Unsigned Artist Spotlight:
by Mark E. Waterbury
Adult Contemporary, World
San Antonio, Texas
East Dummerston, Vermont
YEARS IN MUSIC BIZ:
NUMBER OF CDs SOLD:
SIZE OF FAN BASE:
100 on mailing list
MM: Did you do recordings with other performers before you decided to record
“Expecting A Miracle?”
DJ: Nothing huge, but I’ve helped out other people playing different
instruments. Guitar was actually the first instrument I had learned, then I
went to keyboard, violin and cello. I got into percussion in college. There
are a lot of different percussion to learn, and in college I was influenced
by this master drummer I worked with named Milford Graves. Then I used to do
a lot of jingles in New York City. A guy that I knew was involved in a
company that was writing jingles, and he thought I had a great voice for
them. So I went in and sang the jingles and one thing led to another and I
started doing that for a lot of other companies. But I stayed away from
actually writing the jingles - the writing I wanted to keep exclusively for
MM: When did you actually become serious about songwriting?
DJ: In 1970 or so. I did release some of my music on a smaller scale. They
were just basically demo tapes with different groups I was working with. I
also had some music recorded by others. Angela Bofill is probably the most
well known. She recorded a couple of my songs in the past. She’s not a huge
star or anything, but she’s a great pop-jazz singer. More recently, some
other more indie people recorded some of my songs, so they do get around.
MM: So what was it that really prompted you at this time to do this
full-fledged recording project “Expecting A Miracle”?
DJ: I had been doing it for so long I just wanted to do it right for once.
Since I was working in New York co-writing with other songwriters I met a lot
of great musicians and good people who I could work with and who would work
with me fairly inexpensively. These were top studio people, like Tom
“T-Bone” Wolk, who actually lives in Vermont now, and guitarist Marc
Shulman, who worked with people like Jewel and Suzanne Vega and a lot of
others. Ben Wittman the drummer was actually the producer for The Story, so
these were all top-notch players.
MM: What was the experience like in the studio working with them?
DJ: Well, it sure made it easy. (Laughs) They just did it right the first
time. It was very quick with them.
MM: The music you write, especially the lyrical content, would you say it is
from life experiences?
DJ: There are some definite life experience songs there. There are also some
that were just made up while trying to imagine things. Like “Black n Blues”
was a song I had written with a friend Bryant Urban, and we just created a
situation that people think is real, but it is actually just a made up story
of a guy kicked out by his lover who comes back to see her one day and finds
she’s in an abusive relationship, leaving an awkward situation for him. We
certainly have good or cool situations to write about that are sort of
fraught with tension possibilities.
MM: The first time that your heard the finished product of “Expecting A
Miracle”, what was your reaction to it?
DJ: I felt satisfied that I had been able to create plausible versions of
these songs. I was very careful about the song selection and with this
particular record, I wanted to create a real singer-songwriter record with a
pop, adult contemporary slant to it. And I was able to do it and I felt happy
about that because up until then I had pretty much been only doing demos.
Although a lot of people liked the demos, I wanted to do something more
accomplished than that and I thought that I did that with “Miracle.”
“T-Bone” Wolk, who worked with Carly Simon and Hall & Oates as well as the
Saturday Night Live Band with G.E. Smith, did the producing and played a lot
of the instruments on it, and that really helped; he’s a great, great player.
MM: When you perform live, is it mostly solo?
DJ: Mostly I’ve done it solo and what I’m trying to do is finish a couple
more records that I am working on and then get a small group together to get
out and play around the Northeast.
MM: With your upcoming release “Touch The Earth,” I know you are into
different environmental groups as well as working with native Americans, is
that something you have always wanted to touch on with your music?
DJ: That’s really what that record is going to be about. It’s about nature
and it is a call to environmental action. Almost all of the songs are about
nature or environmentalism in a certain way. I’m also working with an
anti-nuclear group trying to shut down nuclear power plants. And with the
native American slant, I have been working with a great Chief and Medicine
Man named Chief Crazy Bull who is a Lakota Chief. I’ve learned the ceremonies
and completed my fourth traditional Lakota vision quest recently, so that was
inspirational as well.
MM: When you write music about subjects that are dear to you, does the
importance of the subject matter transcend the importance of songwriting
DJ: I wouldn't say that, I think in some ways the music is a vehicle to carry
various subject matter. With “Touch The Earth” I really wanted to show true
sides of myself as an artist. I played almost everything myself and did the
full band arrangements, first just to see if I could do it. I was able to do
it, but of course it is very time consuming work. The message and the lyrics
are important, but I don’t think that they overshadow the music. I’m trying
to stretch song forms out and do interesting intros and outros, and try to
bring as much creativity as I could into the arrangements. There is also a
lot more world music influence in this record. I love world music, and my
next project is going to be “Brazilliance” which is Brazilian influenced
compositions I have written, that I think are some of my nicer compositions.
I’ll probably put a group together just to do that recording, to document
that material. And then I want to do Superstring Theory, which is a record
people have been asking me to do. It’s mostly going to be me with the
electric violin, which is one of my main instruments. I’ll be playing that
doing several solos and loop recording as well as some duets with various
MM: With all these various recordings coming up, what is your marketing plan
to get them out to the masses?
DJ: My first job is just to make the music. I’ve been writing music for so
long and I have this huge backlog of material just waiting to be recorded. So
I just need first to get out what is my best material. In terms of marketing,
I’m working with an indie radio promoter to get it out on radio. There’s
about thirty or so college and community stations in the Mideast and Atlantic
states that have been playing cuts off of “Expecting A Miracle.” And I’m
also working with a public relations firm to do the promoting and to help me
out with “Touch The Earth” when it comes out. I’m not really into the idea
of doing a big tour or anything, but I want to do some selective smaller ones
in the Northeast. It’s going to take some time for the music to get more
notice. This is the first time I have worked with a radio promoter and a PR
firm, so I’m really taking it to a more serious level as to how I want to
promote myself. Trying to do it yourself just takes too much. My goals are
really to be regionally successful and sell ten or twenty-thousand records.
If I could reach that level I would be very thrilled with it. :->