What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
(bio) Throughout his life, Stephen Dusenberry has always taken his own path. From being offered his first gig as a 4-year-old drumming prodigy, Dusenberry’s journey has included stops on the Billboard charts and a Grammy ballot. At once, Dusenberry is powerfully distinctive and remarkably varied. He is not a traditional songwriter/producer–instead a complete orchestra (The Berklee Alum performs every instrument live and composes all of the arrangements). Each project is a showcase of his musicianship, compositional instincts and the full range of his persona. The result is a dynamic live sound with a clear coat of shimmer on top.
Growing up in a single parent household in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Dusenberry began playing the drums at the age of 3. Spending hours playing along to the radio, his natural talent was immediately noticed.
On several occasions, passers-by would invite“the drummer upstairs” to join their band, never knowing they were listening to a toddler.
At 6, Dusenberry received a keyboard for Christmas and began creating his own songs. As he grew interested in different styles of music, he taught himself guitar, clarinet and trumpet.
Dusenberry spent his adolescent and teenage years playing drums and keyboards with a diverse range of jazz, punk, fusion and experimental rock bands. Such variety is what developed the authenticity with which he weaves many different styles together. At 16, Dusenberry’s progressive rock band Twilight Machine was signed to the now defunct AFM Records. Though a generation younger than his bandmates at the time, Dusenberry was quickly singled out as the stand out and was offered a chance to join Royal Hunt, a popular heavy metal band from Japan. Though finishing high school prevented him from accepting the offer, soon Dusenberry would attend Berklee College of Music where he would fine tune his raw talent.
Already known for his talent as a musician, his first venture into producing came on a whim when he offered to produce a remix of the song ‘Vanity Lane’ for former Britney Spears dancer ElectrikPrincess in 2013. Having never done a remix (and not knowing how to sequence or program midi) he relied on his songwriting skills to produce a soulful track with lush strings and biting horns reminiscent of the Gamble and Huff sound of the 70’s. The track was an instant EDM hit and landed him on the Grammy ballot in the pop remix category. in 2014, Dusenberry spent 2 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Charts with a remix of Audio Playground’s “Hands Up In The Air”
Having gained a reputation for his dynamic remixes, he quietly began working on his first solo project, written, produced and performed entirely by himself. The dynamic arrangements and funk fuel symphonies have people comparing him to the likes of Quincy Jones. His debut single, Fool’s Gold attracted 8k views and over 4k Spotify streams within days of its release. Stephen Dusenberry comes from an open musical landscape. With his eclectic tastes and subatomic attention to details, he challenges and inspires his collaborators, shatters creative boundaries and rejoices in discovery.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
I recently released my first single called Fool’s Gold. Making this track was very rewarding because I was involved in every aspect of the process.
I always start with the drums since it gives me a strong foundation to build on. When I did commercial pop remixes, I always played to a click track since the beat needs to be totally straight. With Fool’s Gold, I really wanted an old school, organic vibe, so I recorded the drums without a click track to let the song breathe like those soul records from the 60’s and 70’s. Once I had the basic parts recorded, I used old fashioned elbow grease to polish the song. For example, the horns were added at the very last minute!
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
My influences are definitely diverse. As a songwriter, my influences range from Laura Nyro, Phil Collins, Gamble and Huff, Quincy Jones, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder, Terry Kath. Bands I always find myself returning to include Genesis, Yes, The Who, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Grateful Dead, Chicago, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull. Plus all of those funky Stax albums. In terms of non-music influences, I’ve always been fascinated with the characters of the early 20th century. Honus Wagner comes to mind. Here we have one of the greatest baseball players ever who worked in the coal mines while playing baseball since the salaries weren’t what they would later become. If anything, learning about those people has taught me to be strong and always find a way to accomplish your goals.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
What makes my sound unique is that I am playing everything live on my songs—imperfections and everything. I feel it gives an organic honesty to the music. I’m inspired by the way records were created back in the day when they had limitations and had to work within those parameters. There’s an energy to the music that can’t be replicated other than just laying it all out on the line.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Todd Rundgren-A Wizard A True Star
Stevie Wonder-Songs in The Key Of Life
The last 2 albums are double albums, so if I’m stuck on a desert island, I might as well get the most music out of it!
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
I prefer playing live because there’s a certain energy and emotion I get from connecting with an audience. When I’m playing live, I get completely lost in the music and leave it all out there. Plus, my music is meant to be played live where I can take risks and experiment more.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
So uncle had a drumkit at my grandmothers which I used to play on everyday. One afternoon, I’m playing the drums at my grandma’s when this guy knocks on her door asking to speak with the drummer about joining his band. She insisted I wasn’t what he was looking for, but he just wouldn’t let it go. So, I come downstairs, and much to his surprise–I’m 4 years old! I was super excited– I mean c’mon it would have been my first real gig! Unfortunately, no fake ID would make me pass for 21, plus load time was way past my bedtime. Also… my grandma said no.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Fool’s Gold is pretty unique since it packs a variety of styles and genres into a tidy 3 minute song. The verses are funky with the horns, the middle break gets spacy, then gets funky at the end. I’m happy with how it turned out.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Right now, plans are for an EP to come out shortly with a full-length LP to be released later in the year.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
You play a variety of instruments, which do you prefer playing the most.
I’m a drummer first and foremost, so when I am behind the kit, I really feel like I’m in the drivers seat. To me, the drummer is like the quarterback or goalkeeper, they’re the person who keeps things doing. A fantastic drummer can make an average band sound great.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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