Melbourne singer, songwriter and rapper Dylan Joel has returned with his brand new single, Run To The River, which gave us the first taste of his new music in two years.
“It feel like a big weight is off my shoulders. It’s been a long time coming and it’s super nice to have something out, even just one song,” Dylan said.
“Musically, [Run To The River] is a typical blues progression, and then I decided to take a lot of the influence of a lot of the blues songs and gospel songs released back in the day, and use a lot of their references. Things like the desert, and the devil, and the river. The river being something, something almost holy that is, I guess, like a thirst quencher, and so I kind of told a story.
“The song is a story of a man struggling with temptation and desert is kind of the thing that is drying off his river or something that is an escape from everything average in his life.”
With the release of his single, came an accompanying music video, shot in in a desert one hour outside of San Diego, California, in a town called Ocotillo.
“It was so much fun. It was incredibly warm and it was a really, really weird place, but it was such a good time. The town we shot it in literally had a saloon, a bar, and one gas station, and then it had one junkyard. The junkyard was owned by a Chinese man who takes trash and car wrecks and turns them into UFOs. It was a pretty weird place, pretty odd, but typical.”
Dylan spent the majority of 2017 writing and recording for his forthcoming music in both Australia and the US.
Three producers came on board to execute the final version for the new material; Cam Bluff (Amy Shark, Hilltop Hoods) with whom Dylan co-produced Authentic Lemonade; Dylan’s housemate and multi-instrumentalist, Pattyboomba; and Jim Alxndr. They combined their strengths to create a new set that’s all-killer.
“It’s been incredibly liberating. In the past, there was a fear that held me back from being completely creative and innovative. This time I decided to just make something that connects with people.
“I feel like [my sound] will forever be changing in a lot of ways. I hope it’s forever changing because I think people get pretty bored if I just release the same thing over and over. I feel like I’ve definitely tapped into something that feels more genuine to me – there’s a lot more guitar and singing on this album.
“That really excites me because that’s something I’ve done for a while and I just haven’t put into my releases. There’s still a lot of rap to come, but now that there’s a combination of all three of those and it just feels really me.”
With his new music, Dylan is intent on defying labels and breaking free from the constant box he has felt trapped in.
“I think in the past, and I find this difficult with all artists, the way the industry works is we like to box people into a genre. But, a lot of the time, it can be really restricting.
“For me, even on my last album, there’s still quite a lot of singing on the album, or rap-singing, but it was only just called a hip hop record. I think I may have been boxed into just only being called a hip hop artist before anything else. This time, I’m like, ‘You know what? I want to make it known that before anything, I’m a songwriter and musician.’ I rap a lot and I’m always cool to be associated as a rapper, but there’s so much more to what I do than that.”
In 2015 when triple j made Authentic Lemonade their feature album of the week, Dylan’s crossover capabilities drew comparisons to Chance The Rapper and Ed Sheeran, which Dylan finds to be “super funny”.
“I look at Chance the Rapper and I look at Ed Sheeran and neither of them is anything like each other, which is super funny, so I think it’s a huge compliment. Chance The Rapper is one of my all-time favourite artists – just the way he goes about his artistry, who he is, and the way he holds himself. I think what he’s innovated in the hip hop and rap culture is incredible, so that’s amazing. Ed Sheeran, in my book, is one of the best songwriters in the world, so for me, that’s a huge compliment.
Although Dylan thinks it would be awesome to collaborate with Chance or Ed, he doesn’t particularly like to think about the idea of working with another artist.
“I think in the hip hop world, it’s pretty easy as rappers to have someone sing your chorus for you and that’s cool, but I don’t want the expectation of that needing to happen every time I go to write a song. I’m just going to do it myself and if it takes longer, then so what, but at least I’ll get better at singing my own choruses.”
Dylan finds his perfect balance of singing and rapping by paying close attention to what the song feels like to him.
“A lot of the time I just try to really listen to the chords of the song, and the mood of the song, and sometimes what the song’s about. If I need to tell a whole lot of story really fast, then rapping is obviously the best answer. But, if it’s a lot more groove-based and it feels like it wants to feel better than saying something, then a lot of the time, I’ll sing it. It would require less lyrics, and it gives me more room and space to let the song breathe. It kinda varies on every single song to be honest. I’m still figuring out the process as I go.”
Dylan says now is a really exciting time for hip hop and rap in Australia and he is geed up for a lot of the artists coming out at the moment.
“The hip hop scene in Melbourne is sick. There’s so much cool stuff going on at the moment. There’s so many up and coming artists that are just really doing new and innovative things. It’s the whole of Australia, to be honest. I know the Brisbane scene is killing it as well. There’s some incredible rappers out there, and hip hop artists all over the country.”
However, Australian hip hop is only just breaking into overseas markets, and Dylan believes it has a lot to do with our accents being a turnoff.
“I think it’s funny. I mean, I’ve lived in Australia my whole life so for us, we only know our accent. We think that’s normal. It’s such a tiny population in the grand scheme of the world. I’ve broken [the accent] down a lot with rapping and rhyming, and we just have a lot of really harsh sounding words that aren’t incredibly pleasant and smooth in our enunciation.
“It’s difficult though, because the American scene… I mean, America invented hip hop, really. It was founded in New York. I think because there’s such a huge culture association with where it began in America, anywhere with a different accent always sounds a little foreign. It sounds like the distant cousin in hip hop, and I think if you combine that with the Australian accent, it just makes it harder to feel genuine a lot of the time, to listeners anyway.
“I’m not saying it’s not genuine – I think it’s incredibly genuine and all of these people in Australia who are rapping, it’s real for them, but it sounds like maybe it’s not to the listener because we’re used to hearing American hip hop from the get-go.”
Despite this, Dylan says hip hop remains popular in his homeland because it is such a beautiful, multi-cultured country with many different influences.
“I think it resonates with so many different culture and races and that’s such an amazing thing, and because of that, we get so many different flavours in musically, you know? Like there’s so many different influences. And I think we’re really seeing that come to life right now, which is for me one of the coolest things. The more of that the better, and I guess because of that it’s creating innovation in the creativity, in the artwork. It’s sounding different. It’s sounding new. It’s sounding genuine and that’s awesome.”
As far as 2018 goes, Dylan plans to release very large amounts of music.
“I’m gonna do some national tours, but the main aim right now is just give people other music because it’s pretty ready. So yeah, that’s exciting,” he said.