Hot on the heels of his highly-anticipated return, Melbourne singer/songwriter Dylan Joel sat down for a cheeky Q&A with your old pals at Fashion Industry Broadcast. We chatted to Dylan about the origins of his unique sound, the making of his latest release ‘Run to the River’, and what the acoustically-inclined rapper has planned for his post-hiatus comeback.
Dylan Joel didn’t always want to be a musician or artist. Sure, from a young age he was always drawn to percussion and rhythm, but it was the the draw of bringing ‘a lot of joy to people’ that coaxed a charismatic teenage Dylan down the path of live music.
Taking out triple j’s Unearthed in 2012 and snapping up a slot at Pyramid Rock festival for his efforts, Melbourne MC Dylan Joel has been riding a slow-unfurling career thus far. The bold artist floored the crowd at triple j’s Good Az Friday gig in 2016 with his maiden ‘Like A Version’ voyage. His onstage dynamo and cheeky charisma capped off an incredibly high voltage production of Randy Newman’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’, and still managed to compliment the stripped back performance of his own track ‘Blank’.
Dylan still laughs about his ‘kinda funny’ career-defining moment being picked up by Warner Music; recounting how he approached M-Phazes‘ manager for a collaboration with the Gold Coast producer. During your typical back-and-forth email exchange, M-Phazes‘ manager requested to hear more of Dylan’s content and pretty soon his interest was piqued,
… after a week or so, his manager’s reply was more along the lines of ‘I really love what you’re doing and I’d actually love to chat about a potential record deal’… and now M-Phazes’ manager has been my manager for the past 5 years and he’s one of the best things to happen to my career.
Dylan’s debut release Authentic Lemonade (2015) saw his range and ability reigned as a revelation, and after he charmed the pants off the Good Az Friday crowd it seemed as though he was about to hit a ripe note on the Aussie music scene. But it wasn’t long after that performance, that Dylan seemingly dropped off the face of the planet.
I just got to a point where I realised I’d been paying too much attention to the industry and a lot of the less important shit that it portrays to be important. I realised I’d been so distracted that my song writing was being jeopardised and that’s what I mostly enjoyed and valued. So I did exactly that! Spent the most part of two years focusing on writing and crafting my sound. Was the best time of my life!
The spirited singer/songwriter spent most of 2017 curls down, writing and recording his forthcoming music both on Aussie turf and in the US. Having spent a lot of time in Toronto, Dylan has also built up a small fanbase of ‘super loyal’ fans (Shoutout to T dot!), and ‘network kings’ in the city. His admiring sentiment toward Toronto’s local live music scene paints a stark contrast to Sydney’s own ailing support network for local bands –
They back each other and their local artists so hard… We could really learn a thing or two from them in regards to that. They love it when a local artist becomes huge, or outgrows their city. We seem to hate it ha.
‘Run to the River’ is our first taste from Dylan’s forthcoming catalogue, and interestingly he has shied away from the traditionally hip hop bracket of his oeuvre. The track presents a blues-tinged pop card, that allegedly stems from his childhood attending church where ‘blues and gospel were fairly influential’.
The story of the song was inspired by the idea of flipping a blues song. Hence the theme of the ‘river’ being something holy or life giving and the reference of a devil whispering. The theme came from some of the typical struggles we face as a society and the importance of questioning what things help us escape them.
‘Run to the River’ was premiered on triple j last week, with many fans quick to notice Dylan’s pop-laden new sound. The young artist has certainly returned with a fierce intent to defy the boundaries of typical ‘genres’.
In the past I felt pretty restricted by the expectation of upholding a traditional hip-hop sound and often I believed it sacrificed where my music would naturally go. This time (for this whole record) I created with the sole intention of doing whatever felt natural and what ever connected the most. ‘Run to the River’ for example, didn’t need an overhaul of rap in the middle of it, it just flowed so much better with sung verses and the only rap in the song is the 12 second outro. And I love that!
Dylan thrives on not prescribing to any classification or genre of music. I couldn’t help but quip that you certainly don’t see a lot of hip hop artists playing guitar, but he remains adamant not to slap any definitive labels on his unique sound,
I guess [the genre would be] singer-songwriter rap, but that’s not even a real thing. I’d prefer to just hear people have to try to describe it! That for me, makes it feel new/hopefully innovative.
Having spent some time writing and recording in the US, Dylan decided to shoot the music video for ‘Run to the River’ in Ocotillo, California. He approached his ‘homie’ and ‘supporter from day one’ filmmaker Peter John to shoot the film, and thankfully they were both able to find time in their tight schedules to cross paths in LA.
We shot the video in a desert one hour outside of San Diego, California in a town called Ocotillo. The only things in the town of Ocotillo were a gas station, a saloon and a man who turns recycled junk in to UFO’s…as you do.
Dylan was excited to announce that a new album, national and international tour are all on the cards – unfortunately, he was a little coy on the details but he’s promised to keep us updated. All we can say, for now, is: Sydney-siders, keep your eyes peeled for an appearance in the coming months! In any case, we’re certainly excited to see what other fruit is borne of Dylan’s creative hiatus from the industry. For now, at least, the future of Australian music looks to be in a pair of very capable and dynamic hands.
Wrap your eyes and ears around Dylan’s newest release, ‘Run to the River’. Let us know what you think below!