Dylan Joel is a fresh artist on the rise who blends effortless rap and vocal harmonies. Intent on creating and nurturing his own sound and inspired by his early gospel influences, he hits the nail on the head with his new single Numbers. Partnering with producer Cam Bluff for his soon to be released album Authentic Lemonade due to drop in 2015, his first single Numbers is already clocking up following, being picked up immediately by Triple J. This young Melbourne artist chats to Sarah Connor about the release of his single and most importantly, what listeners can expect on the upcoming album.
Hey Dylan, tell me a little bit about yourself and where you’re at?
I’ve been making my own stuff for three, probably three and half, four years now. For the last year and a half I’ve pretty much been working on this album. I decided to take a break from trying to get on shows. Ive still been doing a few but I wanted to make the focus this album. So now we’ve just thrown out the first single, called Numbers and that’s the first taste of the album.
Tell me about Numbers and tell me about making it?
Sure, so Number’s along with the entire album is co produced by myself and Cam Bluff. Obviously written by me but the way it started was Cam and I just got in the studio and like I said it took a while to put together the album but we just messed around with a bunch of different sounds. We looked at a few reference songs of different genres and styles that I liked but we decided we wanted to start with something heavy. So Numbers was one of the first songs that we produced beat wise. And it just started with a keys progression, this really cool keys progression we came up with and we just kept layering it and we came up with a cool drum break that we liked and ended up getting a drummer to drum over it live and we didn’t even end up using that but we were just experimenting with it. So it just started with a keys progression and then um we pretty much wrote the whole thing ourselves. On a lot of the other songs we had a keys player come in a gospel keys player come in and re play some of the stuff and give it a bit more flavour but this was solely done by Cam and I.
Can you define your sound or your influences behind your sound?
I can give it a good shot. I think for me when I originally started music I didn’t start hip hop. I taught myself drums and guitar and then sung. For me, I kind of moved in to hip hop and now being into hip hop I kind of wanted to move back to my grass roots a little bit and keep what I’d learnt in the scene. I’d say my sound would be hopefully, melodic, ha ha. For me a big inspiration was gospel music like really organic, original, like where gospel music originated. So for me, I actually grew up going to church and my first taste of live music was a gospel choir at a gospel church. So for me that was a big influence so I decided I wanted to get back to that and incorporate a lot of organs and a hammond organs and stuff like that so hopefully melodic. I’ll give you a heads up for the rest of the record, there’s probably just as much singing in relation to rapping. So it’s quite sung. So gospel influence is the best I can put it.
Do you think having those other influences, background and earlier life experience can help an artist in progressing or evolving the soundscape of Australian music?
Definitely. After being in the scene for a while it’s interesting watching everyone around you and all the other artists and there’s some artists doing amazing thing. But I guess I wanted to stand on my own a little bit and try and find my own sort of path way off Australian hip hop and that’s a little different in a sense. I worked it out that I was trying to copy too many other artists. I was using all my Australian hip hop influences and I just kind of started making worse tracks than the inspirations I had. So I was like, I need to find my own ground and I need to find my own sound. So I’d say it really does. Numbers has been noticed and we didn’t think it would go so well. I mean it got picked up by the Js the first day we serviced it. For us we were stoked on that and I think it definitely does and the reason is there’s another element in there that comes from outside of hip hop. If your incorporating some singing or harmonies and all that stuff. There’s plenty of people doing that like you look at Allday he’s got this melodic sense thats blown up and then Remi’s kind of got this flavour that’s kind of more Slum Village kind of grass roots. So trying to incorporate other stuff definitely pay off.
What was it like working with Cam Bluff and what do you think is essential for a good musical relationship?
Working with Cam was actually unreal. We both got to the end of the record and once we finished we kind of looked at each other and kind of thought man we did this! And I think that’s a fair achievement because when collaborating with people its an art you have your own influences and your own personal opinions and it’s pretty rare to find someone you can work with who actually agrees and pretty much the whole way through the records we tended to agree on everything. We might have had a couple of disagreements on a few tiny minor things but overall we just hit it off and we had the same vision for the record. So it was unreal but also really hard to do.
Do you think having the same vision helps when collaborating on a project?
Yeah fully and it kind of helps giving Cam some references. So I gave Cam a playlist of songs that I really dug, none of which were hip hop. So that’s kind of the way we really approached the record, well not many of them were anyway and that gave him a really good idea of where I was coming from in the sound and I guess kind of lean off and go down a different path and experiment.
You spread a positive message and are determined to keep to this. Is it hard sometimes?
Yeah I think so. Um, hopefully the record, or rest of the record will prove a bit of a balance that it’s not always possible to be positive theres a whole bunch of shit that happens in life that you can’t really change and you’ve kinda just gotta role with it. It’s definitely a main focus for me I think the opportunity to have people across the country listening to you for a couple of minutes of their time is massive and I think sometimes taken advantage of and I kind of want to make the most of it. So for me if I am not in a really good space and I’m writing something really bitter that I don’t think is gonna benefit anyone listening to it, I don’t usually put it out because for me the next day I might feel fine so I prefer to wait a day. I’ll still write it down but I’ll reflect back on it and think nah this isn’t what I want to achieve in this song.
So do you have a vault of things you sometimes just create that may never see the light of day?
Yeah fully I write stuff all the time and flick back to it and think man what was I thinking. So I definitely do, I have this cool little book I was given from a buddy, its really rad, this cool leather bound book. So I write everything in there an take what I feel is worthy of being in a song and work with that?
Are you involved in any other aspects of your community or community initiatives?
That’s a really good question. Yeah I’m super involved. I actually work two days a week as a youth worker for the local council and at a high school working with boys that are at risk of being disengaged is what we title it. I also run work shops in high schools one of the main ones is a mental health work shop based on anxiety depression suicide and self harm. So community based work for me is super important, probably almost par with music in terms of a passion.
Is there anything that has driven you to that?
Good question. I don’t know. For me I think high school was pretty rough in ways and I think every kid going through high school finds high school rough at some point. But for me I had such a good support network around me of like mentors and leaders and role models that kind of really helped me through what I was going through and for me I just felt that since Ive been on top of that I wanted an opportunity to repay that I guess. That would be the biggest cause probably.
What are you hoping for with your new release, how is it a stand out and what’s your proudest moment on it?
Really in all honesty I’m hoping people dig it. Im hoping people enjoy it. You can kind of get caught up in how you want it to go in the industry and how many downloads it gets and number and all that stuff but I’m kind of just really hoping people really love it and it’s just timeless and its something they’ll be able to play for years and not feel like its old.
Im hoping it will be a stand out by me trying to be as authentic as I can. I’m not really your typical oz hip hop artist I think I grew up listening to other stuff and then loved hip hop and was totally invested in that and still am but I’ve got other influences. So I think hopefully that will show through the record with the incorporation of other genres and I guess musical development. I play a lot of instruments so for me yeah I’d like to incorporate that. So hopefully the record proves that.
My proudest moment is I got given one song on the album and it kinda wasn’t gonna be on the album because its not really your typical radio track. I got challenged by an older friend of mine to write a piece, on the topic of hope. And it sounded really easy but it was definitely its the hardest song I’ve ever tried to write to, or the hardest topic. So I ended up having to re write that over about ten times and then end up getting something I was happy with and I ended up being able to put it on the record because I was stoked enough with it. So I guess that was a big achievement because that was a real brain buster to try and put out.
The album will be released early next year but we’re gonna keep rolling out singles so people can expect more singles. Everything will be able to be found on my website probably the best place to go.