In 2019, Roanoke, Virginia has seen an emergence of new artists in its live music scene. One of those musicians is 24-year-old Dylan Dent and today, I sat down with him AT Little Green Hive to learn more about the man and the musician.
I’m just a normal dude. I grew up for most of my life here in Roanoke. I grew up in the church and made a lot of lifelong friends. Outside of music, I work, watch way too many movies and play board games.
No, I was born in the suburbs of Chicago, which is important to say because anyone from Chicago would look at me and be like, “You’re not from Chicago!”
I was five. I definitely consider Roanoke to be home.
I got my first guitar when I was six or seven years old. I picked it up pretty intensely when I was about 16, but I wanted to start because I saw the image of Jimi Hendrix. Just his image was enough for me. I honestly never even listened to a ton of his music. I can name you probably like two Jimi Hendrix songs but his whole look that you see, I was like…I want that. That would be cool!
Both. I really wanted it, but someone did gift it to me. They gave me a startup fender, and a practice amp, and a case and all of that stuff, and all my mom had to do was find lessons, which didn’t stick by the way.
They’re all over the place. Over the years I was really into rock, which really kind of made me want to get into music so Led Zeppelin, and 70s era rock music is what I love, besides hip hop which was always there for me, but that was another layer. I grew up in the punk era as a kid and there was a band called Reliant K that I loved a lot. Their songwriting is great, in my opinion, so that made me want to start writing. And then later on through college it was J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and that type of new hip hop that came along in the 2010s or so.
My sound is probably most intensely inspired by Childish Gambino and not in the sense that I sound like him but in the sense that he wanted to be an individual, the same as I. So he inspired me to sound like me rather than someone else.
It varies, and it has to which is something I learned from day one because I don’t have the time, unfortunately, to just sit down and write a song from start to finish. Sometimes when I’m writing a song on guitar, I come up with something in the morning before I go to work or before I go to bed. I make a voice memo then listen to it in between one thing and the other. I make up a melody another day, put words to the melody, and then one final day you finally put everything together and you just have to write choppily like that.
I did a Christmas song last year with another artist named Macklyn, where I got the beat that morning, had not heard it before and by the end of the day we had finished tracking vocals for the whole thing so we wrote it, and completed it in like a day. Then my song, “Penny for Your Thoughts,” I wrote in about two hours. I did that while I was watching a movie.
I’m broke. That’s it. I was broke and people kept asking me if I was going to start dating and I was like, “That would be nice. I would if I could, financially, without going into credit card debt.”
There’s a song called, “Thoughts of a Black Man,” on my first mixed tape, which was a bad poem I wrote in 2014 and then returned to and restructured into a hip-hop song in 2017, three years later. I rewrote it and picked which lines I wanted to keep, rewrote a bunch of new things which took a couple of days, and then I finally released it on the project in 2018, so that was a long process to get from start to finish.
I’ve always liked music but I actually used to be on a physical therapy track because I didn’t really believe in myself and music just isn’t really a thing that people look at like, “this is a sure fire career goal!” As a black kid who grew up in the suburbs I felt like, ok. You’ve been given this; please take the torch and go further. Rap isn’t necessarily the way to do that. No one else ever put that on me, I just kind of took on that weight myself, so that’s where I started. I always just thought I’d go into music as like a gig thing around the city but as I went through college, I got more and more tired and liked music more and more. There were nights where I’d stay up until 2am or 3 am writing a song, which is a weird thing to do for a casual hobby, and then first year out of college I took what was supposed to be a gap year because I was really exhausted after college. During that “gap year” I figured out that I didn’t want to go back to school so the next question became, ok; what do you want to do?
Then in 2017 I got into a car accident. I was hit by a tractor trailer in my little Corolla. He hit the driver’s side, sideswiped the entire thing and somehow, I was OK. He hit two other cars in front of me and totaled my car so after I collected myself, I was like I could have died. That would have been bad. And I was really upset that I didn’t take very many chances.
I know I’m not very old, but I’m old enough to have made more decisions for myself. Up until that point I’d never tried to do something, so that April was when I was like, OK, I’m going to try and do music, and since that time I’ve tried, and I’ve gotten better and better and I’ve just loved it more.
Finances. You graduate and you’ve got the whole student debt thing. That’s a big finance so because of that I work multiple jobs, which takes up a lot of time, and you’ve just got to find the time and put things to the side and be willing to look weird and work part time jobs with a solid bachelors degree. That’s been a struggle
When I first started and was bouncing back and forth between is this a one off thing or a lifetime thing, I prayed about it and talked to God and was like, “Yo, give me passion for whatever it is that you want me to do and if it could be music, that would be great, Bro.” And since then I’ve only really cared about music so I’m like alright. I guess I got my answer.
It comes from being a crowd member for other people’s shows. Not that they were bad shows, but what I wish is that when people were starting they were more confident. lot of the time you go to open mics and you get really talented people who have the presence of a mouse and I’m just like, “You’re good! Just go with it! And even if you’re not good, just go with it.” So, in an effort to give people what they want I just make believe.
No. I practice a lot!
I’d make it easier for different types of music to come through. I play a lot of guitar live because I know it’s easier to slide through somewhere with a guitar in this city than it is to be like, “Hey, I have some tracks!” Because the bars and the restaurants aren’t set up for that so it’s almost like I have two dwifferent versions of my career at the moment. There’s the live acoustic stuff, and then online it’s just all rap.
They’re both true to who I am; I just have more limitations when it comes to performing rap because the venues aren’t set up for it.
No. I just finished my second project in August. What I really want to work on right now is features and writing singles and stuff and hoping I can make some more money.
Singles are expensive distribution wise. If you pay for a project you can put 10-12 songs out at once or pay almost half that for just one song.
To keep raising the bar. That’s one reason why I want to focus more on individual songs, so I can try different things and get a few different things under my belt before I jump into my next project so I can really show some growth. I want to make some new friends, do more collaborations, and hop onto other people’s tracks; all that stuff.
Hopefully a more fully formed career vibe. I think I still have the shadow of a “weekend warrior” musician type of thing right now, so I want to get some merchandise going and try to get a whole brand started. It’s there but I’d like to push it to the forefront and get more fans, so I’ve got to do more live shows and whatever it takes. Hopefully just more of me.
For more on this musician you can find him on social media, Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and all other major streaming platforms as, Dylan Dent.