Grammy Award Winner, Songwriter, Producer & Instrumentalist, Dwele, Talks About his Latest Proje
Speaking of the highly acclaimed songster, Dwele, the Detroit native, began playing an assortment of instruments at the adorable age of 6 years old. Although classically trained, it wasn’t until his father died that he would learn to use his pain as a harmonious device, to channel all of his passion and emotion into music.
This untiring method allowed him to dabble into hip-hop in addition to diverse ranges of Rhythm and Blues, which lead Dwele to debute his self-reliant album called “The Rize” during the year of 2000.
J Dilla from the “Slum Village Music Group” heard about Dwele and his magnetic voice; he (J Dilla) encouraged Dwele to sing on a track from their album “Trinity [Past, Present, and Future]”.
Although he worked on many eminent projects with well-known artist, Dwele didn’t sign to a label until 2003, releasing his second LP called “Subject.”
There’s no doubt about it, Dwele has an armory of albums in addition to 24 featured singles that he’s emancipated through the years.
He sang background for Kimye (Kanye West) on his 2007 hit single “Flashing Lights.” Dwele sang on Common’s “The People,” before walking away with a Grammy nod in 2007 for his cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World.”
Of course, we’ve hardly scratched the surface of Dwele’s accomplishment and mentions, however, its dully noted that he continues to perform as well as travel the world abroad, while singing in sensual tones that wed the heart and mind persuasively through music.
Now that you’ve transitioned from being the rapper, is there something you would change and what advice would you give your younger self that was contemplating being in the music industry?
I would say do both… I would say, “don’t feel like you either have to be a rapper or a singer,” because I believed that I couldn’t do both, at the time. I believed that it had to be one or the other, and if I had of done both, back then, I would’ve been ahead of the game. Cause, clearly, that’s what everybody’s doing right now, and they’re winning.
We know that you are deeply inspired by your dad. Looking back over your career, do you think that he’d be proud at how far you’ve come?
…I would like to think that he is. I think, ultimately, all that we want for our children is for them to be happy, do what they love, and to be able to support their family. As of right now, I’m doing all three. I think that he would be happy.
It’s funny that you mentioned it and you eased right into it, let’s talk about fatherhood and what that means to you. How has being a father changed you?
Photo Credit: Dwele
You know, I’m brand new in this, so I don’t really know. All I know is my son—but I definitely look at things differently. I watch what I do now, more or so what I did before, even though he’s only 4 months old; I don’t know when he’ll start paying attention for the long run. You know, so I try to watch everything and I try to check everything I do around him, and the message I put in music, it means a lot more now.
It means more to me, to be conscious of what I’m putting out. I don’t know, it’s like when I create music, I feel like I can’t make a mistake because he’s there with me, which might not be a good thing (Dwele laughs). I think I need to be comfortable with making mistakes. I feel like he’s judging me while he’s sucking on his pacifier (more laughter).
I think I’m conscious of the fact that it’s not just me anymore and I have someone else that I have to look out for, somebody that’s watching my every move.
Now, we noticed that you share many beautiful moments with baby Ashton, and more recently his fun time while on the piano. Do you think that he’s a star in the making and a musician on the horizon?
Photo Credit: Dwele
I think music is definitely in his future-- I don’t know, when I was a kid, I was into everything, from drawing, painting, to music. I liked doing everything, music was just the one that grabbed me. My parents did a good job of keeping me active and keeping me in everything. They wanted me to try everything out, so I’m going to do the same for him and I’m going to let him make up his mind. He’s going to be around music 24/7, so it’s going to come naturally to him, definitely.
This is another questioned geared towards fatherhood—do you find yourself rushing to get home on the red-eye, to be with your family, or do you try to incorporate them in your tours if it’s not too strenuous?
Photo Credit: Dwele
Well… I try to get home, and it’s too early for him to travel as of yet. So, yeah, I try to get home, whereas before, I used to take a couple of days after a show and stay in whatever city I’m in, hangout, and enjoy it. Now, I have to come home. I gotta get home.
Let’s get to the music. What’s new with you? Tell us about your projects including “Greater than one and less than three.”
“Greater than one” was the last album I put out. It had more of an 80’s feel, more so than any of the other projects. But, I still keep those same elements that make my sound, my sound; for instance, the live instrumentation, like the horns, the thick harmonies—I always try to keep those aspects of my music. I definitely feel like “Greater than one” is my favorite album, personally.
But, I’m the creator so I’m a little bias, and the last is always the best for the artist. But, I definitely think it’s a feel-good album and I definitely think it’s something you should go checkout. As of right now, I’m just working, in-home, with the junior. I’m working on the next project. I’m kinda just taking my time with it right now with schedules, to come out early next year though. I kinda have a deadline, but I’m taking my time with the deadline. I never, like, rushed it.
Please describe your sound and how it compares to your earlier career.
My sound now, I can tell you the sound from my latest album. The latest album, “Greater than one,” I experimented a lot more in a sense. I still kept the Fender Rhodes, I still kept the live base and live horns—I like to incorporate a lot of live instrumentation and I think that follows through with all the albums.
It’s kinda hard for me as an artist, to pinpoint exactly what’s different about this album compared to the first album because it’s all where I was at that point and time, and I’m just creating what I feel at the time. I can’t really tell the difference as weird as that may sound… I can’t tell the difference. I wonder how many other artist feels that same way? I’m gonna have to have a talk with my artist friends to see if the answer is the same (a lot of laughter). It’s hard for me to tell the difference between the album then and the album now.
Since we are on the subject of your music, let’s talk about your latest single, “Obey.” What inspired that?
The song “Obey.” Okay… Yeeah. One day I was having a get together at my place, at the loft, and this girl starts stretching. She starts doing these stretches. I had just got this new video camera and I was messing around with the slow motion and I was recording all these movements—it looked so graceful like art. So, I said, “I’m going to make a song to this and call it “Stretch,” and that was my motivation to make that song. Once I sat down and made the music to it, and started to write to it, it kinda turned into “Obey.” I never really told her that’s where that song came from. She probably has questions now after she hears this interview. But, yeah, that’s how that song came about.
Do you consider yourself an independent artist, and what strategies do you use to market yourself and your music? Is it important to stay interactive on social media?
I definitely feel like it’s important to stay active on social media. Those are just a few things I do as an independent artist. Some of the important things that I do is take advantage of the fact that nowadays you don’t necessarily need a budget to shoot a video, and you don’t need a record company to put out an album or song, to promote yourself. You know, so, something that I was doing on social media on Instagram a couple years ago, is, I was taking some of my older songs and shooting 15 second videos, and I was posting them up on Instagram.
If you think about it, a lot of people nowadays, it’s not about going out and buying an album. They hear a song, they go to ITunes and download that one song. I’m more of an album type artist, so a lot of people don’t get to hear all of the nooks and crannies of the albums that’s put out. They just hear a couple of things and grab hold of those couple of things.
So, I took advantage of Instagram and the fact I could shoot my own video. I took those old songs and created 15 second, almost like promos for those songs, for those B side songs on the album; and I put them out on Instagram. For some people it was the first time that they heard the song, it made them go back and purchase the album again or go back and checkout the song. You know, so, I took advantage of that through Facebook and Instagram. I definitely think its important to move on that the best way you can.
As a personal observation, I noticed that you and Raheem Devaughn collaborated pretty well. Why him and not anyone else?
Um, I think because me and Rah, we actually worked together on the “Subject” album, on a song called “Possible.” It never got put on the album, but he ended up taking the song and getting his deal with it, and started his career. So, ever since then, we’ve worked well together, and there was always talks about us working again, and the opportunity came up. It worked out, people liked it and we kept working. If people like it, you keep doing it. I definitely look forward to working with him again.
Let’s talk about the fashion and hair... You’re performing at the Natural Hair Summit, so it’s only fair that we ask you,” How do you maintain those tresses and keep that beautiful mane of yours healthy all the while fattish.
Hahaha… Ah. I think I’m the epitome of natural, but I don’t do too much. I keep it conditioned, but I couldn’t tell you what conditioner I use or what shampoo I use. I’m kinda, not that guy. I kinda wake-up and I go. It’s been a little bit harder now—I’m trying to figure out a way that I can maintain my hair after I take off a motorcycle helmet. That might be my new endeavor. It might be some money in that, trying to figure out how to fix helmet-hair when you’re wearing a natural hairstyle. I got some people working on that right now (he jokes). That might be my next million.
How important is to have a distinguished look as an artist? Can you still be trendy and unique at the same time? Is that even possible?
Yeah, I definitely think that you need to have something about you that stands out, to the point that people ask if they don’t know, “Who is he and what does he do?” I think that you should keep people interested in you—fashion and hair is one way to do that.
When you heard your first single played on the radio, in what way did that inspire you to keep going?
The first time I heard my single on the radio, I had to pull over because I almost crashed. I got excited. It definitely motivated me. I think the thing that sticks out the most about then when that first single came out with “Slum Village,” it was the fact that when I was in public, people were staring at me and I didn’t know why they were staring at me. I thought it was a problem, I’m like, “What’s wrong with me? Why are people staring at me?”
This was after the video came out and I completely forgot that we shot a video and it was playing everywhere. It was on BET and it was on MTV—I was getting all these looks. It was happening about 2 or 3 days—it was happening nonstop and I was really feeling self-conscious.
Finally, someone walked up to me at a gas station, a really big guy… I was scared(Chuckles) He walked up to me and he was like, “Hey, Bro.” I’m like, “What’s up?” He said, “Aye, you the dude that do that song. You, know, “Tainted love.” I’m like, “Oooooh, it’s at that point?” So, I liked it and then I embraced it. Up until then, it was very uncomfortable and I didn’t know what was going on.
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers, words of encouragement, or inspiration?
I’d definitely have to say, “Find your passion and peruse it, and especially nowadays because the craziest things, the things that you least expect will catapult your career. It’ll do it. Stay diligent with everything that you do—do everything with the mindset that this could be it. This is going to be the thing that represents me, and just put it out there.