music career straight from Berklee, Juliet took a detour through a first marriage, followed by a period of intense creativity, and ultimately the decision to make her musical goals her primary pursuit. Juliet recalls the connections: “My first husband’s best friend ended up being Mike’s roommate at Berklee…I worked in a place in Marblehead that had blues bands; Mike used to play there all the time, and I remember seeing the Radio Kings listed…We were in the same place at the same time but we don’t remember each other.” After Juliet started playing in the clubs around Boston, she met Michael, began playing with him, then collaborated more and more frequently, discovering over time all the places they had in common from the past, while also developing a relationship that blossomed into marriage.

Michael and Juliet’s current collaboration marks their first release as an “official” group, after years of working together (for example, with Michael producing Juliet’s previous solo album, Dream Girl, which you can check out here.)

Juliet explains that “It kind of unfolded on its own…” Both were working on their own projects when Michael helped “unstick” one of Juliet’s tracks, “Lemonade,” which she initially thought would be a bluegrass tune. “It just wasn’t working…Mike had the idea of making it more like a Johnny Cash train thing, and that was really cool, so we re-did the basics…When we went to do the vocals, I said ‘You know what would be cool, is to get Annabel [the couple’s 10-year-old daughter] to go in and sing’…” After Annabel did a great job, the couple started seriously considering a “family album” combining Michael’s and Juliet’s songs.

The album, titled simply The Dinallos, brings together older and newer songs that Michael and Juliet have each written. The collection reveals the wide range of influences the couple have absorbed over the years, through songs that each emphasize different aspects of American roots music. Michael says, “As time goes on, things become less driven by genres…Sometimes when you write a song, the song dictates how it’s gonna sound.”

Check out The Dinallos’s website here. Listen to the full interview here.

By Dan Walsh