- Thu, 2010-08-19 15:42
Andwele Gardner, better known by his stage name Dwele, is one of Detriot’s hottest musical exports of the past decade. Starting out as a rapper, he caught the attention of legendary producer J Dilla with a self-financed album that he sold out the back of his car. Soon signed to Virgin Records, he has since released four albums of hip hop-informed soul music, the latest of which, W.ants W.orld W.omen was released earlier this year.
I Like Music spoke with Dwele about the concept behind the new record, music as an emotional outlet, his live show and what the future might hold.
“I Like Music because…it sets a mood, and if you listen to a song in ten to fifteen years time it can take you right back there. That’s what music does for me, and I hope that’s what my music does for other people.” Dwele
ILM: How would you describe the new album, W.ants W.orld W.omen?
Dwele: This album right here is a little bit different from the past albums. With this one I really tried to create different avenues for myself musically, while still having some of the same vibes as past albums. I didn’t steer too far outside myself. The first section, which is the W.ant section, is sort of my alter-ego, where I get to do things outside of myself musically. The W.orld section is sort of like my audio time-capsule. I tried to really capture the climate of the economy in the way that Donny Osmond and Marvin Gaye did it back in their day. Hopefully fifteen or twenty years from now someone listening to the album will know exactly what we were going through at this time. The W.omen section is the baby-making, feel-good music! I’m trying to cover all the bases with this album!
ILM: How did such definite sections within the album affect your music making process?
Dwele: I approached this album the same way I approached the other albums. I think that I’m in a different place musically every time that I create an album, but the actual process pretty much stays the same. I usually go into the studio with the big concept in my head and make the music first. Then I let the music dictate what I write about. Sometimes it can happen the other way around, and I come into the studio with the lyrical concept and create the music around that, but most of the time the music comes first.
ILM: Where does your passion for music come from?
Dwele: It started early on. Before he passed, my father bought me a keyboard and taught me a few things on it. I think that’s really where it started. I think all kids who lose a parent can tend to retract into themselves. They really don’t know how to explain their feelings to somebody. I went through that, and music was my way of getting those feelings out. That’s really where the musical journey started. From there it just became my way of life. I couldn't wait to get whatever I was doing over with, so that I could go back home and finish the song that I’d started. It just became what I did. In ’98 I put out an album called Rize. Through that I found management, who created a buzz off it, and that’s how I ended up where I am right now!
ILM: You worked with the now legendary J Dilla, what did you learn from him?
Dwele: I learned so much from just watching Dilla. I think he was the person who helped me the most with my production skills. If I ever had a question about layering a drum, or trying to get a certain feel from something, he didn’t even have to be there; he could tell me exactly what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do to get it right.
ILM: More recently, you've worked with Kanye West. What was that like?
Dwele: It’s always good working with Kanye. He’s someone who really knows exactly what he wants. When we worked recently on the song Power, we had a lot of time to really feel each other out. More so than when we worked on Flashing Lights. For that one I flew up to New York and we spent the day in the studio and that was pretty much it. This time around we got a chance to kick it, shoot some basketball and really let the song settle as we worked on it. I like the fact that Kanye really believes in the less-is-more technique. That’s what I walked away having learnt from him.
ILM: Speaking of learning from people, what advice would you offer to anyone just starting out in the music business?
Dwele: Do music for the love of it. And really take advantage of the free promotion on the internet. Do something that sets you apart from everyone else. Find out what your niche is, accentuate it and really just promote that. If you do that and create a good underground buzz for yourself, it just takes the right person to hear you. To be honest, actually, it doesn’t even have to be the right person. If you market yourself correctly you can get it done. It really is the time of the self-made artist. If you have something that really sets you apart and makes you attractive to a group of people then you’re gonna make it.
ILM: You’ve got a tour coming up, what’s the live show like?
Dwele: I like to keep people entertained. Including myself and the band; we gotta do this every night! So it’s most definitely going to be an entertaining show. I also try to make it a real intimate performance, no matter the size of the crowd. Of course I’m gonna do the new songs, but I really like doing the older stuff as well. I really love the fact that the UK has a broader appreciation for music. Over here in the States I have to stick to the singles, but in the UK I can go back and do songs of the Rize album, and do b-sides. I really appreciate that. So we gonna dig in the crates when I’m over there!
ILM: What have been some the most memorable shows you’ve ever played?
Dwele: Man, I’ve had so many! It usually happens when you don’t expect it. I’ve had some great times over at the Jazz Café. I did a show at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Ron Ayers called me up on stage and I got to perform with him. That was great! I did the halftime show at the New Jersey Nets basketball game with Boney James. That was crazy! There have been a lot of different experiences on the road that I’ve enjoyed so much...
ILM: Who have you seen as a fan that has completely blown you away?
Dwele: A young lady called Monica Blaire from Detroit, who featured on the album, has the craziest live shows you will ever see! There’s a new artist called Janelle Monae who’s crazy too. I love the fact that she dances, and I love the way her hair bounces too! Haha!
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Dwele: I got a little bit of everything on my iPod! From Donny Osmond, Marvin Gaye, Roy Ayers, Miles Davis, John Coltrane to Lil Wayne and Drake! I listen to all of that. I appreciate all different types of music depending on what I’m doing. If I’m sitting down with a glass of red wine and a steak I might be listening to Eric Roberson, or Jill Scott. If I’m with my peoples and we headed to the club you might find Hoochie Man on the radio! I think all different types of music play their different parts.
ILM: What are you future plans beyond the release of the new album?
Dwele: I’m really enjoying being an artist right now, but I really don’t know what the future holds. Five years from now I could be behind the scenes writing for people or producing. I really don’t know. I think the beautiful thing about the music business is that you really never know what opportunity is going to open up for you in the future. In ’98 I was rapping! I had no idea I would be singing for a living!