Taking Off and Landing with Dusty Wright
Dusty Wright is a prominent singer-songwriter who is creating music on his own terms. His recent releaseCaterwauling Towards the Light, , has been garnering the praise of fans and critics alike. With an adoring sound, each song tells a story that stands out on its own. Wright pens songs for the masses that are equal parts accessible and personal. Breaking the boundaries of traditional folk and Americana, Wright has crafted a sound that is unique to his pieces. I had the honor of catching up with te acclaimed musician recently, for an insightful and intriguing interview which you can read below.
What is the inspiration behind your new single "Fly"?
The song was written after hiking in the mountains up near Lake Placid, the sheer joy of connecting with nature on that level. So when I got back to NYC, I had a catchy melody and lyric hook for the chorus but when I read a story in a New York paper about a young woman who died by suicide it became something else. That duality of life became center to the song's meaning. Why do some people soar while other people crash? Why is the glass half-full for some and half-empty for others? Some of it can certainly depend on one's emotional health. I know life is far more complex than that, but the song examines that scenario. Why is it that life can be impossible for some people to navigate and so the only way out is to end life and yet for others... the bigger the hurdle to conquer, or mountain to climb, well, they face that challenge with unyielding determination. I wanted to end this record with an offer of hope for anyone feeling trapped. And it also became my own coda for my own emotional situation over these past two years dealing with my own personal issues. Basic tracks were recorded at Cindy Lauper's drummer Sammy Merendino’s studio in Harlem. I then added "Afro-Americana" artist Queen Esther on background vocals. We are currently raising funds to produce a “Fly” VR (virtual reality) music video for suicide awareness and ﬁghting depression. Anyone can make a legit tax-deductible donation at our website: SilenceIsNOTgolden.nyc And we will be launching an IndieGoGo campaign any day now.
What made you discover your passion for creating an eclectic sound of edgy Americana and Folk Rock?
Probably my love for the Grateful Dead and Dylan, country music artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Plus new bands like Wilco, Tom Petty, The Black Crowes, even Nick Cave. Americana music to me is this great distillation of country, folk, blues, bluegrass; add a little rock to it and you have me all ﬁgured out. Well, I hope it's not that obvious. But I also love to ﬁnd great tones from the strings -- acoustic or electric guitars, bass, cello -- in my music. And that goes for what guitar works best for a speciﬁc song. I'm not one to use the same guitar on every track I record. I might do that when I play out live, but when I record a song I really try to ﬁnd the best guitar and amp and pedal sounds for each song. Sometimes I hear a part in my head and then try to decide if I should play it or enlist the help from the genius guitar players in my circle of musician friends.
What places in your mind do you channel to craft your songs?
Ha! Do you mean in my metaphysical state? I can ﬁnd them in dreams or from walking my dog in the park or from meditating. Sometimes my mind can be cramped with too much of my day to day life to allow the song to escape, but other times I can quite literally have an experience in the middle of a crowd that sparks my creativity. Just recently I was having lunch by myself and I happened upon a song. I hurried home and started working on it immediately.
What are your favorite venues to perform at? and if you had to choose, do you feel more comfortable in the studio or onstage, and why?
I've been fortunate enough to play on stage at the Beacon Theater in New York and plenty of small stages here and there. I really love the Rockwood Music Hall in New York. Great music venue with amazing talent on any given night of the week. It's owned by Ken Rockwood who released his own music as The Professor & Maryann a few years back, so he knows how to treat his fellow musicians. I ﬁrst started playing there when it was one tiny room, and Ken was always there running the sound, setting up the gear, etc. Just too cool to have someone care as much about the music as the musicians who play there. I also dig this funky little joint on the Lower East Side called The Parkside Lounge. It's like a scene from a David Lynch movie. They have this cool dive bar in the front and when you walk past the pool table in the back, there's a heavy curtain that leads you into this amazing music room. All dark and mysterious with a very good sound. One would expect the cast from Twin Peaks hanging out there! Hard to say if I favor the stage more than the studio. Guess it depends on the day. But I would love to record in proper analog studios more often. Before digital became the rage I was fortunate to do so. My friend David Ogilvy has this amazing studio in London that was an old garage that he converted into this great room. I was just over there and sadly he did away with his tape machines. The cost of buying tape and editing it was too much. But I love the creativity of being in a studio and trying out things to see how they sound while I'm recording a new track; getting the feedback from the engineer and the other musicians. That communion can bear signiﬁcant fruit.
How do you write your songs? What is the process like? Does it take you days, weeks, even longer? How does the perfect Dusty Wright piece come together?
Songwriting is not an exact science for me. It can take weeks to ﬁnish a song or just a few days. But I've also got songs that are sitting on my hard drive that I started years ago and I walked away from them because I felt like I was paying too much attention to them and needed a break from them, however long. It's like some of my artist friends who might start 3 or 4 paintings at once and work on them in unison. I'm going through that challenge right now. I've got 4 songs sitting on my desktop begging to be completed but then yesterday I stumbled upon a song concept that I wrote in about two hours. Still tweaking the lyrics but it's nearly ready to share with the band. And I'll record a rough draft of it, too. The perfect song for me is the song that you never get tired of playing. Songs from my catalog that just work and that I never get weary of playing are "Ghosts," "Watching Angels Cry," "Tempest," "Round & Round," my S&M tune entitled "Over & Out." And from the new album I love playing "We Can Set Sail," "Fall Out of Line," "I Got Lost," "Life Is Hard," "Fly," and All Revved Up" They feel like long time set keepers.
How did you create a sound throughout time that is so uniquely your own? What deﬁnes the Dusty Wright sound to you?
Great question. When I ﬁrst started playing music in high school, my friends and I would play the FM radio songs of the day from Bad Company, Mott The Hoople, Bowie. But I was also drawn to artists like the Eagles, Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, Neil Young, Nick Drake, or prog bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Roxy Music, so I know that all of those artists have informed my sound in some shape or form. But in hindsight I think the Dead and probably The Byrds really helped shape my own personal sound. Plus being a music junkie, I'm constantly listening to new music. I'm always blown away when I hear a new artist that really nails their own unique sound like The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Father John Misty, Anais Mitchell. In fact, while answering these questions I'm listening to one of the reissue albums by the New Zealand band Crowded House. What a great sound they had. Why weren't they a massive band in America? Neil and Tim Finn were/are amazing songwriters. But I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing the importance of the Grateful Dead and how they wrote and played really terriﬁc Americana music, albeit in a jamband format, but Jerry Garcia was a huge lover of country, folk, bluegrass, and blues music. What a collection of songs they created! And their cover choices weren't too shabby either.
This year is already shaping up to be a huge year for you. What do you hope to accomplish in the New Year?
First and foremost, I need to get our VR (virtual reality) video funded and shot for "Fly". And I need to get out of NYC to do some shows in LA, London, maybe Italy. But I'm hoping to release my second album towards the end of the year. My new album was nearly a double effort. I have so many songs in various stages of completion that I actually recorded more than I needed. But I've also recently written a song entitled "Pardon My Love" about domestic violence which I've just entered into the NPR Tiny Desk contest. (https://youtu.be/cdgOrHcfrls) I've got a very rough track taking shape, but I need to get the band into the studio to record it properly. I've also got a few longer pieces that I'm psyched to record. One might say that they are my Americana homage to Pink Floyd. One is entitled "Fade Way" and the other is an acoustic dirge called "Cicada Rhythms". But in general, I just want to keep sharing my music, whether live or streaming, with anyone who might take the time to listen to it. If a singer-songwriter wrote, recorded and played a song in the forest, would anyone hear it?